Justice League of America Rebirth – The Ray #1 is another one-shot in a series leading up to a new Justice League of America title. Like the one-shots before it that have focused on the Atom and Vixen, this issue attempts to re-introduce readers to the Ray, a second-tier (heck maybe even third or fourth) hero that was originally introduced in the Golden age and has enjoyed periodical revivals of greater or lesser successes over the years. Like the other one-shots, this story attempts to take the most resonant iteration of the Ray and re-invigorate and update him for this Rebirth era in advance of his co-starring role on the new JLA. And the creative team succeeds on all fronts, delivering a tight and enjoyable story that establishes the Ray as a likeable and engaging character.
Writer Steve Orlando and artist Stephen Byrne use the one-shot to effectively send Ray Terrill on a journey from the dark into the light in both a literal and metaphorical sense. Ray’s nightmarish early years at the hands of a mother who may or may not just be trying to keep her son safe leads to his learning to deal with his light-based power-set over what appears to be years and years. Orlando and Byrne have an unconventional character in Ray, whose upbringing has kind of warped him, making him a quirky and troubled soul struggling to find his way in the initial pages of the issue. But the story doesn’t slather on the angst with a trowel, rather Ray is ultimately an optimistic guy. He’s not wallowing in his troubles, he’s trying to find a way to overcome them. He does this mainly through a somewhat obsessive focus on the only friendship he’s ever had in his life, and if Ray occasionally sounds just a bit creepy, the creative team manages to effectively communicate to the reader that he’s really only hanging on to the only person he’s ever had a positive connection to. He doesn’t really know much about being around people at all, and Orlando’s script communicates Ray’s journey towards connecting with the world and finally accepting the person he is as a positive thing, not a curse or a burden.
The art delivers several great moments, from a really nice full page panel of Ray entering the outside world for the first time, to some super-cool depictions of the Ray in action. His power set offers a lot of possibilities for a variety of uses and cool visuals, and the issue does whet the appetite to see him in action.
For a one-shot designed to introduce a member of a soon-to-be assembled team, Justice League of America Rebirth – The Ray #1 really succeeds at its job. I like Ray Terrill, his origin is interesting and mysterious and well-handled, and it even establishes a tough-city setting (which is kind of unique to the DCU, frankly) and possible supporting cast and threat effectively. Like the other one-shots that preceded it, this issue makes me increasingly optimistic for the coming JLA series, and in that way the issue succeeds perfectly. 8.5/10