Justice League of America: The Ray – Rebirth #1 review

It takes years to become  a hero. Ray Terrill spends almost two decades living behind closed doors, windows, curtains. Exposure to light causes him to burn. And one day Ray’s only friend got hurt.      
Ray’s mother, Nadine, saw her husband die due to his light sensitivity, and is determined she won’t lose her son. She obviously loves him to bits, but can’t hide how unhappy she is. 
Fast forward a few years and Ray has had enough. 
An encounter with some teenagers helps him discover his powers, and freedom. But it’s a lonely freedom as he spends years travelling, seeming to see only the worst sides of people. 
One day, though, he comes across a familiar face. Caden looks like he’d be a decent mayor, but not everyone wants him to win. 
Cue fight, creative use of light powers, and a big improvement in Ray’s morose attitude. 
This is a pleasant read, but it didn’t knock my socks off the way the first debut of Ray Terrill, back in 1992, did. With art by a young Joe Quesada and writer Jack C Harris on career best form, it felt amazingly fresh… this feels like going through the motions. It takes some cues from the original mini-series while changing one big aspect of Ray’s character. Where the previous version of Ray pined for neighbour Jenny and lusted after Black Canary, now he likes men. While the closeted childhood metaphor is clever, making one of his new Justice League gay feels like a box-ticking exercise by writer Steve Orlando. And Ray’s old pal Caden isn’t so much a character as Diversity Bingo. 
Having seen the uproar at the similar ‘gaying’ of Alan Scott in the New 52 JSA book, I’m surprised DC is going this route with another fan favourite. Especially since, unlike the Golden Age Green Lantern, this Ray’s creator could have made him gay. Why not bring an existing gay hero into the League? Heck, Orlando has the perfect candidate in Gregorio De La Vega, the magician formerly known as Extrano, who’s been cameoing to great effect in his excellent Midnighter and Apollo mini-series. 
I suppose we can forgive Ray’s apparent meanness to his mother because he’s a frustrated kid, trained to be afraid, but after flying the nest he spends years exploring the world without giving a thought, apparently, to her. Having been a massive part of Ray’s life, Nadine just vanishes from the comic. 
One thing I really don’t get is that when he decides to leave home, Ray just leaps from the roof of the house. He doesn’t know he’ll be able to fly. Is he suicidal? That’s not something you should leave ambiguous. And that flashback of Caden being injured by Ray’s unexpected flash of power is seriously undersold. 
As an Old Fart Fan I enjoyed nods to old DC characters Silverblade, Aztec and Agent Liberty, but I’d prefer a story with more oomph. The motivation of the villain, for example, is novel, but rubbish. 
By the end of the book we have a happier hero, skilled in the use of his powers and ready for adventure. I’m confident Orlando will do interesting work with Ray in the Justice League book, and despite my qualms, I wouldn’t mind a mini-series to explore some of the things set up here. 
And if Stephen Byrne returns as artist, that’s fine by me – his full colour work is attractive, and at its best when powers are in play, whether it’s blasts of light or representations of invisibility. And Clayton Cowles intelligently nails his sharp letters to the art
Byrne provides the variant cover, which is happiness on a stick, while the main image by penciller Ivan Reis, inker Joe Prado and colourist Marcelo Maio is very strong. 
As a new start for the Ray, this isn’t bad – I was just expecting it to be better. 

11 thoughts on “Justice League of America: The Ray – Rebirth #1 review

  1. I haven't read this– I did read the first twelve issues of Priest's Ray a couple years ago. I do think there's something in the fact that Ray is literally closeted; there's a good-but-obvious thematic resonance there, which is arguably a winning formula for superhero comics.

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  2. “She obviously loves him to bits.”
    I totally didn't get that from my reading of the book. Overprotective? Yes. Paranoid? Probably. Emotionally abusive? Quite possibly. But I didn't get a lot of warmth from Ray's mom. Just complaint after complaint after excuse. And not even whiny excuses. She didn't come across as a weak character. Just a mean one.
    But I definitely agree with the rest of your review. This felt warmed over. Not particularly compelling. I preferred the version we got when the new 52 was new.

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  3. I never bought that she was his mother even. She came across as paid captor and yes, this was a disappointment. None of the charm of Orlando's other DC work and Byrne's posting on line looks less amateurish than what saw print here. The alt-dimension Ray by Morrison started the gaying up of the character but even that felt undersold here. Makes me glad the presence of the parody anti-hero version of Lobo already has me skipping JLA again…

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  4. It doesn't help how thick they lay it on, no. The panel of that one jerk who's clearly meant to be every Trump supporter ever being the one angry white guy in a crowd of mostly hopeful African American faces.

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  5. SMH. Another hero forced to be gay? Had no one at DC learned anything after the whole Alan Scott thing. Shit like this is why I've washed my hands of the current books by both of the big two. The obvious lack of true respect for these characters to be turned into ready-made ciphers is beyond redonkulous.

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  6. Oh Murray, Steve, you lads are so dark! I can sort of see what you mean now you're saying it, but I think we were just seeing her at times of stress, to show us what a rotten time Ray was having… I bet she's a proper sweetie.

    I THOUGHT there'd been a vaguely gay Ray at some point, but I couldn't recall the details or find proper attribution, so thank you. What with Stan in the Freedom Fighters, then that lifeguard lad, I can't keep my Rays straight…

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  7. Blimey Simon, I didn't make a Trump connection there at all, his words were so wacky I just read him as 'loony'. Which, of course, doesn't mean he didn't vote for Trump. I'm really enjoying everyones' insight, as ever.

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  8. It's a shame, Dsle, there are some great books from the big two (I have singularly failed to get anyone interested in Scarlet Witch). But I can see where a person could get sick of all the dumb decisions.

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  9. I think the closeting metaphor is too much of a grabber for a writer to ignore. It seemed pretty heavy-handed to me, but hopefully it'll be treated better in the team book. I like the character fine, but this was definitely the weakest of the three JLA spotlights to date.

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