When Batman and the Justice League arrived in Gotham City in Dark Nights: Metal #1, they found a mountain in the middle of town.
Long-time DC fans soon recognized this as Challengers Mountain, the headquarters of the Challengers of the Unknown.
As Newsarama continues our series titled Dark Nights: Metal 101, we take a look at the mountain that appeared in Gotham City during Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's first issue, the history of the Challengers, and what it means for the team's future in the DCU.
Is It Challengers Mountain?
There are several clues in Metal #1 that confirm the identity of the mountain as the headquarters of the Challengers of the Universe.
First, the mountain's shape is similar to the topography always drawn in stories about the Challengers of the Unknown. The Justice League in Metal #1 also discovered that the mountain was hollow, with a laboratory inside - which was the physical make-up of Challengers Mountain, constructed by the Challengers team early in their comic book history.
In Metal #1, The Flash finds a door with an unusual logo on it - a symbol representing an hourglass running out of time, once used by the Challengers of the Unknown.
And the League also discovers that a team of five people are located within the mountain, but they are in some type of cryostasis within a space pod. Although readers are not shown these five people, there were five members of the Challengers team for much of their original run.
Later in Metal #1, after the League travels to Blackhawk Island, they learn that Hawkman recruited heroes to help him with his investigation of Nth Metal. The League is shown images of some of those heroes, and among them is a photo of five Challengers of the Unknown members (who are shown posing with the robot Red Tornado).
So…this does appear to be Challengers Mountain.
Who Are the Challengers?
The original Challengers debuted in 1957's Showcase #6 by Dave Wood and Jack Kirby. The team was made up of four men who traveled on the same airplane and survived the plane's crash.
All four of them had been traveling to appear on a radio show about heroes - athletic champion Rocky Davis, scientist/diver Professor Haley, daredevil Red Ryan, and war hero Ace Morgan. Their shared survival experience made them believe they were "living on borrowed time," and they decided to challenge other dangers together.
A female part of the team was added - June Robbins, a computer genius and archaeologist who appeared in the second Challengers story in Showcase #7. She became an "honorary" Challenger and appeared in many of the team's subsequent adventures.
The team, clad in purple uniforms, became known for fighting dinosaurs, giant robots and alien spaceships, and they operated out of a headquarters they built in a hollowed-out peak known as Challengers Mountain. Their stories were told in the title Challengers of the Unknown, which lasted until the early '70s. Other versions of the Challengers have emerged in DC Comics since, as well as various revivals and reappearances of the original members.
Who Are They in Metal?
When the Justice League finds Challengers Mountain in Gotham City, they surmise that the mountain did not come from beneath the surface - but from "somewhere else."
From the story, it appears that the "somewhere else" (from which Challengers Mountain came) may be the Dark Multiverse that has been investigated in the past by Carter Hall/Hawkman.
According to Metal story details so far, Challengers Mountain disappeared during an experiment conducted by Carter and a team of heroes to discover the secrets of Nth Metal and its connection to the Dark Multiverse.
In the Metal prequel
But when Carter used Nth Metal to open the doorway to the "dark," the earth shook and the entire mountain vanished, apparently with the Challengers inside.
"As I stared into the darkness where Challengers Mountain had stood," Carter's journal explained, "I felt a chill down my spine … and I saw the eyes of something great and terrible staring back at me through the abyss."
Metal #1 states that when the Challengers of the Unknown (along with the robot Red Tornado) were sent to investigate the Dark Multiverse, "the entire mountain was ripped out of reality." The last transmission from the team was screams about worlds of nightmare and evil and a warning from Red Tornado about a beast called Barbatos.
We now know that Barbatos intends to invade the DCU, and he's using Batman to do it.
But first, it looks like maybe Barbatos and his followers have returned Challengers Mountain to the DCU somehow. The Justice League is told that the mountain's appearance is "the first shot fired of a full-scale invasion, one that's been planned for centuries."
Since it was stated that there are five people in cryostasis within the mountain, the Challengers may still be alive within their protective pod, particularly since Red Tornado was returned and appears to be still functioning.
However, their pod has a hand-written warning that says, "It's chasing us: Run." So things don't look so good right now.
The future of the Challengers concept is bright, however, as DC has already announced a new ongoing series called New Challengers that pulls from the concept.
Written by Snyder with artist Andy Kubert, New Challengers will have a new cast and new missions, but "in conversation with the history and greatness of the original Challengers of the Unknown," according to promotional copy. The new series debuts in December.