Rai / 4001 AD OHCs
Valiant have been working their way through the superhero story staples for a while now, so it was inevitable they would get to doing a dark future story, but what would not be expected is the ambition they demonstrated with it.
First, these two books, collecting six trades between them form one very strong and coherent package - with the ending of Rai leading into 4001 AD. Sure, the latter gives you a recap of the 12 issues of Rai, but reading the full thing is far better.
What really makes the story stand out is the way it goes back forth between Father and Rai’s attempts to destroy the tyrannical bastard. At the same time there’s some really mad ideas, which are wonderfully realised by Crain’s visuals like the orbital mega-city of New Japan transforming into a vast mecha-dragon! At the same time Father is an adversary who surrounds himself with millions on millions of human shields - Rai cannot defeat him without destroying New Japan, without some innocents paying the price, but if Rai does not defeat his creator everyone will pay for it. It is to Kindt’s credit that, having fashioned this dilemma, he doesn’t shirk from following through on it to its logical endpoint.
While the Rai OHC is a very focused piece of work, 4001 AD is more dispersed across three strands - the main event 4-issue series, the Rai issues that cover Rai’s backstory and origin in-depth and 4 one-shots that focus on various individual Valiant characters / concepts. Of these the X-O Manowar one was particularly good. The three strands work well together, with each expanding the story neatly.
There’s also some very smart easter egg continuity references that a new reader doesn’t need, but if spotted, enhance the story that little bit more. Like Gilad turning up in Rai, who mentions that he is the Eternal Warrior who hell spit out. Now that’s a neat link to The Valiant / Book of Death stories where Gilad died, but also to Vendetti’s Wrath of the Eternal Warrior series. Now I haven’t read that yet, no OHC yet, but I know Gilad was dead, so having a very concise three-word as to what happened works well enough for me. It’s not new, as they’ve gotten very good at this but it’s still very welcome to see titles that invite but don’t require you to read other books to enjoy them. This freestanding but linked structure is what sets Valiant apart from its competitors.
So, it’s another excellent superhero epic from them.