Well, not quite. Here are the final two reviews, Tim “Trivia Lad” Maytom vs Alex “Alex-Spencer” Spencer, as we both take on Teen Titans spin-off, The Ravagers, and I try very hard to do some serious mic-dropping.
Alex Reviews The Ravagers #1
Which is, essentially: that there is a type of comic, one which I only ever really read for review purposes, which I find deeply depressing. A type which falls a lot closer to the public perception of superhero comics – i.e., that they’re not for kids anymore, biff pow bam, but they aren’t for adults either, really, except the pathetic basement-dwelling, constantly-masturbating variety.
They’re devoid of a spark, one which was there in the examples I enjoyed. And it makes me feel, with a pang of my-parents-were-right-all-along, like perhaps those comics are the exception, and this medium deserves the slow, undignified death some people are predicting for it.
They’re not all necessarily bad, but they’re not a good use of our money, and time, and minds.
Let me explain why The Ravagers is this kind of comic. (Note that I will both be talking about this issue specifically, and talking more generally about all the comics I’ve read and not enjoyed in the last year, achieving a double layer of meaning which this comic seems incapable of.)
It’s in the narration boxes, which weigh heavily on each page, each chunk of text purple without being ambitious or fun. Not the chimneyboyspeak of Dial H or the pop slogans of Batman Inc, but stuff like:
“…A lunatic named Harvest tried to reshape each of them in his warped image. / Did he succeed beyond his wildest dreams? / Can I help them rediscover their humanity? / Or are they — now and forever — RAVAGERS?”
It’s in the imagery, too, which leaves little impression as you turn the page, which does little to encourage you to linger on any panel or splash. The art is fine, it’s competent, but it’s not fluid or pin-to-your-wall gorgeous (like Churchill’s work has been elsewhere) or bravely different or … anything, really.
It’s in the story, where the words and pictures meet. The conflicts are all a bit overwrought, and the way the characters go through them is weary, with their forced emphasis speech and stiff poses, as if they’re bored of being forced through these motions.
The drive of the issue seems to be which characters, as they try to escape the clutches of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. in the Arctic Circle, will make it through the wilderness and into #2. That’s actually a good idea, whittling down the ranks to build tension, but it’s completely undermined by the cover, which pulls the exact opposite trick to Earth Two’s, by outlining exactly which of the dozen-and-something characters will make it to the final page. It goes so far as to announce each character by name™.
(As if most of them being faceless background fodder, and one of them having her name and powerset based on the chorus and video, respectively, of the 1983 Bonnie Tyler song Total Eclipse of the Heart, wasn’t enough of a clue.)
I think these are mostly new or at least overhauled characters, which is, after all, the supposed point of this whole New 52 jaunt. So let’s count them down, in descending order of visual interestingness:
Ridge™ – comics’ beloved ‘man or monster’ cliché made chitinous peach-coloured flesh. With his old-man sideburns and eyebrows, he resembles a cross between Wolverine and a crab. With a tail.
Beast Boy™ – taking second place for the simple fact that he spends most of the issue as an Crayola-orange polar bear, and that I fondly remember the Teen Titans cartoon’s version of the character, which doesn’t seem to really bear any resemblance to this one.
Fairchild™ (actually, that cover is coming in fairly handy now for working out their names) – because she has goggles, which I dig, and, on the cover, the least practical Arctic get-up I’ve ever seen. By which I mean, she essentially has her tits out. She’s the narrator and (presumably elder, though Churchill’s art doesn’t really show it) leader and saviour of the group. And I can’t work out from the art what her power is – she powers up somehow, and she might grow, or shrink, or just bulk out a bit. It definitely means she has to take her goggles off.
Thunder and Lightning™ – who, with their brother-and-sister-with-complementing-powers schtick, appear to be the Wonder Twins filtered through the lens of post-Geoff-Johns comics and the original Tron. Oh, and their names seem to be the wrong way round, given that Thunder is the one chucking bright blue energy around.
Terra™ – Again, familiar from the Teen Titans cartoon. She kind of disappears halfway from the issue, and doesn’t receive any characterisation before that so… um. I like her hair?
As a first issue with new characters, introducing the cast and making them seem interesting is presumably the whole point. But they all feel as disposable as the characters that are sacrificed at the altar of Creating Drama.
The whole affair feels waffer-thin, from premise to plot to cast. It’s not about anything except itself, and it’s not a fun romp either. There’s not even any effing dinosaurs.
Like I said, all this spit and bile is both about and not about this comic, which is just crushingly mediocre, but the cumulative effect of all the rubbish comics I’ve ever, like a grey landfill’s worth of cardboard emptied onto my head.
The worst thing about The Ravagers #1 is that it’s just a comic, unremarkable except in the ways it’s embarrassing to read in public. And it feels like catching your eye in the mirror as you sniff a pair of knickers you bought on eBay, and thinking, just what the hell am I doing?
I read a lot of comics coverage on the internet, and listen to a handful of comics podcasts. And underlying much of it is the sense that a lot of people seem to be getting a bit tired of comics, especially of the mainstream Big Two capes-and-fists variety. All the writers and artists distancing themselves from DC and Marvel as the Before Watchmen fiasco looms on the horizon. The way that people talk about crossovers, their voices full of dread and bondage. That we’ve become trained to expect, and accept, less, so that sparks of true originality are treated as an anomaly, or lost to the six-issue cancellation bug. That most industry analysis consists of commentators taking a look at the growing prices and spiralling sales and just go:
Down to Tim to fight the corner for the future of the industry, then.