New Challengers #1 didn’t sell me on the series, but it did earn my interest for the concept. A bunch of people who don’t know each other show up in a strange place to be told they are dead and they must go on adventures to stay alive (in whatever form that is). This second issue drops you right into the pulse pounding action and adds new layers that make it worth a look.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The Challengers of the Unknown venture on their first mission for the Professor…to the bottom of the ocean! But when the ancient artifact they have to collect turns out to be far more dangerous than expected, the new teammates realize they might not all make it out alive!
Why does this matter?
Scott Snyder and Aaron Gillespie are developing an action-adventure series with a whole lot of mystery thrown in. Andy Kubert needs no introduction and joins them in giving this series the Golden Age feel it deserves.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This issue delves into one of the new members of this team giving us a flashback that effectively fleshes out a mystery that is tied to the real world. Sure, the main characters have been transported to some kind of flat Earth ocean and are being chased by sea beasts, but this flashback helps the story stay grounded in some kind of reality. The narrative of this issue reminded me of some of the great sci-fi mysteries like Dark City and it adds new layers to probe and ponder.
Trying not to give anything away, but there are some interesting new shadowy characters that are introduced in this issue. Add this to a crazy cliffhanger that flips everything on its head and you’ve got yourself a series that’s a puzzle box worth examining.
Kubert is an expert so it isn’t surprising how well he draws this story. One example is a scene where a character has a gun put to their head. In one panel we see the character waist up with the gun pointed at him. The next panel pushes in closer and the gun is pressed right to their forehead. The next panel has pushed in even closer so we can only see the gun and then in a panel to the right we get the sound, “Blamm.” This progression enhances the moment and makes the death all the more tragic and stirring.
It can’t be perfect can it?
This issue is paced better than the last, but there are still some awkward moments that make things difficult to follow. I’m not sure if it’s a narrative problem or an art problem, but it’s difficult to follow what exactly is going on. There’s also some hacker gibberish happening which is more confusing later on when a character has to remove a force field. We never actually see what the character is doing to remove the force field beyond taping his wrist. This makes the struggle to remove the force field confusing and it lacks any tension at all. If we can’t understand what it is he’s doing to remove it we really only understand it’s a problem because he tells us so. Show us don’t tell us!
Is it good?
This issue raises the mastery level of the narrative right up to the top of the charts enhancing the overall enjoyment as we try to make sense of the puzzle the story is laying out. It also ends on a cliffhanger that upends what we know and will make you want more.