Comics I Read: The Ray (4-issue miniseries)

It starts as something familiar: twenty-something Lucien Gates gets zapped with a particle beam and gains light-based powers. In some ways it reminds me of the first series of the new Blue Beetle, with a lot of focus on Lucien's personal life. He's a Korean-American adoptee with an Indian girlfriend and an African-American best friend. At first it feels a little out of DC's "We got yer diversity right here, whatcha complainin' about" playbook -- you can almost picture Dan Didio checking boxes -- but it works because writers Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti's characters are engaging and the always-reliable Jamal Igle supplies the heart. But what really makes this series rise above the New 52 baseline is a new spin on the superhero ideal.

It's set up in #1 with Lucien's hippie upbringing and use of yoga to control his powers, but it isn't until nearly the end of the series that Palmiotti & Grey clearly articulate the series' genius idea: The Ray's the self-empowerment superhero. He doesn't want to beat people up, he just wants you to be better. (To people he rescues: "You...stay at the office way too late at night. You should spend more time with family and friends.")

Unfortunately, it leads to the kind of do-over ending in #4 that usually makes me grind my teeth. I'm not in love with it here either, but it does sort of work because of Lucien's belief that you can do anything with your life. I'm willing to forgive because there's something going on here that I've never seen before. If they're going to keep exploring this theme, then I'd love to see a followup mini or ongoing series by this team.


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