The Ray is my new favorite superhero. Writer Steve Orlando and artist Stephen Byrne craft together a sad, yet eventually heartwarming origin story of a young man, who has to stay away from light, or he will die in Justice League of America: The Ray. His mom won’t even let him have candles on his birthday cake, and he spends most of his days watching old movies and reading superhero comics passed down by his late father, who had the same ability as him. Ray Terrill grows up as the urban legend “Midnight Boy”, and when he sneaks out one night to finally see the outside world, it isn’t very kind to him. Orlando and Byrne use Ray’s inability to go outside or be around people as a superpowered metaphor for growing up queer in a non-urban area where it’s difficult to find people like you.
Orlando and Byrne tap into a deep vein of loneliness in the character of Ray, who just wants to see the sunlight or moonlight and hang out with his friend Caden, who he partially blinded after an accident with a Polaroid camera. Until Ray uses his powers heroically, Byrne’s art stays in the shadows with lots of greys and muted tones. Whenever he uses his abilities, a shock of yellow envelops the panels, and this frightens people early on, but eventually Ray realizes that he can’t be in the shadows anymore and uses both his invisibility and light powers to protect Caden, his friend turned the passionate and openly gay mayor of Vanity, Oregon. The final pages are a well-earned catharsis for the literal invisible state he is in for most of the comic because he is afraid that using his light powers will create a scene and get him kicked out (or worse) from his small minded town.
The Sons of Liberty antagonists that Ray faces and protects Caden from are pretty one-dimensional, but serve a great purpose as the first obstacle in his superhero career. They represent hate and discrimination and just caring about yourself instead of helping out or empathizing with those around you. Ray is the exact opposite of this as he only actively uses his powers to protect his old friend, who uses his political office to give him an endorsement and also a touch of swag as he changes his look to The Ray costume. He also starts going to movies with cute boys instead of just by himself in his invisible form and lives confidently in all areas of his life.
Stephen Byrne’s artwork is slick with a varied color palette that offers a window into Ray’s feelings along with Steve Orlando’s dialogue and captions. I liked how the use of yellow earlier in the comic was seen as a negative thing whereas when Ray goes into action, it becomes a cool, signature move as he turns the curse of his abilities into a blessing.
Orlando and Byrne don’t shy away from showing Ray’s suicidal ideation as a kid in Justice League of America: The Ray #1 when he thinks that going outside and possibly dying is better than a life of isolation. However, Ray’s story is inspiring because he overcomes his loneliness, sadness, and isolation to become a great hero even though he still had bad days. I love how his favorite fictional characters got him through some hard days as both a kid and a young adult, and especially can’t wait to see how he fits in the new-look Justice League of America. All in all, Ray Terrill is another great addition to DC’s pantheon of LGBTQ superheroes.
Story: Steve Orlando Art: Stephen Byrne
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review