It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for another new edition of Kickin’ It Old School, our weekly column in which we look to the past and review books from the original Valiant universe! This week, I’ll be discussing Rai #2.
Published in April 1992
Written by David Michelinie
Penciled by Joe St. Pierre
Inked by Charles Barnett III
Colored by Knob Row
Rai is having trouble following the direction of the Humanist government that he has aligned himself with. He is disgusted with the increase in drug use and is striking out against Neopium, a drug that conveniently enough causes the user’s sympathy to drift to the Humanist side. After an argument with Kazuyo, he storms off to his home that only he can reach through the Nerveweb.
The Restoration Forces are nervous that Rai’s attack on Neopium will lead him across their work with the neural circuit that they had recovered from Grandmother. They send scouts to investigate a secret Neopium lab so they can leak the news and keep Rai off of their backs. Their scouts find the villain Icespike waiting for them and are quickly slaughtered. The last scout begs to be let loose. When Icespike realizes that this would most likely bring Rai, he can’t resist the chance to cement his legacy, and he frees her.
Rai is meeting with his father when he receives news of Icespike’s attack and sets off to intervene. When he arrives at the commerce spire, the citizens swarm him, covering him with Neopium discs to weaken him against Icespike. When Kazuyo sees that Rai is in dire straits, she disobeys orders and departs to help him in her X-O armor. She shows up and intervenes, giving Rai the opportunity to use his energy to purify himself of the poison of the drug. He does so and intervenes just in time, causing Icespike to flee. The citizens hate him for not allowing them to use a drug that gives them an escape from their fears as Tanaka’s corrupt advisors, the masterminds behind Neopium, plot to eliminate Rai.
Rai’s introduction as a four-issue flip book with Magnus got him off to a hot start. There was a ton of action and an intriguing story. All of that momentum was fed into an environment of political struggle, in which the Japan we knew had ended and the people were left without a clear direction. Now we have a moody and brooding Rai, along with a power struggle between a corrupt government and a suppressed portion of the citizenry that doesn’t want to be controlled. In other words, this turned into the first arc of Magnus in a lot of ways.
There are a lot of intriguing aspects to this book, though. Rai has aligned with his wife, but we’re seeing her start to chafe at the direction the government is taking. Rai’s father, the former Rai, is a voice in his ear letting him know that he’s making the wrong choices. Plus he’s a bad ass future ninja rather than a guy in a dress who likes to poke his hands through robots. We got a pretty legit super villain in this issue. Icespike introduces himself by throwing an ice spike (now you see where he gets his name… CLEVER!!!) through the back of a guy in a snappy orange vest and through a woman’s head! Pretty vicious, right? He really is, although he puts a damper on it by constantly narrating everything that’s going on.
All in all, I liked this issue, although I feel like we’re treading water until there is some shifting of allegiances. I can’t imagine that Rai and Kazuyo will stay aligned with the current government. The Restoration Underground is still working on hatching their major plot. When that time comes, we should transition out of this politically unsettled Japan.
Originally from ValiantCentral.com