The Ray #1 (1994)

The Ray #1 (May, 1994)
Writer – Christopher Priest
Penciller – Howard Porter
Inker – Robert Jones
Letterer – Ken Bruzenak
Colorist – Gloria Vasquez
Editors – Brian Augustyn & Ruben Diaz
Cover Price: $1.75

It’s strange when I look back and realize that the 1990’s were my first true comics “wheelhouse”… and it feels like we barely discuss things from that decade here at the ol’ blog!

Let’s take a small step toward fixing that today!

We open with The Ray in the middle of a knock-down drag-out fight with an over-sized Brimstone.  After having much of his offense simply shrugged off, Ray is able to wallop the baddie with a blast to the chest.  Brimstone begins to tumble when our man realizes… if he did, all of the folks on the street below would be, ya know… crushed.  Ray throws up an energy shield to keep the hulking, flaming mass standing… this act yields rather middling results.

But that’s for later.  We now jump to Ray typing something of a diary entry in a word processor program while in his very empty new digs.  After his entire missive is deleted, he has to start the story over… which is actually a really neat way to frame this entire flashback… that is to say, the entire rest of the issue.  Ray starts with “… I killed somebody last night.” which is enough to get my interest.

He reflects back on the start of the day where he was finally able to convince a landlord to rent him a room.  Of course, having no credit history might hurt ones chances of finding a nice place, and so one must learn to do without a few luxuries… like a refrigerator!  Ray gets the keys and stands slump-shouldered like any proud twenty-something who finally realizes what concepts like independence and responsibility look (and smell) like… and it ain’t pleasant.

Speaking of responsibility… if our man has any hope of paying his rent he’s going to have to head into “the office” for his shift.  His “office” is a Clucky Chicken fast food restaurant… and as luck would have it, today of all days their chicken mascot called in sick.  Three guesses who gets to wear the feathers…

Things go from bad to worse when Ray’s cool-guy pal Hank shows up to give him a bit of grief.  Hank knows about Ray’s dual identity and suggests he cut out of the chicken suit and fly’em both to Hawaii so he might “score”.  Things then go from worse to worser when Ray’s girlfriend Jenny shows up to tell him she’s gotta work late that night and needed to take a rain check on their date… he’s also a bit mortified that she sees him in the chicken suit.  Did I say rain check, because now things go from worser to worsest when it… starts pouring rain.  Ya gotta figure that chicken costume’s gonna smell worse than a wet dog!

After Ray’s shift he figures “what the hell?” and flies he and Hank out Hawaii way.  A fella’s gotta learn to live, am I right?  Anyhoo… they’re headed to see a volcano that had erupted, and when the lava cooled it did so in the shape of a hand.  While here we see a strange character who I’d have to assume is Blanka from Street Fighter II‘s son.  He’s making multiple trips hauling bags to the volcano’s opening.

Later, a security guard heads up to see what this green “Varmint” is up to.  She gets tossed into the volcano for her troubles.  This pleases Blanka, Jr. and so he begins chanting some nonsense about Darkseid.  Moments later, from the lava rises… Brimstone!  Seems he’s got some of the security guard in him though, as a bit of her slang appears to be added to Brimstone’s vernacular.

Nearby, Ray and Hank are entertaining some ladies.  Well, Hank is… Ray just looks uncomfortable.  The Earth begins to shake, and Ray knows it’s time he change into The Ray to see what’s going on.

He arrives to the scene momentarily, only to find that his fight has been scooped by… Hawaii’s own… Superboy!  C’mon, a mid-90’s comic set in Hawaii… of course we’re getting some Kon-El!  Ray is none too pleased… he’s certainly not part of the Superboy fan club.

The two begrudgingly team up to fight Brimstone, with both trying to outshine one other.  Ray thinks the threat is too big and suggests they try and contact the Justice League… Superboy thinks that’s a silly idea.  Kon grabs Brimstone and proceeds to fly him to a remote part of the island… and suggests if The Ray needs some help he should maybe call his mother.  Ray doesn’t take too kindly to that, and informs the Boy of Steel that his mother is dead.  Hmph, I didn’t even know she was sick!

On the other side of the island Ray arrives moments after Superboy neutralizes the fiery threat… and so, he starts busting his chops!  Superboy doesn’t have the time or patience for such silliness, and so he just clobbers poor Ray!

Ray decides that two can play this game… and proceeds to blast the ever-loving hell out of Superboy, leaving him burnt to a crisp!  Now… as is the norm when we’re talking about The Ray, things go from bad to worse when… not only is Superboy “dead”, we now learn that Brimstone is very much alive… and really rather ticked off!

It’s funny how every young (but not kid) superhero always feels like they are a shade or two away from being Peter Parker.  I’d say that Ray Terrill reminds me more of Richard “Nova” Rider… which he does… but then I remember how much Rider reminded me of Parker!  Oh well… it’s not a bad thing, just an observation I wanted to get out of the way.

Now, I know this series came after a six-issue miniseries.  This miniseries is among the few runs from the nineties that I just can’t seem to track down… so I don’t know if anything from there is being followed up on here.  Probably doesn’t matter… but I do enjoy being as “complete” as possible.

Let’s see… where to start with this one.  The diary entry… such an organic way to tell this story!  I thought it was really cool that we “joined” Ray just as his word processing program dumped everything he’d already written… leaving him to type it all up again, this time taking us along for the ride.  Christopher Priest is always so creative with transitions, framing sequences and rejoinders… and this was no different.

Now I did mention Peter Parker above… and it’s gotta be said, for a dude named Terrill, our hero sure has him a bit of the ol’ Parker luck.  This guy just can’t catch a break… crappy apartment, chicken costume, killing Superboy… yeesh.  Luckily… also like (most) Peter Parker stories, it was a lot of fun to see him put through the wringer… because we know he’s going to come out of it all okay.

Brimstone is a bit of a boring villain for our first time out, however I understand the need for a “big” (as in large) baddie.  Superboy coming in is only natural with the story taking place on his “turf”.  I often forget just how abrasive he could be… especially when he was guest-starring in another hero’s book.  I kinda dig it.  He’s cocky… no reason to rein that in.  I also really dug how Ray took to Superboy.  He really doesn’t like “the kid” and isn’t afraid to let him know it.  Very neat dynamic… especially funny when we consider that in less than a decade the two will both be members of Young Justice!

Shockingly, this issue (and entire series) is available digitally.  That really surprised me… though, I suppose with his recent inclusion on the current Rebirth Batman and the Outsiders Justice League of America, it makes total sense.  I’d certainly recommend checking this out… especially if you’re a fan of young heroes with that rotten Parker luck.  Howard Porter’s art here is also pretty amazing… a real treat!

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