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.