When I saw that a new run of Rai was starting I got a little excited. I never read the original Rai series from back in the 90s, but I always admired what artwork I saw from afar. If I were to judge a comic book on art alone, this new Rai series is going to be something special. But writing is significantly more important, and Rai #1 does a good job on that end as well.
Rai is set in a far distant future Japan where murder has been completely eliminated, everything is governed by “Father”, artificial life forms that look like people are ubiquitous, and serious crime is handled by the mysterious and infamous, Rai. The story begins with the first murder in a thousand years. For such a serious crime, Rai sets into action.
The murder was perpetrated by PT-hating terrorists. PTs are what people call the artificial life forms–basically robots–that are everywhere. This sets up a standard science fiction plot device, that of terrorists who are trying to rebel against technology. In that way Rai is nothing new as far as the plot goes, but this story appears to be more about the struggles Rai has with his mission to protect Japan, balanced against his reliance on Father to tell him the truth. It’s the classic “the protector might not be protecting what he thinks he is” scenario.
The story’s other protagonist is Lulu, a teenager who has always wanted to meet Rai. Her story is told through dairy entries she keeps on real paper… an expensive luxury. She gets her chance to met Rai when he arrives to investigate the murder, which occurred in the section of Japan where she lives.
The issue ends rather abruptly, but leaves you with images that are actually rather haunting and inviting at the same time. The world created in Rai is a futuristic masterpiece. Wonderfully envisioned, the world comes to life with impeccable detail, clean, vibrant artwork, and a beautiful color palate. The seemingly perpetually rainy future city of Japan comes to life in the pages of this book. And Rai, our hero and protector, is set up as a complex, thoughtful being who will soon struggle against his own beliefs and purpose in the world.
I eagerly waited for Rai #1 to show up in my pull box, and I wasn’t disappointed in the least bit now having read it. The artwork is exceptional, the story simple but intriguing, and the characters interesting enough to make me glad I pre-ordered issue #2!