Written by Dan Abnett
Art by Juan Jose Ryp and Andrew Dalhouse
Lettering by Dave Sharpe
Published by Valiant Entertainment
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Valiant Entertainment continues to reimagine itself and its cast of characters with the latest relaunch of Rai #1, as writer Dan Abnett and artists Juan Jose Ryp and Andrew Dalhouse bring readers to the seedy streets of the 41st century.
The story begins with Rai – a sort of cybernetic hybrid of man and machine – having found himself on Earth after the utopic and country-sized space station of New Japan crashed to the surface of Earth. Rai finds himself accompanied by Raijin – an early prototype created by Father, the A.I. system that developed all of the Rai protectors – who takes on the form and role of a younger brother or son, despite being an older “model.” This produces a sort of Lone Wolf and Cub relationship between the two protagonists, which presents the titular character in a new light that longtime fans would appreciate as he navigates this Mad Max-style world hunting the 12 progeny of the long-thought-deceased Father.
The story elements that Abnett weaves together will draw in readers regardless of their familiarity with the Valiant Universe, providing a warm welcome to this incredibly alien setting for newcomers, while still throwing in some curveballs for longtime fans. Of particular interest is Abnett’s framing of Raijin – who appears as though he were a young boy – delivering some low-key humor at one point while having a drink with a bartender. Abnett uses this scene to not only catch newer readers up to speed and contextualize Rai’s present world, but it also allows Ryp and Dalhouse the opportunity to showcase just how deadly Rai is.
Artistically, Ryp and Dalhouse masterfully construct this story. From a storytelling perspective, each panel captures the most important elements of what’s happening and never fails to keep the reader’s attention. Where Ryp proves especially adept at body language, Dalhouse excels in transporting readers to the bright, hot desert location with his bright and warming colors. In fact, Dalhouse’s sense of color harmony throughout the book served to underscore the sense of inner calm and deliberateness that Ryp depicts in Rai – a subtle but skillful visual means of showing us who this character is despite the chaos he could create.
If there were any areas that might have held this first issue back, they were small in scope. In some instances, the art almost appeared to wash out, which may have been an issue with too faint of inking or too much tint to the coloring. Nonetheless, it wasn’t a prevalent concern. Additionally, Abnett does a fine job of organically weaving in sufficient backstory into the first issue to provide context for Rai and Raijin, so newer readers understand who they are and why this story is important for readers. The only drawback here was that readers have to wait until one-third to halfway through the issue to begin getting this context.
Overall, the team behind Rai #1 delivers a solid story that new and returning readers alike should find something to latch onto and enjoy. While the end of the issue might come a bit too early for many of those readers, there’s enough fun character moments and exciting visual designs to keep fans invested until next month’s installment.