Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Writer: Matt Kindt
Release Date: 24th August, 2016
Rai #16 closes out the current arc, running in tandem with the Valiant 4001 A.D. summer event. The arc – a self-contained ‘wheel within a wheel,’ looking at the origins of Rai and New Japan – has been a hugely enjoyable eye-opener for those of us that have been following Rai from the start (and if you have not, I urge you to check out the Rai Deluxe Edition #1: totally worth it).
However, before I go into my review proper, I’m going to highlight my one complaint here. When this story began with Rai #13, Valiant’s press release stated: “…discover the intertwined origins of New Japan’s very first Rai and his creator, Father – the despotic artificial intelligence that would one day threaten us all.” This sentence sent my excitement levels to 11. Father – in this reviewers opinion one of the best comic book villains in recent times – was getting an origin story. The fact that origins (plural) was used suggested that. Well, time to burst that bubble, I think (hope) it may have been a typo. This should have read origin (singular), in that that arc covered the involvement of Father in the creation of Rai. It’s a bit of a let-down (for me), but it shouldn’t detract from my review of what is a fantastic story.
And it is a fantastic story. The way Matt Kindt has constructed the story of Rai in each arc so far has been of the highest production value and this latest arc is no different. It’s perfectly self-contained, and yet slips effortlessly into the legacy of Rai with such completeness that when I finished this issue it was impossible not to be impressed with the adeptness of Kindt’s ability. I will admit to being slightly worried as I was drawing near the end of the issue – sometimes when writing in a character’s past, lines can get blurred and ‘changes’ are made to the established timeline to fit the narrative. I thought Rai was skirting particularly close to this as we approached the conclusion and the obsessive compulsive in me felt his enjoyment slip. Yet, it didn’t happen – the story ended in a manner that fit so perfectly into the main narrative that Johnny Ives probably wants to patent it for the next iPhone production line. It was God-damn perfect.
I’ve been impressed by Cafu’s art and he’s really treating us to some exemplary work in this issue. There is a signature dynamism in his drawing, whether it’s in action or cinematics, and this issue just brims with eye-candy. I especially enjoyed that dialogue between Rai and Abato, portrayed almost as light against darkness in the midst of a snowstorm. I felt it was especially relevant as, rather than a play of good and against evil, the reader knows this is more a representation of hope against tragedy. The artist/colorist team of Cafu and Andrew Dalhouse is one I’ll keep an eye open for as, refreshingly; Valiant likes to keep teams that work well together, well … together!
As you may have guessed, the close of this arc is immensely satisfying. Matt Kindt has managed to expand on the legacy of the 4001 New Japan universe and the character of Rai with a dissociative story, and yet one that fills in so many blanks to the background and history of this universe. It’s quite brilliant in that this doesn’t seem like an addition to the story of Rai, it feels more like canon – like something that was always there, we just hadn’t discovered it yet. My only complaint (as I mentioned at the beginning of this article) is that I did feel slightly duped, and that did put a little downer on this for me, but yet it didn’t quash my appreciation of this story. Not only was it so conclusive, but there are a few hooks left that will no doubt impact ‘our’ Rai in future – just what has Sai been doing on Earth all these years…. and what of her child?
[Click to Enlarge]
The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.