Struck by a particle beam of experimental light, Lucien Gates becomes The Ray, able to travel at the speed of light, create energy blasts and alter the way light reflects off his body.
This last may bit may not sound immediately impressive, but when any clothes you wear against your glowing form burn, it’s pretty useful. So it is that The Ray becomes the most prominent naked superhero since Dr Manhattan (not that he was noted for his >cough< prominence). In this first of a four-part mini we see lifeguard Lucien adjust to his new abilities with the help of his parents. Are the Gates STAR Labs scientists? Retired superheroes? Nope, they're New Agers who know the value of yoga when a person needs to find their centre. We also meet Lucien's party animal pal Darius, and slightly serious girlfriend Chanti. Right off the bat, every member of this likeable bunch knows Lucien has powers, and everyone accepts the situation. This further helps Lucien gain the relaxed attitude that's needed if he's to properly use his sun-powered energies to fight enormous telepathic jellyfish over San Diego.
Lucien himself is a suitably sunny guy, and very bright, able to finesse his powers on the run. So I’ve little doubt he’s going to overcome the villain introduced at issue’s end, and be good company along the way. Credit to writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti for a sharp, breezy script; the only aspect of it I don’t like is Lucien’s narration, which puts us in the position of DC Universe resident. Nope, I don’t know Darius’s famous record producing dad, you can’t be talking to me.
Lucien’s origin and face-changing abilities put me in mind of long-lost Starman WIll Payton, no bad thing. All I can say is that Will had a pup and readers loved it, so Lucien should have a dog too.
Drawing the issue is former Supergirl penciller Jamal Igle, one of comics’ most underrated talents (click on images to enlarge). He’s not flashy, see, just bloody good, delivering page after page of attractive, nuanced characters (well, the jellyfish aren’t nuanced, but I’d likely lick one, given half a chance). Lucien’s just your average muscle stud, while mom Judy radiates warmth and wisdom. His dad looks to always be on the verge of laughter, Darius gives great exasperation and Chandi is the golden girl with smarts to spare. Igle also gets to draw some amusing victims of the Sun Gun which hits Lucien, and comes up with a wonderful visual for The Ray in flight – think John Byrne’s Vision meets Art Deco train. Finishing the linework is talented inker Rich Perrotta, while Guy Major supplies the ravishing tones.
I’m not keen on The Ray’s ‘costume’, the purple and cream don’t sit well together – hopefully Lucien will finesse the look, on reflection. And the cover tagline – The Light of Vengeance strikes! – is just daft. Nevertheless, this is an effortlessly assured superhero action comedy, by creators at the top of their game. Four issues is in no way going to be enough.