Well, since Valiant’s re-inception I’ve been faithfully collecting all their books, which really started out as an experiment to see how long the rebooted company would last without the Gold Key Trinity of Solar, Magnus and Turok.
When I saw the quality of both art and writing, as well as the cohesive editorial universe building that was going on I was hooked. Those three dudes weren’t even missed! Then I realized that new Valiant company had the rights to the entire 90’s Valiant character catalog, minus the now tarnished Gold Keys. I freaked out. That meant Rai. I mean they had to do it, right? Rai was one of the most popular selling characters of all time, not to mention one of Valiant’s breakaway star characters. They’d be fools not too.
So I waited.
But, alas, no Rai. Then the Unity title was promoted. Once again, visions of Rai danced in my head. Unity was the original Valiant universe’s biggest crossover, in which Rai not only played a major part in, he met his heroic demise at the hands of Mothergod part way through the event. But Magnus, Solar, and Turok also played major roles in the original Unity, so I was wondering how they would play this off.
I can’t say that I was disappointed, since the current take on Unity, completely different from its predecessor (The Not So Long, But Kinda Winding; Road to Unity), is such a damn good book, I really couldn’t complain about its complete lack of Rai.
So I waited.
Finally, a promotional image of Eternal Warrior #5 showed us the Eternal Emperor, Gilad seated on a throne, with year 4001. A.D. teased across the page. 4001 is very significant, not only as the year a majority of the original Unity storyline took place, but was the home century to both Magnus and Rai. Once again, my little fanboy heart skipped a beat. Here comes Rai!
Two issues into the arc now.
Then BLAM! Kirby be praised, my prayers were answered. Not only was Valiant giving Rai his own series, it had a mega-level talented creative team behind. I suppose I should go into a bit of detail as to why I am so excited about this character, the creative team and the series in general. So I will:
Rai first appeared in a flip book series in the back of Magnus Robot Fighter #5-8, before gaining his own series. He was the fledgling company’s first original character. Rai was the “Spirit Protector” of Japan in the future. Now one giant mechanized city covering the island nation, Japan’s population of 50 billion citizens put their care and running of the country in the hands of Grandmother, a benevolent A.I. that runs all of Japan’s advanced computerized systems.
Grandmother created the Rai line (there were six men to carry to mantle of Rai) to protect her and Japan from factions of its citizens who wanted to put Japan’s control back in the hands of humans.
Rai had a multitude of superpowers, including enhanced strength, the ability to create weapons out of energy (usually a sword), the ability to travel Japan’s “nerveweb” which allowed him to appear anywhere in Japan in moments, and his “mindlock” ability to overide an control any machine intelligence and A.I. program. Later Rai possessed the “Blood of Heroes” , Bloodshot’s nanite enhanced blood, passed down and protected by the Geomancers for 20 centuries.
Second: The Creative Team
Matt Kindt has taken the comic world by storm. I really wasn’t familiar with his independent work ( I Swear I’m going to get to MIND MGMT soon ! Promise ) , but got into his writing with his work at DC. He finished off the short lived Frankenstein, Agent of Shade, and then really impressed me with his characterization of J’onn J’onzz while writing the Martian Manhunter back up stories in early issues of Justice League of America.
He struck me as a writer who was fanboy at heart with a deep respect an knowledge of the characters he writes. So I started following him, enjoying his Villain’s Month Specials Harley Quinn, Solomon Grundy, Sinestro and Deadshot (which made me like the character for the first time in 30 years). And then running with the ongoing importance of villains in the New 52, Kindt took over Suicide Squad, and Justice League of America during the Forever Evil event, as well the Forever Evil: Argus tie-in mini series. I even grabbed Infinity: the Hunt, the only Infinity tie in I actually enjoyed.
As a devoted Valiant fan, it goes without saying how thrilled I was when he was announced as the writer of the on-going Unity series.
Kindt has the imagination and world building capabilities to bring us this millenniums interpretation of Rai. If the future (literally) of the Valiant Universe is in Kindt’s hands, it couldn’t be in more capable ones
Clayton Crain was one of the first digital artists whose work I really liked. I’m very Anti-McFarlane, so I missed all his work over there, but loved his stuff on Ghost Rider: Road to Damnation and Trail of Tears. He really brought back an element of horror to the Ghost Rider books with his darkly fluid three-dimensional style, and the somehow shadowy sheen he used in his rendering. These made him a perfect fit for his work on his Venom/Carnage mini-series, where he got to go nuts with his page layouts and fight scenes. I thought his horror/noir style would be the wrong fit for X-Force, but it worked with the direction the book was taking, and he got to expand his portfolio to contain a lot more sci-fi aspects but still keeping his use of shadows and darkness. When he went over to Valiant to take on art duties on Harbinger Wars, I was stunned by the evolution of his work. His rendering of faces and costumes were much crisper, and he added a massive use of light and bright colors to his palette that pushed his art to the next level.
Rai is a fantastic character, with a rich full history that deserves the recognition this creative team is surely going to get for him. If Valiant’s plan is to get fans to put their books on the top of the weekly read pile, this will be the book to do it. Watch the future of the Valiant universe face it’s greatest threat, and see the rise of the hero who will save them all….
Written by MATT KINDT
Art & Cover by CLAYTON CRAIN
COMING IN MAY!