Written by Dan DiDio and Jerry Ordway
Illustrated by Jerry Ordway
The Challengers. Out of time and on the run. Eight survivors of a fiery plane crash, bound by fate and death, are on a desperate mission to uncover the mysteries of the Unknown before the powers that saved their lives, claim them for eternity.
Dan DiDio and Jerry Ordway team up for the second arc in DC Universe Presents, this time focusing on the Challengers of the Unknown. Does the book live up to the standards of its creator, the King of Comics?
Hit the jump to find out.
When Challengers of the Unknown was announced as the next arc for DC Universe Presents, no one could have seen this coming, but it is, in some ways, a sequel to the Deadman-centric first arc. Both feature classic DC characters being put through the ringer by Rama Kushna in one way or another. DC still isn’t publishing a Cyborg book, but a minor god has their own monthly book. Oh, DiDio, you scamp!
The Challengers of the Unknown is an old Jack Kirby property that DC has tried, in various capacities, to bring back a number of times now, each time changing the team and its mission, sometimes slightly, sometimes seriously. It would be hard for me to imagine Jack Kirby could have ever thought that the team he created would one day be made up of washed up celebrities on a reality show (not that Kirby would even know what a reality show is), but that is exactly what we get in DC Universe Presents #6.
I suppose there needed to be a way to get a plane full of people flying in an airplane and, to Ordway and DiDio’s credit, I don’t see how else to do that other than have a reality show traveling to their destination. Sarcasm aside, if there was any reason given in these pages that these characters being faux-celebs would further the story at all, I would have no problem with this. But so far, this seems like simply shorthand for “interesting people!”
To be fair, the story presented here is not terrible, it is just puzzling. The first part of the standard Challengers origin is here – relative strangers survive a plane crash. The new twist here is that they awake, sans Ace, in Nanda Parbat, DC’s favorite hidden/magical city. Clay, the smart one, has “The Spiral,” a stone that glows bright and, apparently, has powers. Some people, like the goofy Red, believe this is all part of the show. June is set on finding Ace, who she refuses to believe is dead, before she knows it, they are somehow back at the site of the plane crash. This is all pretty run of the mill origin story stuff, which would normally be ok, but this is a three issue arc, and almost â…“ of it is wasted on a throwaway Kat Grant reference and attempted pop culture humor.
Thankfully, Jerry Ordway is on board to draw the shit out of this book. Ordway’s style is the definition of classic, and he brings some class and tastefulness to these proceedings. His Nanda Parbat is sufficiently beautiful and tranquil, and all of the characters are expressive and distinguishable from each other. My only two complaints are that Red’s doe-eyed optimism can be a little much, and there must have been a better model for Clay than Kevin Smith.
I understand that Jack Kirby is one of the best, and I understand that DC wants to use the characters he created for them, and that the New 52 gives them a good opportunity to do so. O.M.A.C. might not have lasted, but it was a valiant attempt to give a lesser known Kirby property a shot, but the Demon seems to be doing well over in the pages of Demon Knights. Darkseid is the villain in the flagship Justice League book, and that, too, is a smart move. But the type of people who will buy a book because of the Kirby connections probably want something a little bit closer to the King’s original concept. And this three issue arc probably won’t give too much time for them to become the Pentagon-sponsored team, tackling dangerous missions that made the initial book a success. Instead, DiDio and Ordway are simply using the plane crash origin and some old character names to tell a story that, so far, has very little to do with the Kirby classic. But the reality show is called Challengers! OH YEAH, that makes it better!Continued below
This is yet another bizarre move by DC, a company that seems content to use nostalgia to get you in the door of your comic shop, but then wants you to instantly forget all the positive associations you have with their characters once you pay your $2.99 and open up the first issue.
Final Verdict: 5.4 – Browse