Ragman’s been around since the Seventies but never developed a fanbase. Truth be told, Rory Reagan comes across as just another Gotham vigilante, wandering around the rooftops in flowing cape and beating up bad guys. He’s become more of a mystical character down the years, but magic users don’t attract the greatest audiences. And the name doesn’t help. Ragman? Smelly. His nickname? The tatterdemalion of justice.
God help him.
Well, here he is again, with a one-shot which respects his conflicting history as a character who was originally presented as Irish, then revealed to be Jewish. Why did Reagan’s father, the previous Ragman in a line going back to 16th-century Prague, deny his heritage on moving to the US from Europe? Why was he seemingly ashamed? After a hard-fought war in Europe, why did he never don the suit of rags after reaching Gotham? These are the questions that motivate Ragman here. It’s driving him mad, he must know. He must!
So he seeks out a rabbi who, of course, has no idea, but sensibly advises focusing on the good his father did. And eventually Ragman finds the answers he seeks, within his suit of lost souls. The end.
Writer Christos Gage gives us the history of Jewish oppression in Europe, touches on the careers of several Ragmen (one met Jonah Hex, it seems) and has Rory make peace with his demons. The script is crisp and clear, letting us know what made Ragman Sr tick. That’s the stage nicely set for a series, in which we’ll get to know our Ragman, Rory, better.
Except there is no series. This is a special. Next time a series does arrive, someone will have to tell the origin of Ragman again, perhaps giving the suit of souls a new wrinkle or two.
With respect, I think the wrong route was taken here. This is a one-shot, as in, you have one-shot to grab the reader’s attention, make them cry out for more. That’s unlikely to happen if we’re not shown how cool the current Ragman is, and given an idea of how he might move forward. But this story is backward looking, leaving us at the end, pretty much where we came in, with daddy-fixated Rory Reagan feeling somewhat better, but still tied to his father’s two lives, as pawnbroker and hero. He’s the latest Ragman, not The Ragman. And soon I’ll have forgotten all about him until the next time he turns up in a Shadowpact crowd scene.
Stephen Segovia’s art is as accomplished as Gage’s script, dripping with atmosphere. The historical and fictional locales and characters look splendid and were Ragman to get a series somewhere, I’d be very happy to see Segovia draw it. His renderings reminds me of those of the great Tom Mandrake. Colourist David Curiel and letterer Rob Leigh likewise do sterling work here, and Jesus Saiz provides an attractive cover. But the book as a whole never soars, and I put that down to lack of ambition.
Ragman: Suit of Souls is a decent reminder that the character exists, though I doubt it’ll prove a lasting one.