Valiant Entertainment, publisher of great comics like X-O Manowar and Quantum & Woody, sure know how to build hype around their new series. Kicking off the Valiant First initiative, the long awaited Rai finally arrived yesterday. Combining a great creative team with an awesome concept, this series promises to be another home run for the publisher. How did it turn out? Time to meditate on Rai #1!
Rai welcomes you to Japan in the year 4001. The highly advanced society has enjoyed relative peace for over a millennium, until a murder occurs which forces Rai, the spirit guardian of Japan, to arrive for an investigation. Rai, who works for the mysterious ruler of Japan known as “Father,” soon makes the acquaintance of a teenager girl named Lula as well as another figure most individuals thought was merely a fictional character. What is the purpose behind this recent outburst of violence? And just who, or what, are Rai and Father? Dozens of questions arise as Rai seeks to complete his mission and protect his charge: the entire nation of Japan.
Matt Kindt’s already solidified himself in the Valiant Universe with six issues of Unity under his belt. With Rai Kindt takes us in a decidedly different direction, as we’re placed into a portion of the universe not yet explored by other comics. This futuristic Japan is an interesting place, where technology is at the forefront of every being’s life within a society that is no longer part of Earth. Kindt gives us an intriguing world to play off of, and Japan becomes a character in and of itself.
The strong character studies extend to Lula and Rai, as well, though I feel we know much more about the former than the latter. Nevertheless, an air of mystery is a strength in this title, which shows us Rai not only tracking down clues about this murder, but also forces the reader to work on solving the mystery of just what exactly this Spirit Guardian is. Perhaps best of all, Kindt crafts a curious slang for the characters, evidencing that language, along with technology, evolved over time. It’s a small touch, but one I’m quite fond of.
Clayton Crain, a master artist, provides Rai’s stellar interiors. Crain, who previously did cover work a tiny bit of interior art for an issue if Eternal Warrior, takes point at interior artist of Rai #1. The artwork is a treat for the eyes, and I can’t think of a choice better than Crain to show the hyper visuals of the ultra-modern cityscape of future Japan. The visuals flow, the motion captured with a beautiful fluidity. There’s a quiet calm and beauty to the artwork, yet with a sinister edge lurking beneath a few key scenes. Letterer Dave Lanphear helps tie the art to the dialogue, with some special attention paid to Rai’s inner monologue; the letters look like something between man and machine, perfect for a character whose key features are still a mystery to the readers.
Rai #1 was a perfect choice to jump start “Valiant First.” I loved this issue and definitely give it a high recommendation for fans of science fiction or anime. Once again, Valiant produces a winner. So what are you waiting for? Go pick up Rai #1 as soon as you can!
-intriguing set up with numerous mysterious elements
-great exploration of a new corner of the Valiant Universe
-lots of unanswered questions, but this is the first issue of a series with mystery as a key element, so it’s not surprising
Brett Simon is a twenty-four year old comic enthusiast. He’d describe this comic as Clockwork Orange meets Star Wars.
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