Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artists: Eduardo Ferigato & Marcelo Costa
Colourist: Natalia Marques
Letterer: Becca Carey
Editor & Designer: Michael Busuttil
Radiant Black #4 ended on a surprising note, with the mantle of Radiant Black being passed from our protagonist Nathan to his closest friend Marshall. It was an unlikely turn of events, showcasing the hero Nathan had the potential to become if only he could survive a building falling on him following his fight with Radiant Red.
Sadly it’s at that immediate point that I can’t help but question where this series can possibly go now. Nathan was a relatable character, I’ve mentioned it in every review, and so have numerous other reviewers. It felt like his whole character arc was about telling the story that even if you aren’t where you want to be in life, things can still change for the better. Last issue left me feeling like that message was the furthest thing from the minds of the creative team, instead leaving behind the notion “don’t worry if you’re not where you want to be in life, there’s still time to die”. Perhaps I’m reading too far into it, but there’s a certain nihilistic undertone here that isn’t really addressed in this issue and that doesn’t sit right with me.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. This issue kicks off with Marshall desperately pleading for Nathan to still be alive, before flying into a fit of rage and deciding he’ll do whatever the Radiant asks, if he can just go and beat the hell out of Red first. There’s some interesting revelations in their confrontation and we get a bit of a look at the greater extent of both Black and Red’s powers. For what it’s worth their fight scene is suitably epic, and once again shows off Marcelo Costa’s skills in depicting action.
If you check my review for the issue #4 I told you straight that Radiant Red was going to be a woman to provide a convenient escape route for the insane gender imbalance up until this point. When we finally do get that reveal though, there’s some weird body morphing going on as she somehow transforms from the body she’s had for every issue so far into something more classically feminine. I’ll be honest it’s a pretty creepy choice to make, and one that makes me question at what point the creative team decided Red wasn’t going to be a guy.
In every review so far I’ve asked for more female characters and this issue does put in the effort to introduce some female characters to the story! It even names one of them! However the named character that’s introduced is Kathy, Nathan’s Godmother. I’ll be honest, this did annoy me quite a lot, Nathan’s actual mother was introduced in the very first issue of the series and still isn’t entitled to a first name, equally Radiant Red was introduced in the first issue, and is also not entitled to a name. Maybe I’m missing the point, maybe Kathy is more important than Nathan’s mother, hopefully we’ll find out more in the next issue.
Something else that’s bugging me is this: It’s been established over the last couple of issues that the Radiant can communicate with its host, and with that in mind why doesn’t it inform Marshall that, while briefly, Radiant Red helped Nathan hold up the collapsing building during their fight to help those inside get to safety, giving us a little hint that Red might not be all bad. Maybe I’m looking too far into it and the message here is that nothing would stand in the way of Marshall’s path of rage. Although I do think Marshall’s characterisation here is a bit messy, with him going from ‘out for revenge’ to jokey one liners in a matter of panels.
I’ve mentioned it a lot recently, I like character driven stories, and after initially being lulled into a false sense of security that’s not what I’m getting here. Kyle Higgins clearly wants to tell a Power Rangers story without the rules and confines of the usual canon, or the opinions of the established fanbase getting in the way, and that’s something I can understand, but I’ve always felt like the attention to each ranger as a character is what kept that fanbase around. If you remove that, what’s the hook?
There’s a good book hiding inside Radiant Black but ultimately the storytelling is too shallow for the narrative to ever truly reveal that. Each new issue shows that this is a series no less formulaic or uninspired than a lot of other superhero stories, and at this point I’m not sure why you would be reading Radiant Black over any of the alternatives; it’s initial sense of uniqueness has been crushed along with Nathan last issue. I don’t want you to come away from this review thinking that I’m bitter this series hasn’t delivered on everything I’ve been asking for lately, that really isn’t the case. I enjoyed the first couple of issues a lot and I can’t deny that I think the Radiant designs are great and immediately capture the imagination. I’m just disappointed, Nathan was relatable and it feels like a shame to have lost that for the sake of a twist. I also can’t stress enough that this series needs to start caring about its female characters.