By Dustin Cabeal
Well, it was about time DC updated Ragman for a new generation. What the hell were we doing with our lives without Ragman in them? Let’s get serious for a moment… the character’s name is Ragman. It’s understandable for any publisher to use characters that they already own, it’s just how comic books work. Let’s not pretend to understand how a character named Ragman, whose powers come from his rags and his rags come from the souls of evil people that he’s absorbed, who must help him to reduce their sentence and go on to the afterlife, is still somehow relevant.
In concept, yes, that is a cool idea. Until you see that damn costume. The old one sucked, this is in no way in defense of the old costume, but the new one sucks in new and different ways. Todd McFarlane got it right when he created Spawn. The similarities are there, especially if you made it into the 2010’s of the series. Spawn wins though because the name and costume will always be a thousand times cooler than “Ragman” which is a guy wearing rags. The point of all this is that if you’re going to revamp a character such as Ragman, then really revamp them. Update the name, update the costume, update the gimmick. When will comics learn that their characters are just like wrestlers and the costumes and names can be changed, improved and developed; the fans will still like them.
Which brings us to the actual story of the new Ragman series; it’s painfully mediocre. Stop me if you’ve heard this plot line that is definitely not from Three Kings the movie nor from several other comic books since 9/11. U.S. soldiers in the Middle East are robbing some riches when some shit goes down, and only one of them makes it out alive. Rory aka Twig aka Ragman is the only one of his squad to make it back after a brutal attack in a tomb that they’re looking to rob. Some people also grabbed in rags (which was a poor choice given the racial slurs attached to the Middle East and the word “rag,” but hey… they kept that shitty name, so they take the blame.) attack them as we see in flashbacks that are playing out in Rory’s memory.
Eventually, the rags take Rory out hunting where he absorbs his first soul. He also makes contact with the other souls in the suit/rag pile/whatever they’re trying to call it this go around. The book still says “Ragman” on the cover.
Outside of DC, Ray Fawkes has had numerous titles that I have enjoyed. In particular, his work at Oni Press stands out the most. Fawkes work at DC continues to be lacking. The dialogue is fine, the characters never really have any depth, but then the way the plot is structured, why would they? That’s really where the writing sinks, the plotlines. While this plot is nothing new, it also doesn’t add anything new. Sure, there are monsters covered in rags that we’re all trying really hard not to call “rag people,” but then really someone should have thought of that sooner. That in 2017 maybe Ragman was more than a little dated. The plot does nothing to update this other than making him a soldier with PTSD, and even then, that seems like a checkbox rather than treating a real condition with a level of understanding and humanity. It’s just a checkbox for the “soldier home from war” storyline.
Unfortunately, there will not be a lot of compliments for the art in this review either. The art style is something along the lines of the movie version of A Scanner Darkly. That cell-shaded look, but without notable actors to cell-shade over. It adds an excess of strange lines that could easily just be coloring effects and make every character look glossy and fake. Even worse, some of the characters lack this degree of detail making them look out of place and somehow even faker. The eyes and eyebrows of nearly every character look strange and out of place. The coloring is okay, but it struggles with the peculiar linework which again, gives it a pseudo cell-shaded look.
The premise and idea behind Ragman isn’t a bad one. It has legs, but the problem is the name, the design and the fact that this character was created at a different point in the world. Not every character or creation is going to be timeless like Batman or Superman, and even they have had their fair share of tune-ups over the years. There were so many small things that could have been changed and cleaned up with this concept to make it fresh and exciting in 2017. Instead, it’s just a modern setting for the same old shit which ends up being done deaf.