Kyle Higgins has more than proved his mettle when it comes to adapting the genre of Tokusatsu to the western printed page. With his solid run on BOOM! Studios’ Power Rangers line, as well as his recent bombastic and fun reinvention of Ultraman for Marvel, the man clearly knows the material he’s working with. In contrast, Radiant Black is Higgins working completely within his own ideas, no previous expectations of long-running beloved properties with dedicated fanbases to fall back on, and as far as I’m concerned, he’s already doing fantastic.
Building off the previous two issues that introduced our main character Nathan, his powers, and a bit of his world, this issue is all about his very real and very personal struggle with writer’s block — something that I’m sure you can guess was instantly relatable to lil’ ol’ me, and I suspect to many others as well. After the all-too-real tense conversation our hero had with his father in the first issue about his aspirations to be an author, I was already confident that Higgins was drawing from a very personal place. The struggles presented here, overthinking and second guessing every aspect of your own ideas and work are, quite frankly, frighteningly familiar.
Personal career relatibility aside, the book does an excellent job walking through the struggle. Every aspect of Nathan’s creative process, and the hurdles he’s met with, are laid out in such a way that anybody could understand how personal this all is to him. Plenty of people have experienced similar roadblocks in art, career or school work, so even if writing isn’t everybody’s personal mountain to climb, you’ll still relate to the agonizing crawl of wanting to just get something done when you just can’t find the proper way forward.
Though the world building and questions asked by the previous issues take a bit of a back seat here so we can get a better look at “Nathan the Writer”, we still get some good ol’ wholesome superhero interactions, which was nice to see. Nathan helping out the family by the side of the road with his powers, in spite his lack of expertise in their automotive troubles, was just a sweet moment, and made me wish we got things like this on the regular in modern superhero books. Often times, it’s nice to just take a step back from the big brawls and the angsty, emotional soap opera that comics can be (not that I don’t enjoy those when done well) and have some classic, down to Earth “cat in a tree” stuff instead. It’s a refreshing palette cleanser whenever it pops up.
We do get a bit of subtle hinting at things to come though, with Nathan’s dream sequence of an evil future self attacking him, and the sight of the strange alien text that’s permeated the book in the past issues making another appearance within. What this could mean for the future of the story, I can still only speculate on.
The art is also a strong suit, with Marcelo Costa doing great work. His style evokes the work of Ryan Ottley of Invincible fame, to the point I had to double check that Ottley himself wasn’t involved in any way. The character designs are solid and have a realistically proportioned, but semi-cartoonish style that I always love to see in comics. His background as a colorist is evident here, with some beautiful tones and shading that really sell the winter feel of the issue.
All in all, Radiant Black continues to be a book that’s got my interest piqued. Indie superhero stories are a dime a dozen, and it’s not easy to stand out in such a sea of talented creators putting their own spin on the genre. But what Higgins and Costa really manage to do is grab you, and make this world feel fresh and exciting. I can’t wait for more to come.
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