Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Ray #6

He's still fighting his father, isn't he?

For a kid who had a dad, this fucking kid sure wishes he had a dad. I don't fucking get it. He lived 18 years with a man who was his dad but then that man died and said, "I'm not your real dad! There is another!" and this fucking kid is all, "I want my daddy!" Man, I only have the one dad and I couldn't give a fuck! Just go out and get a dog, you needy bastard! Also get a fridge. You fucking still need a fridge, you stupid asshole.

Have I cursed at The Ray enough? It's not like he deserves it; I've just grown bored with this series and I'm acting out. Luckily this is my last The Ray comic book before I get to move on to Kid Eternity written by Ann Nocenti. Fuck yes! Who knew I'd read Ann Nocenti before her run on The New 52 Green Arrow?! I wish I could remember what younger me thought of it.

Three kinds of comic books exist in my past: those I loved so much that they became an integral part of that chapter in my life (Elfquest, Transmetropolitan, and Shade the Changing Man), comic books that I thoroughly enjoyed and can still remember a good percentage of plots and themes (Suicide Squad, The Demon, and Justice League) and comic books I read in five minutes and completely forgot about (apparently The Ray, Kid Eternity, Scarab, and so many more that I can't list because I completely forgot about them). I could probably break those categories down further into dozens of other categories but you were probably already bored at the beginning of this paragraph so I'll just move on.

The issue begins with Black Canary penning a letter to Justice League Human Resources.

The Ray decided to take a day off from being an adult and also a super hero to explore the underwater wreckage of a 1940s cruise ship. This brings up so many questions! How did he know it was there? Did he stumble upon it by accident? Is he exploring the Bermuda Triangle?

How does an 19 year old in 1994 know about The Poseidon Adventure?

Okay, that last question was unfair. I was barely twenty-three when this comic book came out and I'd watched The Poseidon Adventure at least a half-dozen times on local stations during rainy Sunday afternoons. But you also have to wonder, "If he's familiar with the movie, why is he comparing himself to Shelley Winters?!"

For a fad disaster movie of the time, I'm surprised how it was able to blow my mind. Sure, I was super young and everything was fucking blowing my mind every Goddamned day because the universe is a fucking LSD trip full of unexpected miracles (at least until you've pretty much seen them all five million times and you slowly sink into the mire of bored cynic (I wish I'd known enough in my youth to not sink slowly but to rage, rage against the dying of the wonder. Fucking stupid kid me)). But there's that moment in the movie where the protagonists are going toward the back of the ship and they pass by another group of passengers going the other way. And it's like, "Whoa. Holy shit. We could be watching their story! They could be the ones who survive! Why are they any less important than the people whose stories we're watching?!" It's a fucking great cinematic moment that not only ratchets up the tension by suggesting the protagonists might be heading the wrong way but also introduces the idea that the "protagonists" are only that because we're focused on them (and because some of them are the ones who will live, I suppose. But as an inexperienced kid, you're secure from the cynical understanding of narrative choices). If we root for our guys to be going the right way, does that mean we don't give a fuck that the other people are heading to their deaths? And why does the movie's point of view dictate to us who we care about living and dying? It's a lesson that stayed with me for a long fucking time (and one you'll see I apply occasionally when reviewing super hero comic books) and probably why I fell in love with the writings of Kurt Vonnegut. Because Vonnegut might have a "protagonist" but he's also constantly aware of the idea that the other people in the story aren't just window dressing. They're other people with stories of their own and they shouldn't be treated like just another prop. Again, it's one reason I almost always despise big action movies, especially natural disaster kinds. Because the plot always boils down to "a whole lot of fucking people are going to die on screen and it's going to be horrible but this person the camera is following will live so that will make it seem like a happy ending."

While exploring, The Ray is attacked by Death Masque. What?! But how?! Death Masque was only a computer program! What is going on?! So unexpected!

The Ray barely survives and then just chalks up the attack to some quirk in his program. He flies home to debug and to also think about how strange it is that Black Canary has yet to write him back. Cue a scene change to see what Black Canary thinks of his advances! Spoiler: it's the best part of the comic book so far.

Now I'm paranoid that every woman I've ever had an unrequited crush on has a note like this in her journal about me.

Hell, I'd be lucky if the women I've had crushes on noticed me enough to even mention me in their journal! Their entry would be more like, "Saw that creepy fucker staring at me in the library again. Fucking going to get a punch to the throat if he doesn't knock it the fuck off."

Black Canary's currently trying to save a young girl taken hostage by a terrorist. But when she goes into the building to save her, she discovers a portal to another world with laser-wielding demons and increased gravity. Being that she's just a martial artist with no real powers (even if the artist depicts her flying in one panel but I think that's a mistake, right? She could never fly (and, no, it's definitely not a depiction of her "flying" by using her sonic scream. I don't think she even has the sonic scream at this moment in her history), she fucks right off to get help (probably from The Ray, right?! Green Arrow won't be any use in this situation).

Back in wherever The Ray lives (Philadelphia, I think? Site of one of my all-time favorite books, The Boomer Bible (which I should reread again since, thematically, it couldn't be more relevant to our current political woes)), he's busy buying his fridge! Except this is only Issue #6 so you really didn't expect that plot point to be resolved so soon, right? Because it's not! Instead of buying the things he needs (being an adult and all), he buys a life-size Superman cardboard stand-up and a stereo system. Who needs a fridge anyway? I don't imaging there's anybody in America who buys a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream and saves some for later!

The Ray gets a message on his old school voice mail machine from Dinah and he instantly zips off to Seattle to help her. Is she taking advantage of his feelings toward her or does she actually think he's the best person to call in this situation? Maybe she didn't want to call Superman because he'd get all the credit. Or maybe he's dead. And Batman has a broken back. And Green Arrow, you know, uses a stupid bow.

Turns out Black Canary called in The Ray because he has light-based powers and she surmises he can open closed portals that have disappeared from reality. It turns out she's right because what kind of shitty narrative choice would Priest have made if she were wrong? The Ray arrives, can't open or find the portal, shrugs and then Black Canary breaks down crying because she didn't save Mercy. Oh wait. That's not a crappy narrative choice at all! The Ray could have comforted her and they would have bonded emotionally and Green Arrow would have walked in on them bonding and flipped the fuck out. Sure, Mercy would be dead, but who is Mercy anyway? Nobody I give a shit about! She should have thought about readers caring about her before she chose to be a background character.

The Ray turns into a raging Hulk version of himself as he passes through the portal, flying off and leaving Black Canary alone. Apparently Black Canary suffered some trauma recently in her comic book or Green Arrow where somebody pointed a gun at her and said, "I'm not afraid of you!" Now everybody keeps pointing guns at her and she imagines they aren't afraid of her. But she's super afraid all the time, even when she's being sexy.

This is a depiction of female masturbation, right?

The issue ends with the hostage taker pointing his gun at Black Canary and screaming, "I'm not afraid of you!" He's holding a young girl who is probably Mercy. And it appears younger me cared so little about Mercy's welfare that I decided I wasn't going to purchase the next issue.

The Ray #6 Rating: C. I'm vaguely disappointed that I don't have the next issue. While I'm not curious about what happens to Mercy, I do sort of want to see the final confrontation between Black Canary and The Ray where she tells him she loves him like a younger brother and he's never going to see her tits. Maybe younger me knew seeing that confrontation would be too emotional for him as he pined over somebody who probably just wished he'd leave her the fuck alone.

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