By Kelly Gaines
How do you make a half-demon superhero living with devoutly religious relatives who spends her time fighting psychological villains boring? I don’t fucking know but as Marv Wolfman. I’m beginning to notice a pattern with his Raven arcs. The story starts out with potential, then slowly fades into a boring circle. It was my worst fear with this title, and Raven Daughter of Darkness #3 has brought up a disappointing sensation a deja vu. All of the ingredients for a great comic are there- interesting characters, complex backstories, a strong start, and a top-notch creative team. Because of these elements, I was willing to give this version of Raven another shot after the first arc ended on a rather flat note. Now I’m just pissed off. How are you doing this? How is this not working? This is literally the first time reading about demons has bored me, and I hold you accountable, Wolfman!
I initially praised this run for its refreshing take on Raven’s personality. Teenage girls, especially brooding, black wearing, heavy metal listening teenage girls, tend to be written with cringeworthy abandon. The “outsider” personality ends up turning into carbon copies of the same whiny misunderstood “no one understands me” bullshit. It got old in the 90’s, and how characters like that keep getting made is beyond me. The plain truth is that turning “the outsider” into an archetype robs that character of any believability. Raven risked falling into this trap, and Wolfman somehow managed to gracefully float above it in his writing. This Raven is dark, but where she could be whiny, she is compassionate. Where she could be self-righteous, she strives to understand. She doesn’t belittle the people that don’t see the big picture the way she does. She appreciates and accepts them as they are. That’s fucking beautiful, which makes it even more infuriating that the book STILL FUCKS UP.
Daughter of Darkness #1 had so much raw potential, so much that I could cry about it. We had a likable protagonist being hunted by a mysterious enemy who balanced her days between superheroing and healing. Raven’s (understandable) PTSD was an issue she was learning to live with in stride. She was a real role model for being someone with serious personal issues who works toward healing without becoming toxic to those around her. That’s the kind of superhero so many of us need. That’s the kind of lesson that so many of us can be inspired by, and in the midst of those complexities, Raven still managed to juggle being hunted by a somewhat faceless psychic villain. This was a quality set up, and then it all falls apart.
Three issues in we have learned pretty much nothing new about the faceless girl. She and Raven still fight and interact without any meaningful contact. I don’t feel the plot thickening- even when it does! We find out this girl might actually be a sister of Raven’s, also born of Trigon, but by the time that reveal came around, I was far too bored and jaded to really care. It is the smallest big reveal I’ve ever read. The second would-be game changer of the issue is when Raven’s mom shows up after being absent through the rest of the run. That should be a catastrophic event, but somehow it felt like a whole lot of nothing. I truly don’t get it. I don’t understand how they managed to make this story so boring. Things are happening, the plot is moving, and yet somehow it still feels like going in circles. It makes no sense.
Speaking of things that make no sense, #3 features a brief episode of time traveling. I’m simplifying here, but Raven jumps through a fireplace to confront one of the villains stalking her and ends up transported back to 1906. She spends a few panels rescuing victorian characters from an earthquake, then comes back to the present. At first, I genuinely believed I’d missed something in my reading. Maybe I’d missed a page or had a stroke. No such luck. It’s just a time jump that serves very little purpose and feels extremely out of place. Chalk up one more point for big events that ended up just being a bunch of hot air. I wanted to see more of Raven and her new friends. I wanted to see more of Raven interacting with her uber religious family. I wanted them to pick one goddamn threat/ villain to flesh out instead of giving us a bunch of half-assed ones!
I think it might be time for me to call it with this title. I feel like I’ve gone back to a cheating ex and got burned again. It’s the same exact problem the last title had- Big potential, little payoff. Don’t waste your time. You’ll have more fun going in circles on a slow merry-go-round.
Raven: Daughter of Darkness #3