By Zack Quaintance — The first line of this comic is Hawkman saying, You two are trespassing on my past. Which is objectively awesome and also fitting, because if The Unexpected #5 were an episode of Friends (bear with me here), it would be the one where Hawkman joins the team. This joining is a great move for a couple of reasons. One, it gives Steve Orlando—an absolute ace with DC continuity—an opportunity to write a long-time character he hasn’t written before, and two, adding a familiar hero to our compelling newbies gives this story a new layer as it pushes forward into (sorry) unexpected territory.
That unexpected territory is actually something we’ve seen recently—Hawkman’s involvement in Dark Nights Metal and the dark multiverse, where he was enslaved by Barbatos with the help of Mandrakk (I think). One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about The Unexpected is how it seems almost deliberately tasked with expounding upon the ideas from the event it grew out of, more directly than any of its brethren from the New Age of DC Heroes line (which seems to be fading...fast), and we definitely get more of that here, as Hawkman explores his resultant trauma. It’s a compelling hook, and The Unexpected #5 drops it right at its start.
The story then does a great job of giving us motivations for Hawkman to join our team, be it solving the mysteries behind his own life (see the excellent ongoing Hawkman solo comic for more of that) or behind Nth metal—the material that literally makes up one of our main character’s heart—or behind the battle with Onimar Synn, who Hawkman explains is one of Thanagar’s seven devils. Simply put, The Unexpected continues to have one of the most complex and engrossing storylines in all of the DCU.
This is also an outrageously comic book-y story in the best possible way, featuring scenes in the Castle Frankenstein, a villain who absorbs an underling’s soul and then conjures a dragon, and a scene in which gravity gets upended. From its start, The Unexpected has been a journey book, bouncing between twists rather than building toward any sort of repeatable status quo, and this issue again keeps a constant state of flux, introducing new characters and variables.
Artist Cary Nord, who’s been aboard from the start and is off now to draw G. Willow Wilson’s forthcoming run on Wonder Woman, is missed, to be sure, but Ronan Cliquet is a more than capable replacement, an artist whose linework is clean and kinetic. Fortunately, Cliquet will also be on this book for the foreseeable future, assuaging the one concern I have about this issue: that the shelf life for The Unexpected (and indeed, all of the New Age of Heroes books) is limited.
Overall: The Unexpected #5 is a book set in a series of rapid moments, which inherently makes it one best not fretted about long-term. Basically, this story is a wild ride and I’m content to sit back and enjoy the fireworks. Of the New Age of DC Heroes books, The Unexpected continues to be my favorite. 9.0/10
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.