RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1 by Rafer Roberts and Francis Portela
Art
Plot
Characterization
Summary
RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1 is a visually stunning gloss over everything Valiant.
90 %
Valiant 101

Comics have always had a substantial barrier to entry. There is an enormous amount of history, reboots, and retcons for new fans to overcome. A common question among those interested in comics is, “Where should I start?” RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1 is an excellent entry point for new Valiant fans. However, it is not as much of a full-bodied history of the Valiant Universe as one would expect.

RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1
Image from RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1 courtesy of Valiant.

Writer Rafer Roberts and penciler Francis Portela went with a subtle approach to retelling Valiant’s story. This is a visual trailer for the universe, rather than a textbook. Valiant fanatics will appreciate the fun Easter eggs. These hardcore readers will also be able to connect the dots from scene to scene. Newcomers get a gist of the story. This comic will definitely pique their interest. RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1 is not an encyclopedia. Valiant has made a phenomenal bite-sized sample of its universe.

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Who is Rai?

Even though this issue is an overview of the entire Valiant Universe’s history, it uses fan favorite character, Rai, as a framing device. Rai finds an ancient tome filled with the entire history of the Valiant Universe, which is then read to the audience. For those unfamiliar with the character, in short, Rai is a classic Valiant cyberpunk hero. In 4001 AD, New Japan is ruled by Father, an evil AI. Rai is Father’s superpowered cyborg agent. Rai eventually rebels against the malevolent AI and becomes a hero in Valiant’s pantheon. Despite bearing his name, this comic only briefly features Rai. Not much of Rai’s backstory is illustrated in the story, but his personality is.

RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1
Image from RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1 courtesy of Valiant.

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Roberts skillfully weaves Rai’s inner conflict with the retelling of Valiant’s history. Rai is struggling with his new role as the savior, rather than the oppressor. However, there are only brief glimpses into his character. This comic is a homage to the original RAI #0 and merely serve as a recap of the Valiant Universe. It is admirable that Roberts tried to squeeze in some character development in this special event book.

RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1
Image from RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1 courtesy of Valiant.

Connecting Valiant

Roberts also tries to squeeze 25 years of Valiant history into one issue. This comic generally covers all the major events. Roberts explores some characters in detail, such as X-O Manowar and Shadowman. However, others like BRITTANIA’s Antonius and Faith are merely teasers and Easter eggs. I appreciate how he attempts to connect all of Valiant’s disparate series together. It is a great montage of everything that this publisher has accomplished. I usually am not a big fan of over-exposition in comics, but this issue could have used a few extra word balloons. I am a Valiant fan, and even I had some head-scratching moments. New readers will likely understand 50% of what is going on. The other 50% will be cool, enticing visuals.

RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1
Image from RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1 courtesy of Valiant.

A Creative Collage

Portela’s art is incredible in RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1. You can really feel his excitement recreating Valiant’s biggest moments. He does more than carefully recreate famous Valiant scenes. Instead, he mashes and juxtaposes them in epic, sweeping visual collages. This makes the comic feel less like a history lesson and more like an organic journey through time. Rather than confine history to panels, Portela lets the art flow like a stream of consciousness. Portela gives new readers a taste of all the visual masterpieces a dive into Valiant’s back catalog has to offer.

RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1
Image from RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1, courtesy of Valiant.

This issue also gives new readers a great feel for most of the characters, without revealing too much. Portela is great at exploring each character’s personality and powers through body language, rather than exposition. While the story elements needed some fleshing out, the character portrayals were on point. If I knew nothing about fan favorites like the goofy Archer, I could determine a lot from Portela’s masterful renderings. We briefly see Rai. However, his regal, quiet, and respectful sensibilities all come through his wide eyes and rigid posture.

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Final Thoughts on RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1

Overall, RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1 is a brief glimpse into what Valiant comics have to offer. Despite some opaque storytelling and non-existent characterization, this comic is a great teaser for new Valiant fans. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to dip their toes into Valiant comics.

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