One of the things that has defined the Power Rangers since their inception is the team assembly. In every season, it isn’t too long before all the color-coded characters are standing in a single line and doing elaborate transformation sequences in perfect synchronization. Kyle Higgins and Marcelo Costa’s new comic Radiant Black cleverly reverses this formula by focusing on a single color-coded character: Nathan Burnett, a writer, stumbles across a mini black hole that turns him into the titular hero, complete with gravity powers. That simple change allowed for a more intimate focus that lent the book an easy charm, as Nathan tried to figure out what being a superhero even means while he struggles to write and adjust to living with his parents again in Chicago.
The first trio of issues had such a leisurely energy, it was enough to make you think the larger mythology involving a giant robot in Nathan’s dream and a bank-robbing nemesis, Radiant Red, would be a problem to be dealt with in gradual doses Then, issue four thrust the plot forward as hard as it could, with Nathan getting jumped by Red in a fight that leaves him nearly dead. Suddenly, Nathan’s buddy Marshall becomes the new Radiant Black.
Until this point, Marshall had fit nicely into the “best friend” archetype, and he hadn’t done anything to venture outside of that bubble. There wasn’t even anything to suggest he would be the new lead, which works in the book’s favor as it depicts him getting used to his sudden importance. Compared to the slapstick tone of Nathan vomiting inside his helmet when he first gained his powers, the grim seriousness with which Marshall’s initial panic attack is treated makes for a positive shift, and throws the story into a different gear when Marshall offers himself up as a soldier in a war he barely understands. He just wants to kill Red.
In that regard, the issue excels as the two colorful combatants blast and punch each other around the city. Costa does a great job of showing what makes them distinct—by taking influence from Dragon Ball Z, surprisingly. It’s hard not to think of the anime as Marshall gives himself a cape after exploding in a burst of light, and Red absorbs his costume to gain armor that resembles Hulkbuster. After earlier issues had Nathan on the defensive and unsure of himself, it’s a welcome change to see Marshall this determined, so that the brawl can ultimately and satisfactorily play out.
By the time Marshall has Red dead to rights, we get our first look at the pair behind the helmet before two other Radiants, in the form of Yellow and Pink, show up. There’s barely enough time to process this before all four are attacked, by an alien foe Nate and Marshall were previously warned about. As a way to end its first arc, Radiant Black perhaps goes too hard on the plot after letting the characters drive the action. But it’s still a fun ride that proudly stands on its own.