‘Rai’ is a unique and contemplative look into 41st century Japan

18614829-b681-4b47-bb19-62503ab80207Rai – Ongoing

Writer – Matt Kindt

Artist – Clayton Crain

Publisher – Valiant Comics

Japan sits high above the Earth as a massive world in itself. The way the place floats up in space reminds one of Cloud City, looking down on the planet it was once attached to. This is the 41st century. A murder has not occurred for a thousand years…until now. A woman’s body is being dumped in one of the thousands of sectors that compose of this higher place, hoping that no one will notice. However, the two men, called Raddies, part of a radical group against the technologically hypnotized Japan, end up covering their tracks haphazardly. At the top of Japan, high above everyone, lives Rai.

Rai is a technologically controlled being whom is organized to take care of any business that is considered important to Japan by an omniscient, supposedly all powerful individual known as Father. With his trusty dual katanas, a literal extension of his self, he travels by merely touching his surroundings, turning into what is called ‘livewire’, to venture as he pleases. Rai doesn’t question the directions that Father gives to him, instead acts blindly from his faith in the unknown entity. All this changes once Rai meets a young girl by the name of Lula.

Lula is a human that relishes in the ways of the old. She enjoys writing, like a diary, stories and events that she believes will be of importance to future generations. Specifically, she enjoys writing on physical paper; something that is a rare commodity in a world that resembles more the Los Angeles of Blade Runner than the Tokyo of the early 21st century. Though she revels in a physical connection with the world around her, from her written personal thoughts to her sketched out map of the sector she lives in, she also cannot ignore the technological perks of entering teenage-hood. Upon turning 16, every citizen receives a Positron: an artificial intelligence that lives and grows up with you as a companion of sorts. This is almost like the way a cell phone has entranced the young of Lula’s age in the current year of 2015.

Lula is also intrigued by the myth of Rai. His presence merely exists as stories that parents tell their children to make sure they stay in line. Much to Lula’s excitement, the stories become a reality as Rai makes his entrance into her sector, thrusting forth to investigate the murder.

Rai begins as a murder mystery but morphs into something much more. The world building that writer Matt Kindt and artist Clayton Crain have done, and continue to do, is some really great stuff. Rai is a vicious, terrifying killing machine that is immediately void of emotion as one peers into his lifeless eyes. His pale skin, with the red rising sun floating over his forehead and the old Imperial Japan flag emblazoned across his chest, embodies the ideal of a perfect government tool. Rai evolves over time, as Kindt dives into his mind, spilling out these challenging thoughts, combatting with the glossy and slick looking ideal inhabited through Crain’s artwork.

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Kindt does a great job, and very early on, at establishing the voices of each of the characters. Though artistically their narrative frames are visually different, the words within the frames help breathe life into what makes the characters of Rai so different from one another. They each struggle with their identity, surrounded by a sensory overloaded society, hoping for an understanding of the many obvious lies that come about. The research and level of detail that Kindt has done really proves itself as he combines elements of the past Rai series and fresh ideas into a brilliant amalgamation. There is definitely a feeling that the writer has only just begun.

The world is a fascinating one to absorb. Crain’s use of digital painting is the most effective in this Valiant universe book. It’s fascinating enough to see the various sectors in this futuristic world that vary from sector 2007, a recreation of 21st century Manhattan to sector 1985, the home of Old Los Angeles. His stand-alone splash pages are a beauty to look at and respect as individual pieces, especially whenever Rai makes a very dramatic entrance into the scene. Equally, his sprawling frames that show off the assorted sectors as mentioned, can cause the reader to soak up the depth on display. The fact of having both of these on display on an issue-by-issue basis is an absolute treat.

The world and characters of Rai have been progressing from issue 1, pressing forward and building in intensity as more lies reveal their truths. The cast of characters next to Rai additionally provide a unique spark to the series – from the James Bond-esque Spylocke, to the innocent but spontaneously excited Lula. The sci-fi pulp influenced and futuristic pop culture homages add a nice tone of relevancy to Rai but in no way effect that originality that is felt behind the work that Kindt and Crain have been doing. With only seven issues currently out, now is the time to plug in and immerse oneself in 41st century Japan.

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