Rai, much like most of Valiant’s titles, seems to pick away at a unique niche. In a world full of sci-fi barbarians, immortal drunken slobs, and super powered teenagers, Rai is something else entirely.
Rai is set in a futuristic Japan, in which the world has managed to take on a utopian tone, with a dystopian after taste. The world set into various strata, those who live in the upper crust of Japan seem to have a posh and admirable life, while those trapped in Japan’s lower rungs live in world of perpetual rain.
Writer Matt Kindt has taken pain staking detail in fleshing out this unusual universe, under the constant protection of its deity-like creator, “Father”.
The narrative has a very commanding tone, meshing both the voice and feel of an old Samurai tale with the gritty voice of a Detective Noir. As Kindt moves back and forth between two narrative voices, the story moves ahead with a sense of foreboding and mystery. Rai, an oddly simple voice, while commanding a contrasting amount of digital omniscience, is ironically blind as he finds himself struggling against an enemy cast in an analogue world. His strengths become his weakness, as he has become painfully dependent upon the digital world he is sworn to protect.
Kindt’s second Narrative voice, one Lula Lee, makes and interesting counter voice to our protagonist’s narrative. Raised in a world purely digital, a world devoid of murder, a seeming utopia where all are safe, she longs for a simpler world. Her disconnect from the digital stream, and fascination with legends of old, gives her a fresh vibrant set of eyes to scrutinize the world with.
The story itself, much in the detective vain, is very cloudy, but as the character driven plot moves forward, the mystery becomes ever more alive and fresh. The story itself is easily one of the most compelling in an already stellar Valiant line.
The art is simply stunning. Artist Clayton Crain weaves scenes so dense with life and color it is almost absurd. The world is painfully bleak, but dense with characters saturated in color that almost spits on the face of a world long since detached from its soul. There are moments when anatomy seems to take a blow, characters taking on slightly oblong shape, but it’s really hard to tear into the aesthetic’s occasional weak moments when the overall work just seems so strong and vibrant.
In summation, this is possibly Valiant’s strongest title out the gate. If you have any idea what has already poured through said gates, this is a bold statement. The art is amazing, the kind of quality that leaves one wondering how long it can be maintained before Crain’s hands fall off. Kindt has created an amazing narrative with powerful voices, densely packed with mystery and excitement. Toss this in your pull file.
5 out of 5