Written by Matt Kindt with art by Clayton Crain, Rai #2 follows last month’s debut of the new/relaunched Valiant series, which follows a sword-wielding hero (that might be a robot) in a seemingly utopian future of Japan in the year 4001. Is it good?
Rai #2 (Valiant Entertainment)
I’m going to level with you guys: I’m having a really hard time reviewing this book. I’ve gotten into the habit of turning these reviews into little mini-essays before launching into the meat and potatoes of reviewing anyway, so maybe I can just rant a little and something interesting will come out of this.
I mean, look, I’m sure that Matt Kindt is a talented writer. Next to Charles Soule, he might be the most prolific writer in the business, so he must be doing something right if he keeps getting so much work. Plus, he writes and draws his indie series Mind MGMT, which has garnered a great deal of critical acclaim (I read two issues and lost interest).
So why is it that Rai #2, like the previous issue, left me so cold? Maybe it’s because of the premise. In the year 4001, Japan is a Utopia. There hasn’t been a murder in over a thousand years. Everyone owns a personal robot. And after years of over development, Japan has risen so far above the earth that it launches itself into orbit. Actually, now that I’ve written it out, that sounds like a pretty cool premise, right?
Unfortunately, the execution is markedly less awesome, largely because Kindt focuses on motifs that anyone that is even remotely familiar with science fiction has seen several times before. There are the questions of morality regarding artificial intelligence. A legendary hero destined to save us all, using weapons like swords and grappling hooks rather than laser guns and jetpacks. And instead of Big Brother, the world of Rai has a seemingly omniscient “Father.”
Or maybe I didn’t enjoy Rai because Clayton Crain’s art left me cold. It’s not bad, per se, and I am sure that his (presumably) computer generated style will appeal to some readers. His depiction of Japan circa 4001 is richly detailed with a great sense of scale, and he knows how to craft an exciting action sequence which, unlike many artists with a so-called “realistic” art style, actually has a decent sense of movement and impact. Yet even so, I don’t want to read a comic that looks like a video game.
Rai isn’t a bad comic, and I’m sure that it’s already starting to find its audience. But I won’t be part of it. I don’t care enough about it to talk about it any more than I already have, and I certainly don’t care enough to read the next issue.
Is It Good?
Rai #2 has some good things going for it, but it commits the one of the worst sins that a comic (or pretty much any piece of entertainment) can make (aside from, I don’t know, giving the reader cancer): it’s boring.