In Review: Justice League of America: The Ray–Rebirth #1

I enjoyed this much, much more than I thought I would.

The covers: A bright pair to fly after if you’re a completist. The Regular cover is by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Marcelo Maiolo and it’s very much inline with the format of the original Rebirth line. This is a bust shot of the title character rendered in a three quarters view to the left, though Ray Terill is looking at the reader. He’s holding his left hand up and it’s emitting a strong glow of energy which is causing most of his helmeted head to be in silhouette. A powerful image for a powerful character with the coloring making the image very serious. The Variant cover by Stephen Byrne has the exact opposite tone. Instead of having a grim hero gaze upon the reader, the frontpiece has a jubilant hero fully shown as he flies through the city. It’s so refreshing to see a hero reveling in their powers on a cover, rather than grimacing or yelling as they fight a foe. His pose is great and the coloring is the definition of sunny. This is the cover I purchased and used to accompany this review. Overall grades: Regular A- and Variant A

The story: If you’re going to pick this up and just skim the first few pages, don’t let them fool you! The art and images makes this look incredibly depressing, but writer Steve Orlando is setting up the reader for a refreshing super hero story: one that’s optimistic! First the dour: “Years ago. Outside Philadelphia.” It’s young Ray Terill’s birthday. He’s in a room with covered windows and no lights. He’s watching his favorite movie, Silverblade (a terrific inside nod for long time DC fans!)for the millionth time, but his mother disturbs him to give him his birthday cake. He asks if he can have the candles this year which elicits an angry response from her, “You’re sick, Ray. Allergic to light. You know the rules. No sunlight. No natural light at all. Not even artificial light for too long. Candles could kill you.” She then proceeds to tell him how his life has affected her. He asks if his friend Caden can visit, prompting another outburst from his mother and a clue about his actual situation. I was very nervous going into this book because of the utterly sad life of Ray, but things change on Page 9, and take yet another turn on 10. Ray’s abilities are very fun and Orlando really shows him developing his skills over time in an engaging way. When he debuts as the helmeted hero, my heart sang because I’d seen this character grow up and I loved the sincerity of his spirit. I would love to see this as a monthly from DC under Orlando’s skills. Overall grade: A

The artist: Both the art and colors are by Stephen Byrne. It seems that more artists are coloring their own work and I’m really enjoying it, including what Byrne does. The first page strongly establishes how in the dark young Ray is, shown in a full page splash looking down upon, visible only from the glare coming off the television program he’s watching. The colors are dim, because he’s in a dark room, and they only brighten up on the second page when the tape he’s watching is shown. His mother’s first appearance is a frightening reveal, with the anger apparent on her face and the whites of her eyes solidifying how upset she is. When Ray looks at a photo of him and his friend Caden the warmth that comes off the page is palpable, instantly having the reader feel for Ray’s situation. This is followed up by angry mom in the dark again, but there’s an excellent transition of color, a literal explosion, in the second through fourth panels on 5, that neatly foreshadows things to come. The final panel on 7 and the full paged splash of 8 use the moon superbly to backlight Ray, with the latter being wonderfully dramatic. The top of Page 10 is the first true blast of color on the page that insinuates that the hero’s mother might be right. I was surprised with what Ray does on 11 and the way that Byrne shows the title character in this state is really cool. This state is returned to more than once, and only improves as it’s used. When Ray reveals himself to the world it’s a WOW! moment, with a full paged splash that has him looking awesome and the colors radiating an incredible amount of heat. I’m incredibly appreciative to Bryne for the last panel of the book: this hero isn’t a grim avenger, but one that takes immense pleasure in his abilities, and that’s something that more comics need. Overall grade: A 

The letters: Clayton Cowles provides this book’s credits, scene settings, dialogue, a videotape’s dialogue, sounds, narration, yells, and the tease for JLA: Rebirth #1. I love seeing letterers create a unique font for a character’s narration and the font used by Ray is a perfect match for his character. The scene settings are very stark, unlike anything I’ve seen in other superhero books. They make the change in time very dramatic and they make the proceedings very real. Cowles does gold on this book. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Who do I have to speak with to have this become a monthly with the same creative team? This was a terrific reintroduction to the character, with an origin that’s fun and full of slick visuals. I enjoyed this much, much more than I thought I would. Overall grade: A

To purchase a digital copy of this book go to https://www.comixology.com/Justice-League-of-America-The-Ray-Rebirth-2017-1/digital-comic/441851?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC9pdGVtU2xpZGVy

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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