Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are accomplished, and underrated writers. They’ve proven their skill over the years on titles such as Jonah Hex and Radical’s Time Bomb. Here, however the result is underwhelming, at least for readers who know who Ragman is. The classic DC Comics character has seen a slight resurgence recently, and that’s the problem with this one-shot. The two characters share so much in common; WWII origin, created as a Jewish form of protection and as a vehicle of justice, and a body made up of material patches and swirling tendrils that drives its host to kill bad people.
If you don’t know who Ragman is though, you’ll enjoy this a lot more. Really, it needs another 20 pages at least. There’s no real depth in the characters here, but as a 40 page, visually powerful hard cover for only $5, it’s worth a look.
It begins with 3 druggies looking to score some cash for their next hit. It’s Halloween, so they look even freakier. The trio bust in to an elderly man’s place, but he has nothing of value, until Danikka notices a box, and despite the man’s explanation of the terror inside (in what is the most gruesomely effective sequence in these pages) she opens it. There’s a brief fight between David (the guy in the cool skeleton costume, just like the villain in the original Karate Kid!) and Zeke, who shoots the old man, his visiting daughter and David.
Then David becomes possessed by The Tattered Man in his dying moments, kills Zeke, and a few more thugs, and tells Danikka to clean up her act and look after the surviving granddaughter. It all moves fairly quickly and there’s a sense that this is being set up for more tales down the road, despite The End stamped on the final page. There’s a few bonus pages featuring words from the writing duo and some sketches from artist Norberto Fernandez, but it still feels a tad lightweight.
The real selling point is Fernandez’s work. He’s not a particularly known name yet, but this a great showcase for his abilities. Beyond the Nazi flashbacks and profanity and dark streets, the art here truly sells the nastiness of the story. Fans of The Darkness should lap this up. Palmiotti’s and Gray’s next book in a similar format is the Western-with-a-difference Trail Blazer, which looks more promising.