Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Ravagers #1 review

If a new comic book wants a better chance in a crowded market, showcasing the star in existing titles is a good way to go. The Inhumans, the Silver Surfer, Moon Knight ... all bounced around the Marvel Universe for a while before getting their own books. Over at DC, the likes of Deathstroke and Lobo did the same. Their titles may not have survived long-term, but there was at least some recognition among fans when they got their shot at the big leagues.

So, from the pages of Teen Titans, Legion Lost and Superboy, here come the Ravagers ...

... I fear we should leave them there.

Because sometimes, exposure to new characters destined for their own book is enough to make you think: No thanks.

Which is why I almost didn't give this DC New 52 second wave title a try. The Ravagers - abused metahuman teens trained to kill - haven't exactly had the aura of breakout stars. The likes of Thunder, Lightning and Ridge should be wearing tee-shirts emblazoned with the words 'crossover cannon fodder', so generic are they. We're talking an angry man monster and angst-ridden super-siblings.

As for Fairchild, Terra and Beast Boy, revisions of old DC/Wildstorm characters, it's tough to see how they deserve to front a new team book, when they could easily fit into the Teen Titans.

Still, I thought, give 'em a chance, maybe they have a unique selling point that wasn't evident in recent crossover The Culling. The concept is handily blurbed across the cover - 'trained to be killers - can they become heroes?' To which anyone who's been reading comics more than a couple of minutes would reply, 'yep'. Sure, we may get the odd Ravager so emotionally twisted by rubbish supervillain Harvest that they'll go fully to the bad and pay the price. Exactly that happens this issue with one of the other teen metas who escapes from evil organisation NOWHERE's freezing facility. But most will be just fine, and assimilate into the superhero community in time for this book's inevitable cancellation.

Because if a comic as shamelessly Nineties as Hawk & Dove can't survive in the current market, this has no chance. It's competent so far as outlining the plot is concerned, but there's nothing fresh here. The teens Harvest hoped to turn into Ravagers are on the run from his existing, all-evil Ravagers, led by Rose Wilson and Warblade. Some are killed in patented New 52 grisly manner, while our protaganists bicker and snark.

There's some interest in that Fairchild, having worked undercover at NOWHERE, knows the backgrounds of the kids where they themselves have forgotten. And I'm interested to see how Beast Boy, traditionally green and now red, links up with the Animal Man/Swamp Thing Rot/Red storyline.

But the focus needs to shift away from NOWHERE pretty darn quickly, as we've had months of the terrible Culling storyline. Let Rose and co fade into the background, and let's spend time with the book's headliners, get to know them as they face new challenges.

Number one should be getting Thunder to the hairdressers to get rid of the two-hairstyles-in-one thing she has going on. It's certainly distinctive, but unless it's a tragic side effect of mutant powers, there's no way a kid on the run would be able to maintain it. Perhaps it's a sign of insanity.

And while he's on, penciller Ian Churchill might work on making Fairchild the heroine more distinct from Fairchild the scientist, as to all intents and purposes her only ability seems to be making her breasts bigger. Which is impressive in its own way, but still ...

That aside, this is solid superhero work from Churchill and inker Norm Rapmund, with clear storytelling and dynamic figurework. And the colour work by Alex Sollazzo is first class.

Howard Mackie's script, meanwhile, hits all the necessary beats, recapping details from The Culling and beginning to introduce the featured Ravagers in terms of powers and personalities. He emphasises the horrors suffered by the kids enough that their extreme actions here are understandable, if not excusable. While the dialogue's not awful, it's mostly interchangeable, with only the supposedly British Ridge showing any personality ('Bloody hell' he says. Twice). As I said though, so far, so generic - there's no obvious slot this book fills in the New 52 'offer'.

It must be said, though, that this is better than any individual chapter of The Culling - it's readable, whereas what came before was the comic book equivalent of a bad migraine.

Churchill's cover gets points for namechecking the characters. Then loses them for the blatant cheesecake of Fairchild, who is, happily, covered up inside.

I'll likely check back in with this series next month, to see if there are signs of a unique direction emerging. But The Ravagers is on a very short leash - if it continues to draw out the dregs of The Culling, I'm out.

10 comments:

  1. I look forward to your reviews every week, Mart.

    Oh, is that Beast Boy? What, is he supposed to look like the werewolf from Twilight? Does he take his shirt off a lot?

    This has been sounding quite generic to me, and now that it has its own book, sounds even more so. Think I'll pass, thanks.

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    1. I think passing is fair enough, so far there's nothing much to see here. Apart from an oddly coloured Beast Boy!

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  2. Hey mart if your looking for a teen book free from nowhere then try blue beetle, it's got a lot of interesting plotting and great art bey tony bedard and ig guara

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    1. I'll take a look, ta - I've not read it since the first issue ... I loved the old Jaime and his cast, so didn't like the tweaks. Plus, I wasn't keen on seeing the origin done again so soon.

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    2. I assure you blue beetle is still a young man trying to be the best hero he can be facing insurmountable odds, plus you'll love the villains like robo gorilla silverback, chronally power criminals stopwatch and short timer and the reach(eventually)

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  3. RE: Blue Beetle - If you liked the old series (especially John Rodgers' run), I would actually suggest you avoid the current one. I dropped it because of the "tweaks" - the biggest one for me is the shift with Paco, who was absolutely lovable in the old series. Also, besides not needing the origin again, we also get Jaime versus a dark mirror villain again. If you're new to it & enjoying it, great, but the "young hero facing insurmountable odds" angle was done with much more humor & humanity in the Rodgers run, and I'd recommend trades of that before the current series.

    As for the Ravagers... I'll give it the usual four-issue tryout I do for books I'm not sure about. Those words "Written by Howard Mackie" aren't filling me with much hope, even if this review did ease some fears.

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    1. Thanks Mela, the change in Paco was a huge sticking point to me. It seemed the New 52 was bringing us a less enjoyable take on a story I'd already spent two years and lots of money following. I'll likely take another look at some point, but it's low priority.

      I can't recall ever reading any Howard Mackie, other than some Spidey stories, so he's pretty new to me.

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  4. I dont understand the point of this book. Is it trying for an Outsiders vibe, or a kind of anti-Teen Titans? And the whole 'heroes/villains sticking together although they dont like each other' wore thin with the Secret Six; it will be difficult to care about disparate characters wiht this premise. Fairchild - I presume shes the one from Gen 13 - is out of place here [but then they all are] and so is Beast Boy, who looks totally different from his Titans days.
    Really cant get worked up about this at all, as it feels as if we've seen it all before. Plus point; good to see UK artist Ian Churchill back on regular books. He was an up and coming artist in the 90s until he went to the US, then went all 'Americanized' and his unique style was lost to a generic Image look. His work here is about the only thing Im infused about.

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    1. I believe Fairchild is from Gen 13, Karl - I never read any of that book, it just looked like another X-Titans-alike. If it was like this, Gen may have stood for Generic.

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  5. Ive only read one Gen 13 book, Mart - the one-off crossover they did with the FF some years back. All I can say is it felt like they were DCs answer to the New Mutants. Didnt think much of it.

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