‘The Unexpected’ Collects Crucial Pieces Of Vertigo’s Quiet Revitalization
If you’ve been following the story of Vertigo — the DC Comics mature readers imprint that’s home to The Sandman, Preacher, Scalped and much, much more — you know that there was a time in the recent past when it seemed the once legendary label had lost its prestige, especially when founder Karen Berger left the company. Thankfully that downward trend has been steadily reversed with the progress of JH Williams III and Neil Gaiman’s new Sandman project, critically acclaimed new titles like FPB: Federal Physics Bureau, The Wake and Trillium, and promising books to come like Hinterkind. All these projects speak to the variously dark and wild-eyed visions that defined the Vertigo line at the height of its influence, but what you may not recall is that this creative refocusing began in earnest where so many great comics do: within the pages of relatively innocuous anthologies.
On sale this week, The Unexpected is a paperback collection of The Unexpected #1 and Ghosts #1, two Vertigo anthology one-shots released in 2011 and 2012, respectively, that signaled the imprint’s aesthetic resurrection. The book compiles done-in-one horror shorts from the imaginations of some of comics’ most enduring talents as well as promising newcomers, including one of the final works of master cartoonist Joe Kubert and a rare mature readers outing from DC’s top superhero writer Geoff Johns.
The complete list of contributors to The Unexpected collection are as follows: Dave Gibbons; G. Willow Wilson & Robbi Rodriguez; Alexander Grecian & Jill Thompson; Joshua Dysart & Farel Dalrymple; Jeffrey Rotter & Lelio Bonaccorso; Mat Johnson & David Lapham; Joshua Hale Fialkov & Rahsan Ekedal; Brian Wood and Emily Carroll; Selwyn Seyfu Hinds & Denys B. Cowan; Al Ewing & Rufus Dayglo; Toby Litt, Mark Buckingham & Victor Santos; Cecil Castellucci & Amy Reeder Hadley; Joe Kubert; Neil Kleid & John McCrea; Mary H.K. Choi & Phil Jimenez; David Lapham & Paul Pope; Gilbert Hernandez; Geoff Johns & Jeff Lemire.
With a roster like that, it seems obvious in retrospect that Vertigo was getting serious about reclaiming its birthright as the spot for idiosyncratic talents to immerse readers in their occasionally twisted ideas. The book is an entertaining read and an important marker in the history of one of American comics’ most important imprints. Here’s a few pages for your consideration:
The Unexpected lives up to its name not just in the sense that its contents are spooky, startling and even scary (although much of it is just that), but more importantly in the sense that it quietly heralded Vertigo’s renewed creative purpose. Alongside the anthologies collected here were the sci-fi one-shots Time Warp, Mystery in Space and Strange Adventures, which will presumably be collected together at some future date. The Unexpected can be purchased this Wednesday at finer comics shops and bookstores.
Disclosure: Some of the material in The Unexpected collection was edited by ComicsAlliance’s Joseph Hughes prior to his joining the site’s full-time staff.