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I started reading comics regularly after 'Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns'. Since then, I've become a co-host on 'The LanternCast' (a podcast dedicated to Green Lantern that's been on the air since 2008), started a new podcast covering the late 1980's DC series Action Comics Weekly (appropriately titled The Action Comics Weekly Podcast), and have been the curator of THE blog on the internet dedicated to the character of Ragman, created by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert published by DC Comics starting in 1976 and currently appearing on The CW show 'Arrow' as portrayed by actor Joe Dinicol. I'm an avid fan of comics, classic rock, and speaking my mind. Welcome!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ragman #1 - Bones of the Defenseless!

Well, well my friends. We meet again. This time around we're done with the random "one off" appearances for a bit. Now we've OFFICIALLY moved on to what's known as the "Post Crisis" Ragman!

*pause for fanfare*

That's right folks. We're about to enter the era of Ragman where things went from simply "odd" to SUPERNATURAL. When Ragman was no longer just the tatterdemalion of justice, but the wearer of the suit of souls (from which this blog derives its name). But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This eight issue mini-series was written by Keith Giffen with art by Pat Broderick. Now, normally I would hold my opinions on the art for during the actual review, or in the wrap-up at the end. In this case, I wanted to get in front of what some of you may consider negativity regarding the art.

Pat Broderick is responsible for the art on a great many things I enjoy such as Firestorm and Green Lantern. I've encountered early Pat Broderick artwork; I've encountered later Pat Broderick artwork. I've enjoyed it all. That being said...

The art in this series suffers. NOT from Pat's efforts, but because of the confines in which Pat was working. Let me explain, this series is presented to the reader in a 9 panel 'grid' layout per page in rows of three. This layout gave Pat small panels in which to place his artwork. It didn't always come off so well. Again, that's not a criticism of Pats work, but a commentary on the confines to which he was restricted.

I've debated about leaving out those thoughts for the sake of not sounding negative about one of my favorite artists. But I want to strive to be always honest with you guys. The honest truth is the 9 panel grid layout hurt the look of this book. When we get to the few splash pages, you'll notice the difference immediately.

Moving on.

We open with Rory in the throes of a nightmare where he is a solider carrying the body of his friend, Rory Regan, through the streets of war torn Gotham. Suddenly he wakes up and we get a brief but appropriate introduction to this character and his history. The back-story here is pretty much the same. Rory is a veteran and his father is a junkman who just won't let the place go.

Outside of 'Rags N' Tatters' a 'Boss' and a hood named one-shot plot and scheme about the apparent plans to convert the junk shop into a drug front...while the plot itself is fairly standard and obviously meant to inspire some dread, I can't help but snicker to myself just a little, particularly because the "boss" looks like Jimmy Olson to me. And who can be scared of Jimmy Olson? lol

Then a page turn and we're quickly introduced to Jerry Regan (Rory's father) and (UGH!) Bette Berg.

Seriously, the ONLY bad thing about the original Ragman series was what a COMPLETE...well, I've said it before, Bette was and now shes BACK?! Needless to say when I read that, I was a bit perturbed. It felt a bit like karma though to have her homeless and broke. Like the powers that be (in the DCU, not in the REAL world) were reconfiguring the cosmos after Crisis and got to Bette and said, "Well, this woman is terrible. How can we screw up her life? Oh I've got it!"

With the players now on the board, we're into the story. One thing I like is that Rory is still portrayed as a man following his fathers moral "code".

Granted, Rory it seems, is a little weary of the whole process and more than a little unconvinced at it's value, but the man does it anyways. That's got to be worth something.

Suddenly his father comes in beaten and bloody...

The whole "It's up to YOU Rory" theme is pretty prominent in this issue actually. Rory hears it in his dreams and experiences it first hand (like he does here) during the whole tale. We cut back to the BIG boss making plans to get rid of the Regan boys once and for all, then back to Rory as his father falls asleep. Rory thinks, "Right. I'm gonna die defending a junkyard. If those guys want to turn this dump into a coke house so bad, let 'em! I'll sell it to them! Then they'll be sorry. Pop'll just have to understand. I've been trapped here long enough..." and then goes to bed.

While he's sleeping (and again dreaming of war) one-shot and big bad Jimmy Olson (who's real name is Vorst, but I insist on calling Jimmy just because it makes me giggle) sneak into the junk shop and kill Rory's father and beat Rory half to death. Rory slips back into his 'dream war' and it's here that the word 'EMET' first pops up. Rory slides in and out of consciousness and then slips fully into his dream state. Now, I know I've already posted a lot of panels from this ONE issue, but I'm going to post the following two pages in their entirety just so you get the feel of how the 9 panel layout CAN be used properly, for a more cinematic feel...

Rory then wakes up to Bette shaking him awake. Apparently four weeks have passed. Bette found him and brought him to a doctor who stitched him up. Rory is then informed of his fathers death and goes to visit his tombstone.Rory then returns to his neighborhood to seemingly gather intelligence on what's been going on in his fathers shop while he was unconscious.

Supposedly members of 'Jimmy's' organization gained control of the place by posing as Rory's aunt and uncle. The place is now a front for drugs. The next day, while out for a run in the snow, Rory thinks on the meaning of his dreams and comes to the conclusion that it really is all up to him and he must follow his instincts wherever they lead. He goes back to the doctor and Bette to inform them of this (they obviously disagree) and then strikes out into the night on his own in a ski mask.

As his faux aunt and uncle go to sleep, Rory begins to break into 'Rags N' Tatters' only to find a new alarm system has been installed...when suddenly he notices a glint in the darkness out of the corner of his eye. He crawls towards it, pulling a box out from amidst the junk. Opening it he discovers it's full of...RAGS?

And that, as they say, is that. Now on to the most important question: Why, of all the 'retcons' that could have been made to Ragman, did they choose to root his mythos in Jewish lore?

The answer is: I don't know.

The letters pages hint at upcoming explanations, but I have all of the issues and I have yet to see it. But, fear not dear reader. I'm attempting to reach out to both Keith and Pat to get an interview to ask all of the questions we ALL have. Whether or not the interview happens is up to DC Comics. But I'm trying my friends.

Personally? I like the change. Granted, I've never known Ragman outside of the suit of soul’s concept. And I didn't start reading comics until about 5 years ago. But, having read the original series, I can understand needing to breath new life into this character. Now that is not a condemnation of Kanigher, Kubert or the Redondo studio. It's more of a commentary on who Ragman was.

Ragman was a costumed vigilante in an impoverished section of Gotham fighting against local corruption. Now, Gotham is HUGE. Batman can't do it all. Another vigilante fighting against Gotham’s influence could have all types of adventures. But he didn't have Bruce’s money, he was (seemingly) restricted to a certain section of Gotham, and his powers came from an ambiguous place (electrical wire influenced transition). There were many stories that could have been told with the pre-Crisis Ragman. But eventually those stories would run out fast without drastically changing SOMETHING.

Making Ragman a supernatural character added that something.

Now the origin of the suit will come later in the series. We'll get to it. I know it, and maybe you do too, but let's take it issue by issue.

And, while we wait for the issue two reviews, enjoy (as always) some classic 90's comic ads!

Don't forget to like, comment and share the content on this blog! We Ragman fans are a small group, so we can't afford to not try and build a community devoted to the Ragman! Thanks for reading and tell your friends! See you next time!