Andy’s Read Pile: Rai (1st Series), Issues #0-4 TPB

Ok, so I’m officially on vacation, but does that mean I’ll be stopping this blogtacular crushcourse I’m currently been up to the last couple of weeks? Not Bloody Likely. But what I will say is I am going to take it easy in terms of the blog topics. Nothing fancy, nothing special. I’m just going to finish some of the blogs that I had started earlier.

One of those blogs happens to be another read pile entry about a series I recently reread for the first time in probably more than 20 years. And when I say “reread” what I really should say is “read” because I have to admit that the first time around I kind of half assed it.

 

See, in 9th grade, there was nothing hotter in comics than Valiant. This upstart 3rd party comic company that like Image decides to take on the big two in DC and Marvel, seemed to have the ideas and fan base to do it. But unlike Image that was based on bringing the top artists in the industry under one roof (mostly for bigger and bigger boob shots), Valiant was built on the backs of writers like Bob Layton, David MichelinieBarry Windsor-Smith and all under the guiding hand of Jim Shooter. The result was an extremely tight continuity heavy universe of characters that seemed to poised to take their place among stars. Well, at least that was the thought in 1992 and 1993, as number 1 issues of Valiant titles like Shadowman, Harbinger, and Solar were speculated at ridiculously high prices (some going for hundreds of dollars in mint condition). And these issues weren’t decades old like Amazing Fantasy 15. these were issues were only years old. That was the power Valiant wielded.

And one person that bought hook, line and sinker into that power was my cousin, JA. I don’t think there was a single Valiant title he didn’t buy at that time. And for those titles he had missed out on, he bought the TPB reprints. And one of those reprints was Rai which over the Thanksgiving of 1993 he tried to get me to read.

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Rai was actually the first original comic book character that Valiant made as their first two stars were Magnus and Solar, both Gold Key comic carry overs from the 1960s.The spirit guardian of Japan in the 41st century, the character first appeared as an add on secondary story in the pages of Magnus during a storyline involving an invasion of Earth by a militant armada of Spider aliens (which is actually a carry over from the Solar book).

In that series, you learn that Rai comes a long line of guardians that work for Grandmother, a sentient AI that helps control the environment of Japan and takes care of its citizens. He gives his normal life to assume the responsibility that has been passed down from father to son for centuries and becomes this bad ass samurai warrior you can form weapons out of pure energy. This includes ditching his hot wife (who herself belongs to a rebel group that wants to see Grandmother overthrown) and handing over his infant son to the all knowing geriatric computer so he can in turn become Rai at some later point.

I have to say though that he really has been ducking the responsibility for a long time forcing his elderly dad to carry on being Rai long after it should have been time for him to retire. So right from the start you get the feeling that Rai is somewhat of a wishy washy douche who does really stand for much in life and just sort of reacts to whatever others throw at him. Not a good start for any hero really, and its no wonder in one of the first issues you see the beefy uber furturejock Magnus punch him square in the bread basket.

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But together with Solar, Magnus, and help from his previously mentioned hot wife who somehow gets ahold of a set of spider alien X-O commando class living armor, they succeed in helping Grandmother transform Japan into a giant space Godzilla and the Spider alien space fleet is destroyed. Omega Supreme eat your heart out.

Unfortunately, then Grandmother’s AI runs away with another free will robot and Japan is left in space with those rebel humans I also mentioned before in control of the government. Thus starts this TPB. Whew! That’s a lot backstory for just one review. That’s probably why I only half read the book back when I was in 9th grade, as without reading the 4 issue Spider alien lead in, its really hard to know what’s going on.

I mean the TPB in question deals with mostly an unfolding civil war between the new human government and those that would see Grandmother restored to power. Yes, I know, I already said that’s not really possible since Grandmother eloped with that other robot, but as you learn that faction is really just run by a bunch of crooks into space drug dealing…but I digress.

Anyways, Rai continues to try and not pick sides in the conflict until the estranged X-O wife grabs him by his metaphorical junk (as wives often do) and he ultimately picks the human government faction. This still doesn’t buy him any good will and everyone still treats him like yesterday’s garbage even though he’s working in the defense of the government. Which makes you want to wonder why we should even root for this guy?

I’m all for the self sacrificing Spidey “nobody likes me” hero, but in Rai’s case where he should be respected for no other reason than he’s the “f”ing guardian of the country and has been for centuries, this whole shtick is a little too Rodney Dangerfield for my tastes.

So then, Rai has to make some really tough choices mostly due to his failure to assert himself earlier in the tale and by the end, the entire country hates his guts. And that’s where the TPB ends…on that cliffhanger.

For those of us that read ahead to the Unity crossover saga, we do know the ultimate fate of this Rai at least and so you can find solice in that. But for those that don’t want to read further, the TPB can be pretty damn depressing.

Adding insult to injury, Rai #0 is also included in the TPB, which actually tells the reader not more of this Rai’s story but of how this Rai really wasn’t supposed to be the Rai in the first place. Not only that but all of generations of Rai we’ve been told about also weren’t either. Instead they were supposed to have been given the Blood of the Heroes, this nanobot super solider serum that is given to another Valiant superhero named Bloodshot before he died and the remains harvested.

So not only does Rai do a lot of failing in this book, we find out he wasn’t really even the superhero we should have got to begin with. Sheesh. Talk about kicking a dude when he’s down.

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In the end, I don’t know what to make of this TPB. There’s no question that the first Rai Spider Alien story was much better as that story line really portrays Rai in a much more favorable light. It also does a great job of sucking you into that world and wanting you to read more. There’s no wonder that fans clamored to get Rai is own book after that series completed.

Unfortunately, though, that aforementioned own book seriously derails the progress made in the Magnus backup stories, taking Rai from a unlikely hero to a dude that just simply gets shit on for the hell of it. In fact, if I hadn’t already decided to write this read pile entry on the TPB, I probably would have pulled another 9th grade cop out and said the hell with it.

So what it’s worth, pass on this book. Instead just read issues 5-8 of Magnus the Robot Fighter to get the Spider Alien story and then skip ahead to issues 6-7 of Rai to see how the character ends up.

All this stuff in the middle including this TPB is just the cringe worthy paper hanging of a sorry excuse for a hero and those that came to bury him. Oh…and another issue that has nothing do with any of it except to give you some other version of that same hero in case like me you really came to really pity (and not in a good way) the first one.

Andy Read Pile Rating: D

 

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