Volume 2 of Radiant Black begins with a massive fight between all the superpowered Radiants, following up on the cliffhanger ending from the first volume. If volume one was about exploring a new-age superhero identity, this volume is about the new superhero team.
If you skipped volume one, Radiant Black is part-Power Rangers, part-The Boys, twisted together with some great writing from Kyle Higgins (New 52’ Nightwing and Boom!’s launch of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers). The title started with Nathan, a down-on-his-luck millennial who moves back home with his parents while trying to become a writer. One day, he discovers the mini-black hole that empowers him to become Radiant Black. He is shortly hospitalized, and his kind of a jerk friend Marshall takes over the mantle.
Higgins is great at grand world building and interpersonal drama, which is what makes this book work so well. For example, the Radiants made up of Black, Yellow, Pink, and Red fight a glitching Radiant in the very first issue. This fight follows up on reveals from the end of volume one, so the villain is throwing around small reveals even while fighting. During all of this, Black/Marshall is confronting Red over the attack that landed Nathan in the hospital. It’s a manic opening issue that works because Higgins spent the first volume setting all these pieces in motion. In fact, this volume really shows why Radiant Black is going to stick around as it examines the tropes and expectations of a superhero comic much closer than the previous volume. Higgins knows what his audience expects, and even writes his own Marvel Cosmic-esque issue to lay out all these expectations.
Again, artist Marcelo Costa’s artwork draws comparisons to Ryan Ottley (Invincible, Nick Spencer’s Amazing Spider-man). But I find this lends a sense of familiarity to the comic that actually works in its favor when subverting the usual, such as teleporting away from a battle but then one of the Radiants taking a moment to throw up from motion sickness. Costa also has to basically find a way to have characters emote through their helmets, and the large use of colored Radiant eyes gets that point across. Again though, the team subverts these ideas by having Radiant Yellow have no eye lights to emote with, instead a single solitary line. For story purposes, this gives a reason to remove the helmets and see each other face to face.
If you were on the fence after the first volume, this one cements it as a recommendation for older teens and adults. Older teens will like that it explores adult themes through a superhero lens, and adults will like that as well but also appreciate the nostalgia factor of ’90s television. Again, Image rates this for older teens, or 16 and up. If your library collection does not have books for older teens in the teen graphic novels, I would place this among the Adult Graphic novels based on themes and content.
I can see why this series is up for a 2022 Eisner for Best New Series. The series has done so well that Higgins’ fellow Boom! Alum Ryan Parrott and issue 6 writer Cherish Chen have begun other series in what is now called the Massive-verse. If these titles perform well at your library, look for others like Radiant Red and Rogue Sun when they start releasing trades in the winter. This trade includes issues 7-12.
Radiant Black, Vol. 2
By Kyle Higgins
Art by Marcelo Costa
Publisher Age Rating: 16+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)