Recently I’ve begun to read more from Valiant Comics and it has proven to be quite a delightful experience. It all started with Unity last year from Matt Kindt and Doug Braithwaite, then it went on to X-O Manowar from Robert Venditti and Diego Bernard. These have been some great comics and now that I am starting to delve more into Valiant’s other titles as well, many of which I’ve already got lined up, such as Eternal Warrior and Shadowman. But for the moment we have a brand-new comic from the publisher, Rai.
The dark and gritty nature of the setting of Rai is what worked for me in the end. The art is extremely cinematic, thanks to artist Clayton Crain, and his visuals do an excellent job of building up the mood and atmosphere of Matt Kindt’s writing. The writing is good, better than good in fact, but the visuals are the true stars of this issue. Still, on the whole, I loved Rai as a character even though we don’t see as much of him as we see of the teenage girl Lula who narrates the majority of the story.
The story is set two thousand years in the future, in the year 4001, and the setting is Japan in that time. In this Japan, there hasn’t been any murder for almost a thousand years. But just as we start the story, a couple of criminals decide to break that unmentioned social rule and kill a cop who comes upon them in an out-of-the-way alley. This is the spark that sets off a fire that spreads throughout the country, and more murders result. This necessitates that the great saviour of Japan, Rai himself, is called upon to handle the matter by Father, the man who runs the country. And along the way we get a build-up of various mysteries that delve into the social nature of this futuristic Japan, Rai’s place in the grand scheme of things, and the aspirations of a young teenage girl named Lula who lives in the sector where the first murder is committed.
Both Lula and Rai prove to be quite wonderful characters. Matt Kindt really explores both of them and how they fit into the future. That’s what I really liked here. And of course, Matt’s dialogue is pretty good, but more than that is how good his monologues are for both characters. Both Lula and Rai are introspective characters, either aspiring for more than what they are or who they are, and they just want to understand more of the world around them. When you live in a city that is built on multiple levels and the sun is a distant memory for those who live at the bottom, or the final bottom level is a myth for those at the top, things can get pretty wacky.
Which is where these two characters come in.
The one thing that I found weird in this comic was that the dialogue for the bad guys in the beginning was very… formal and abrupt. It was as if their speech was filtered through a machine which lacked any nuance of normal speech. But in that weird way, I could also appreciate the difference, since it does mark them out from all the other characters in the issue.
Most of all, there is definitely a very big conspiracy going on here, something that touches on the very social fabric of this far future Japan, and seeing the beginnings on that here was quite gratifying. This isn’t just a regular action book, it has more than what appears on the surface. You just have to be patient.
Clayton Craine does all the heavy-lifting for the art in this issue and the letters are by Dave Lanphear. As I’ve said, the art is very cinematic and also dark and gritty. The Japan of the future isn’t all that nice a place, especially given that the social fabric is dependent on there being no murders. So there is a certain darkness in people that is hinted at by the artwork, which is pretty good. I love when art is subtle like that.
For my money’s worth, Rai #1 is an excellent comic and you should definitely be getting it.