Rai #1 Another Must-Read from Valiant Entertainment

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Rai PreviewRai is another Valiant must-read.

Rai‘s setting, its narrators, and the beginning premise are all attention-grabbers. The setting is far-future Japan ( 4001 A.D.), and Crain and Kindt have worked to design a future Japan, pulling designs from medieval Japan and melding them with more traditional future designs in clothing and environment. The result is a world we’ve never seen before. Crain has worked in numerous details in clothing patterns, hairstyles, and background décor to make this feel like a real, lived in world. Varied panel size and arrangements also allow for different glimpses into the world, showing its many levels and peoples.

Rai is both a superhero tale and a mystery. It begins with the first murder in a thousand years, and even though Rai—and we—know who did it in the sense of which organization is responsible, no one knows which individuals are responsible or what the organization truly stands for, much less what the ins and outs of the situation are. We, the readers, know only as much of the mysterious Father who runs Japan as Lula and Rai know, and that, in the end, is not much: He runs Japan, and he has (somehow) prevented humans from murdering one another for a long time. At least one other person (artificial human?), Spylocke, presents his own mystery. He’s supposed to be fictional, yet there he is, giving advice that is slightly less cryptic than that usually given by fictional characters.

The setting includes PT’s, artificial humans who are viewed as lower class and permitted to be mistreated because they’re not “really” human (except, of course, it always turns out that they are). This been done before, but there is still a lot of life in the premise and the accompanying “What does it mean to be human?” questions, and Kind has shown the ability to take tropes and twist them into interesting shapes. One angle here is that it looks like Rai himself is somewhere in between the artificial PT’s and the flesh-and-blood humans. Lula wonders about it when she sees him, and he himself comments that he can talk to machines. His appearance, too, is not precisely human. So, there’s some interesting territory to explore.

Character design is also strong here. Rai is balanced between the human and the non-human, with his silver skin, flat hair, and expressive face and body language. Lula, a Japanese girl, is all innocence and excitement, in love with the legends and wide-eyed at the thought of meeting a real one. She also has a streak of practicality that shows visually in her choice of shoes and narratively in her decision when to use or not use the precious resource of real paper. The two narrate different points on the tale. Lula is a young Japanese girl, fairly typical for the setting. Rai is the hero of the story, Father’s servant, the one sent to set things right. Each is innocent in her or his own way. Lula finds the whole thing an adventure; she is going to get to see the mythical Rai, and that is enough to make this day important. Rai has been serving an ideal Japan. Now, he has to deal with the real thing, and there are cracks in the façade. Both characters are realized enough to grab the reader’s attention at once, both look set to grow and develop as the story grows.

In short, Rai is highly readable and promises plenty of twists and turns to come and is set to keep readers caring and wondering throughout its run.

Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Clayton Crain
Letters: Dave Lanphear
Cover Artist: Clayton Crain, Bryan Hitch, Stephen Segovia, Raul Allen, Khari Evans, Trevor Hairsine, David Aja & Raul Allen
Editor: Warren Simons, Alejandro Arbona

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