I’m going to cop to a few things now that potentially mean you could discount this review of DC Comics’ just released The Ravagers #1:
- I haven’t read the current incarnation of Teen Titans past the first two issues.
- I haven’t read the current incarnation of Superboy past the first two issues.
- I’m totally unfamiliar with Wildstorm’s Gen 13, other than a few issues I happened to pick up in the post-World’s End era.
The reason I bring all of this up is that, despite being a first issue, Ravagers picks up directly from events currently happening in both Teen Titans and Superboy, and plays off characters from Gen 13 - and potentially other Wildstorm characters, I don’t know. In all honestly, other than knowing several incarnations of DC’s Terra, being aware that Beast Boy is usually green rather than red, and knowing that Rose Wilson used to be called Ravager, I’m going into this issue blind.
So to get back to what I said originally, for those of you who have been keeping up with all of these books, this issue may contain a fair amount of pay-off that’s entirely lost on me. That said? I’d argue that a first issue, no matter what the back-story is, needs to work for new readers as well as old... And on that count, The Ravagers #1 is a failure on nearly all levels.
Okay, that’s not totally fair: Ian Churchill’s art, along with co-inker Norm Rapmuno and colorist Alex Sollazzo is nice and clean, classic superhero layouts. There’s a fair amount of “why are they jumping in a cool pose like that?” but that’s also par for the course for a superhero book. And his characters, particularly the team leader Caitlin Fairchild, and the monstrous Ridge are unique in their depiction. Ridge in particular looks fondly reminiscent of a character who might have shown up in the late, great DC Cosmic book R.E.B.E.L.S. So for fond association factor alone, Ridge gets a bump up in my standings.
But beyond that, well... The plot boils down to this: there’s a group of superhumans who were experimented on and tortured. One of the torturers (Ridge) and a scientist (Caitin Fairchild) help them escape the facility they were being held in. They attack a bunch of soldiers who offer to help them, then get attacked by two other superhumans, all in the snowy wastes of The Arctic (or something). That’s pretty much it, and you can’t necessarily fault a superhero comic for just being a series of fight scenes one after another - again, par for the course - but for a first issue, and particularly one that’s a spin-off of a spin-off title, with no bankable leads, and no name recognition... Well, you have to come out of the gate with a bang.
Here, there’s no real sense of the stakes, why the characters are doing what they were doing, and in particular, no sense of sympathy for them. I realize they’re supposed to be anti-heroes, walking the line between villainy and heroism, but it’s hard to care about a bunch of people who attack unarmed soldiers giving up. And beyond that, everybody either splits up immediately, or stands around confused about what to do - there’s not a lot of forward momentum for something that should be kicking off the next great superhero adventure.
It’s tough, too, to slam this title too much, as it’s written by Howard Mackie, who’s done everything from writing Spider-Man, to editing West Coast Avengers. But the narration in this book is awkward and distracting at best, and damaging to the flow of the book at worst. There’s moments that clearly are supposed to connect to previous statements int he narration, but don’t, whether they were edited out and then not changed, or tweaked in post is unclear. They’re the equivalent of saying what you’re thinking, or as The Robot Devil in Futurama said it best: “You can't just have your characters announce how they feel! That makes me feel angry!" That’s just not good writing.
It’s not all terrible: there’s a fun joke about Ridge’s tail, and Rose Wilson is appropriately bad-ass. But until we start focusing up on the characters on the cover, give them some sort of forward motion in the plot, and cut the narration, Ravagers will have a long uphill battle to make it past DC’s eight issue cut off.
The Ravagers #1 is currently on sale from DC Comics.