Writer Steve Orlando continues to introduce his new JLA lineup via one-shot Rebirth introductions. So far his Vixen and Atom introductions have done well to capture the character and their powers, but how about The Ray? Can he pull off a trio of well rounded characters? Is it good?
Justice League of America: The Ray Rebirth #1 (DC Comics)
So what’s it about? The summary reads:
SPINNING OUT OF THE PAGES OF JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. SUICIDE SQUAD! Locked indoors, raised in the dark and told his medical condition could be fatal to himself and anyone he meets, Ray Terrill is dangerous. A freak. Broken. Or is he…? Witness the amazing power of realizing your true self and stepping into the light in this moving rebirth of a long-lost hero for a new generation.
Why does this book matter?
Is it just me or did Stephen Byrne come out of nowhere? From his well drawn Green Arrow two parter to Justice League/Power Rangers #1, I’m liking what I see from him. He offers a unique digital cartoon feel to each of his books. Add Orlando, who has proven himself on his Monster Men and Midnighter work and you have a compelling combo indeed.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Meanest mom ever.
This issue opens when The Ray was just a boy. He’s living a life in darkness with an overprotective mother. A life no child should endure. It’s also a life I think many folks can relate to–he’s different and weird, but too young to understand why. The issue then cuts to later in his life, I’m going to guess late teens or early 20’s, and The Ray must endure rejection due to his powers. You start to see Orlando is showing us childhood beats we’ve all faced, which makes the character relatable.
His powers are intriguing, in part because they seem similar to Doctor Manhattan. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but it appears The Ray can transfer his form at will, which is especially Doctor Manhattan like when he turns blue and invisible. I’m calling it now, The Ray is going to be important later when The Watchmen elements start to fall into place! That said, his powers have a unique feel due to his ability to absorb light. You generally get a sense of what he can do in this issue, and how his powers tie to his shut-in childhood, which makes that aspect of the issue a success.
The art by Byrne works well in this issue, with some cool glow effects used to make his eyes and powers pop. The opening pages, with Ray watching TV alone in the dark, also uses the blue glow of the TV to convey the unnerving lifestyle he lives. I really dig his invisible blue look, which looks just as you’d expect. There’s also a fantastic full page spread of Ray powering up with some sunspot type flairs that are quite awesome to look at.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The captions get a bit heavy in usage at times which slows down the pace to a slog. The captions don’t do a heck of a lot at times either, basically conveying his fears or desires, which might be due to the layouts which use fewer images than the script might require. The last page for example only has four panels, but the captions run so heavy it might have been better with a heck of a lot more. Speaking of the last page, Orlando appears to show Ray in a gay relationship, but it’s shown so quickly in a panel with two couples (making it hard to decipher if Ray was one of the men) it was hard to gather if that was the case. It almost seemed like it was slipped in because it was important, but it was done in such a clunky way it feels forced.
Ray’s call to action is rather loose and unconvincing as well. He’s literally told by a politician to use his powers for good, and the politician ties into his past, but not enough is done to make his new life as a hero anything more than a young kid stepping up due to acceptance. It makes sense on some level, but doesn’t feel earned or well set up.
Eh, still better than acne!
Is It Good?
The Ray is a good introduction of a hero’s powers and how those powers shaped their personality. That said, the captions can bog down the pace, and the final few pages seem to rush to check off a few storytelling boxes.