RETRO REVIEW: Rai #0 (November 1992)

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Or – “A Blueprint For What Once Was…”

With my recent review of the new Valiant’s take on Shadowman, I started remembering the fun that was the old Valiant universe, a time when future and past tied together, when Solar was (slightly) less of a jerk, back when the speculators were around but hadn’t quite destroyed the entire comics industry yet.  It was a time of world-building, and from that instinct came this issue…  Your Major Spoilers retro review awaits!

Rai0CoverRAI #0
Writer(s): Bob Layton (plot; script); Jim Shooter (plot); David Lapham (plot); Jon Hartz (plot)
Penciler: David Lapham
Inker: Tom Ryder
Colorist: Dave Chlystek; Knob Row (additional colors)
Letterer: Jade Moede
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Cover Price: $2.25

Previously, in Rai:  Jim Shooter began writing comics at the tender age of 13, sending plots to Mort Weisinger for the Legion of Super-Heroes.  Interestingly, his magnum opus on that title included what has become known as the “Adult Legion” story, where the future of the LSH was revealed to Superman and the readers, shaping the course of the book for the better part of two decades.  It became de rigueur to take bits of that future history and either flesh out or subvert the Adult Legion tales, and eventually the whole thing was written off as an alternate reality.  (Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen, at least, found the idea of a predestined future to be a bit constricting for their stories.)  Years later, Shooter was on his own after a lengthy tenure as Marvel Comics editor-in-chief, and was once again in the mood for some world-building.  We open with a young man named Geoff, the latest in a long line of Geomancers, sneaking his way into a remote hospital facility…

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Jeff’s actions allow the “Blood Of Heroes” (nanite-infested blood that will eventually become the birthright of the line of heroes called Rai) to turn the brain-dead body of Angelo Mortalli into Bloodshot, the hero whose name is both about guns and about bleeding, making him extra-90s.  Geoff continues to try to safeguard the heroic tradition and the Blood of Heroes, trying to mobilize Bloodshot and other heroes to fight against Toyo Harada, Master Darque and others.  Time continues to pass, and quickly this book leaps into what was then the far-future year 1999!

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Shadowman’s demise in 1999 was locked into Valiant’s continuity, one of the more fascinating bits of storytelling in early VH1 issues, but sadly, this incarnation of Valiant wouldn’t make it until the end of the century.  By the year 2020, a middle-aged Geoff has to team up with a grown-up Obadiah Archer to save his former partner Armstrong from being dissected by the Harbinger Corporation.  It does not go well for all involved…

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The final fate of Archer & Armstrong is pretty chilling, but the story continues on, following up with the chilling end of Bloodshot circa 2028…

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With the death of Bloodshot, Geoff had lost the blood of heroes, as the villainous Ax had drained the very essence from Bloodshot’s corpse.  (Eww.)  Of course, Geoff himself was an old man by the year 2062, when we are borne witness to the final fate of X-O Manowar.

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With the armor out of action, its wearer, Aric, then sacrificed himself to end the threat of Toyo Harada forever, cleaving the telepath in twain with his broadsword.  Unfortunately, Harada was able to transfer his mind into another body before escaping, setting up Harada as essentially immortal.

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The “Solar splits in two” plot was continued in the unforgivably terrible Image Comics/Valiant Comics crossover, Deathmate, not long after.  (Before you ask, I don’t think there’s enough bourbon in the world for me to Retro Review that, even if it meant cookies afterwards.)  Hundreds of years pass, during which Harada is finally defeated by the great-great-grandsomething of Peter Stanchek, while the Blood of Heroes travelled from hand to hand, eventually winding up in the clutches of the official protector of Japan circa the 36th Century.

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By the time the story catches up to the “present” time of Valiant future books (Magnus, Robot Fighter and Rai were set in the year 4000), the entire floating city-state of Japan has been dropped to Earth, smashed to pieces by Rogue artificial intelligences.  But even with that tragedy, there’s still a need for heroes…  a need for Rai!

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As the issue ends, the latest (and last) Rai, Takao Konishi, has been infused with the Blood Of Heroes, and stands poised to take the world by storm.  In the short-term, it totally worked, with Rai comics selling more than 500,000 copies per issue, but the speculator crash combined with the sale of Valiant to Acclaim led the original incarnation of Rai (and all the Valiant titles) to their demise by 1996.  Still, no matter what came after, you can’t help but love the intricate timeline posited by this book, explaining in brutal detail what happens to our favorite heroes when the get old, murdering many beloved characters ON-PANEL and refusing to bend to the vagaries of comic time.  Though what came after didn’t live up to the expectations set here (and, let’s be honest, not a lot could), this book really showed what Valiant Comics was capable of.  Rai #0 is a gem among the endless piles of chromium and die-cut 1990s comics, nailed the landing and setting a successful tone for an entire publishing line, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.  Thankfully, the revival of Valiant Comics seems to have helped the historical reputation of the original VH1 comics, and this one is among the most intriguing of them all…

Rating: ★★★★☆

DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!


Reader Rating

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