Radiant Black #14: The Heights

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Reading Brilliant black is an experience akin to leafing through my hero academia or Invincible for the first time. Each of these series captures a fun, kinetic style that doesn’t feel like it justifies itself or its influences. Scrolling through the previous 13 issues to catch up, the series reads incredibly well, thanks in large part to the acceptance of the sentai genre, as well as the plot sensibilities of mainstream superhero comics. There’s an honest love of the superhero genre, and every show wore it on its sleeves when it first aired. That sense of comfort with the genre and medium makes for a quick but enjoyable read, and it’s obvious that Image and the fans went all out with it. Brilliant black and his name, aptly nicknamed the massive verse.

Issue 14, written by Kyle Higgins with art by Marcelo Costa and Eduardo Ferigato, ink by Jonas Tindade, coloring by Igor Monti and Sabrina Del Grosso, and letters by Becca Carey, picks up straight from the previous one after Marshall went too far and down comes a two-bit villain, Accel. This sets off a chain reaction of wicked Youtubers (and crypto bros, the real bad guys) coming after Marshall and Radiant Black. Higgins’ script balances Marshall’s storyline with more hints of Nathan communicating with the Robot source of the Radiant’s powers. Compared to the first two arcs, which explicitly dealt with larger cosmic threats and enemies, it’s a nice break from focusing primarily on Earth and human villains. The choice to show these profiteering villains serves two interesting functions: serving as a foil to Marshall’s attempts to monetize the superhero life and deepening the world, especially its human side. If multiple spinoffs and upcoming events haven’t made it clear, the Massive-verse is here to stay, and laying the groundwork for these quieter issues is a smart move. It’s an honest lesson that not everything can be scaled to 11, or the number becomes meaningless, that mainstream comics should remember.

Sandwiched between fairly easy fights for Marshall against these streaming villains is a fairly rich emotional conflict. Nathan and Marshall are still out of sync, and it’s clear that Marshall is hurt at being replaced as a reward for bringing Nathan back from the dead. Marshall lets out a burst of pain, and honestly, it’s shocking but totally in line with his character. It’s a fundamental scene that reinforces why he was more brutal with these bad guys. Even after supposedly solving this problem with Nathan, Marshall resorts to even more gruesome methods to eliminate the remaining villains. The issue leaves Marshall in a place that shows he hasn’t internalized Nathan’s responses and sets up a potential dark road ahead of him.

Costa and Ferigato’s pencils are consistently excellent, and the issue has some standout pages, especially during the two fight scenes. The composition of the first fight, which resolves to a single page, is an effective way to show how far Marshall has come with his radiant powers. The kinetic ping pong on the panels is the perfect way to demonstrate this comfort. The quick resolution of the fight not only downplays the supervillains that appear at the moment, but also tells the story of Marshall’s short-term accomplishments. The second fight lasts a bit longer, but Marshall still maintains full control and doesn’t have to sweat to dispatch his enemies. Throughout fights, artists prevent Marshall from always standing on top of bad guys, hovering above them, or using low angles to make the hero appear taller and in control. It’s a great use of perspective that shows Marshall’s growth, but also showcases that emotional distance from the violence he inflicts.

The second fight in the book plays with the gravity-shifting effect and how it’s rendered by both Costa and Ferigato’s art and Monti and Del Grosso’s colors. 14 numbers, it never ceases to amaze how the team generates a fun and distinct way to see a superpower come true. Artists exhibited a range of gravity effects, from warehouse equipment falling like meteors onto one of the costumed villains to a man’s arms breaking as if they were twigs . In either case, the color enhances both actions, with yellow echoing the impact of the machinery, providing a violent clash against the blue of the background of the page. It’s crisp and visceral, like an explosion that goes off the moment the villain is crushed. In the other case, Marshall slaps the man’s arms with a simple blue tint of gravity manipulation, outlining the arms as the background is bathed in deep red. Staining shows the pain of the action through this red, indicating vermilion fundus pain. The panel manipulates the senses in a distinct and powerful way, heightening the violence without wallowing in blood and gore.

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