Radiant Black #1, the new superhero saga from Kyle Higgins and Marcelo Costa, is trying so hard to deliver a bit of a grown-up MMPR comic… but did it need to?
Yes, Radiant Black #1 effectively poses the question so often asked in so many superhero comics, ‘What would happen if you suddenly got powers – what would you do?’
Despite it being a pretty well-executed comic on a number of levels, particularly with the art, which is light, open, stylish when it needs to be, there’s just too much wrong with Radiant Black for me.
And given the plot and the fact that Kyle Higgins used to write Power Rangers and has a great love from childhood for the characters … the concept is problematic to me as well.
Or to put it another way – do we really need an adult version of Power Rangers?
First though, a little of what’s going on…
That’s poor old Nathan Burnett. He’s just turned 30 and has absolutely failed to live the writer’s dream that he moved out to LA for. With thirty-eight grand in debt, he’s not managed to write even the first chapter of his book, and anyway, an agent’s initial interest about it was a good four years back. So, with Uber driving nowhere near paying the bills, he’s given up, admitted failure and moved back in with his mom and dad back in little old Lockport, Illinois.
At least mom, dad, and his best friend Marshall are happy to see him.
That’s the first eight pages of the comic – and they’re all very well done. You can empathise with the main character, his plight and position is shown, we understand what he’s going through. All of it works,
Later, on a boozy night out with Marshall, we get the ‘event’, with something appearing in the distance, getting closer and closer, crackling with power and energy. Nathan touches the shiny thing (as you do), gets powers and a super-suit, has a run-in with the cops – all just to show him exercising his new powers, and suddenly we’re at the end of the comic with the Radiant Black version of ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ speech. Unfortunately, this is less a rallying cry for this new super-type and more a bit of a whine about his life…
Like I say, there’s good stuff in here, it’s drawn nicely, and I did enjoy those first non-powered scenes which did everything they should in setting up the character of Nathan.
However, the rest of the comic just doesn’t do anything like what it should compared to what it does in the first eight pages. In comics, it should be so much about show don’t tell, where you find out all you need to know easily and simply in the natural flow of the storytelling. And you should never know more from reading the back cover blurb of the promo text that you can find out from actually reading the comic.
Case in point, Nathan touches the thingy and gets his powers, that’s all we have. Yet, from the PR, I know that that thingy is ‘the ethereal, cosmic RADIANT,’ gifting him powers that ‘don’t belong to him’ and ‘the COSMIC BEINGS who created them want them back… by any means necessary.’
There’s plenty of opportunity, plenty of space, to have more in here to show us the origins of the suit, to introduce the Cosmic Beings we’re told about. But because everything after that first eight pages in this first issue of Radiant Black was just done too slowly, there just isn’t the space left to do anything more than introduce the hero, show us his plight, and then give him the suit.
And finally, as for the whole question I asked at the start – do we really need an adult version of Power Rangers? – well, personally, I just don’t have any need to see a Power Rangers comic where the characters are proper grown-ups, with swearing, whining, money troubles, and the possibility that some might abuse the powers they’ve been gifted. Of course, for you that might be just fine. But really, given the wonderful world of superheroes and the incredible potential for stories, I was hoping for more than that. All I hope is that we’ll see more innovation in issue two onwards.
Radiant Black #1 – (Not So) Secret Origin. Written by Kyle Higgins, art by Marcelo Costa, letters by Becca Carey. Covers by Michael Cho; Marcelo Costa & Eduardo Ferigato; Marcelo Costa; David Finch, Jimmy Reyes & Marcelo Costa; Goni Montes.
Published by Image Comics, February 2021