Shattered (Convergence Part Three)
Credits: Steven Grant w/Len Kaminski (writers), John Paul Leon (penciler), Shawn Martinbrough and Bill Reinhold (inkers), Ken Lopez (letterer), Matt Hollingsworth (colorist)
Summary: One-twelfths of the world’s population lapses into a coma. The Challengers of the Unknown investigate, and member Kenn develops a theory that the victims’ astrological sign, Scorpio, is the key to the case. He goes to visit his daughter, Danni, who is one of the victims. When he sees her topaz locket, he realizes that topaz holds the cure. Following his instructions, the Challengers create a “Topaz Man” in the desert and hold hands. The energy that’s contained within the victims is released, creating an apparition that flies into the sky. Danni and the rest of the victims awaken from their coma.
Irrelevant Continuity: The other Challengers are shocked to discover Kenn has an ex-wife and daughter.
Review: It’s another chapter of the crossover that really couldn’t care less if you’ve never read this book before. I do know that the Challengers are a Jack Kirby concept that predates the Fantastic Four, and like many of DC’s Silver Age titles, the book’s been relaunched several times throughout the decades without finding much of an audience. This incarnation of the Challengers, according to the letters page, brings an X-Files influence to the concept (I don’t know if the creators actually had that in mind, but I’m sure DC had no problem marketing the book this way.) Everything had to reference X-Files at some point in the ‘90s, but I guess Challengers of the Unknown isn’t much of a stretch for an X-Files connection. Unfortunately, you learn more about the title from the letters page than the actual story. I realize the creators are following “show, don’t tell,” but just a small amount of exposition would’ve helped any new readers brought in by this crossover.
For starters, the story doesn’t identify the four leads as the Challengers until page sixteen. We see that they’re a group of investigators, but their actions don’t exactly bring the word “challenger” to mind. The only character who’s clearly named for most of the story is Kenn, while most of the cast seems nameless until page nineteen. Even then, it’s hard to discern their roles in the book. (And, occasionally, the murky artwork makes it difficult to tell the characters apart.) Apparently, Marlon is the leader, Kenn is the eccentric, Clay is the arrogant cynic, and Brenda is the rational skeptic. This is based on just a few lines of dialogue, so I could be wrong. The relationships between the characters, and the basic setup of the organization, are glossed over, so a new reader still knows very little about the concept of the series by the end of the issue.
All that said, I did enjoy the comic. The only cast member who receives any real characterization is Kenn, but he’s a strong enough protagonist to maintain the reader’s interest. The scenes between Kenn and his family feel real, and the resolution of the mystery is quite clever. I like the connection between topaz, the birthstone of Scorpio, and the character of Prince Topaz, whose presence is likely an editorial requirement. I suspect Grant/Kaminski didn’t have a great interest in the crossover, or perhaps weren’t even aware of the specific details of the main plot, so they’ve created a story that works independent of the main storyline while also putting one of the characters where he needs to be for the next chapter. If you were a regular reader of Challengers of the Unknown, the crossover isn’t hindering the book in any way. If you’re a new reader who’s buying the issue simply to get the next chapter of the “Convergence” crossover, however, your patience is likely to be tested.