By Kelly Gaines
Raven Daughter of Darkness #5 feels like the grand finale of a confusing twister of plot and character- except the story’s not over, and there’s no Bill Paxton or Helen Hunt to be found. If you’re committed to this title, buckle up for the excitement of demonology meets power rangers meets wizard book club meets true crime in the making. It’s a mixed bag in the absolute worst way and only becomes more disappointing as the dust settles.
The issue starts off with a continuation of Raven and Angela’s mommy- daughter day from hell. Captured and lost in the dark, Raven scrambles to piece together what’s happening (and she’s not alone in that, I’m completely lost too). While our seemingly useless Wizard with Tiger semi-narrator critiques his own writings about Dark Riders hunting down the supernatural, Raven realizes she is being held in the lab of Garfield Logan. Logan’s men have been hunting Raven in what seems to be a lunatic quest to bring Trigon to earth. Though the Big Eyes Gang (whom I will get to in a moment) has made the capture of Raven difficult, it seems Dr. Logan has finally succeeded. He straps Raven and her Mother to a machine meant to use their energy to pull Trigon into their world. Fortunately, the team of gigantic eyed women who have also been hunting Raven are here to save the day, and we finally get a proper introduction.
In this underwhelming DC incarnation of the Power Rangers, Raven’s mutant sisters each have names based on the color of their large eyes and special powers to accompany them. How do we know? It is literally written out for us, in tiny boxes, next to each girl. Is it campy? Sure. Does the writing feel clunky? Yes. Is it worth it for the story? No, not really. (I’m calling them the Big Eyes Gang or The Power Rangers interchangeably and of my own volition, so be forewarned). Though the Big Eyes Gang has been against Raven to this point, they become united over the desire to not have their asshole dad in their dimension. That’s fair. The problem with Raven Daughter of Darkness is the multiple important plot concepts that are not explored deeply enough to resonate with readers. I can understand the idiot scientist, the vengeful girl gang, and the demon father and half-siblings. I can even try to accept the Tiger and Wizard narrator team that never seems to fit into the story and never explains enough to be useful narrators. These four plotlines intersect as best they can, but what about the other key storyline? What about Raven’s new friends and family?
Since starting Marv Wolfman’s Raven titles, my favorite component has been the complicated and often sweet interaction between Raven and her new support system. Her overly religious aunt and uncle are a perfectly tailored microscope through which we study Raven’s interaction with ordinary people. They play off each other showing a very different, but no less accepting, family dynamic. I love it, and I wish Wolfman had chosen to do more with this. The same can be said for Raven’s friends. They help her learn about ordinary life while Raven tests her limits of empathy and compassion. The kids go through typical teenage drama, but looking at it through the eyes of a half-demon raised superhero feels nuanced. It’s a piece of the story that ends up devastatingly wasted.
We do briefly get to catch up with Raven’s friends as we see the custody trial for Theresa. If you forgot who Theresa is, I don’t blame you. The development of this plotline is equally as inconsistent as the rest. Theresa is Raven’s friend from school who lives with her grandmother after the death of her parents. A few issues ago, Theresa’s grandmother died making her an orphan. The judge ruled that Theresa cannot stay in town and live on her own, and orders her to go live with a cousin she has never met before. Not only have they not met, but Theresa had no idea this cousin existed until it was brought to her lawyer’s attention. I swear I’ve seen this exact thing play out in a documentary about Courtney Love’s early life- and obviously, it doesn’t end well.
Maybe I’m the only one, but I feel completely disinterested in the Big Eyes/ Government lab parts of Daughter of Darkness. I was enjoying watching Raven explore her human side; the side concerned with making friends, building a community, and understanding who she is. The conclusion of #5 makes it look as though all of this will come together in the end, but I’m not interested. The action is flowing, but the story just isn’t there. It is completely possible to tell an interesting and compelling superhero story without dozens of fights and high-tech labs. Getting to the core of a character can be just as exciting when done right. I wish that’s what this title did. I wish there was a time machine to go back and change that decision- something I’m certain within a few issues Theresa will be wishing as well- if she’s even kept as a relevant character. It’s hard to say; there are far too many.
Raven: Daughter of Darkness #5