The future is dark and paranoid in Rai #1, Valiant’s reboot of its future-set tale of Japan’s protector in the 41st century. But instead of the gleaming politically complex future of the original, writer Matt Kindt and artist Clayton Crain have shifted the hero into conspiracy thriller territory, giving Japan in the 41st century its first murder in 1,000 years. If you can get past the jargon and Crain’s typically murky art, you might find an odd future worth exploring.
Without providing explanation for why in the first issue, Japan appears to be isolated in the 41st century, with Rai serving as its protector and the (seeming) sole agent of Father, the entity which controls everyday life in a nation on the edge of some intricately-sketched but still obtuse conflict involving terrorists who would liberate Positronic Minds (or PTs). These artificial companions are used as a slave class, and the rebels have a problem with this.
Kindt allows one of our narrators (with Rai serving as the other), the teenaged, candy-colored Lula, to fill us in on this complicated mesh of elements. Lula tells us that future Japan is a nation where real estate is measured by the centimeter and where the PTs are used as surrogate people to stem overpopulation. A witness to the homicide, she’s hoping that the killing will offer her a first glimpse of Rai.
Let’s talk about Crain’s design elements, particularly his updated version of Rai. You can see the revised look of the character above, a little leaner than the Valiant 1.0 incarnation, and somehow harder and more serious-looking, the rays of the rising sun spread out across his chest and arms. It’s a striking design that offers a sharp contrast to the rainy, Blade Runner-inspired locales in the book.
And it’s here that Rai’s design works so well while the rest of the book’s visuals are a mixed bag: Crain’s occasionally fussy style occasionally comes at the expense of clean, clear-to-follow action. The killers’ escape in the first few pages is cramped, while Rai’s later encounter in the bar makes it hard to follow exactly where that sword was headed (we see the aftermath of the violence, but the angle doesn’t make sense). And as interesting as I find the design of the behemoth in the final pages, its interaction with the falling character is unclear. Did he punch that person through the floor?
This is an issue I had with Crain’s X-Force work, but it’s less distracting here when you have so many compelling designs in the foreground.
As for Kindt’s script, I’m curious about where he’s taking Rai, why “Mother” in Valiant 1.0 has been replaced with “Father” (and does that mean we’ll get an A-1 at some point?), and most importantly, it’ll be nice to draw both Rai and Lula into sharper focus.
Rai #1 will be available on April 30th from Valiant.