Written by: Matt Kindt
Art by: Clayton Crain
Published by: Valiant Comics
“Rai #4” is the concluding chapter to the opening arc of Matt Kindt’s and Clayton Crain’s take on one of Valiant’s iconic characters. Being an iconic character for Valiant means being an obscure character to pretty much anyone but the core comic reader. Still, Kindt and Crain have done a solid job recreating this character for the modern reader. Crain’s visuals are an outstanding feature of this book; his work is really splendid and may be the biggest draw for many readers. Those waiting for Rai to develop into a compelling protagonist in his own right will have to wait a few months for the series to return while Kindt continues to provide an emotional connection through auxiliary characters.
Rai is a stoic protagonist. And while not every artificial character is without heart, there isn’t really much to like about Rai. When he does talk it’s usually about the “Father” and protecting Japan, but since he’s finally beginning to break from his programing his voice may become an interesting one in the coming stories. The supporting cast is able to make up for some of the emotional detachment, but it still fails to generate a connection that other Valiant titles like Archer & Armstrong or Quantum & Woody have managed with ease.
Crain is a phenomenal artist who is able to blend hyper-realistic character models with a futuristic world that screams science-fiction. There is an abundance of dark science fiction on the shelves right now and it’s debatable that we really need another similar series. However, Rai captures a totally different tone and atmosphere thanks to the premise and Crain’s world-building ability. The sleek design really brings to life the technological world the book inhabits. Every action scene so far has been flawless as well: clear, well-choreographed, and killer.
There are some not-so-subtle warnings and messages that this issue, and indeed the entire first arc, have relied on. As with so many science fiction stories, the misuse of power by the few, the danger of religion, people destroyed by their own devices, and the loss of our humanity. Cautionary tales are rife throughout the narrative. A poignant allegory used by Kindt throughout this opening arc is in twisting a very popular, classic myth—the patriarch rules over all, sends his son to protect the masses from themselves and other threats: sounding familiar yet? Yes, it’s been a favourite tale for many thousands of years, predating Christianity, yet Kindt delivers a cunning spin to the story setting the son against his father.
Perhaps the most compelling part of this book, aside from the stellar artwork, is that the story works on a couple of different levels. You can enjoy it as a tense action tale filled with Rai cutting people and androids apart. You can enjoy it as a philosophical work of science fiction with something to say about the dangers of our present and future. You can enjoy it as the pure, undiluted comic book that it is.
Rai isn’t Valiant Comics’ best title, at least not yet, but it is their smartest. Kindt cannot ever be accused of taking the easy way through a story and most readers will, and should, love him for it. Crain’s art is worth the three month break which says a lot. No, really. Pretty much any reader can find something to love in this series. Finally, while being a great debut arc, the series definitely has room to grow when it returns.
“Rai #4” earns 8.0 / 10