June 15, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Bento Review: Rai: Welcome To New Japan


I can remember, back in the 90s when Image Comics formed around Marvel’s biggest artists jumping ship to form their own company, being told by various comic shop owners and clerks about just how darn good Valiant comics was doing at about that time.

I only got a scattering of Valiant books, and while they weren’t bad, my finances can only stretch so far.

Recently, Valiant’s characters and line have returned and have been getting a lot of buzz.  And the good folks at Comics Bento sent me one…

Rai:  Welcome to New Japan is set in the year 4001.  In New Japan, the people live under the strict control of Father, an artificial intelligence.  New Japan is a massive satellite floating above what the residents believe is a dead Earth.  Rai is Father’s, well, enforcer is probably the best word for him.  Artificial people exist all through New Japan.  Indeed, at 16, everyone gets a lifetime robotic companion.  This is, in part, to keep people from wanting to procreate by giving them a companion of their very own.

Not everyone is happy to be there.  A group called the Free Radicals, led by a mysterious man named Silk, are running around claiming Father is a liar and the artificial people are basically slaves, and then two of the Raddies as they are known kill a peace office.  It’s clearly an accident, but that’s not how Father and Rai see it.  They see it as the first murder in a thousand years.

Rai goes to investigate.  This may be the biggest mistake Father has ever made.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell Father is lying.  Rai believes himself to be some sort of sentient computer program, a living construct like the Positronic Minds that act as companions to everyone.  The fact that, unless Rai or someone like him commits an act of violence–and Rai is not-so-shockingly good at acts of violence–people can only die if they want to while living in any number of locations and fake time periods, means the whole place is a lot like some sort of floating holodeck, further demonstraing Father’s level of control over New Japan and all its citizens.  One of the series’ narrators, a 15 year old girl named Lula, says it would take a month of nonstop walking to cover every sector of New Japan.

What happens when Rai learns the truth, from Lula, from Silk, from the man called Spylocke, and from Father himself?

This short volume was a blast.  Matt Kindt’s story rocked along at the proper rate, while Clayton Crain’s fantastic artwork looked like something I can’t claim to have seen too often this side of Alex Ross.  If Crain’s not painting this book, I don’t know how he does it.  The artwork is absolutely gorgeous.

If there’s a flaw, its that the volume ends too quickly.  I’m giving it nine out of ten samurai sword kills.  I may have to get the next volume at some point in the near future.

NEXT:  Comics Bento always seems to send the most unique books from Dark Horse.  Next up is a crime story called Trouble Maker, written by Janet and Alex Evanovich.