In his 30s and in debt, Nathan Burnett’s aimless life has been forever changed by discovering a mini black hole that grants him superpowers. But in this second issue, he has to contend with his powers, money problems, and family pressures.
Firstly, let’s talk about the art, because that’s a significant barrier for the series to achieve its full potential. Admittedly, Marcelo Costa does dynamic, energetic work with the action scenes. Imbuing the heroes with crackling energy and rippling muscles, the pages are so exciting with dynamic character poses and eye-pleasing compositions that flow — you’d think another artist was dropped in.
Unfortunately, the majority of this comic deals with Nathan’s more domestic problems, and those are rendered in an often stagnant way. Compositions are often at eye-level, lack inspired if any background details, and characters are stiff and lack appropriate rendering.
However, the color work is a highlight. There are some beautiful touches, like magic hour sunlight reflecting through trees, shimmering on a house, or blue police lights shining like a beacon on dismal streets. Overall, the art is a mixed bag despite being from the same artist and that’s a significant problem for immersion.
Story wise, Kyle Higgins spends perhaps too much time on domestic problems of Nathan’s (a problem also very evident in the first issue). Granted, if the dialogue and conflict was realistic and/or intense and gripping, the domestic focus being primary would be welcomed. There’s definitely Ditko/Lee Amazing Spider-Man vibes through this. Sadly, the dialogue is too on-the-nose and stretched out to sustain the beginning of #2.
A key plot point involves two cops confronting Nathan about his superpowers. They end up asking him if he’d consider helping out the community with his powers. First of all, it seems like they should be a little more concerned, and secondly — is it socially acceptable that police officers of all people would be the voice of reason in regards to justice?
But just like the art, for every problem in the story department, there are upsides. Nathan has to recover a bag of money, and wordlessly, across an entire page, we see his face reveal the conflict within him regarding whether he should return it or not.
Also, there’s a lot of story packed in this issue, which isn’t a bad thing. There’s a host of side characters that Nathan bounces off of who propel the story and our protagonist forward. It makes for a nicely developed world that’s believable and ripe with potential for plot and character trajectories.
Radiant Black is most alive when it’s reveling in energy-soaked action and wordlessly conveying emotion. Unfortunately, most of the issue bluntly hammers its points across in flat ways in both story and art. But there are enough bright spots to keep Radiant Black from being a lost cause.
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