Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Carlos Alberto Fernandez Urbano
It really feels like Valiant can do no wrong sometimes. Rai and its associated 4001 A.D., mini-series, have been the perfect summer event books. Rai #15 is a tie-in to the 4001 A.D. series that continues the story of the current Rai (the 10th), a once in a generation created champion of New Japan, and his attempts to free New Japan from the control of Father, an artificial intelligence, responsible for the creation of all Rai’s. While the 4001 A.D. series is focused on the future, writer Matt Kindt (Sweet Tooth, MIND MGMT, Ninjak) has chosen to use the Rai series to focus on the history of the Rai’s who come before our current hero. The result is something very rare, an event tie-in that’s as good and as meaningful as the main event books themselves.
While issue #13 focused on the first Rai, issue #14 and now #15 focus on Sai and Aboto. Each Rai and the way they seek to aid New Japan is a reflection of what Father believes that generation needs. Where Sai is a compassionate Champion who seeks to avoid bloodshed and preserve peace, Aboto is a vengeful destroyer, literally laying waste to all who get in his path. Kindt covers an astonishing amount of ground in just 23 pages but succeeds in ensuring that both characters aren’t just set pieces to illustrate the evil of Father, but are fully realized characters who are capable of carrying their own books.
Carlos Alberto Fernandez Urbano’s (aka CAFU) (T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Imperium) art is equal to the writing of Kindt and he masterfully imbues life into each panel. It’s not hyperbole to say that it seems there is little that he can’t draw. From close ups to woodland scenery, to outer space, to the action sequences, which are particularly outstanding, every page builds quietly on top of the other. Of particular note is the battle on pg. 9 which conjures visions of lightsaber battles. If Marvel ever does a Dark Horse style Star Wars book someone should have CAFU on speed dial.
When the story reaches its conclusion I couldn’t help but be disappointed. Between CAFU’s art and Kindt’s writing I could read an entire series on the Rai’s who predated our current hero. Since Valiant returned to comics they have consistently been with the best in the business in telling super hero stories and the Rai series and issue #15 are perfect examples why. Rai #15 is an enjoyable read for someone who isn’t particularly knowledgeable about the Valiant Universe or Rai, but is rewarding for fans who have been around since the beginning. While Clayton Crain has been the artist for Rai since #1, I hope Valiant will keep CAFU around the character.
Five out of Five Katanas.