Unraveling The Story In Ragman #3

by CJ Stephens
Writer: Ray Fawkes / Artist: Inaki Miranda / Colorist: Eva De La Cruz / Letterer: Josh Reed / Cover: Guillem March and Rain Beredo / Published: 12/13/17 by DC Comics

Ragman #3 is trippy and uneven, but in a good way.

There will be spoilers.

Ragman’s a weird character. It’s part of his appeal, and that weirdness is on full display in this issue. Ray Fawkes’ story continues to reveal, in frenetic bursts and chronal skips and stutters, more details on how Rory Regan came to possess his superpowered sentient cloak, and why he’s being chased by demonic entities speaking in stilted, archaic sounding dialogue. In all honesty, the plot is a bit hard to follow, but it works, because Rory’s story is the story of a man awakened to different levels of reality that may or may not be real, with no one other than the souls of his dead friends to explain what’s happening. He struggles with PTSD, and worries that he might be hallucinating. His grip on reality is tenuous at best, and he has almost no clue what is going on. The narrative structure of the story thus far matches that sense of disjunction, jumping from partial recollection to incomplete flashback in a jagged, stitched-together fashion that definitely rewards multiple readings.

The art by Inaki Miranda and Eva De La Cruz mirrors the disturbing magical reality Rory Regan finds himself now inhabiting. Of particular note is the contrast between scenes involving Rory and his father and those involving Ragman’s disturbing uniform and powers. Solid, normal looking scenes of hospitals are juxtaposed with jaggedly fragmented panels, delineated by the radiating rags of Rory’s cloak, depicting scenes of violence and nightmare as Ragman hunts, fights, and interrogates his demonic stalkers. The transitions between the different realities Rory straddles really shows how crazy his world has become since he became Ragman. I’m still not sure if I like the look of his new suit; it’s dark and scary and a little inhuman, with angry orange light leaking out of what looks like mottled dark green exposed tendons and raw muscle, with tentacular strands exuding from the back. But then again, this is a cloak powered by the souls of the damned, so maybe that’s a good change for the character, who has previously always looked more like a C-list supervillain in his ragged hooded cloak and (literal) patchwork looking spandex suit.

Etrigan the Demon makes an appearance, which means we now have three different modes of speech being employed in this issue: regular human speech, twisted ancient sounding demonic speech, and rhyming Demon verse, ratcheting up the weirdness factor a bit. Etrigan serves as a hellish mentor for Ragman, providing assistance in his struggles against new nemesis Jim Fanshawe, another combat veteran infused with demonic power. The best part about Etrigan’s appearance is that he doesn’t dominate the story; cameos by more powerful or established characters can have a tendency to do that. But Etrigan is content to to provide support and tactical advice, awakening Rory more fully to his new reality and abilities, showing him a world in far more danger from demonic infestation than he previously realized. And apparently setting up for the big demonic superhero team-up in next issue…

Ragman #3 is a disturbing and sometimes confusing but beautiful mess of a story. It’s weird in all the right ways, assuming it eventually wraps up the various loose threads. I’m eager to see more Etrigan and Ragman’s interactions, as well as find out exactly what the connection is between the demonic entities, PTSD, and Ragman’s cloak.

CJ Stephens

CJ Stephens wants to be a ninja or a rock star when he grows up. For now he works as an Adjunct Professor of English. He may one day actually finish his PhD, but at this point in time his part-time superhero gigs and binge TV habits tend to take up too much time. He taught himself to read at the age of 4 using a secret combination of Sesame Street, superhero comics, and the love of his mama, and once came in 4th in a High School spelling bee… when he was in 6th grade!!! Cash him outside at https://twitter.com/CJStephen1 and http://cstephensjr.tumblr.com/.