Pullbox Reviews: Sailor Ragowski #1- From Team Rags, a manga you can read openly in front of your family!

Regina Finnegan-Ragowski is a freshly minted US. Marine (and super weeb) stationed at Camp Foster Okinawa. When she discovers her Japanese tutor is local Hero -Ryukyu Mew and inherit’s her powers, she suddenly gains her dream of becoming a Japanese Magical Girl. But things aren’t that simple and doing things the American way can often be heavy handed and cause more problems than they solve.

A leopard can change her spots… but at the end of the day she’s still a hunter.

Fans of the comic series Rags, first distributed through Antarctic Press & later as a truly independent comic funded through crowd funding platforms like Kickstarter & Patreon, have been walking this road for a long time. We’ve followed the adventures of former Marine Regina Ragowski as she fought off hordes of zombies & the even more despicable hipster attacks, all the while her one true hope was to finally find a pair of pants. We’ve defended the creative choices made by the creators of Rags, Brian Ball & Trent Luther, the most contentious of which was Regina’s consistent lack of clothes throughout her seven issue run. Basically, we’ve been shouting from the rooftops, trying to convince anyone listening that Rags wasn’t just a sleazy zombie comic with a naked chick running around.

The second season of Rags is coming around, and the story is taking off in a completely different direction. No longer having anything to do with a zombie (or hipster) apocalypse, Sailor Ragowski is a full on, no bullshit manga, right down to the page layout and the direction the book is to be read (heads up, the story makes a LOT more sense when read from “back to front” & right to left). Likewise, the attitude has shifted to suit the new story & format. Team Rags has proudly proclaimed that this is a book you can openly read in front of your family, without looks of shame or reproach.

I’ve been a fan of Rags from day one, loving the deep dive into the military attitude, the references & Easter Eggs seeded throughout. I’m a backer on Patreon (Muffin Bears, represent!), multiple reviews have been written and I’ve pushed the book into the hands of friends in support of “accurate fire & tactical onesies”. So by deconstructing just about everything that made it RAGS even to the point of reformatting from an all-American comic to one that owes its DNA to the very distinctive style of Japanese manga, does it lose itself?

Nope. In the act of reinvention, spring boarding away from one kind of story into something totally different is a bold move. Let’s face it, as much as we may have loved Rags, it really isn’t a story that can hold up to the pressure of its own creative success. I have no clue how The Walking Dead lasted as long as it did without the promise of at least one tactical onesie. All that remains to be seen is how far away from the Regina we know & love is this new version, Reggie, and are we going to have to wait for the full run before the payoff of the aforementioned onesie? I don’ have all of the answers, but I do have some thoughts… let’s begin.

The writing chores have been taken up by Daquan Jenkins, and having read through the opening issue a couple times, I have to say that everything is looking just fine. Keeping in mind that Zombie Rags featured a protagonist who was just about as messed up as a single human being can get, it has to be accepted that certain elements aren’t going to carry over into this more upbeat (so far) book. Under Jenkins’ hand, Reggie is still serving on active duty- unlike Regina who had been dishonorably discharged- currently stationed in Okinawa. She still seems to be a bit of a loner, the book opening with an inner monologue as Reggie is putting thoughts to paper in a journal. Jenkins runs us through the introductions, providing some insight into Reggie’s character. At first glance it looks like she’s going to be a little less… um, contentious… than her previous incarnation. That makes perfect sense, seeing as Sailor Ragowski is taking a more traditionally heroic approach with its title character. Where Zombie Rags was centered on Regina’s ongoing battle with PTSD, Reggie seems to be more determined to honor her ties to “country & Corps”. Without dipping into spoiler territory, it becomes apparent pretty quickly that Reggie Ragowski may suffer more than her share of losses, but her trials will be weathered by a strong sense of duty. So far I’m liking the new direction, as well as the way Jenkins is setting everything up and establishing that this is very much a different story going forward.

Given that Sailor Ragowski is heading off into new territory that has very little to do with what’s happened before, it would only make sense that there would be a new artist on board. I mean, the shift in style from the first arc to a traditional manga format is pretty significant. Luigi Teruel’s work in the first arc was fantastic and should be displayed at The Louvre. I can only say that I’m really gonna miss that guy.

Wait! You mean Teruel is still the artist? You’re saying that he took a deep dive into the Japanese manga design, and was able to alter his personal artistic flair to fit the new arc? Pull the other one!

Okay, look. I’m not on anyone’s payroll or anything, but if Luigi Teruel were to employ an actual publicist I don’t think they could work any harder than I have to sing his praises. The guy can ART! Over the course of Rags season 1, I was continually amazed by his attention to detail and ability to translate dynamic action to the page. Everything from tactical movement and trigger discipline, to an angry Regina giving some POG a royal ass-chewing complete with the dreaded “knife hand”, to her very impressive ink and physique. In the quieter, more character-driven moments, Teruel displayed a fantastic ability to show emotion through facial expressions, carrying his share of the story telling through pictures instead of leaving it all up to the dialogue. With Sailor Ragowski, Teruel tackles the challenge of deliberately altering his art to reflect a different setting & format, shifting just enough to show the new style while keeping it all very much recognizable as his own. Luigi Teruel continues to set himself apart, not just from many independent comic artists, but artists in general and should be having people line up to pay him gobs of money.

I know that there are people out there you avoided the first story arc, and in all honesty I understand even if I don’t agree. Rags fell victim to a book being judged by its cover, and too many dismissed it out of hand as simple eye candy. The many layers that told the story beneath the story, the ongoing metaphors that were so subtle or obscure that I’m pretty sure I didn’t get them all, adding up to a comic that went a little farther than just “entertaining escapism”.

For everyone that passed on the old, I’d encourage you to hop onto the new. For the returning fans, I’m right there with you, looking forward to rooting out the threads that do link this run with the first, in spirit if nothing else.

Final Score: 12/13

Mild mannered Yayoi… aka, Ryukyu Mew!
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