Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Juan Jose Ryp
Colours: Andrew Dalhouse
Lettering: Dave Sharpe
Release Date: 15th January 2020
Don’t you hate it when you and your mate are out hiking in a post-apocalyptic-type wasteland in the distant future and your pal goes offline? The only thing that could make it worse is if a herd of life-size animatronic dinosaurs, programmed to feel hunger, started chasing you. Am I right? Say hello to Raijin, he’s not having a good day.
I really must tip my hat to Dan Abnett. This is the sophomore run on Rai and it really couldn’t have been easy jumping off where Matt Kindt left us, but so far, Abnett is hitting a home run. At first, I was a little unsure. I loved the direction, but there were some gaping holes. Namely the Geomancer (Lula) and the remnants of New Japan, but that all gets tied off this issue in a typically ‘Valiantesque’ way (they do love their alternative planes of reality).
Long story short, this issue has kicked it off for me. Abnett has managed to plausibly disassociate Rai from New Japan for the purposes of this story. His mission is still core to the protection of New Japan, and to humanity. It’s almost as if the act of hunting down father will be the crucible that allows Rai to connect with what it is to be human…
And this is where it gets interesting, because this story is simply a treasure hunt with a Ronin protagonist. But is the treasure finding Father, or is the treasure finding your humanity…? And whose humanity? Rai wants to discover what it is to be human, but in many ways it’s Raijin who has acted the more human so far… It’s this kind of duality in comics that I absolutely lap up.
In this issue, Abnett has snapped off and set aside the previous arc of Rai. It’s not gone – indeed, it’s still there to come back to when it’s needed – but this is his (Abnett’s) story now and he can run with it. He has managed it with a deft hand too; there has been no overdose of exposition in the first two issues, just some niggling questions. Issue three delivers a clean-sweep answer that defines the rules of this chapter of Rai’s story, and it’s an exciting prospect.
Rai and Raijin are on their own, and 4001 Bloodshot (or The Red King now he’s under Father’s control) is clearly the new antagonist. He’s not after Rai though, it’s Raijin he wants. The possibilities are endless here, the 4001 universe is one huge untapped resource. The Eternal Warrior is bound to show up, and Ivar can pop in at any time. Sai and child are here somewhere, as is War Mother (maybe Flaco has fallen foul to one of Father’s fragments). The list could go on!
As much as I love the narrative, I must give Kudos to the art too. Juan Jose Ryp and colorist Andrew Dalhouse are bringing their own stamp to Rai’s story. There is an almost claustrophobic style to Juan’s art that helps focus on the reality that this is (also) a buddy story. It makes you feel more involved in what’s happening to our two protagonists. Even though the story has moved from a space station to Earth, Dalhouse has managed to work in a neo-color pallet. This reminds us that Rai and Raijin are part (or whole) machine, not quite human (yet anyway) – and is a nice throwback to the colors Clayton Crane used in the initial run.
Overall, this is a big winner for me. There is massive potential in Rai’s new arc and so far, it’s being deftly handled. If you don’t know the 4001 universe, that’s fine, sit back and enjoy what’s coming to you. If you are familiar (like me), then get excited about what’s potentially coming. Either way, it looks like this will be a riot. The interaction between our two principals has been outstanding to date and having Bloodshot as the final boss? This will be awesome. The last two issues were background noise, this is where Rai begins. Enjoy.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.