Indie Comic Review: RAGS #2m

It’s that time again! Another stupid face, another comic review! As I have previously admitted, I don’t read a ton of comics. But I really love RAGS and I’m super excited to be able to review the second issue (which actually comes with the Prologue and the Issue #1 included, a sweet deal!)

I’ve already raved about a lot of what I love about RAGS here.  They have recently been picked up by Antarctic Press, and are beginning to gather a pretty solid online following. For good reason, too. The series handles some serious issues (PTSD, social isolation, depression, etc) all while delivering a fun, tongue-in-cheek zombie comic with AMAZING artwork! Be sure to check out their Patreon to get access to tons of great bonus content and fan art.

This is the Patreon variant cover for issue 2, done by @miss_sashi on Twitter. There is additional fan art in the back, as well.

One of the things I love best about RAGS is the use of colour to guide the reader through the story. The majority of the artwork is done in a gritty grey scale, with pops of colour highlighting important people and places. For example, the green tent above becomes a physical embodiment of Regina’s oppressive mental state. Confined to the tent, isolated from the survivors at Balmart, Regina is forced to confront memories from her past that drop some hints about how she got to be the prickly loner she appears to be. (This flashback ties directly into some intensely emotional bonus content on Patreon!)

And, of course, the artwork itself is brilliant. Luigi Teruel is a master of facial expressions and body language. The characters move so fluidly from frame to frame you almost forget their really still images. Regina Ragowski’s face is based on that of twitter personality Liz Finnegan (@TheGingerarchy) and you can tell that there is a real person behind the character. Her emotions are absolutely stunning to behold and really drive the storyline.

RAGS is full of Easter Eggs and meta jokes for those who are paying attention. I’m not going to spoil too many here (I had a pretty good giggle at black Bob Ross, though). That said, knowing that colour is important and knowing that the writers of RAGS like to drop hints for us, there are some interesting scenes in Issue 2 that really make me excited to see how the story is going to play out. Take the contrast between Regina and the mysterious zombie slayer in the background, for example (above). I have read the script for the upcoming issues, so I know who this is (and you SHOULD be excited, because it’s going to be awesome!). But I love that they’ve decided to drop future characters into the current story line, and really build up a sense of how all these players are operating around one another.

If you aren’t familiar with RAGS, I encourage you to read my review of issue #1. If it sounds like something you’d like, don’t just take my word for it! Head over to the Patreon and get in on it for yourself. If you have already dived in head first, let me know what you think in the comments! Thanks for reading 🙂

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Indie Comic Review: RAGS

So, this is new for me. I’ve never reviewed a comic before. I don’t actually read a lot of comics, to be honest. I’m not sure why that is. I love art and I love a good story. I guess I’ve always been a bit intimidated by the sheer scale of the medium and the ferocity of the fandoms. It’s not a place for dabblers, or so I have told myself. Which was probably for the best, because I can see how easy it would be to fall down the rabbit hole…

Just call me Alice.

I “discovered” RAGS in a round about kind of way, when I met one of the co-creators–Brian Ball–in an online writing group. Initially, we discussed our frustrations with traditional publishing and ways that writers/artists can support one another get more exposure in a super-saturated indie market.

When I realized Ball was a comic writer, I was pretty excited. I know lots of writers, but I had never met anyone who wrote comics. In my naivety, I never actually realized that comics had writers at all. I always imagined the artist was also the one who wrote the story (and maybe that’s true in some cases). Thus my education in comic production began. I’d love to ramble on that; I find it fascinating. But I’ll save that for an interview with the RAGS team sometime in the future.

You’re here for the review…

I was a little nervous when I downloaded the teaser. Although RAGS: Prologue won the 2017 “Best Overall Comic” award from ComixCentral, I was worried that I wouldn’t like it. That might sound silly, but when you hit it off with a potential future collaborator there’s a bit of pressure to actually like one another’s work. At first glance, the premise of RAGS is really not my cup of tea. It’s about a half-naked woman running around trying to find pants during the zombie apocalypse. Trite, right?

Wrong.

RAGS is the story of Regina Ragowski, a veteran of the US Marine Corps, who finds herself running from a hoard of zombies, through a ransacked podunk town, wearing nothing but a bikini. How did this come about? Issue 1 begins to untangle the threads of Regina’s tale as she begins the hunt for something–anything!–to wear.

Some critics have gotten hung up on what it looks like this story is about, to wit: tits, ass, guns, and zombies. To be fair, there is a healthy dose of all of the above. Ball himself jokes that it is “the dumbest thing ever written.” However, this is not what RAGS is about and the story is anything but dumb.

There’s a lot of skin in RAGS, but the absurdity is superficial. I would even argue it is necessary. RAGS needs that little bit of kitsch to rescue it from being too dark. Peel back the bikini, and there’s a really raw, gritty story being uncovered.

So let me tell you why I like this comic.

First of all, the art is incredible. Luigi Tuerel has an undeniable gift. In particular, his ability to use facial expressions and body language to move the story. There is a physicality to the artwork, and I don’t just mean nudity, that transforms the reading experience. Regina Ragowski is portrayed as physically powerful and emotionally vulnerable. I absolutely love the way she moves through the panels. She is a force. Just look at this!

Yes, she’s beautiful. And yes, she’s naked. But Tuerel’s treatment of her is almost visceral. It’s sensual without being sexual. The nudity is somewhat ironic, too. RAGS uses the trope knowingly, having a laugh at the way women are often portrayed in comics and movies, while simultaneously exploiting the “sex sells” adage. Not only that, but it’s a nod to some of the ridiculous situations men and women in the military often find themselves in during combat. Ball writes from experience, too, with twelve years active service in the US Army and four years in the National Guard.

Come on. Just look at these facial expressions. The art is SO GOOD!

And it’s in the art that we get glimpses of the “real” story going on underneath the surface. It would be easy to read RAGS and see Regina as a bit of a bitch. The other characters certainly see her that way. A lot of critics have, too. I think these reviewers missed the complex interplay between the dialogue and the art in RAGS, though. As with all good writing, the story isn’t being handed to you in a neat little package. The characters say one thing, and the imagery says something else. There’s so much tension between the lines it’s almost painful to read. As a reader, to really get the full experience, you have to do some work to unpack the truth.

And it’s well worth the effort. The scene between Regina and her fiance, Sean, with its hints at her backstory, is heartbreaking. On the surface, it’s a couple having an argument and generally being awful to each other. Dig a little deeper and you see that Regina is struggling with PTSD and Sean is struggling with how to support her. This adds a depth to her character that is only beginning to be explored in the first issue. I’ve been privileged enough to read some of the upcoming story, and I am confident in saying that this is a comic worth following.

I highly, highly recommend becoming a Patreon patron for this project, not just because I think RAGS is great and I really want to see this team succeed, but because becoming a patron gives you access to loads of additional content and backstory that really enhance the reading experience. I have said that RAGS is sensual without being sexual, but the bonus content is definitely sexy!

RAGS has just been picked up by Antarctic Press which will help with distribution in the future. But the project is still funded out of pocket by Ball and his team. So if you are even remotely curious, please download the digital copy (it’s only $1.00). If, like me, you fall in love with Regina–boobs, bad attitude, and all–you can get some pretty cool gear from the RAGS Swag store at TeePublic, too!

Once you have a read, let me know what you think in the comments!