Friday, March 11, 2005


What do you do when you’re supposed to be a hero to the people, but the people don’t want you?

Rai trade paperback (collecting issues 1-4 and 0)
Published by Valiant (1993)
Story: Jim Shooter, David Lapham,Bob Layton, Jon Hartz (0)
Writer: David Michelinie (1-4), Bob Layton (0)
Penciller: Joe St. Pierre (1-4), David Lapham (0)

What do you do when you’re supposed to be a hero to the people, but the people don’t want you?

This is the world Rai lives in.

I have had very little exposure to Valiant comics. I didn’t really start going to comic stores until after they had started to collapse as a company. I own a few Valiant comics, but they’re pretty random and the only one I can recall is Rai and the Future Force #12, which I got free when I ordered comics from somewhere. Oh, and Shadowman #0.

I also picked up the first Quantum and Woody trade last year and didn’t think much of it. But that was from a later form of Valiant comics and can’t really be compared.

So what did I know about Valiant? They were one of the major successes of the early nineties, before the bubble burst and comics stopped selling as well. I mean there were over 800,000 copies of Rai and the Future Force #9 published? Holy fucking shit. But I digress.

When I was given the Rai trade paperback (which had well over 100,000 copies made, that would make it one of the best selling comics today…) I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d heard good things about some of their comics, but in my mind they were basically lumped in with all the other companies from the early nineties that weren’t around anymore.

So when I opened the trade and saw that David Lapham (Stray Bullets) had drawn some of it, I was pleasantly surprised. I guess there would be something good about it. Then I started reading it, and was drawn into the world of Rai. Set two thousand years in the future, Japan has become another moon orbiting the Earth, and there appears to be no way to return to where they had once been. This suits most of the isolationist population just fine however, and they generally continue to go about their lives.

Rai is supposed to be the hero of Japan. He is the latest of a long line of Rai’s who are given powers by Grandmother (the artificial intelligence that ran Japan) to protect its people. However Grandmother is now gone, and there are various factions struggling to be the ones who will run Japan. Rai is caught in the middle, unsure of who to help, doing what he thinks is best, but constantly being criticised and attacked for what he does.

The story has an introspective feel to it, with Rai spending a lot of time thinking and wondering if what he’s doing is the right thing to do. The art is generally pretty strong, and kind of fun. There are a few badly thought out character designs (and characters in general: Icespike is just stupid), but none of these really damage the comic.

Each of the four issues is basically self-contained. There is an overarching plot, but you get a complete story in each issue, something that hasn’t been as common recently. Issue four ends sort of on a cliffhanger so I’d like to read the rest of the series. Time to start hitting back issue bins!

The issue 0 from the end really seems tacked on. It comes after issue 8 of the Rai series and doesn’t even feature Rai. Instead it sets up what’s supposed to happen in the future of the Valiant universe. Also, despite my original optimism towards Lapham’s art, the art isn’t that good in this issue.

One of my few complaints with this collection is that it doesn’t include the first appearances of Rai. These were published as a flip book with Magnus Robot Fighter for four issues and that story line directly leads into Rai’s own comic. What happened in these first appearances is explained well enough both in the comic itself and the introduction to the collection, but I would still like to read them.

How did Valiant become one of the biggest comic publishers? I don’t really know, but if this trade is any indication they made some good comics for a while.

Links: This is a pretty awesome article about the rise and fall of Valiant. You can explore the rest of the site for more information on Valiant comics.


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