There’s a new paperback about to hit the comic scene, and I would like to advise the Black Shippers to check it out. If you’ve got the time, check out Rai: Welcome to New Japan. The story of Rai predates the current volume, of course, but I haven’t come across it until recently, and I have the new Valiant reboot to thank for that. It was a short four-issue start, with the art jumping out of the page, and the intrigue growing at a steady pace right up till the end.
The paperback collects the recent story up until now, so if you’ve missed it thus far you can catch up and jump seamlessly into issues that are to follow. It has Rai returning to Japan after the first murder in hundreds of years occurs there. In the beginning he finds himself listening to Father, an AI that runs all of Japan. The bad guys are referred to as the ‘Raddies’, which is short for radicals, and they are some sort of primitivist group fighting the machine that manages their lives. What I love about this story is that both sides are amiss; neither Father nor the Raddies fighting him are groups you would bet on or root for. Instead what you have is a weapon that has a consciousness trying to find the balance between the two. This is just the start, though, and to see where the story goes from there you will have to stay tuned.
This reboot was launched April this year, but Rai has his origins in a Valiant flipbook. He is an original Valiant character that they have been taking great care of. They have tweaked the story a bit from the original as before it was apparent that he was human, and the position of guardian of Japan was passed down from father to son. In this (re)incarnation they keep the suspense up by having the reader wonder where Rai comes from. Is he human or machine? Is he both? And if so, how much of each? These are the same questions Rai has to deal with, and that’s one of the things that makes this relaunch such an entertaining one.
Valiant has come out strong this year with some other titles that have caught my eye, but none so much as this saga. It is all part of their Valiant First plan:
“The defining goal of Valiant First is to give readers clear and accessible jumping-on points into Valiant’s award-winning publishing line,” said Valiant Executive Editor Warren Simons via press release. “Over the past two years, Valiant’s approach to the craft and business of comics has been widely imitated throughout the industry. We’re incredibly flattered by that fact, but we also see it as a challenge. Our response is to raise the bar even higher. We’ve been building momentum with a slew of awards and the best reviewed line of books on the market — but 2014 is where you’ll see us double our game without doubling the size of our publishing line.”
As stated above, the story is great. The art also presents a whole new dynamic in itself. As the story revolves around machines as enemies, the opposition of it by humans, and the hero as a synthesis of the two, the art really brings the setting to life, with the panels feeling as though they are full of electrical wires. It is vibrant with the commotion of a city alive, and the feel is dark, reeking of the sterile isolation that technology brings with it. It’s not too late to jump into this great title and the others that Valiant have launched under their newest banner.
I look forward to seeing where Rais story goes, and to rooting for the returned troop who was displaced by the absence of war. Will he find his place in new Japan, and if he does, what will it look like?