REVIEW: 'Radiant Black' #4 by Kyle Higgins, Marcelo Costa, and Rod Fernandes

Nathan decides to get serious about testing his powers. Marshall is ready to help him but feels he can do more. Will it be enough when Radiant Black's red counterpart attacks? Is Nathan up to the task? Are readers ready for issue four of 'Radiant Black'?


RADIANT BLACK #4

Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Marcello Costa, Rod Fernandes
Letterer: Becca Carey
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: May 19, 2021
Cover Price: $3.99

It was always going to come to this: Radiant Black vs Radiant Red in a knock-down drag-out fight across the city of Lockport! And believe us when we say that after this fight, nothing will ever be the same again. For Lockport or for Radiant Black. We actually mean it.

Score: 
★★★★1/2 (4.5/5)

If you've been following Image Comics' flagship superhero book 'Radiant Black' by Kyle Higgins and Marcelo Costa you'd know that Nathan Burnett is a struggling writer forced to live back with his parents after incurring huge debt as he chased his dreams of being a published author. Once back home he encounters an alien ball of energy that gifts him a slick black suit and superpowers. Awkwardly and hesitantly he started to get the hang of things but also became of the target of a rival, Radiant Red. 

Nathan's become a relatable protagonist who struggles with everyday life, reverting to the dreadful job of driving for a ride share company, fighting with his dad about his future plans, and the biggest obstacle in his life - writer's block. Superhero origin stories share this clumsy learning curve where the suddenly empowered person has to juggle learning his powers with his regular responsibilities. Peter Parker as Spider-Man is probably the most famous example of this and like that iconic hero, 'Radiant Black' has its funny moments leading up to battling its first villain. 

Higgins has injected a lot of grounded moments in the series coupled with some mysterious interactions between Nathan and a giant Daft Punk-type robot speaking a different language in his dreams. In an unprecedent move, Higgins devoted most of issue three to Nathan's writing process. Even including an old draft of his manuscript in the issue. Higgins isn't afraid to take some risks in his storytelling. He really wants us to know who Nathan is and yet, as the title of chapter four points out, "Everything Changes." It's not hyperbole it's a stone cold fact. 

Costa, I feel is like a caged beast, waiting to be unleashed. 'Radiant Black' features a lot of contemporary living, Nathan's room, walking around town, even the training in the snowy woods feels subdued and quaint. But when it comes to illustrating the other-worldly space of the Daft Punk robot it's a freaking light show, neon colors, and superimposed hieroglyphics. The fight scene that closes out issue four is a masterclass of comic book sequential art. The transitions have some anime-style framing and the panel designs are kinetic. The way the action burst through panels is an adrenaline boost. The colors pop as Radiant Black and Radiant Red go at it. Costa is at his best when things go crazy. 

'Radiant Black' refuses to be "just another superhero comic." Higgins is sitting in his underground bunker petting the kitten on his lap and laughing maniacally at how he's about to blow readers' minds with one of the most unexpected twists in comics. Issue four upends the series confirming that readers cannot sit still for a minute as Higgins and Costa are determined to subvert expectations and the way superhero stories are told. 


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