I want to start this week with a question. Why do we love superheroes? I mean, really, why do we love them? What is it about men and women who dress in colorful, and let’s face it, wildly impractical outfits, that so enraptures us? Is it physical attraction? Do they fulfil a psychological need for control that we lack in our own lives? Deep down do we want to be like them? Deeper down do we think we actually could be like them?
What would you do if you suddenly had superpowers? Would you attempt to be a hero or a villain? If you woke up tomorrow to discover you had transformed into Superman overnight would you go out and try to be Superman, or would you instead turn into Homelander?
When I was younger, I dreamed of being a superhero. I wanted to be the Flash. Wally West was my first favorite superhero and I wanted to be as fast and cool as he was, which was a big ask for a kid who was usually dead last in every race he ran, and picked last for every team. Still, Wally, Barry, and the entire Flash family were my heroes, and to me were the epitome of what you should do with power. They were not driven by guilt like Batman, or shame like Spiderman. No, the Flash family was driven by a deep sense of right and wrong. They didn’t seek fame and glory, and yet were beloved in a way that really no other superheroes were in their world. Superman was worshipped like a god, but Flash, Flash was a true hero of the people and the people loved him for that.
As I got older, I still loved the Flash, but I also put away my childish dreams of wanting to be a superhero. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still occasionally think about what it would be like to have superpowers, but at the same time I’m glad we don’t live in a world where things like that actually exist. Superheroes are great in a comic, but in the real world they would be terrible and could cause untold destruction, even if they had the best of intentions.
Which brings us to today’s book, Radiant Black from Image comics, a story about an ordinary man given extraordinary powers, and the problems that would arise. Issue one hits shelves soon and so I think the time is right to dive into this book.
Here’s the blurb:
For fans of INVINCIBLE and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comes a brand-new ONGOING SERIES from acclaimed writer KYLE HIGGINS (Ultraman, C.O.W.L.) and artist MARCELO COSTA that reinvents superheroes for a new generation! Nathan Burnett has just turned thirty, and 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.
Before I talk about the story, I want to first talk about the design. The costume for our hero here is sleek, simple, and visually appealing. This is the kind of new hero costume other artists should be emulating.
When it comes to most superhero designs there is a real tendency to over-design, and it makes the characters look sloppy and ungainly. Radiant Black looks great. The look has a nice, streamlined appeal to it, and the art really pops in the book when he shows up. So right off the bat 10/10 for the design.
As for the story, well, it’s always hard to judge by just the first issue, but so far I like what I’m seeing. Our hero, Nathan Burnett, is a pretty regular guy. He’s buried by debt, forced to move back home, and well aware that most of his problems come from his own inability to actually put himself out there and apply himself like he should. He’s a failed author with virtually no work to show for himself, and so as issue one begins, he’s pretty much at his lowest point.
It’s here, at his lowest point, that he grabs ahold of a tiny black hole and gets a super suit which so far has been show to grant him flight, telekinesis, and super strength. And what does he decide to do with this power? Turn his life around, or course! And how is he planning on doing this? Well, yeah.
This is where I hope this book really digs into the premise of a regular, down on his luck guy trying to do something great, with extra emphasis on the “regular.” When I was little I wanted to be the Flash. As an adult I realize that there is no way anyone could actually survive powers like that, or use them without ever causing harm. What I hope we’ll see moving forward is the reality of that. I want this hero to struggle, to fail, and to now always be able to save the day. I want to see the power of Superman, and the pathos of Spider-Man, and I have high hopes Radiant Black will deliver on that premise.
Radiant Black is supposed to be an ongoing series, which means I hope it’s able to grow slowly but deliberately moving forward. I don’t want this hero to get good fast. I want to see Nathan struggle. Otherwise we’ll just be dealing with another CW series wannabe, but I have faith that Higgins won’t do that. This first issue was a slow burn to an exciting finish, and I want to see more pacing like that to keep that element of realism alive.
So check out Radiant Black and see for yourself if it lives up to the hype, and let me know what you thought about it in the comments. Until next time: Stay safe!