REVIEW: 'Radiant Black' #5 by Kyle Higgins, Marcelo Costa, Eduardo Ferigato, and Natalia Marques

 'Radiant Black' #5 marks the end of the first arc and has been the custom, there's no shortage of fireworks or surprising revelations. This is going to be a hot seller when it becomes available as a trade. You'll want to buy it again and for others. 


Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Marcelo Costa, Eduardo Ferigato, Natalia Marques
Letterer: Becca Carey
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: June 16, 2021
Cover Price: $3.99


The first arc of RADIANT BLACK ends here! Radiant Red is still out there. He needs to be stopped before anyone else gets hurt. But after the events of last issue left Lockport-and the world-reeling, is Radiant Black up to the task? And will he be in this fight alone?


★★★★1/2 (4.5/5)

I don't know how many comic book creators we'd allow to upend our expectations the way Kyle Higgins has but the list must be short. I mean we were invested in the very relatable dreams of aspiring writer Nathan Burnett. Frustrated, deep in debt, creatively paralyzed, he's forced to live with his parents after failing to become a published author. Serendipitously, he acquires superpowers from a strange alien energy force to the excitement of his best friend Marshall. Yet, despite this amazing opportunity to be a real-life superhero, Nathan still clings to his writing dreams. Higgins used issue three to show us Nathan's process as a writer even displaying a copy of an old draft. It was a risky move, deviating from the more action-packed superhero storyline, but Higgins was diving deep into Nathan's character development. Fine, I'll play along, and then what happens?

Higgins drops a building on Nathan in issue four!

What?! And then in Green Lantern-style, the super-suit's alien A.I. determines Marshall is now worthy of carrying on as Radiant Black with Nathan presumably dead. This leads us to issue five, the end of the first arc. Marshall and Nathan's family are reeling. Marshall, who was always more enthusiastic about the suit's heroic potential than Nathan, is hellbent on getting revenge on Radiant Red. The majority of the issue is about that confrontation and as usual, the action is superbly illustrated. This time most of the pages are drawn by Eduardo Ferigato while regular artist Marcelo Costa closes out the issue with Natalia Marques as the colorist. 

The cinematic, visceral experience conveyed in literal earth-shaking panels is a dazzling display for the eyes. Soaked in neon colors representing the two Radiants, the action is brutal and bombastic. The emergence of varying powers of each adds to the fireworks in an all-out heavyweight battle. This superior level of action has become 'Radiant Black's signature attraction unlike many superhero comics today. Becca Carey's lettering carries all the emotional weight from the sadness of Nathan's hospitalization to the sound effects of the bone-crushing fight. The surprise ending promises more of the same in the next arc. 

What doesn't get lost in a unique hero comic like this is the human toll of its characters. There is a grounded element like the writing ambitions of Nathan that make them relatable and empathetic. Marshall's number one concern is for his friend being pulled out of the rubble. He's visibly and naturally heartbroken and that pain carries over to anger. He may have inherited this superhero gift but it's secondary to the genuine anguish consuming me. Higgins reminds readers that there are limits to this superhero game and it's represented in an unheard move to kill your protagonist so early in a series. 

'Radiant Black' closes out its first arc in outstanding fashion. From heart-breaking lows to supercharged action highs, 'Radiant Black' has subverted superhero comics in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that prove that Higgins is either a genius or a madman. Maybe both. Yet, the series continues to be fun and exciting with some of the best action sequences you'll find in comics. The stage is set for even more great stories with an epic conclusion and a gigantic cliffhanger.