“The Ravagers” #1 by Howard Mackie and Ian Churchill is not a good opening for the “Second Wave” of DC’s New 52. With sloppy work that includes at least one typo and a mistake on the cover misidentifying two characters, the book feels rushed and unprofessional, not to mention nearly two decades too late.
The plot and writing is simply filled with cliches and is painfully overwritten with a ton of repetitive exposition-laden dialogue and narration. While it’s certainly challenging to launch a satisfying first issue with this many characters, the plotting doesn’t do Mackie any favors as it barely moves. The characters are stranded on the first page in Alaska after escaping from an underground facility with others hunting them, and at the end of the issue they’re pretty much still stranded in Alaska.
The issue is spent primarily with this handful of unlikeable characters backbiting and pointlessly fighting one another. Fairchild is the story’s narrator and even she, although altruistic, doesn’t come off as particularly compelling. Mackie constantly refers to the horror that these characters have endured in this facility from which they escaped, but without having experienced it, and with all of them seeming like such jerks, I confess I didn’t want any of them to be rescued and half hoped that Rose Wilson and Warblade would just butcher the lot of them. That’s not a great start — wishing all your main characters will up and die.
Churchill’s art is overly fussy and feels like a distinct and unfortunate callback to the worst of the books we were subjected to in the ’90s. His characters (especially the women) all suffer from a very bad case of same face, particularly as they try to emote the horror they have endured through Mackie’s heavy exposition. Fairchild, fully covered inside, is inexplicably in her underwear (in the snow) on the cover. These kinds of choices, combined with some bizarre errors, give the book a general feeling of carelessness that’s a bit shocking.
The failure of the art is made particularly frustrating because the few places where Churchill does less, letting his panels (and characters) breathe, are quite lovely. There’s clearly a skilled artist here, but it’s buried under so much unnecessary character design that tries too hard and flashy cluttered action, it’s hard to discern.
When DC announced it was pulling six titles and launching six new number ones, I know many hoped some of the new books would be more well-considered than some of the less successful New 52, but “The Ravagers” in one fell swoop has destroyed that idea. Though not all of the books are likely to be as bad as this one, quite frankly it’s surprising that this book made it through to print even without the obvious errors.