The Ray #1 (of 4)A comic review article by: Ray Tate
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti introduce a new Ray for the New 52 and makes good on the promise of diversity by giving the hero some ethnicity. However, make no mistake, Lucien is pure American teen.
Palmiotti and Gray do much to cut to the chase. Lucien accidentally suffers from a blast from an experimental gun. The light beam grants him the abilities of a light being but amusingly no pants, which he eventually remedies.
Lucien's parents are pure hippie, but their New Age philosophies help him to create the mirage of clothing and harness his abilities, that include his newfound ability to think faster. The speediness should be distinguished from shorthand.
Gray and Palmiotti take advantage of a near built-in cultural knowledge. Everybody knows what a superhero is. They may not know the secret identity of say the Green Arrow, but they know what a superhero is and how most of them get their powers. Comic book readers know even more about the tradition. Why not take advantage of it? Origin dealt with in a few pages. Learning the ropes, ditto.
Still, the writers do take some interesting departures that further lighten the mood. Lucien comes clean with his girlfriend immediately. A character established in a brevity of dialogue, body language and fashion.
So, almost everybody in Lucien's personal circle knows about his secret: his best friend, his girlfriend and his parents. Soon, he's fighting giant jellyfish without the stress of having to worry about maintaining an alter ego that serves as a barrier to his loved ones.
I quite enjoyed this light touch and the open art from Jamal Igle, an artist that caught my eye since he cut his teeth on Race Against Time. In many ways the book reminded me of Power Girl's tone, and exemplies the difference between mood and character.
In Power Girl, Gray, Palmiotti and artist Amanda Conner also relied on a nostalgia factor as well as a scalpel wielded to eliminate the clutter of a character far too good for her retcons. Not so, in The Ray. Despite Lucien being the third Ray, the writers only mention the legend of the first Ray, from Quality Comics, subsequently recapitulated in Pre-Crisis title Freedom Fighters. For all intent and purpose, the new Ray is precisely that -- a new character, visually and as written.
Palmiotti and Gray drastically alters the aura of upbeat, freewheeling goodness by introducing the Ray's first super villain in the last handful of pages. Basing the character on a mondo filmmaker from the '60s -- the type who filmed native rituals, bare breasts and other peculiarities for "titillating" "documentary" anthologies. Somehow gaining supernatural power, the filmmaker leaves the reader with an awesome wtf moment that drastically shifts the atmosphere into horror territory. Gray and Palmiotti, no strangers to the horror genre, also know how to induce terror. The victims of the villain seem complete undeserving innocents. Creating likeable characters and threatening them is the finest way to evolve terror.
Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups, where he reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.