Of all the eclectic superheroes introduced by Valiant Entertainment, Rai was the first, debuting in 1991. An advanced cyborg ninja from New Japan two millennia in the future, Rai is the latest character from the publisher's library to be relaunched. Writer Dan Abnett and artist Juan Jose Ryp create a rollicking revival, with a post-apocalyptic future as its backdrop, the embraces the possibilities of the property.
In the debut issue, arriving Nov. 20, Rai and his "sibling" Raijin navigate a wasteland populated by roving gangs, as part of their ongoing mission to destroy remnants of their "father," an artificial intelligence program, scattered across the old world after the fall of New Japan. While the two advanced figures are more than capable of surviving the fiercest opponents they initially encounter, it's clear there are more sinister forces targeting them as they move closer to their goal.
A veteran of DC and Marvel, Abnett is no stranger to sci-fi and superhero characters. Here, he allows himself to have some fun with Rai, injecting a surprising amount of humor into the normally stoic character, especially in regard to Rai's interplay with Raijin. However, it's accomplished without compromising the hard-hitting action long associated with the character, as Rai and Raijin demonstrate they're still the best for the very combat they were designed for.
While Abnett moves much of his exposition into the second half of the issue, it runs concurrently with the biggest set piece, reestablishing who Rai is through Raijin's description, juxtaposed with his deeds against a seemingly superior force. Abnett structures the issue and its characters for readers have may have never read Rai, yet he doesn't throw out any of the character's nearly three-decade history. It's fresh start but not necessarily a full reboot, at least judging by this first issue.
The sense of fun and wonder is brought to visual life by Ryp, joined by colorist Andrew Dalhouse. In contrast to most post-apocalyptic settings, the art here is bright and colorful that veers a little more toward the punk-rock aesthetic of Mad Max and Borderlands than the gritty, washed-out visuals of Fallout or The Road. The entertaining dynamic between Rai and Raijin is accentuated by Ryp's ability to capture emotions, and the issue's two major action sequences lead the art team bring different kinetic sensibilities to the forefront.
Valiant's linewide relaunch of its extensive library of fan-favorite titles continues to bring superstar talent to reimagine its characters to great effect, and Abnett and Ryp's relaunch of Rai is no exception. The duo integrates more fun into the title title than what's traditionally associated with the property, delivering levity and freewheeling escapism without compromising the characters. For longtime fans and new readers alike, Rai #1 is a strong starting point to New Japan's greatest warrior.
Written by Dan Abnett and illustrated by Juan Jose Ryp, Rai #1 goes on sale Nov. 20 from Valiant Entertainment.