REVIEW: ‘Rai’ #1

(Valiant Entertainment, 2014)

Written by Matt Kindt
Art by Clayton Crain
Letters by Dave Panphear

The tech bug was one that didn’t bite me.  I never had a need to know how things worked, never had that wonder when looking at a computer as to how the words I typed showed on the screen.  Facebook and Twitter are a constant mystery to me.  This bewilderment with technology also seems to have extended to my interests in reading, tangentially anyway.  I can appreciated the intricacies of technology, and have absolutely no interest in how they work.  As long as the match lights, I’m good.

So when I see a book like Rai, I tend to look at the intense and busy pages, filled with cunningly beautiful tech, architecture built for the future, and affords it the same wonder that I would a laptop or the newest cell phone.

Rai is the latest in Valiant’s rehash of old titles.  Writer Matt Kindt (Mind MGMT, JLA) has the responsibility of rebooting the hero of 30th Century Japan, a metropolis built so high that people take vacations to go to the upper levels and see the stars.  Rai is the state hero, the spirit of the country, who over the centuries has been called upon to save Japan in its time of need.  Now is such a time.  “Raddies”, a sort of pro-artificial life movement, are beginning to wreak violence upon the country.  There is debate on what the role of Positronic Minds (artificial intelligence) should have in society.  Are they people or machines?  Slave or free?  The first murder of a human in a thousand years has been committed.  A fictional character, Spylocke, has appeared again and though not taking a side, definitely has some interest in how things play out.  Japan needs a hero.

Clayton Crain (X-Force, Kiss: Psycho Circus) draws a beautiful future.  His architecture is immaculate, his use of color, especially on Lula, is a great contrasting of the drab cityscape.  Crain draws with subtlety at times that made me go back and, not re-read, but re-look at pages.  To really “see” them.  One in particular, where Rai slices through a pistol, is quietly but perfectly done.  It’s a cinematic introduction to Rai in action.

The dichotomy between Rai and Spylocke will be interesting to see as it unfolds.  It is the battle of two myths, one state sponsored, one a spy-story handed down through the populace, but both known to all.  Lula, a witness to the aforementioned first-in-a- thousand murder, is a lens through which we see Rai and because of that, know him better.  She sees the hero of history; he knows that something is happening that will change the way Japan, as a country will survive.  What better way to show the faults of a hero than by the blind, pure trust of a child in that hero?  The way the plot unfolds shows Rai’s certain knowledge of Japan cracking, and if the country changes, what happens to the spirit of said country?  These are all questions that Rai will face in coming issues, and the reason that I will continue with this book is that story.

Dave Kindt has succeeded in making me forget the technology aspect of this story, although it is ever present.  Clayton Crain has embedded that tech into the panels so that although it is there, it has become a part of the fabric of the story as much as New York City and Sicily are to The Godfather.  So technology be darned.  Rai #1 is out now.  The match is burning, and I don’t care how.



Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.

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