I wanted to like Rai #1 more than I did. It had a lot of hooks I found interesting — including a far-future setting, with some clever tech ideas, an intriguing premise, and a sympathetic young woman — but the cold precision of Clayton Crain’s art turned me off.
Don’t get me wrong, the images are lovely, but they’re so static, I’m pushed away from them. I’m guessing that they’re digitally painted, and to my eyes, there’s no sense of motion. It felt like looking at a set of trading cards instead of reading a comic. Much of it is also murky. They’re trying to capture a future noir feel — think Blade Runner — with rain in an undercity, but I found it difficult to make out the art, so I found myself reading only the many captions.
Anyway, plot-wise, it’s the year 4001, and there hasn’t been a murder for a thousand years… until now. Our narrator has a paper fetish and a wish to see Rai, the hero and protector of Japan, and this outrageous event will make that possible. There’s lots of explanation by writer Matt Kindt, setting up the technology and the background, so this first issue can feel a little like work instead of entertainment. It’s helpful to someone, like me, who’s never read Valiant comics before, to know about Rai’s background, but it’s also a bit labored.
Rai is guided by Father, an AI keeping society working, so the bigger plot winds up being a conspiracy about what Father’s real movies are. What secrets is he keeping? It’s a valid question, but that kind of paranoia, that kind of cultural distrust, is tiresome to me. It would be more refreshing, I think, to see a future society that’s working well, one that would give us hope for things getting better. However, now I’m wishing the book into something other than what it is just to suit my tastes. Along similar lines, others may find the slick art well-suited to a future-tech story.