Challengers of the Unknown is a comic published in 1957 and is the precursor to this “New Age of Heroes” series by Scott Snyder, Aaron Gillespie, and Adam Kubert. If you like adventure comics you’re going to dig this new series as it drops the characters into wildly different situations much like the reader as we figure out what is going on and how to win the day.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The teams arrive at Brainiac’s home world to find it already in chaos. Only by splitting up and journeying to the four cosmic trees of Colu will they have any hope of saving the planet…but what’s waiting for them will test the true mettle of their new alliances!
Why does this matter?
After doing some research, I learned a New 52 reboot appeared in DC Universe Presents in 2012 written by Dan DiDio and drawn by Jerry Ordway. So this isn’t a brand new idea, although in that 2012 comic the characters were in a reality competition. This series goes back to the roots of the series, propelling characters into secret missions to save the Earth.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The premise of the series is a strong one and it’s something you’ll piece together by the end of the issue. The way this is written is part of the fun in reading the comic — we really don’t know what is going on, just like the main characters — and I suspect that’ll be a reoccurring theme of the comic. If you like strange tales to wrap your head around, this is going to be for you. As the characters piece together what is going on (with some much-needed explanation from a man named Prof) we begin to understand there’s a legion of people who have saved the Earth countless times and more will follow. It’s an interesting premise that involves reviving the dead and making them into heroes on borrowed time. The last few pages really hit you over the head with big ideas that will satisfy those who like their stories just outside the realm of reality.
Adam Kubert draws a great issue, especially with the big ideas and wonder-inspiring moments. In a highlight moment, we get to see the Justice League rushing to save the day, and in a clever full-page spread Kubert reveals the asteroids aren’t actually asteroids. They’re at once gross, but also rather cool looking creatures storming down onto Earth.
It can’t be perfect can it?
I can’t say I really know what is going on. There’s some kind of glowing bone that seems to be important, but this is one of those comics that holds its cards close to the vest. If you’re patient you’ll enjoy this, but I was growing impatient with how little we learned by the end. It also required two reads to understand what was going on.
Surprisingly the characters are cool with the rules of the game even though they’re somewhat like slaves forced to do whatever Prof wants. At least that’s my take. Since the premise is rather complicated we don’t get much in the way of character work and instead have to be satisfied with the knowledge they were all chosen and thus they’re all good guys. I think the concept of the series is sound, but it’s going to require reading another issue or two to really know if you want this on your pull list. The main villain is very briefly introduced and the only reason I know he’s the villain is because he’s so menacing on the cover.
Is it good?
If you like comics ala Alan Moore, you’re going to be game to try out this adventure series. That said, it’s rather heavy handed in explaining the premise of the series and doesn’t quite sell you on the characters or what is going on enough to make you buy into it.