It’s just great to see Ray Terrill back. I didn’t mind the New 52 incarnation of the Ray, but that miniseries didn’t seem to make much of an impact, another needless reboot that failed to generate excitement.
And the Ray can be a very exciting character. I remember fondly the miniseries from the 90s that introduced young Ray Terrill. The series that followed it up couldn’t quite keep on target, but the Ray proved to have staying power. Justice League Task Force, Young Justice, and the revived Freedom Fighters all served to keep the character around.
But then he fell victim to the sweeping changes of the New 52. Or so it seemed at the time.
Now he is back. Steve Orlando does a very skillful job at making this feel like the old, familiar Ray, and Stephen Byrne does an exceptional job on the art, re-capturing a lot of the mood and spirit of Quesada’s work on the 90s miniseries.
But this is not quite the same character. Yes, he still grew up being kept in darkness, believing that he was allergic to light. Yes, he still seems to have inherited his powers from his absent father. The big change is in Ray’s sexuality, and this is handled perfectly.
For one thing, it’s introduced in a really casual way. Much the same way it would be if the character was straight. A simple comment about the difficulty in finding a boyfriend. By the end of the issue, sexuality has become a much more important issue, as the villains of the piece, the alt right Sons of Liberty, display the kind of homophobia that gets one elected Vice President in the US, but is viewed contemptuously in more civilized nations.
If that sentence offended you, tell someone who cares. For the next four years I feel no need to mince words.
There are other themes in the story that revolve around Ray’s sexuality, although in a less explicit way. The extreme sheltering of his mother can be viewed as parental concern about what the outside world will think of her gay son. The long period that Ray spends invisible, hovering around and observing the world without interacting with it can be seen as reflecting a period of being closeted, hiding from the world and not letting oneself be truly seen.
And geez, I didn't even get around to mentioning how Silverblade, a miniseries from the 80s, got worked in very cleverly.
Although this one shot is just meant as a re-introduction before the Ray joins the Atom and Vixen in a new JLA, it really made me hope he will once again get his own book. Especially with Orlando and Byrne at the helm.