ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Radiant Black,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Radiant Black #1 - But Why Tho?

Radiant Black #1 is written by Kyle Higgins, illustrated and colored by Marcelo Costa, and lettered by Becca Carey, with Michael Busuttil serving as series editor and designer. It is published by Image Comics. Beleaguered by debt and struggling to make it as a writer, Nathan Burnett moves back to Illinois to live with his parents. While out drinking with his friend Marshall, Nathan discovers a miniature black hole that grants him cosmic powers and a superhero costume.

Image Comics is no stranger to the superhero genre. From Invincible to Crossover, several creators at the publisher have given their own take on the realm of capes and cowls. However, Radiant Black is possibly the first Image superhero title that I could personally relate to.

A large part of this is due to the premise that Higgins comes up with. Higgins has written several comics I’ve enjoyed, from a two year run on Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers to The Rise of Ultraman. With this comic, he employs several of the tokusatsu tropes from those books to the “not so secret origin” of Nathan—who reasonably freaks out when an event horizon gives him superpowers. More than that, Higgins gives Nathan the dreams and fears that a real person would have. He wants to be a writer, but struggles with self-doubt. He has a job in the gig economy as a rideshare driver-a profession many 30-year-olds have taken up. Higgins’ boldest choice is to open this comic not with a massive fight against a costumed supervillain, but with Nathan in the middle of a call about a possible loan.

Higgins also populates his book with a solid cast of supporting characters, including Nathan’s parents and Marshall. Marshall is the perfect foil to Nathan. He’s outgoing and willing to take risks where Nathan isn’t. Nathan’s mom dotes on him, while his dad feels a bit more stoic. The people in superheroes’ lives help give them an anchor to humanity: Spider-Man has Mary Jane Watson, Superman has Lois Lane, Batman has Alfred. It’s a tradition that I’m glad this story doesn’t break.

The other half of what makes this book work is Costa’s art. Costa’s designs feel like they were ripped from an animated series, especially in the way characters move and express emotion. A sequence in the opening has Nathan start to laugh in disbelief, then tears flow from his eyes as he breaks down sobbing. In the space of five panels, Costa makes the smoothest emotional transition I’ve seen in a comic.

Costa also designs an amazing superhero suit for Nathan. It is mostly white and black, with a chest symbol replicating a black hole (kudos to logo designer Rich Bloom for incorporating the symbol into the title). Adding to the tokusatsu elements, Nathan’s costume comes complete with a helmet and a transformation sequence. Costa also draws bluish-white energy leaping off Nathan’s body and surrounding objects when he uses his gravity-based powers.

Radiant Black #1 is a fresh, engaging, and immensely human take on the superhero genre. Fans of tokusatsu should read it. Superhero fans and nonsuperhero fans should read it. Anybody looking to get into comics should read it. Image Comics has impressed me before, but this comic is up there with Invincible and Saga as one of their greatest debuts.

Radiant Black #1 will go on sale on February 10, 2021 wherever comics are sold and is available to pre-order on Comixology using our affiliate link.

Radiant Black #1
5

TL;DR

Radiant Black #1 is a fresh, engaging, and immensely human take on the superhero genre. Fans of tokusatsu should read it. Superhero fans and nonsuperhero fans should read it. Anybody looking to get into comics should read it. Image Comics has impressed me before, but this comic is up there with Invincible and Saga as one of their greatest debuts.