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Comics Review: RAI #2

If you were wondering when the impact of a shared universe would make itself felt in the future-set Rai, look no further than its second issue. The endlessly cloned Dr. Silk makes an appearance while the Eternal Warrior is name-checked by our book’s hero, making Rai at once feel like a proper piece of the entire line.

As for the central mystery driving the series – what was the reason for the first murder in a century – well, that moves ahead only incrementally. While the case adds one more to the list of players (that would be Dr. Silk), writer Matt Kindt is still keeping the clues close to his vest. We know teen mapmaker and Rai fanatic Lula Lee knows something big, but whether she – or Rai – will live long enough to do anything with the information is kind of the crux of this issue.

You see, the “Raddies” – Luddites who aren’t too happy with the increasingly digital life – have set something in motion which might kill Father, the still-silent A.I. which Rai serves. Issue number 2 feels like a race in its back half given the literal ticking clock of the Raddies’ plot, and that rhythm makes it easy to overlook the walls of text that are giving us plenty of character of world-building elements without informing the central mystery all that much.

We’ve lost Lula as a narrator this time out (Rai’s internal monologues serve that function) as the character shifts into a proper sidekick role. It’s too early for her to start humanizing Rai, but we do see glimmers of humanity and his concern as the duo investigates the one lead they might have about the identity of their victim (this last bit is kind of weird: I’m not sure how effective a paper categorization of physical traits would really be).

As with the first issue, Clayton Crain’s painterly art is more hit than miss, although I’ll be hard-pressed to tell you what’s going on in the fight with the character “@x” which kicks off the issue (or even what the henchman looks like). This works when @x is a mass of goop and horror but not so much when he’s just standing and talking. When Rai is allowed to cut loose later in the story – first on some security bots and later on a group of Raddies – Crain’s work excels and feels appropriately messy and kinetic.

One major hiccup in the overall solid second issue: what the hell is going on during the conversation with Silk? The first three lines of the bad Doctor aren’t direct or even indirect responses to Rai. It’d make sense if Silk were ignoring him, but it feels like somehow the lines were jumbled, mingling a bit of good old fashioned monologuing in with actual dialog. Case in point: the first line has Dr. Silk complaining about the damage Rai has done to his droids, followed by Rai demanding information. Dr. Silk then makes a joke about the damage Rai causes anytime he shows up, more or less making the first line redundant. Later lines have him digress to ask what Rai’s physical composition is and comment on whether our hero is speaking to him or Father, and the impression I get is that Silk is supposed to be dominating the conversation, but the rhythm is absolutely wrong. That Dr. Silk is dropping some key hints about an under-the-table arrangement with Father and some of the suspicious power dynamics lurking beneath the structure of Japan makes the awkwardness of the conversation all the more noticeable.

Still, two issues in and I remain intrigued. Now hit us with some real clues, Kindt so we can know what the hell is going on.

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