Opening directly into the action, but rife with humor and even a well constructed origin story, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, with stunning visuals from Jamal Igle, strike a perfect tone for this young energetic hero in DC’s new limited series “The Ray.”
In this first issue, Lucien Gates -- a lifeguard accidentally shot with a solar energy “sun gun” and turned into a superher -- explains how he became a superhero, introduces us to his life (including friends, family, and girlfriend) all while saving the world from gigantic telepathic jellyfish. We also get a peek at the big bad for the series, who is unfortunately not nearly as compelling as Lucien.
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti write a great introductory comic here, giving Lucien Gates a voice that is instantly likeable and relatable. Known for their excellent sense of humor, Gray and Palmiotti are much more than just their jokes, which they exhibit here, also. They also pack in an origin story, the beginnings of a superhero’s life of crime-fighting, and set up the big villain (with his own fairly detailed back story) with ease. In the hands of lesser writers, all the narration boxes and exposition might be tiresome, but their writing is so enjoyable that it flows effortlessly. In fact, they wisely address the inherent clumsiness of showing a character’s origin story right off the bat by having The Ray essentially break the fourth wall, talking directly to the readers about the fact that it’s a necessary evil. By making light of it, they turn the trope on its ear and make it fun again.
Unfortunately, the story stalls out a bit in the last few pages as we’re introduced to our villain. When we shift to the villain, the book badly misses the charisma and humor of Lucien and his cast of supporting characters that are so well established in the first two thirds of the book. Additionally, the book takes a decidedly dark and violent turn that feels strangely in conflict with the previous tone of the book. The first 16 pages of this book feel potentially like a 5 star comic, but the last 4 are firmly in 3 star territory and are an unfortunate note to end on.
Judging by the bulk of their work together, Gray and Palmiotti think very visually as writers (no surprise considering Palmiotti’s background), and as a result they create a lot of interesting opportunities when working with a great artist. Jamal Igle is just such an artist. His work here, with inks by Rich Perrotta, is flat out fantastic. He is able to capitalize on all the fun Gray and Palmiotti are having with the characters, but he manages it in a way that feels always respectful of the characters, which can be a tough balance to find in comics.
Igle has a particularly wonderful take on The Ray, and Guy Major’s stunning colors take this already great looking character right over the top. What Igle and Major end up with is the definition of an iconic superhero, the kind that can give you goose bumps as he heroes his way through the pages. Igle’s style reminds me here of a Bryan Hitch/Alan Davis hybrid that still feels wholly his own. The result is nothing short of beautiful. Igle hits all his pacing and storytelling marks with seeming ease, giving readers plenty of character, expression, and the necessary emotional beats above and beyond what most comics are capable of delivering.
“The Ray”, with a phenomenal creative team and a solid first issue, promises to be an action packed comedy mini-series full of enthusiasm and energy. It’s also one of the most racially diverse DC books I’ve read in a while now, which is a welcome thing indeed. More of this please, comics!