Review: The Ray #1 by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Jamal Igle

The Ray #1

Written by: Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Pencilled by: Jamal Igle
Inked by: Rich Perotta
Colored by: Guy Major
Lettering by: Dave Sharpe

Published by: DC
Cover Price: $2.99

Note : This review is for the digital version of the comic available from DC Comics on Comixology

I have to admit that I don’t pay as close attention to solicitations as I used to. In fact, I had no idea there was a new mini-series for the Ray until I saw a solicit for issue 2.

Even then, I wasn’t paying much attention, and just assumed it was the Ray Terrill version of the character that I had become a fan of while reading Young Justice. But no, this is another character calling themselves the Ray entirely.

But I am always up for giving a new superhero a try, and I like Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti quite a bit, so I still decided to check this one out.

Summary (contains spoilers): This story starts with The Ray in battle with giant jellyfish. We immediately find out that he’s named Lucien Gates, he’s Korean American, and that he’s not the first person to use the Ray name. The media seems to have given him that name, and he comments that he worries he might get sued by one of the others who have used that name.

We flashback to his origin:  A scientific experiment created what they were calling a “sun gun” to channel solar energy. The weapon misfired and organic things hit by the blast were randomly tranformed. Trees become monsters, lizards became dinosaurs. And lifeguard Lucien Gates became the Ray.

When he first tries to use his power, he ends up getting launched from San Diego bouncing off a plane and landing in Seattle. He also ends up naked as his powers seem to destroy any clothing they come in contact with. He slowly gets control over his powers, thanks to the help of meditation techniques taught to him by his hippy parents. He realizes that his power gives him control over light, so he can bend light to make it look like he’s wearing clothes. Kind of weird and creepy, but it works well enough.

The tone of the book shifts drastically in the last few pages. A group of students is logging film into an archive. The film they are watching made by an insane filmmaker named Graham Filmore. Graham liked to film horrific situations like cannibals eating people, people being tortured, snuff films. The film they are watching is the only work of his known to have not been destroyed. It shows Graham in South America looking for a Lazarus Pit. He is killed by the locals, and thrown in the pit.

And then things get even stranger. Graham steps out of the film, murders the teacher and is ready to cause some trouble on a much bigger scale. He announces:

Review: First of all, I find this comic horribly offensive and sexist against men. The main character is naked through the entire comic, and has a ridiculously toned body. I am disgusted and dismayed that in this day and age, DC Comics has such a backwards view of males in comics, and treats them like total cheesecake. You should be ashamed of yourself, DC!!

Okay, now that I got the rantings of a crazy person out of the way, what did I really think about The Ray?

One thing that immediately grabbed me about this book was how original it was. Not really all that surprising, I’ve never read a comic by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti I didn’t like. Ray’s origin was pretty simplistic, but there is enough there to build on, and it let them get right to focus on the action and characterization, both of which were terrific.

Lucien’s parents as hippies provided for some entertaining supporting cast. I also loved that Lucien’s girlfriend knows about his powers and shows support from the beginning, though her parents already disapproved of him, so that should create an interesting dynamic.

I also like that the characters seem media aware. I’m not a huge fan of the celebrity culture, but it’s out there, and it could definitely be a good setting for these characters to build on.

Even though it sort of seemed like a throw away line, I also liked that Lucien had a background in yoga and martial arts, which helps him as a hero. It seems like every hero as soon as they get powers becomes a great fighter, which I always thought was a bit ridiculous. But giving Lucien that background helps make sense of the things he does as The Ray.

I did think it was a little strange that Lucien could not wear clothes because they all burned up, but he was able to hold a guitar. Just a silly little thing I noticed.

Another thing I loved about this book was the “villain.” When the ending sequence of this comic started, I had no idea where it was going. My thoughts on the end of the book were, “Why are we talking about the crazy film maker? Lazarus pits? That’s was unexpected. Hey wait…did that guy just…holy crap!!” I don’t know exactly how Graham Filmore’s story ties in to Lucien’s, but it definitely should get interesting.

One thing that I did think was odd was that they go out of the way to point out in the first panel that Lucien is Korean-American. But Lucien and especially his parents really look Caucasian. Was he adopted?  Seemed strange to point out a character’s ethnicity and then have it vanish from there.

Really that is the only possible gripe I can have about the art. Jamal Igle really gives this new Ray a very cool and unique look. Everything in the issue looks great, especially all the massive jelly fish monsters that the Ray fights throughout this issue:

One thing I have always felt the comic industry does poorly is support new characters. The fact we’ve had three different versions of trying to reuse the Ray name in the last fifteen or so years speaks to that. You look at the top ten comics every month, and it’s packed with characters and concepts that first appeared 50 years ago or more: Justice League, Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Superman, Green Lantern, Flash. Even Wolverine is five years older than me!

I was glad when Marvel made a bigger push for that kind of thing a few years ago with Gravity, Arana, Runaways, etc.  But for the most part, these concepts are hot for a short period and end up back on the shelf collecting dust while the older characters get all the attention.  I don’t just blame the comic companies, I also blame readers for being so hesitant on trying new things!

I really hope that The Ray does well and that DC gives the book and the character proper support. Can this character be the next Wolverine? Nah, I probably wouldn’t go that far, but becoming a moderately popular character that pops up from time to time and gets his own series of mini-series (like Deadpool or Lobo) is something I would love to see. The Ray has a lot of potential and I hope DC takes advantage of that!

Final Score: 8.5 Real strong first issue. Introduced an entertaining new character, a great supporting cast, and the villain at the end was properly disturbing. I have a real good feeling about this mini.

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