Friday, November 27, 2020

Why I'm Excited for Radiant Black

I never - and I mean never - post about a comic until the week it comes out. This is a personal blog, not a news site, so I read solicits and press releases and maybe tweet about them, but that's it. So when I write an article about a comic over three months before it's in-store date - like that time last year I gushed about Finger Guns and how it sounded like a fake manga - you know I mean serious business. Everyone, we need to talk about Radiant Black. 

Radiant Black introduces Nathan Burnett who has just turned thirty. Things aren’t great: He’s working (and failing) at two jobs, his credit card debt is piling up, and his only move… is moving back home with his parents. But when Nathan discovers and unlocks the ethereal, cosmic RADIANT, he's given the power to radically change his fortunes! There’s just one problem: The powers don’t belong to him. And the COSMIC BEINGS who created them want them back… by any means necessary.

For the past few months, Kyle Higgins and a few comic bloggers have been dropping hints and teasing the Power Rangers writer's return to the genre with a creator-owned, tokusatsu-inspired superhero comic. After the occasional glimpse here and there, the project was finally revealed.

Radiant Black is written by Higgins and with artwork by Marcelo Costa (Self/Made) with letters by Becca Carey and design by Michael Busuttil and will be released in February 2021 by Image Comics. Higgins provided me with an early look at the first two issues. I didn't begin this with a disclaimer because this isn't going to be a review - there's so much more to talk about with this series than how good it is. (P.S. It is very good. Opinions are my own.)

When Shattered Grid - the Power Rangers 25th anniversary crossover event - began in March 2018, I had only been getting comics from a few publishers for a few weeks. And none of those publishers were BOOM! Studios. I bugged their PR people for what felt like ages so I could review their comics. So I could review Shattered Grid.

To this day, I consider Shattered Grid to be the best Power Rangers story ever told. Better than Countdown to Destruction. Better than the RPM premiere. Better than Reflection... Shut up, I like Reflection, it's my favorite non-comics Power Rangers story.

When Higgins left Power Rangers after Shattered Grid, I accepted change and looked to the future with optimism. I haven't enjoyed a Power Rangers comic since. They're not completely terrible, just not for me. Since I prefer to post positive reviews, I just focused my attention on something else.

I think I'd maybe heard of Invincible when my brother was big into collecting comics. I picked up a $0.25 "start here" issue once upon a Free Comic Book Day... but it was, ironically, not a good starting point. I picked it up earlier during this year when I suddenly had a lot of free time for no particular reason.

I read the whole thing in two weeks.

While I wasn't looking for something to fill the Higgins/Ranger hole in my heart, Invincible filled it and then some. The blend of a realistic, human teenaged superhero with big, cosmic-level comic book lore had me feel like I was going through Lord Drakkon all over again.

When Radiant Black was finally announced, my initial reaction was... well it's 2020, the most excited I've been was that time Doordash accidentally refunded me twice for an order that arrived perfectly fine. It looked cool and I figured I'd eventually read it. But, while depression has been one factor, a big part of why I haven't been blogging much this year was a sheer lack of interest in a lot of comics that should've been my jam. I just wasn't explicitly interested in Radiant Black. Yet.

When I read the endorsement by Invincible creator Robert Kirkman, where he compared the new series to his own superhero epic, I was more than interested. I was sold. Ever since finishing Invincible I have wanted something to fill that hole in my heart. For Kirkman to recommend Invincible like this, it felt like everything was coming full circle.

With the stamp of approval from the modern superhero master, my eyes were hooked on every Twitter account connected to Radiant Black. That's when I started to notice more and more just how different this series was going to be.

For one thing, the series employs a graphic designer which is something not enough indie comics do. Usually when I do reviews and articles of comics it is a nightmare to find good images. What I usually end up doing is cropping a cover, which aren't always designed to be cropped. Thanks to Michael Busuttil this series has dozens of blog-ready images, not to mention a kick-ass website, social media presence, and even some impressive credits pages.

With Power Rangers, Higgins had 25 years of lore to play with. Here, he and Costa had to create a from the ground up. There's an alien alphabet sprinkled across all design elements, and Higgins has even hinted at some kind of Heroes-esque ARG unfolding in the background. You guys know I love weird mysteries. Oh, and they even commissioned a theme song. I was having too much fun with this series before I'd even read a single page.

I can't tell you how many first issues I've read that had me saying, "This is gonna be huge," only to abruptly end within a year or two. Radiant Black is different. It's got an A+ team led by an all-star of the genre with support from the biggest creators out there. Radiant Black isn't going anywhere for a long time. Unlike those other series, this one really is invincible.