Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Culling: Rise of The Ravagers (The New 52) Review

The Culling: Rise of The Ravagers (The New 52)

This never happens- don't bother looking for it.

Writers: Scott Lobdell and Tom DeFalco

Artists: Aaron Kuder, Iban Coello, R.B. Silva, IG Guara, JP Mayer, Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, Sal Regla, Mario Alquiza, John Livesay, Pete Woods and Rob Lean (*pant*pant*pant*... okay, I can’t breathe now).

Collects: Legion Lost #8-9, Superboy #8-9, Teen Titans #8-9

Background information:
In the First volumes of Teen Titans and Superboy, we were introduced to N.O.W.H.E.R.E.
Don’t even ask me what that stands for.
But long story short; they’ve been capturing metahuman teens and holding them in their secret based in the Atlantic. They’ve controlled Superboy, captured the Teen Titans, and somehow pulled the Legion Lost into the whole thing.

May the odds be ever in your... I mean... what?
So here it is; the infamous event known as The Culling. Looking at the criticism levelled at it, I came into fairly certain it was responsible for the Great Depression, the Holocaust, the death of the dinosaurs and Big Brother getting back on Australian television (I was willing to forgive the Great Depression, but that was truly evil). While this book hasn’t made me a fan of Scott Lobdell in the least, The Culling is neither as bad as people say, nor as good as it was hyped up to be.
The Culling

Now that N.O.W.H.E.R.E has all of these teenage super-types locked up? What’s the best thing to do with them? I know, let’s put them in a big cave and make them fight! Because... you know... kids love Hunger Games, right?

The central problem with this book is that it absolutely reeks of Lobdell’s age. See, Lobdell has been writing a lot of fairly young characters in the new DC universe. Problem is, Lobdell’s style of writing doesn’t make these characters sound like 15-20 year-olds. They sound like 50 year olds trying to sound “hip” to connect with their children. You just want to shake this book, call it grandpa and tell it to stop trying to talk like you. Lobdell’s obviously heard that The Hunger Games was popular, so he tried to recreate it, not really understanding that what kids like is new ideas, not kids killing kids.

On top of that, neither Lobdell, nor Tom DeFalco give us Culling contestants that are really interesting. I honestly cannot recall the names of anyone the Teen Titans, Legion Lost or Superboy fought in this issue bar Harvest, and even he feels a little overdone (more on that later). Both writers seem to spend a lot of time introducing new people for the heroes to fight, but unfortunately, it never gets beyond “Hi, my name is X and I do Y.” You know you’re reading great dialogue when it doesn’t feel like somebody spent time writing it, and that’s an impression you never get here.

At its core, The Culling is a collection of fight scenes. It’s a saving grace for this book that the fight scenes are done quite well. Each one generally has its own flavour and that helps to make the book feel like it’s better done than it actually is. The last fight scene with Harvest has no reason to be as fun as it actually is, but for some reason, I found myself getting invested in it. It doesn’t make the book great, but saves it from being a total disaster.

Not many job opportunities for doughnuts...
The art... fluctuates. In some places, like the characters’ redesigned costumes for the Culling, it looks great,
in other places, not so much. Some of the character designs, for example, look awful. There’s a cyborg-looking character straight out of the nineties, a villain that looks too much like Teen Titans’ Bunker to tell apart easily, but worst of all, there’s Harvest- the leader or N.O.W.H.E.R.E. Harvest is designed to look like a cybernetic angel of death. That’s neither an original idea, nor one that works. It feels like the plethora of artists who worked on this volume simply came together and said “what’s really scary?” and weren’t too concerned with what kind of answers they gave.

Look, The Culling is not a total write-off, but saying its mediocre is the absolute best thing you could say about it without flat-out lying. Come in expecting the same quality that you would get out of DC events like The Night of Owls and The Third Army, and you’ll be very disappointed. Come in understanding that Lobdell isn’t the greatest of writers, and you may just enjoy it. It gets a two and a half out of five Big Brothers (evil, I tell ya!).

** ½

+ Action is well-done

+ Costume redesigns for main characters are right on the money

- Book reads like a mid-life crisis

- Some of the new characters look awful, and aren’t interesting

Alternate Option: Avengers Arena: Kill or Die
Same concept as The Culling, but much better in execution.

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