Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

A New 52 Review: The Ravagers #1

Posted by Don MacPherson on May 31st, 2012

Variant coverThe Ravagers #1
“Children of Destiny”
Writer: Howard Mackie
Pencils: Ian Churchill
Inks: Norm Rapmund & Ian Churchill
Colors: Alex Sollazzo
Letters: Dezi Sienty
Cover artists: Churchill (regular)/Brett Booth & Rapmund (variant)
Editor: Pat McCallum & Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

While I knew going in this wasn’t going to be the sort of comic book I normally enjoy, the first sign something was amiss was apparent on the cover, with the six protagonists all identified with bold captions. It’s not often one sees that incorporated into cover art, at least not in a composition such as this one. Still, I kept an open mind, interested in how DC and its creative talent have reinvented some familiar and not-so familiar characters. Unfortunately, this comic is exactly what it appears to be: an inaccessible, uber-violent exercise in “Kewl” comics storytelling of the mid-1990s. In other words, it’s an example of How Not to Do Comics. I hope DC will be content with circulations numbers at the same level of Teen Titans, because there isn’t a prayer of this title bringing in any more readers than that. And it’s far more likely The Ravagers will find itself kicked to the curb to make way for another wave of New 52 titles in the future.

A group of super-powered youths who’ve undergone torturous genetic experiments at the hands of the scientists of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. take a chance to escape their captors and the torment they’ve had to endure for too long. Led by Caitlin Fairchild, a former N.O.W.H.E.R.E. scientist with a conscience, the confused and desperate superhuman teens find themselves not only stranded on the remote frozen Alaskan tundra, but hunted by their hosts and their ruthless agents, such as Warblade and Rose Wilson. Fairchild discovers she not only has to contend with those threats, but her inability to placate her charges and keep them together.

With six characters clustered together (not doing much of anything), a dominant logo, a blurb about another comic and an italicized header broken up into two blocks to proclaim the premise, the regular-edition cover is an absolute mess. With so much typeface vying for the consumer’s attention, Churchill has opted to draw focus to the cleavage of Fairchild (and Thunder’s, to a lesser extent). I also noted Fairchild’s attire in the interior artwork is never as scant as it is on the cover. Furthermore, the costume designs are just as unnecessarily busy while also being uninteresting. I get the Tron-like outfits are all supposed to look similar, as they’re essentially prisoner uniforms, but they lack any kind iconic quality.

Churchill’s linework here is lacking, and it’s unfortunate. There are pages on which it’s difficult to discern the action, and what’s happening is only apparent because the script explains what’s going on. This is perhaps most apparent when Rose Wilson and Warblade take out two of their escapees. Furthermore, it’s not immediately clear there are many more of these escapees than initially depicted on the regular cover and opening double-page splash. Eventually, one can tell there are others, but there’s no way to know if it’s dozens more or three or four. I did appreciate Churchill’s successful effort to demonstrate that Fairchild isn’t normally a buxom bombshell, and I thought the youthfulness of the characters come through nicely.

Mackie’s script seems to contradict itself at times. The escapees are desperate to avoid being returned to captivity, but when the bad guys catch up with them, they start slaughtering them. Furthermore, Wilson seems disgusted by an escapee’s willingness to kill another to improve his chances, but she’s planning on chopping them up anyway. Her moral high ground is illogical and perplexing. I’m also at a loss as to how Mackie handles Beast Boy’s role in the story, which is next to non-existent. He takes off on the fifth page, but he’s the most recognizable character in the book. I also don’t get why he’s been recolored to be red rather than his trademark green in previous incarnations (both in and outside of comics), especially when the character is enjoying a high profile thanks to inclusion in Young Justice: Invasion and DC Nation New Teen Titans shorts on the Cartoon Network.

What’s most frustrating about this issue is how little the script tells the reader about what’s going on. Several characters aren’t even named, even though they’re the focus of a scene or two. We don’t know what N.O.W.H.E.R.E. is. There’s no exposition to explain why Thunder and Lightning, purported siblings, look nothing alike. We don’t know what served as the catalyst for the escape attempt. We don’t know what’s driving Fairchild. We’re not told why these characters are called “ravagers” in the first place. I recognize many of these answers are likely included in recent issues of Teen Titans and other comics, but the fact of the matter is this is a first issue. Mackie has failed to write it as such, though, ignoring the fact that a debut issue is most definitely going to be many readers’ first. 2/10

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3 Responses to “A New 52 Review: The Ravagers #1”

  1. Tom Galloway Says:

    There actually is a decent reason why Beast Boy is red. Remember, in the current DCU, you’ve got the Green for plants and the Red for animals, as seen in Swamp Thing and Animal Man. Since Beast Boy does animals, he’s tied into the Red, thus the coloration (as opposed to his Earth-1 rationale, which involved being injected with blood from a green monkey). As it happens, at first when he’d change into an animal only its face would be green, while the rest would be the normal color for such.

    I’m guessing it’s coming from Bob Harras as line editor, but I’m otherwise finding it odd that DC is putting so much work in the hands of people whose peak as sales attractions were back in the ’90s (Liefeld, Lobdell and now Mackie and to a slightly lesser degree DeFalco). Those four write, I believe, almost 20 per cent of the New 52 books, and sales aren’t indicating that there’s been much demand for a comeback (and the styles and quality aren’t noticably different from what I recall from the ’90s).

  2. John F. Says:

    Could have been worse. Could have had foil cover.
    Beast Boy was originally purple.

  3. Tom Galloway Says:

    No, actually he wore a purple mask to disguise his natural greenness. Believe it or not, Beast Boy was actually a secret id at first, and there just weren’t that many green kids out there.