REVIEW: Rai: The History of the Valiant Universe #1

I can’t believe that it has been five years since Valiant Comics was resurrected into Valiant Entertainment. When they first rebooted, they only had four titles to their name: X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Bloodshot, and Archer & Armstrong, but let me tell you, these titles were fierce! In the age of shitty Marvel events and constant DCU reboots, Valiant managed to start up a cohesive superhero universe without the stink of censorship and poor editing. In fact, the creators did such an outstanding job that Valiant was able to bring in more familiar faces from the beloved 90’s classics like Shadowman, Rai, Eternal Warrior, and Ninjak. Don’t be fooled though, each book was not just some garish homage; the creators of these series’ constantly brought in new ideas, new plots, and new characters; some even changed old characters, like Livewire and Dr. Mirage, which elevated Valiant’s iconic diversity status to this day. Then, out of nowhere, Valiant started pumping out some of their own original content! Books like Imperium (my personal favorite), Divinity, Generation Zero, Britannia, and Armor Hunters were spewing out of this maw, and I was in heaven.  But wait!

Now it’s been five years. Five years of continuity. Five years of creativity. Five years of characters dying, falling in love, and overcoming their demons. This can be a lot to store in your brain; even for readers like me, who’ve been reading every issue since 2012. Not to mention the question: How can a new reader just jump into this universe without drowning? Well, the answer is simple. Rai: The History of the Valiant Universe. This book recaps, briefly, everything that has happened in the Valiant Universe since day one.

Rafer Roberts, Francis Portela, and Andrew Dalhouse did their fucking homework for this book. I am still in disbelief over how much they were able to squeeze into this issue without missing a beat. They hit every key moment perfectly, one right after the other. The downside to this, however, was that the writing kind of suffered.

As a history book, Rafer did a great job, but as a fictional narrative? Not so much. I appreciate that it was a history lesson for Rai, but, honestly, there was never a beginning or end. It was all middle. Calling back, I am not even sure there was a lesson or theme in there? Maybe I missed it, though. Even passed that, I also found a few issues with the structure. Some of the narrative linking the pages and panels felt clunky. For instance, the jump from the X-O Manowar origin to the Master Darque origin to the Harada origin. That whole sequence felt forced, and it was without flow. The writing that is, not the art. The art was stunning.

Francis and Andrew knocked it out of the park. As a unit, they were able to fill in gaps of the history lesson without Rafer needing to add words. Like the Divinity cameo, for instance. Not to mention the general composition. This may be Francis’ best work he has done at Valiant. His lines and movements were crisp and definitive. And Andrew! My word can that man paint. His background work had me holding the screen so close my face, that I was fogging up the glass.

In any case, this book still simply fantastic. Even though I said that the writing wasn’t the best, remember that this is a HISTORY BOOK, not your standard 32-page comic. The Silmarillion even had it’s moments where it felt like swimming through rocks. And the art… Well, to say the least, I would buy this book based off of Francis’ and Andrew’s work alone. Rai: The History of the Valiant Universe #1 is a great jumping-on point for new readers, and it’s a fun recap for dedicated fans, such as myself. I give this issue 5 out of 5 stars!

Cover A by CLAYTON CRAIN (APR172125)
Cover B by CLAYTON HENRY (APR172126)
Variant Cover by ROBERT GILL (APR172128)
Variant Cover by JEFFREY VEREGGE (APR172129)
Ninjak Vs. The Valiant Universe Variant Also Available (APR172127)

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