Ok, ok. I suppose I still owe a bit of an apology to you fine folks for the "meh" review last time. But really? It was a "meh" comic, so what do you expect? This one however? This one is no such thing. AND it's a full issue story! WOO-HOO!
That's right kiddies, as you can probably tell, I shall be reviewing 'Brave and the Bold #196' from 1983. The REAL team-up issue between Bats and Rags! It's a beautiful story and, before we even GET to the plot itself, I can tell you why.
The creative team is, as the kids say, 'totes' amazing. Not only is the whole thing being supervised and edited by the incomparable Len Wein, not only is the INCREDIBLE Jim Aparo masterfully applying his skills to the art but Robert Kanigher has returned to pen the story of the character he helped create! So this reads like just another Ragman story from the original 70's series, plus Batman and with even HIGHER quality artwork! How can you possibly go wrong? Thank god the story lived up to expectations, cause I would have been shattered if it sucked.
We open on Ragman wandering the streets at exactly midnight (hey, the clock pictured in the comic says so!) as our first perspective in the story isn't Rags, it's a newspaper dancing on the wind. Here, I'll show you...
Love that. Perfect opening and you can TELL Kanigher is back when you read such lilting and vivid introductory text.
Anywho, the headline tells us of the recent terrorist kidnapping of Nina Norwood, the daughter of the tycoon of a publishing empire. Suddenly an explosion rocks the night just above Ragman as Batman comes sailing out the window and, losing consciousness, plummets into the quick thinking arms of Ragman and (as the panel itself states)...
There is no rest for the weary (or unconscious & surprised) as suddenly the terrorists (known as the DFD "Dynamiters for Democracy") come peeling out of the night to finish the job, hurling good old fashioned molotov cocktails at the dark duo. Quick thinking Ragman takes stock of the situation, catches the next flaming cocktail one handed and hurls it back at the speeding car, causing it to burst into flames and explode.
The danger addressed and averted, Ragman focuses again on Batman and getting him off the streets when suddenly a ride appears before him in the form of an ebony angel...
After collecting her fare, a kiss from Rags, Opal heads back off into the night as Ragman hoists Batman into the back of a junked car in the back lot of Rags 'N' Tatters. It's at this point that we're given a look at the history of Ragman from Rorys time in Vietnam to the thugs that killed Rory's father and his friends. One instance of note however is that there is a slight retcon that takes place. In the original story, Rorys father and his friends found the money in the mattress and left it there, the money later burned in the final issue of the original series. In THIS story, however, they take it out of the mattress and hide it elsewhere (we know not where). I find it odd that the creator of the original series would choose to change this aspect of the story. He also takes this opportunity to make Better just a little bit LESS of a bitch. (only a little)
But anywho, as Rags is helping Batman into the car, Bats comes to and relays the experiences leading up to the abrupt and fiery exit out the window. Apparently Bats was trailing the DFD and they had a hidden trip wire where they lured Batman. Trying to escape the blast, Bats leaped out and here we are. As Batman finishes his story, a car stopping outside the junkyard is heard and Batman starts to get to his feet...
Odd that here yet another retcon takes place. In the stagnant review I gave of Ragmans last appearance in 'Batman Family #20', Batman figured out Ragmans identity. But here it seems he has no knowledge of this fact. Turns out the sound we heard was Bette looking for Rory, she tells Ragman that shes been given a tip and wants Rory to accompany her so the story will help him get a job at the paper she works at. Ragman says he'll be there and disappears.
Batman wants to go to check the place that the DFD booby-trapped for clues. Ragman disagrees and Batman says he has to go because he'll be the bait that lures them out of hiding. Ragman insists and they compromise by switching costumes. So Rory runs off into the night dressed as Batman. He arrives and stakes the place out when three DFD members begin shooting at him and one tosses a grenade, Rory gets to a safe distance, but is still shaken up when he comes back to the junk yard and collapses into "Ragman" (Bruce's) arms.
So off Bruce goes to the rooftop rendezvous and a DFD plan set 48 hours from now is overheard, but not before "Ragman" gets a gun stuck to his head and Bruce overcomes him and takes him out and goes over the side of the building along with a grenade wielding terrorist. Ragman comes out ok and makes it back to the junkyard where they switch costumes again and agree to meet the following night, but not before Bats makes an interesting comment...
The next night the duo are waiting for the DFD when they show up to rob a bank, Bats and Rags foil the robbery, but realize that one of the "robbers" is actually the missing Nina Norwood!
And there you go! Now you may think I lost my wind in those final pages of review, and that's partly true, but mostly I just think the art and the dialogue speak for themselves on those last few pages, so why get in the way?
I love the minor retcons, especially BY the guy who created the original story. And I thought it was cool how they added in some references to how Ragmans costume is "almost alive" and "eerie". I can't help but think the idea to make the costume more supernatural was in the works and they were eluding to that.
Overall great story and Jim Aparo is unmatched. Loved having his artistic flair being a part of the Ragman history.
Now, classic Ragman reviews are nothing to you all at this point without classic ads, so I may as well deliver! Check out these gems! (click to enlarge)
So there you have it! Be sure to check back here next weekend for more Ragman awesomesauce (and maybe a surprise or two). Please, Please, PLEASE share the blog, comment below and follow/join the site to keep apprised of all things Ragman! I don't, as of yet, get much feedback on this blog but I'm hoping that will change but it can't without YOU! See ya next time!