Between introducing a new Kamandi series and featuring Kite Man in a Batman arc, DC has definitely shown a willingness to reach into its roster this year. Likely spurred on by the character’s well-received run on CW series Arrow, the next DC deep cut to get his day in the spotlight is Ragman. A creative team headed by writer Ray Fawkes and artist Inaki Miranda have brought back the betattered, soul-consuming war veteran for a six-issue miniseries. Not content to merely resurrect the familiar figure that’s featured since his introduction back in 1976, 2017’s Ragman sports a costume redesign and a tonal shift towards horror.
The book focuses on Rory, a soldier who served in the middle Middle East and now struggles to readjust to civilian life. Unfortunately for him, these struggles have seemed to manifest themselves as visions of glowing-eyed monsters stalking him around Gotham City. The book leaps right into an origin story of Rory’s powers, tying his acquisition of the Suit of Souls directly to the calamities he experienced as a soldier. The story is noticeably light on characterization, particularly of Rory’s squad members and his father — important figures whose unfortunate fates will presumably play a large role in shaping Rory’s motivations. With the constraints of a miniseries, Ragman has presumably made a deliberate decision to sacrifice character-building for action.
Eschewing the patchwork suit and green hooded cape worn by past Ragmen, the updated Suit of Souls marks a departure from typical superhero attire. This re-imagining of Ragman, which is more akin to a demonic mummy than anything else, embraces the book’s turn toward the macabre. So while Ragman’s new duds won’t win any points for originality, the updated design does help this iteration feel distinct from the ranks of caped crusaders that dominate DC’s lineup. Fortunately, the fantastic cover artwork contributed by Guillem March is an immediate standout. The bombastic and creepy depiction of the Ragman, transforming just as a hand grenade explodes in his face, sizzles with kinetic campiness. Paired with the jagged block lettering of the classic Ragman logo, it’s a fantastic primer for what to expect in the book’s pages.
In line with the shift away from the superhero aesthetic, Rory is pitted not against criminals or gangsters but hellish monsters that spout Middle English while pursuing him across a blood-red Gotham skyline. His adversaries’ designs, ranging from an undead legion of demon-terrorists to a multi-eyed Pacman head full of razor-sharp fangs, are all otherworldly and menacing. And Ragman #1’s setting, which moves between an ancient tomb in the Israeli Desert and the grimy streets of Gotham City, are fantastically rendered and full of atmosphere — due in no small part to the striking colors of Eva De La Cruz. The concept of absorbing a soul to gain its power is rife with horror potential, and Ragman leans into this (just in time for Halloween).
While it’s not the most thoughtful exploration of the character thus far, Ragman #1 is a well-executed and action-packed blend of superhero and horror. Fawkes is a capable writer, so I’m hopeful that subsequent issues offer a bit more depth. But even if the story remains light on substance, at six issues it’s really not at risk of overstaying its welcome. 3.75/5
(W) Ray Fawkes (A) Inaki Miranda (CA) Guillem March