Smash Cut: The Ray #3 Review

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a comics Website, at a time when spoiler-free reviews roamed the Earth. One review changed all that. It hit with the force of 10,000 spoilers. It has happened before. It will happen again. It’s just a question of when. Which would be now.

So apparently Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray believe that Michael Bay is the greatest threat that has ever roamed the face of the Earth. Having seen two Transformers movies and Pearl Harbor, I’m inclined to agree, although I’d think these guys would put in a bigger vote for the guy who fucked up the Jonah Hex movie.

This issue of The Ray has more of an action-oriented edge than the first issue, which makes sense; in an origin story you need to spend a certain amount of page real estate setting up the characters and the rules of the powers. But after a certain point, you need to get the heroes and the villains into the trenches to beat on each other. And that certainly happens here, but Palmiotti and Gray take things in a slightly different direction than you’d expect. by which I mean The Ray tries very hard to not beat on people in the trenches.

There’s a key scene in this book where The Ray stops the action and tries to talk the villain down. We’ve got more than two full pages of The Ray trying to calm the villain down, along with a few other scenes of the hero aquiescing to demands from authority as diverse as cops to paramedics to pissed-off parents. The Ray is polite, Goddammit, and it not only all makes sense on a character basis – the kid is the adopted child of two stereotypical pot-smoking California liberals as we saw in the first issue – but it’s interesting. After all, if you stop and think about it, having superpowers and using them to beat on someone would probably only be fun if the guy you’re fighting doesn’t have superpowers. If the other guy has them, then it’s just a plain-old fight, and that’s no fun. Having superpowers is probably a lot like having a gun: everyone has someone that they wouldn’t mind shooting, but nobody wants to be in a gunfight.

And you can throw on top of all of the above that, when it comes to the superheroing, The Ray kinda sucks at it. He plays fast and loose enough with who he knows and who he cares about that even a blind spastic could figure out his secret identity. The first punch he throws, he misses, and when he tries to use his powers to eliminate a threat, he blows it up in his face. And it is something very different in superhero comics to see a hero who is clearly enthusiastic about being a superhero, but who just clearly sucks at it. It’s engaging, and it makes The Ray more fun and interesting than a lot of books currently on the stands.

And yes, the supervillain is Michael Bay. Well, not actually Michael Bay, but the guy is a filmmaker with the attention span of a five-year-old washing the blood from grinding Ritalin into his gums away with Mountain Dew, who uses his power to bend reality to turn cop cars into giant robots. He wears a costume that looks like Magneto fucked Sark from Tron, and he states his intention to create his art – which is all knocked off from other, better sources – whether anyone wants to see it or not. If that ain’t Michael Bay, then I’m not hung over right now.  And considering the entirety of his motivation is to stage an awesome superhero fight, it gives this book a meta level that’s awfully fun to read.

Jamal Igle’s art is, as it was in the first issue, very good for an entry-level comic book. He has a lot more to do in this book than he did in the first issue, drawing not only realistic people, but alien spaceships and giant robots, all of which he does admirably. And in a book where the superhero almost refuses to fight, the art is going to live and die by the facial expressions as the hero tries to talk his way out of violence. And Igle’s expressions are solid without being over exaggerated… with the possible exception of one tight shot of the villain toward the end, where he is either displaying disappointment via a cocked eyebrow or suffering a mild stroke. But generally, the art works by being generally realistic and unintimidating.

The Ray #3 is a fun comic book with a lot more going on than many superhero books on the shelves. And the supporting cast, which in the first issue felt a little bit like forced diversity, I found much more organic and less obvious now that we’re less in first-issue stilted introduction mode and more into action mode. It’s a comic that’s well worth picking up.

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