«

»

WHttDCnU? – The Ravagers: The Kids From N.O.W.H.E.R.E.

WHTTDCU-Titles-055

Welcome back to WHttDCnU? for hopefully the last teen group book of the New 52 and the Second Wave: The Ravagers!

WHO ARE THE RAVAGERS? Excellent question. And honestly, after readin this… I’m still not sure either. Join me and the Keeper as we try to make sense of this sister title to Superboy, here on:

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE DC NEW UNIVERSE?

-QueenQeeko

WHTTDCNU-synopsis

keeper-rA quiet, peaceful land of ice. A rabbit forages for a little while as Caitlin Fairchild monologues about how she saved a group of children from ‘the sadistic chamber of horrors of a madman’. That was six minutes ago. Now they’re erupting from the ground somewhere icy, somewhere in Alaska, according to Caitlin.

Their ‘team’ shatters almost immediately. Terra and Beast Boy go their own way, flying into the sky. So do Bright-Eyes and Windshear. Of course, we don’t know their names. Beast Boy and Terra are named when Caitlin calls out to them, and Windshear is only named at the end of the first issue. He calls the girl he takes with him Bright-eyes, but if you don’t know it’s actually her name, you’d think it was a flirtatious nickname.

Anyway, we’re left with Caitlin Fairchild, former scientist for N.O.W.H.E.R.E, who was in Gen 13 pre-52, and in Superboy. We have Ridge, a big scaly guy. He’s British, and used to be a member of the Ravager’s in the colony. Confused? Well, there was an event called the Culling involving teens being forced to fight to the death, a la Battle Royale or Hunger Games, and these are survivors.

Also named are Thunder and Lightning, a brother/sister combo, although the cover has their names the wrong way around. As you can imagine, one shoots lightning and the other sound. There are also three unnamed survivors.

With four members gone, Tensions run high, and Ridge thinks he should take over, despite being a member of the Ravagers in the colony, where their job was to torture the kids. The team is interrupted by the arrival of N.O.W.H.E.R.E support staff, who throw down their guns and surrender, claiming they were action under orders. This doesn’t fly with Thunder and the others who begin attacking the surrendering support staff.

Elsewhere, Windshear is trying to shake pursuit, and while Brighteyes blinds the pursuit, he abandons her to escape. This doesn’t help him, however, as the people on his tail are Rose Wilson and Warblade. They capture him.

Back with the team, we get a standard ‘convincing people not to kill their tormenters to avoid becoming real monsters’ scene. After this, Caitlin reveals her plan; sneak out on a N.O.W.H.E.R.E cargo ship. This plan immediately goes awry when it turns out Warblade and Rose Wilson are on board, the ship crashing into the snow. With the ocean at their backs, the unnamed survivors surrender and are immediately cut down by Warblade and Rose. Thinking quickly, Caitlin uses Thunder’s powers to cut into the cliffside, plunging the rest of the team off the cliff and into the water below. Luckily, a ship passes the area a few hours later, allowing the team to survive.

Meanwhile, Rose and Warblade are in Mongolia, the site of another of Harvest’s bases. But they’re not going after the team anymore. Instead, Harvest sends Shadow Walker, his first recruit, to take out Caitlin Fairchild, and find Beast Boy, who was not supposed to be released yet.

Fairchild and the team land in Seattle, where Thunder and Lightning leave. But as they do they are captured by Shadow Walker, who makes a bargain with Lightning: Fairchild and Ridge for her Brother.

Lightning signals the others and reveals that Shadow Walker is tracking them before stunning Ridge and Fairchild. Shadow Walker is pleased, but pushes lightning for information on Beast Boy too far, causing Thunder to blast him. In the ensuing fight, Lightning supercharges their tracking devices and uses them to fry Shadow Walker.

Beast boy, who we haven’t seen since issue 1, is having premonitions and nightmares about Brother Blood, a cult leader. He and Terra are stealing from places as they go, and somehow have ended up 10 miles North of the main team.

The main team is taking the time to swim and relax a little. The belief they are safe is shattered however, when they are attacked by the acolytes of Brother Blood. This is just a precursor to Brother Blood himself, who takes away the pain from Lightning, before draining Thunder.

Hot on the trail of the captured team, Beast Boy and Terra bust into the church, where Brother Blood is preparing to drain the team of their blood, before using the ‘key’ in this case Beast Boy, to Open the Portal to the ‘Red Realm’, allowing for Brother Blood’s master to manifest. Given what I know of Brother Blood, I lay odds on it being Trigon, Father of Raven and Evil Dimension trapped demon.

It takes the entire team and the sacrifice of Lightning to defeat Brother Blood, But Caitlin Fairchild finally makes contact with those on the outside who were helping her. It’s Niles Caulder, pre-52 member of the Doom patrol, and he’s built a safehouse. UNfortunately, Superboy is also here, and he’s annoyed at Fairchild, probably for things involving his own book.

Things get off to a bad start. Niles’s offer to train the Ravagers has them considering him as bad as Harvest, since the deals look the same, and the tension gets to Fairchild, causing her to lash out at Superboy. Both of these events are interrupted by Thunder having a fit, convulsing and screaming in pain.

Harvest has finally thrown the killswitch he implanted in Thunder’s head, and it seems likely that the rest will follow soon. Niles and Fairchild manage to save him, but find a marking indication that they were colony #18, and that there are more out there. With a peptalk from Superboy, the ragtag bunch of misfits gets ready for battle.

Niles has been in contact with Red Robin this whole time, and he laments the lack of coordination in the team, but all too soon, they have a mission. N.O.W.H.E.R.E is planning to retrieve another gifted child, and the team head out to stop them. They defeat Windshear and Brighteyes, who have been operated on and have joined N.O.W.H.E.R.E, but Rose and Warblade are the support team, and they’re ready for a showdown.

The battle is on, and Fairchild is thrown against a tree. But the girl they’re protecting has the power to see the future and share her visions, and what she shows Fairchild is haunting, a tale of the Ravagers under Harvest’s sway. Only she can keep this from happening, and when Terra shows signs of fear, Caitlin sees her chance. Reminding Terra of why they fight backfires when Terra sees it as a chance for revenge, rather than freedom.

Terra defeats both Rose and Warblade handily by unleashing her power, before impaling Warblade.He’s unharmed due to his own powers, however, and he rejoices. It seems that Harvest’s plan is still working, as each and every one of them has these powers and are all too willing to use them. A generation given power too soon and one that can’t be controlled… A dangerous group indeed.

WHTTDCNU-art

trailblazer-lI really want to say that for the majority of the book, the colourful art is fine; I say this in regard to Ian Churchill’s pencil work on nearly the entire run, and with acknowldgement to the coloring and inking teams which actually changed out quite a lot. The forms and body types are excellent (mostly, but I’ll go into that in characterization), especially when Caitlin transitions from her extraodinary muscular state to her more natural slim stature. The Churchill pages are filled with great battle sequences that flowed and were always busy. Backgrounds popped but never overshadowed the characters that occupied them, and I especially liked the detail that went into the variety of characters by race and genetic markers. I especially liked the way Churchill drew most of the male characters, with obvious variations for age, race and build. The girls on the other hand… As I understand it, Caitlin Fairchild is adult of the group (ironic name), but she and the other girls barely look a day apart in age. In fact, across the board, the females in the cast all have the exact same issue going on with their mouths, in that they are set in permanent pouts, or are rarely able to open their mouths to the full extent that mouths can, and instead make do with talking through their teeth all the time. This, along with other repetitive issues that persist with the women’s eyes makes all of them look the same. For that artist, that’s the extent of my complaints.

However, the visual experience of The Ravagers is not a pleasant one. In fact, it’s downright jarring. There were more artist changes in this book than in a decent game of musical chairs, and while it’s not uncommon for some comic series to change artist from issue to issue, Ravagers, from issue #3 onward, frequently changed artist MID STORY. I feel this is a terrible mistake on nearly all counts as it really tears a reader out of a story, breaking the spell and being confusingly and uncomfortably distracting. And it’s made worse when many of those artist changes mess with things like visual age, like the work of Dan Sampere and Stefano Martino in issue #4 when no one can draw a teenager. In issue #3, they are very least tried to keep the artist change from Churchill to the duo of Sibal and Raney in line changes of with character focus. By #5, we’re back to changes mid sequence, and I’ll be honest a very poor offering at that. The worse case of this art crime though is all contained in #7, where an entire TEAM of artists attempted to put together the “layout” that Churchil leaves them, and then the rest is sort of cobbled together poorly, with coloring that is clearly covering up ink work instead of complementing it, pencilling that’s eaither stiff or in some cases warped and elongated, and once again, no one can draw a teenager. That is not a 14 year old girl. Bullcrap. Don’t get me started on the constant on and off again addition of Tron lines.

keeper-rIan Churchill is our artist on The Ravagers, and to his credit the art isn’t bad… just uninspired. It’s still the same general art style. It’s shadows aren’t as deep as Justice League International;s, but you can definitely see the influence present. There’s a weird bit early on where he draws Beast Boys head on a bear body for some reason, but it’s still fine.

It would help if their uniforms weren’t a bad attempt to emulate TRON: Legacy, although that’s not Ravagers fault. Attempting to imitate something computer generated with comics was always difficult, but it also mean that everyone in the comics apart from Ridge and Fairchild are wearing black with coloured lines. What a rich and diverse costumed cast! This one is black with neon blue lines, while THIS ONE is black with YELLOW lines! For a guy who wants them to fight each other, Harvest sure likes putting them in a uniform.

Unfortunately, this is marred by issue 4, where Ian Churchill is replaced by Daniel Sampere. It’s not that Sampere’s art is bad, it’s just completely different. Suddenly, Beast Boy is the same age as everyone else, while Beast Boy is much younger in Churchill’s art.

Also Thunder, Lightning and Ridge have the TRON lines under their skin. On Ridge, it makes sense, since he’s a lizard thing and didn’t really wear a uniform. Why was it on Lightning and Thunder? No clue.

All of this pales in comparison to Issue 7, where we get yet another artist, and the art style shifts four times in a single issue. Seriously,there’s inconsistent, and then there’s this. If I had to hazard a guess, the new team ran out of time while working on it, and the entire thing went to print with four different stages of completion. But who knows? It just baffles me.

WHTTDCNU-writing

trailblazer-lWell, for as harsh as I was on the artwork, some of my complaints I set aside as I feel that there was definitely a significant amount of disconnect from writer to artists. The writing for Ravagers is not good. Every conversation bar maybe two over the entire book is strained, grumpy, and quite often does nothing for the plot or the development of the characters. Now, unlike Teen Titans where very little character motivation came into the actual story telling, Ravagers does at least address this main plot point head on, with a half dozen traumatized youths wanting to either A) escape their torturous captors or B) stop those captors taking any more superpowered teens. That premise shouldn’t be complicated, and yet every step of the way said premise is disjointed, poorly thought out, or just downright stupid.

Some of the threads don’t make sense with many small plot points not adding up to others, much of the panel to panel sequences don’t line up, the coming and going of the team roster barely seems to have any point to it, and Brother Blood felt so utterly WASTED for his appearance in the New DCU. But see, now that I’ve lamented over who is one of DC’s most grotesque and actually intimidating villains ever being wasted in a matter of two issues, as whole, Ravagers was a title that entered the new DCU with the express mission of being DARK, MISERABLE AND SERIOUS. And don’t get me wrong, the tone is pretty dank and miserable all up in here… but it just makes for an uncomfortable book that tried way too hard to cram far too much in. And I didn’t care. This has been a failing of a good many new series in the New 52 and the Second Wave: not changes that people simply didn’t like, but changes that not even new readers could jump on board with. Reading Teen Titans and/or Superboy before Ravagers isn’t required, but with or without them, Ravagers doesn’t hold up, or entertain, or even endear. To sit down and read this is to dedicate possibly hours of your life asking youself and this confusion calling itself a comic WHY half of the things are happening. And who wants that?

keeper-rThis is a Wave 2 release, which means that the New 52 is 10 months old. So how does this have more required backstory than Batman, which didn’t get rebooted? This is what happens when you attempt to use a crossover event to launch a brand new series with brand new characters.

Otherwise, this is rushed as all hell. Two villains, three plotlines, a crossover with a different book and two different viewpoints for the first few issues? It’s ambitious. But nothing else. Beast Boy and Terra rejoining the team in a contrived sequence, there’s no real payoff, we’re expected to care about the unnamed survivors dying (even though the cover spelled out who was most expected to live). It’s just a bad story.

Of course, it really had nowhere to start, let alone go. It’s the end of the Culling, an event that was supposed to be like the Hunger Games or Battle Royale. What most people would point out is that Battle Royale and the Hunger Games are set in a dystopian society, where these gladiatorial competitions are encouraged. To put it another way, the problem is that the world itself is so messed up that making kids kill each other is a smart and natural course of action.

This is DC. The world is normal. Why aren’t they just going to the Justice League International (who are active, and I can prove it) or the Justice League? Hell, why is taking N.O.W.H.E.R.E on their responsibility? Didn’t Red Robin call Batman or someone upon escaping (he didn’t, because that would be smart)? There’s no reason for this plotline.

As for the second plotline. where it turns out that they now have a bunch of power and that being tortured makes you likely to abuse that… This was obvious.. And you know what that sounds like to me?

Avengers Academy. A Marvel comic that started in June 2010, about a group of teenagers who developed powers, were taken and tortured by Norman Osborn, then head of SHIELD, and who were rescued by Hank Pym, who realised that they were the most likely to become the next supervillains and thus started a school to try and stop that from happening. Ironically, Avengers Academy ended with a Battle Royale-style event that was both terrible and stupid.

In fact, every part of this comic is cliche. The ‘don’t become a monster’ scene, the ‘we don’t trust you because you tried to blend in at the colony’ scene, the ‘we don’t trust you even though you rescued us’ scene. It’s a big old cliche with the same tired stops.

WHTTDCNU-characterisation

trailblazer-l… In an attempt to not write an entire article dedicated to characters ALONE, I’ve cut down my ranting to as board as I can regarding the cast of this story.

I say with no uncertainty that the characterization of our core group in this book are justifiably angry and suspicious with much of the world, nasty goons and even each other. They’re largely all young people whom have been beaten and abused, tested, tortured, brainwashed, manipulated, experimented on and crafted into living weapons, and to describe them all as “traumatized” really is putting it mildly. We get hints of such treatment from Solstice in Teen Titans, one of the only ones in that team to go through the full N.O.W.H.E.R.E. boot camp, but in this book, we see a lot of the end result of that.

Too bad it gets awfully tirings pretty dang quickly. In the case of Caitlin Fairchild, the group are largely stuck with her, and for the majority of the book she neither has their respect or their real compliance. It’s not like she really deserves it either, being one of the scientists that headed the teams that worked on poor kids like them and Superboy, so her break out and “care” of the team will barely ever make up for what happened in the first place. Her transforming into a heavily muscled kick ass brute will forever be compared to (She)Hulking out, and was an interesting duality to her, increased aggression included, but she still spends most of the time begging the kids to not lash out or if they do, please don’t kill anyone.

The kids then all vary in their levels of hatings everyone and everything and usually only agree that what happened to them really friggin’ sucked; frequently what happened to them in the Colony is brought up, at times understandably, and others to the tune of teeny tiny violins. Now, you’d think this is all fair enough, but once you bring in some of the indivuals on that mould, say, the snarky Ridge or the co-dependant Thunder and Lightning, you start seeing the uglier parts of these characters, and for whatever trauma driven motivations they have for what they do, it’s shockingly their personal attributes that make most of them so very unlikeable, to the point that you can bet without their stay are N.O.W.H.E.R.E. they would have been pretty unsavory teens to be around anyway.

Rose really is the only character I feel I need to touch on as all of the villain characters are rather unimportant to discuss outside of presenting the team with something to flail at (I would talk about Harvest, but wow, Keeper puts what I had to shame). Now Rose, she’s THE Ravager I wanted to see, and she came in and did what she had to do: be a ruthless killer who’s so fricken sick of everyone else and their stupid hang ups. I feel that she was equal parts the perfect killing machine and just bitter at everyone ever.

keeper-rI want to rant about the event that spawned this, so I’ll explain all of the characters to you: They’re distrusting, insufferable jerks, Done. They’re like the Titans, but instead of having pre-52 counterparts, and thus being a bunch of bullet points of the previous character plugged into what DC thinks is a teenager with ‘attitude’, they just don’t have the bullet points, and thus are even less memorable. The one thing I know about Ridge? He’s supposed to be British.

No, I’m going to complain about Harvest, Villain of the Culling and guy who they’re supposedly fighting. You see, Harvest is supposedly kidnapping teens and then making them fight to defeat something bad that’s about to happen. He knows it’s going to happen because he’s a time traveller from the 31st century.

So, with a plethora of future technology, Harvest is… boringly invincible. Seriously, not even Superboy is capable of standing toe-to-toe with him. But surely they can destroy his support base, right? Surely releasing the Ravagers has set him back right?

Just as Planned.

That’s right, releasing the Ravagers is just part of his grand design. But at least they defeated Shadow Walker and stopped him killing Caitlin Fairchild right?

Just as Planned.

Oh, and now it turns out that the Ravagers are both incredibly powerful ,and hate you for torturing them. So they now have a vendetta to go after you, wrecked your retrieval squad and can’t be controlled?
Just. As. Planned.

NO. NO. YOU DO NOT GET TO CLAIM THAT THIS IS THE PLAN! YOU EXPLICITLY SAID THAT YOU WERE DOING THIS FOR TWO REASONS, AND NEITHER OF THOSE REASONS WERE RESOLVED IN YOUR FAVOUR, YOU WASTE OF A VILLAIN.

Seriously, Harvest was a bad villain in the Culling where he beat everyone effortlessly without trying and here he has the gall to continue his ‘I never really lose’ shtick. THIS IS NOT COMPELLING. If you’re so very capable, why the hell aren’t you taking on the Justice League? Either these teen are incompetent, or you’re full of crap, and neither of these outcomes is good for a book.

WHTTDCNU-conclusion

trailblazer-lThe failings of The Ravagers is shared across most areas, and I’m not sure if that’s surprising or just very disappointing. Erratic, distracting art with inconsistencies abound, stupid writing severely lacking in any real reasoning for anything to happen other than “just because” and overall unlikeable, grouchy characters, this is another book that becomes harder to read by the issue.

A good deal of the choices made for who reviews what here on WHttDCnU? are determined who read what previously, and Professor Keeper and I reviewed Teen Titans, so with another teen group book on our hands it was impossible not to compare the two. For everything I disliked about TT, Ravagers doesn’t improve on matters; both involved the SAME Big Bad in the form of the organization N.O.W.H.E.R.E., just on either side of the recruitment process, then add in two or three inconsequential villains that really could have deserved a lot more book time on their own and later down the track. We still get a bunch of misfits whom even if they can’t be really expected to play well on first on the outing spend so much time waving their egos and attitudes at each other it just gets annoying and exhausting. Heap on top of all of THOSE issue the constantly changing art and then the shoddy story telling was never going to win me over.

I didn’t even get a Bunker equivalent.

keeper-rThe Ravagers is a book lacking in identity. As Trailblazer remarked, who are the Ravagers? This book doesn’t even know. And that is its greatest failing.

Being the result of the Culling, and thus the descendant of Teen Titans, this book was never going to be great. Everything supporting this book from the beginning was mediocre to garbage. And that makes the book hard to judge on its own merits, since how much gold can we expect it to spin out of the crap it was given to start with?

But it pulled in too many directions, treating the kids as victims one minute and harbingers or weapons the next. Our villain simultaneously never loses, and never does anything of importance.They’re becoming a family, but they spend all their time posturing and being afraid of each other.

The Ravagers are paralleled in Talon, another Wave 2 release that followed the footsteps of Batman and the Court of Owls storyline. But Talon avoids every trap that this falls into, and asks us to care about a character whose actually sympathetic and relatable. This comic doesn’t treat its protagonists with anywhere near the same level of respect, and in the end, can’t decide if they’re heroes or villains themselves.

You want a Battle Royale- like story? You can find them anywhere, or just read Battle Royale or the Hunger Games. You want a good version of an aftermath, read Talon. You want kids with superpowers who might be at risk of becoming supervillains? Read Avengers Academy. Don’t read this.

WHTTDCNU-comic

UltimaSociety_048