With their sixth issue, Rai team Dan Abnett and Juan José Ryp have returned to the wasteland of the far future. Even though it has been months since the series' previous issue, the next chapter in this journey feels as fresh as ever, and every bit as good as all the tales that preceding it. Though this is clearly a major step in the overall narrative planned for the character, this connectivity to a larger story on display gives it an extra layer of heft. Also, lest I be negligent in not mentioning it, there are robo-Centurions and mutant-animal people. It rules!
The new issue picks up in the far reaches of what was previously North America, as Rai and Raijin find themselves crossing paths with the combat positronics of the Romanus settlement. These former androids have been waiting on Rai, and after he interrupts an army of gnarly mutated animals (lions, tigers, bears, all kinds) they welcome him to their village. These specific story elements are notable not only for being fun story beats, but because they wouldn't be nearly as fun or interesting without Ryp's near flawless artwork. Ryp has made his intricately detailed pencils a staple of this Rai run from the start, but he takes it to a new level here.
The Kor'Tunga tribe are as grotesque and wild as the kind of combatants one would expect the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to battle, but the minutiae of Ryp's work makes them feel real and lived-in. In the same sequence that these beasts appear in all their stunning monstrous glory, Ryp has another moment where his prowess as an artist is clear. In the middle of fighting these monsters, Ryp shows the speed and dexterity of Rai's combat and movement in a unique way. Though it might appear there are now four Rais walking about, that's just how quickly the character is moving. It's a genius approach to action and choreography and something that could only be accomplished in comics.
In the larger realm of this new Rai run, issue six marks a major turning point. Though past issues in the series were primarily standalone (and this one remains that way, to a certain extent) there are plants and teases for what's still to come and the paths Rai and Raijin will cross down the road. There's also the bigger question of the mission that the two characters are on and the potential odds that they might see in their quests, ways they can help that aren't being fulfilled. A seed of division has been planted, and the flowers it may grow could be painful to witness. Abnett also brings a major new connection to the wider Valiant universe in this issue, but it's too good to even hint at here.
Once again, Dan Abnett and Juan Jose Ryp have hit a home run. So many comics lose their luster and spark after just a few issues but the consistency in storytelling and the freshness they bring to each new issue remains a miracle; it is inspiring. Dan and Juan, if you're reading this, the people want to see you bring your flair to futuristic cowboys next.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Published by Valiant Entertainment
On August 19, 2020
Written by Dan Abnett
Art by Juan José Ryp
Colors by Andrew Dalhouse
Letters by Dave Sharpe