Valiant’s new book Rai, about Japan in the year 4001 with an omnipresent A.I. leader and a folk legend as protector, takes flight. Matt Kindt and Clayton Crain deliver a story that’s sure to be a winner.
Official description from IMAGE:
The year is 4001 A.D. – led by the artificial intelligence called ‘Father,’ the island nation of Japan has expanded out of the Pacific and into geosynchronous orbit with the ravaged Earth below. With billions to feed and protect, it has fallen to one solitary guardian to enforce the law of Father’s empire – the mysterious folk hero known as Rai. They say he can appear out of nowhere. They say he is a spirit, the ghost of Japan. But when the first murder in a thousand years threatens to topple Father’s benevolent reign, Rai will be forced to confront the true face of a nation transformed, and his own long-lost humanity!
Kindt tackles Valiant’s new title Rai and from the very beginning it will grab hold of you. The world Kindt creates is dense and suffocating, dark and septic but strangely beautiful. The story kicks off in high gear as two men are on the run to dump a body and the results begins a series of violent deaths which catches the attention of the all-seeing “Father.” While only known as Japan’s unchallenged leader, his presence is as mysterious as it is powerful. Kindt begins the legend of Rai through the eyes and exposition of a young girl Lula. She is our first understanding of who Rai is and she lays out the myth and legend attributed to his rarely seen presence. She also lays out the types of characters in this future Japan with names like “raddies, fish-eyes and PT’s.” The announcement of the first death in Japan in a thousand years brings Lula’s excitement to a fever pitch at the mere chance she will witness Rai in action and spells out for readers what lies ahead.
There is a ton of exposition here, as Kindt must set-up this elaborate new Japan, but does so without sounding like a tour guide. What could be boring and dry is used in a way that it fit’s this heavily populated world, is necessary to set the stage and comes off as anything but boring. It brings Japan to life as Kindt crawls readers through all the nooks and crannies. Readers first glimpse of Rai is shrouded in old-world beauty, which only builds his myth. Once Rai does fully appear it’s during an intervention between lovers and haters of future technology and it’s a splashy, well crafted entrance. The action is non-stop after that as many new rebellions begin to raise their ugly head among Rai’s protection and investigation.
Crain’s digitally painted art is off-the-charts in here. He solidifies the dense world Kindt has laid out with an equally crushing sense feel claustrophobia and darkness. He also integrates classic Asian sensibilities with intricately detailed weapons, machines, and robots that blends a mix old-world style and classic sci-fi reminiscent of something out of Blade Runner. The style is unique with overlapping panels that plays right into the crowded feeling of new Japan plus only hints and mere minor touches similar to steampunk. But this is an all new world that is distinct is it’s design and execution.
Kindt doesn’t spend too much time, after Rai’s appearance, on step-up and throws readers right in to the chaos and confusion. Rai is multi-faceted with plenty of action, drama, mystery and detective story highlight by Valiant’s layered and diverse new hero. Throwing in Lula, who’s own obsession to see Rai drives the more human element in Japan, but helps ground the book without being too sappy or sidekick oriented. When new Japan is reveled in the end it comes as a shock to the extent of changes in this future.
Valiant has a hit on their hands and Kindt and Crain make a perfect team to tell Rai’s story. It’s exceeds all expectations and will have you glued to the pages as you read. If this is the beginning of the “Valiant First” initiate then it’s off to a great start. Rai is possibly the best new indie title to come along this year.