You’ve probably read or skipped by this opening countless times by now, but we’re actually switching up the way we do our group reviews. Going forward each of the writers/reviewers of Comic Bastards will of course give their thoughts on the issue we’re reviewing, but then we’ll each be giving it our own numeric score. Just don’t look for an average at the bottom because we’re not doing that. Because averages suck, duh. Here’s a blurby from Valiant before we get started: The year is 4001 A.D. - led by the artificial intelligence called 'Father,' the island nation of Japan has expanded out of the Pacific and into geosynchronous orbit with the ravaged Earth below. With billions to feed and protect, it has fallen to one solitary guardian to enforce the law of Father's empire - the mysterious folk hero known as Rai. They say he can appear out of nowhere. They say he is a spirit, the ghost of Japan. But when the first murder in a thousand years threatens to topple Father's benevolent reign, Rai will be forced to confront the true face of a nation transformed, and his own long-lost humanity!
Rai’s art is insane. Like seriously it rocks all other comics. Set in the future of Japan, you knew it had to be grand but Clayton Crain brings everything he’s got to this series. I couldn’t take my eyes of it. The details of the suits, the streets, the skyline, and even the droplets of rain make each panel well worth the double take…or triple take.
Moving onto the story, we get a real introduction piece with the first issue. It is slow moving with very little action. But guess what, I loved it! It is hard to not have explosions and blood right away and not having these things and making it work is even tougher. Rai didn’t need anything more to make it perfect. The whole issue is narrated by a sixteen year old. Instead of following the kid though, we get glimpses at different scenes all leading up the Rai making an appearance. The comic was heavy with its plot. You definitely can’t just skim through this one. So sit down and take some good time out your day to read what will be another huge hit for Valiant.
I’m what you could call a huge “mark” for Matt Kindt. If he’s writing something there’s a strong probability that I’ll check it out and while I’ve accepted that not everything he writes is going to be my brew of coffee, it’s always worth giving a shot. With that said I like Rai, but unlike my fellow reviewers I liked it solely for the story.
Clayton Crain’s artwork is gorgeous, but everything I’ve read that he’s attached to suffers from the same thing… lack of a visual narrative. The thing is it’s usually blamed on the story, but Crain is the consistent factor in this. I only had one problem with the entire issue and that was the last few pages which showed Rai encountering some genetic man/monster and sent flying from Japan. The problem being that for the first several panels you have no idea what is going on, but it also doesn’t match up with what we were previously seeing either. I doesn’t make sense until the last few panels.
The story on the other hand had glimmers of Phillip K. Dick, but then also some Psycho Pass if I’m not mistaken (which was heavily influenced by Dick’s work as well). In a way it spoiled where the story is going for me, but then also intrigued me even more. I’ll definitely be back for more, but really I’m going to be patiently waiting for Crain to drop off this series like he’s done on every series he’s worked on.
Like most other Valiant I’ve read minus Shadowman and Quantum & Woody, Rai fails to intrigue me to continue reading this series any further. Getting through this book was a chore for me, which is not something you want when reading. I felt like there was way too much time spent in the exposition and not enough really getting into the meat and potatoes of the story. The explanation of everything seemed well-thought out in the writer’s head but while reading it I don’t think it translated well to the page. I was hoping to like this book being that I’m not a huge fan of sci-fi and futuristic comics, but this one doesn’t do anything for me. Rai as a character didn’t even get enough of the spotlight to really shine, and I can’t say that I’m interested in him at all. The only thing that kept me along for the ride on this first issue was the incredible art.
It is the future. Japan is now a big ass satellite which, of course, because it’s the future. Everything looks all Blade Runner but slate gray. Murder has disappeared, until fzz BLAM BLAM, it reappears. First one; then a whole bunch. Someone has smuggled weapons into the hands of the menacing raddies, someone under the assumed named of Spylocke. Who’s on the case? Motherfucking Rai, of course. Rai is the mystical guardian of Space Japan. Now that someone’s willing to murder, more is possible: Rai beseeches the unseen Father for guidance as things worsen and worsen.
Half the book belongs to Lula, a young woman. She introduces the world from an her humble perspective. She introduces the mythos of Rai. She fawns and prattles. Her pink outfits is vibrant against the slate gray of the urbanized districts. She feels like Natalie Portman in Léon: The Professional, especially sitting next to the stern Rai, who feels like John Wayne by way of cyberpunk/noh theater. She is excitable and exciting.
Rai (the book, not the character) is a conglomeration of Japanese cultural trappings. Rai (the character this time) is thought to a state-run propaganda piece, instead he is an honor bound mercenary. devoted to the public and to Father. Father would then represent the emperor, more respected prior to WWII, combination of father-figure and divine organism. The raddies are Seijun Suzuki extras. So on and so on. (Is the so-called Spylocke a pre-wiling out Gary Oldman?)
It looks great, it feels interesting, I can’t wait for more. Hearts and stars.
Clayton Crain and Matt Kindt update the Valiant hero Rai for a new generation. Originally, Rai used nanomites to power his superhero exploits; now the hero defends Japan in a dystopian setting.
No chromium cover adorns this issue. No, this book relies more on a futuristic Japan where no murders take place—until now. Liddy, a young woman fascinated with the title character, awaits for the hero to emerge from seclusion to investigate a homicide. When he does, Rai comes to fight a nasty cyborg looking monstrosity.
This comic takes some bold steps to be artistic. Readers peer into a futuristic Japan comprised of Miller-esque street punks and Blade Runner tech-in-rain settings. I struggled to determine whether the book had visionary qualities or simply pretentious stylings. Since I felt imprisoned between those two possible qualities, I will defer and allow the creative team to develop something of their own. However, I cannot fully endorse the book for anything other than the artwork. Clayton Crain’s opening panels with the scenery reflected in falling rain looked stunning.
A premiere issue has so much riding on it. While Rai #1 strove for daring and inventive with its interpretation of the sword-wielding hero, the writing felt so esoteric for its own sake and not for the sake of telling a story.
This comic has potential, but it must stifle its desire to be so cryptic in favor of a story and setting that will inspire the readership instead of confusing it.
Writer: Matt Kindt Artist: Clayton Crain Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 4/30/14