Review: JLA: The Ray Rebirth #1

Written by Alisha Weinberger

A ray of hope shines in the DCU only to be snuffed out by a tired series of one-shots leading to the inevitable JLA Rebirth title. There are very few LGBTQ superheroes in the mainstream comic industry, and even fewer if you go by specific publishers. DC is home to some iconic ones such Batwoman and Poison Ivy, but when a lesser known hero of that community is introduced, it should allow for complex and new character development without the worries of excessive retcon.

But The Rebirth falls short of this, which is a shame since it isn’t the fault of the book’s creative team. Steve Orlando introduces Ray, or tabloid urban legend The Night Boy. With his true powers to absorb and manipulate light confused with illness by an overbearing and disconnected mother, Ray is a friendless shut in. Invisible to the world, young Ray has no outlet or reconciliation of his power or his budding sexual orientation. The synonymous allegory of hidden superpowers and sexuality is obvious, but Orlando subtly weaves the two together with visual motifs. One such motif, is Ray’s adoration for the hunky Silverblade and the similarities between The Ray’s costume design and that of the film star.

The pacing of the issue becomes constrained towards the end. After a mishap during a sporadic night out, Ray becomes literally invisible to the world. What pursues is a series of montages brimming with exposition that conveniently ages Ray up and the mastery of his powers. Just in time to reconnect with an old love interest and save him from a violent radical. This is of course is due to The Ray, along with a slew of other second tier heroes such as last week’s Vixen Rebirth, getting one off treatments only to build up to the JLA Rebirth series.

Stephen Byrne and Clayton Clowes give readers some great artwork, and Orlando tackles issues surrounding the LGBTQ community, such as gentrification, community, and the push back from a stubborn old guard. It would have been an interesting read and exploration had The Ray received his own series. Instead the one-shot comes off rushed and its allegory heavy handed towards the end. The Ray Rebirth isn’t necessarily skippable as it is a enjoyable short story tackling heavy themes in the greater DCU, readers should opt for a digital copy and avoid driving to the shop for just this single issue.

Rating: 8/10

Alisha Weinberger is a comic book, video game, and animation enthusiast and critic. Along with comic reviews, she also maintains The Pop Break twitter feed. Alisha thoroughly enjoys the warm embrace of coffee, says “dawg” and “dope” ad nauseam, and shares a reluctant resemblance to Tina Belcher.