The last time I got my hands on a stack of Valiant trades, I initially sat down with the first two volumes of Matt Kindt’s Rai, even though I wrote about a few other books first. I had a great time with Welcome To New Japan (#1-4) and Battle For New Japan (#5-8), but wanted to get my hands on Eternal Warrior Volume 1 before moving on to Eternal Warrior Volume 2: Eternal Emperor because one of the handy graphs in the back of the trade said it was important for the story going forward. Was it? Well, we’ll get into that after the jump!
So, here’s the set up for Rai by Kindt and Clayton Crain. First, the book is set in the year 4001 AD, which pops up in the Valiant Universe on more than one occasion (I believe we’ve seen both Ivar and his brother Armstrong there a few times). Second, New Japan is actually a floating super-high-tech city floating in space above a supposedly ruined earth and run by a being called Father. There are thousands of different levels that not only house all the people and robots living there, but also offer a variety of different experiences, kind of like the original West World to the Nth degree.
And then there’s Rai. He was created by Father to protect the people of New Japan and is connected to all (well most) of the city which means he can travel through parts of the place and also seemingly create weapons out of nowhere. He’s sent after groups like the Raddies who hate all technology (including the personal robots each human is granted on NJ at the age of 18) and the robots themselves who start gaining a semblance of sentience.
That sure is a lot of explaining and might seem like a lot to take in, but Kindt does an excellent job of doling out the information in ways that are easy to absorb. Sure, it can be a little tricky remembering all of the different groups’ names, but that’s something I always have trouble with. Besides, all of that is just the world-building bedrock that he and Crain then create an epic story of action, betrayal and rebellion around.
I won’t get into too many of the other details, partially because I don’t want to spoil them, but also because I haven’t read the third volume yet. What I do want to say is that this book played out like some of my favorite 80s action movies, but kicked up to Luc Besson levels! You’ve got the establishment hero coming to realize he might be working for the wrong people. Along the way he establishes a partnership with a young woman named Lula who herself is working with a futuristic super spy. They team up with existing rebel forces and also do their best to unify the warring factions. It reminds me of something like The Warriors or Bronx Warriors, but way more sci-fi and with a bigger budget.
My only real complaint about this series comes on the art side of things. I think Crain’s sleek, digital style fits in really well with the setting and aesthetic of this series, but at times the line-work seems to suffer and it gets very difficult to see what’s going on (especially when the scene’s supposed to be dark). But, those moments are few and far between, essentially amounting to a quibble in a work that I really enjoyed and can’t wait to read the next installment of.
Without access to the third volume of Rai, I figured I’d follow the chart in the back of the second trade and give Eternal Emperor a read. As I mentioned when I read the first volume (which is set back in modern times), that series set up a story that doesn’t exactly get picked up in the second, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it played into other 4001AD-set stories.
So, this volume picks up with Gilad, still alive, doing his thing in 4001 AD. He does his best to help smaller groups of people thrive and survive in a world that seems to have forgotten all the technological advancements we know of in the present. Unfortunately, those elements still exist and keep getting dug up by various folks. When a robot attacks the village, he and his granddaughter Caroline go out in search of a cure for the radiation poisoning they unknowingly find themselves exposed to.
As you might imagine, given Gilad’s title as Eternal Warrior, he winds up leading one group against another — that I’m pretty sure is connected to the Shadowman character/series — and all kinds of crazy battles ensue. At this point, I can’t say that the Greg Pak/Robert Gill issues actually play into the larger Rai story or the impending 4001 AD series, but this proves to be a cool, self-contained adventure story that nicely leans on the relationship between a man and his granddaughter, a bit that I really appreciated, even if it hints that she might be a problem in the future.
All in all, I’ve got to say it’s pretty great to stumble into a comic universe that has so many titles I’m interested in. I honestly can’t say I’m interested in half of the books other companies put out (mostly because there’s just SO many), but I’m glad to say that’s the case so far with these Valiant titles. If they keep hiring awesome talent like Pak, Kindt, Jeff Lemire, Fred Van Lente and others of their ilk, I’m sure I’ll find plenty of other Valiant books I’ll enjoy just as much.