By Matt Kindt, CAFU, Andrew Dalhouse
Kindt and company have outdone themselves with the superb Rai #14. Readers will find themselves completely absorbed in this tale that broadens the mystique and lore of the Rai tradition.
Part of the 4000 A.D. event series, Rai #14 is a tie-in, but can be read as a stand-alone. This gripping story examines another time in New Japan’s history, focusing on the Rai of that period. This particular Rai is near the end of the 100 year service mark, so Kindt treats readers to a bit of an explanation regarding Father’s logic behind the change. The engaging element is that we experience the changing tide of New Japan’s citizens’ behavior alongside the guardian Rai. The result is a dramatic story rich in emotion.
Kindt’s tale echoes circumstances of today, illuminating the failings of human behavior and the propensity towards violence both as a means of coercion and a reaction to conflict. The story also speaks to our attitudes towards those not considered “equal” as a being. It touches on the problems of dissatisfaction and detachment that arise from having a managed society that strives to meet every need and whim.
The previous issue examined the first Rai, an endearing and ultimately tragic figure. This Rai is the most relatable thus far, embodying the best of humanity and, unfortunately, a naivety and vulnerability. Father continues to demonstrate why there is a need to fight against his guidance. There are some horrifying occurrences in the story, and they shed light on the inhumanity of both humans and the ruling A.I. Kindt is not heavy-handed with the subject, making it a thoughtful experience.
CAFU pencils and inks the story, giving New Japan a high-tech look with a touch of tarnish that matches the undertones of depravity within the story. CAFU does excellent work, particularly with the emotional range that he gives the Rai characters. Normally appearing a bit stoic, Rai flourishes under his guidance. You’re going to love this version of Rai: emotive and unique to any we’ve seen yet. Since this story has flashbacks to previous generations of Rai, CAFU gets to depict a variety of the guardians – each of whom is uniquely created to meet the needs of their time period. These needs are reflected in the design. They are visually stunning, ranging from heartbreaking to menacing.
Colorist Andrew Dalhouse contributes to the look and temperament of the story. The dark blues and grays match the feel of the city, and the bursts of color, especially orange, accentuate violent action. The final scenes involving the changing of the guard, in particular the whites and grays, evoke the concept of a malevolent statue. His color scheme lends to the story by fostering the emotional content. This is, to say the least, a good-looking book.
Rai #14 is a standout. Fine storytelling and beautiful illustrations make this one of the best books of the month. Be sure to pick this up even if you are not following the 4001 A.D. event. With its succinct but informative prologue, new users can and should jump on board.