Writer Kyle Higgins delivered one of the most thrilling Power Rangers events ever with "Shattered Grid," and many of those Ranger-centric themes are readily apparent in his new creator-owned series Radiant Black. While a love of superheroes, Rangers, and Tokusatsu, in general, are all inspirations, Radiant Black sets itself apart from the rest with one of the most relatable leads in comics. Though the circumstances might differ a bit, many will identify with Nathan's struggles with money, his career, and the self-doubt that can slowly creep in and stall your dreams, and those grounding and especially human elements are why the superhero payoff can't help but soar.
Higgins shares just how personal this story is to him in the book's final word, and frankly, it shows. There's an authenticity to Nathan's constant struggle with expectations, failure, and the opinions of others, one that would be hard to duplicate without coming from a very real and genuine place, and the same goes for the relationship between Nathan and Marshall.
If Nathan's relatability and struggles with doubt and fear are what give the comic its soul, Nathan's friendship with Marshall is what gives the story its heart. Again, their friendship rang true, and felt like I was watching playback of some past discussions during my own low points. The best friends know how to hit you in the gut and still be sympathetic, something Marshall almost has down, though he could use a bit more refinement in his delivery.
Their dynamic is what powers much of the issue, even when Nathan gets his fancy new suit and power set. While artist Marcelo Costa delivers a slickly styled suit, it's the human moments involving the suit that shine through. Marshall trying to calm Nathan down so he can figure out how his suit works is a perfect example, as is Marshall trying to figure out how Nathan can vomit through a helmet without a mouth hole.
These types of moments are what Radiant Black does so well, and at least for now, the powers and abilities are kind of an afterthought. That will obviously change in time (especially after that last page teaser), but if that approach gets me more honest moments, I'm very much okay with the current action to dialogue ratio.
This is no more evident than in one particular exchange towards the end, where Nathan rides the rollercoaster of emotions, moving from anger to regret and finally fear. There's so much honesty in that one page, and Costa's stellar expression work is a major reason why this sequence works so well.
From those final few pages I'm eager to see what Costa can do with a heavier dose of action to work with. The action here is fine, if not a tad bit underwhelming, but this issue is more about setting up the person in the suit and not what the suit can do. Once the stakes rise and Costa is able to let loose, Costa will surely be able to deliver some dazzling set pieces without an issue.
Radiant Black is at its heart a tale of someone at their lowest given an opportunity to change their story, with those beloved Ranger themes woven in and a depth that only something creator-owned allows. While the powers and the stylish suit will get all the attention, it's really the person behind the powers that steals the show, making Radiant Black one debut you should not miss.
Published by Image Comics
On February 10, 2021
Written by Kyle Higgins
Art by Marcelo Costa
Letters by Becca Carey
Cover by Michael Cho