As the Ray was talking about a rift opening over the Pacific Ocean and the beam of light that gave him his powers, it occurred to me that this title is not unlike the Roger Stern/Tom Lyle “Starman” from the 1980s. Sure, Lucien Gates is a great deal more receptive to and open about his powers than Will Payton ever was, but the ability to manipulate light and change appearance are common enough for my brain to connect the two. That, honestly, is a very good thing. “Starman” had a lot of great character moments and, to this point, so does this iteration of “The Ray.”
There’s a pseudo-recognition of the fourth wall in this book that is more disturbing than enlightening. I don’t mind the narration in dialog boxes, but as Lucien is afloat in the ocean and turns his attention to the reader mid-story and looks out of the panel, it almost loses me. Almost. I know this is comics; you know this is comics, and apparently, Lucien Gates knows we’re (at the very least) viewing his story. It’s a little “Scrubs” with Lucien filling in for J.D. and a little Grant Morrison-era “Animal Man,” except for one very important thing: this book has Jamal Igle on the penciling chores.
Igle’s work is nothing short of amazing. Igle draws a building, fills it with people, and then has them all stampede out of it as meticulously as he draws a fight scene between a hero and a school of flying, monstrous stingrays. Igle’s attention to detail, mastery of expressions, and dynamic storytelling is a perfect match for this book that is filled with a diverse cast, varied settings, and delightful story. Igle’s San Diego sidewalks have bricks, those bricks have details, and the surroundings near those sidewalks are exponentially more detailed. This book is worth reading again and again, even if those re-reads ignore the words and simply study the drawings. Rich Perrotta and Guy Major capably polish up Igle’s artwork, wonderfully blending together as a creative team on a comic truly should.
Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray continue to build the world around the Ray, fleshing out his supporting cast and giving them personalities that are deeper than a tweet. Lucien’s girlfriend, Chanti, seeks the counsel of Lucien’s best friend, Darius, following Lucien’s botched attempt to impress Chanti’s parents. It’s a charming interchange that makes these characters so much more meaningful than the cardboard cutouts that supporting casts are often relegated to be.
The threat found in this issue is less interesting and certainly less intimidating than Lucien finds Chanti’s parents to be, but that allows Gray and Palmiotti to truly delve into these characters across the board.
We’re halfway through this series and we’ve seen some fantastic monsters, some brave heroics, and some keen characterization. We haven’t seen the hero and villain match wits or face off yet, but that’s undoubtedly coming up. Gray and Palmiotti also drop another hint here that we may see a matchup of Rays, but I’m fine with the focus remaining tight on this new Ray. With Gray, Palmiotti and Igle onboard, I’m in for the duration and looking forward to more.