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Radiant Black frickin’ flexing with plasma power Image: David Finch, Jimmy Reyes, Marcelo Costa/Image Comics

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The Radiant Black universe is taking shape, and now’s the time to get in

A guide to Image Comics’ nascent superheroic sci-fi saga

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In 2015, Kyle Higgins helped BOOM! Studios launch a Power Rangers line of comics to great success. Three years later, following the sprawling Shattered Grid event, his time with the Rangers came to an end, but he still had some ideas on super sentai and superhero comics — and ones beyond other creators’ worlds. Rather than play in existing sandboxes, he wanted to build his own.

Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson eventually swooped in, texting Higgins to ask if he would do an all-new creator-owned superhero book for the publisher. Stephenson believed there was a market for it, while Higgins was skeptical. Enter: Radiant Black

Alongside editor/designer Michael Busuttil, artist Marcelo Costa, and letterer Becca Carey, a whole new superhero was born. Higgins and his team drew from their love for relatable everyman heroes like Spider-Man, while trying to update it for the 2020s, and a generation disillusioned by lies of a hollow future. Aesthetically, it would draw upon their collective love of Tokusatsu-heroes like Ultraman, Kamen Rider, and Super Sentai, building on the Power Rangers and Ultraman comics work Higgins had already done for BOOM! and Marvel. It would go onto become a smash-hit commercial success.

Having made its debut in early 2021, this February sees the title completing a full year of publishing. But the creatives behind this are just getting started. The second year of Radiant Black looks even bigger and better than the last, and more importantly, Higgins and Image have plans to expand beyond the keystone title.

There’s a whole new superhero universe in town, and this is just the beginning. Here’s what you need to know before diving in, complete with insight from the “Massive-verse” creators and a preview of the brand new Rogue Sun #1.

Meet The Radiant Heroes

Radiant Black

Radiant Black concept art Image: Marcelo Costa/Image Comics

Our central heroic figure. A touch of the mysterious cosmic energy source ‘The Radiant’ grants him his powers, with a symbol and a power-set evoking a Black Hole. The heroic role is divided between two best friends — Nathan and Marshall. Nathan is a struggling writer who moved back in with his parents in his hometown of Lockport, Chicago. Marshall is his childhood buddy. Together, as Radiant Black, they’ll go to hell or heaven for one another, and continue to build the local heroic legend of the stylish hero. From gravity manipulation to energy-blasts to super-modes with capes, Radiant Black has it all.

Radiant Red

Radiant Red from Image Comics Image: Marcelo Costa/Image Comics

A diligent middle-school teacher who is also an ex-super criminal in secret. Like all the other Radiants, she derives her powers from the mysterious Radiant which bonds with her. Satomi is an Asian-American woman in a very messy, complicated situation. Feeling like she had no other choice Satomi turned to using her Radiant powers of matter-absorption and manipulation to rob banks, putting her at odds with local hero Radiant Black, which is when things got even messier and more interesting.

Radiant Pink

Radiant Pink concept art Image: Marcelo Costa/Image Comics

A streamer who lives with her grandmother is suddenly blessed with the power of teleportation via her Radiant, allowing her to finally, truly, be free and be anywhere. Eva is the member of the super-crew who can take the whole gang anywhere, sometimes on purpose, and other times by total accident. Whether it’s Tokyo or a celestial war on the other side of the universe, Radiant Pink can go there in a single instant.

Radiant Yellow

Radiant Yellow concept art Image: Marcelo Costa/Image Comics

The rare elder superhero, Wendell is a true genius. However, like many a geniuses, he’s lonely, isolated from his family, without the recognition he deserved for his innovative ideas. He’s a true perfectionist, and he’s the cool, wiser mind and the experienced elder of the heroes. What are his powers? That’s a long-tail mystery being withheld for the moment.

Inferno Girl Red

Image: Mat Groom, Erica D’Urso, Igor Monti, Becca Carey

If all the Radiants thus far are full-on adult-heroes, in their 30s or older, then this is very much the universe’s young teen-hero. Cássia Costa is a teenager whose home of Apex City was stolen by an ancient cult and their army of demons. But luckily enough, a magical dragon bracelet rocketed into her life and affixed itself to her arm. Now, she’s the only one equipped to use it to save her home. The catch, however, is the bracelet is powered by belief, and our Inferno Girl Cássia is a pragmatic person who has none.

Rogue Sun

Image: Abel, Chris O’Halloran/Image Comics

Upon his estranged father’s death, Dylan Seigel learned that the man known as Marcus Bell was secretly New Orleans’ greatest superhero, the mysterious Rogue Sun. His father was tasked with guarding the world from all manner of supernatural forces, and that burden and legacy now falls upon Dylan, as a modern day Knight-In-Flames. He’s trying to solve the mystery of his father’s murder while coming to terms with a man he’s hated all his life.

Meet the Radiant Rogues

A world of heroes means you gotta have a world of antagonists for them to deal with, and more and more seem to be popping up each day, as the heroes rise in number.

Accel

Radiant Black Accel concept art Image: Marcelo Costa/Image Comics

Accel is the universe’s seemingly speed-powered threat, and he’s got plans. He also speaks to artist Marcel Costa’s overall vision for the costuming in the universe.

“Colors are very important for this — I wanted readers to try to understand each character just by looking at them. Like, ‘look at this Radiant wearing red; they look really badass.’ I believe the shape of the eyes is the most important part of conveying this message,” Costa tells Polygon. “We wanted a costume with personality, something unique, like Spider-Man or Invincible. I wanted something that felt modern and high tech, but also classic.”

Doppler

Doppler concept art from Radiant Blacck Image: Marcelo Costa/Image Comics

A bit of a legacy villain, drawing on the title and gear of an old 60’s super-figure, Doppler is an ex-musician whose tech lets her transform all sound into various other kinds of potent energies. She’s got a big loan to clear, and is someone who’s been abandoned by monstrous insurance companies.

Mecha

Mecha concept art from Image Comics Radiant Black Image: Marcelo Costa/Image Comics

The metal menace who’s been defeated by Radiant Black once already. But he won’t let that stop him.

Sheer

Sheer from Radiant Black Image: Marcelo Costa/Image Comics

A weapons master without mercy, he’s set to make big trouble in Year Two for Radiant Black.

Shift

Shift from Radiant Black Image: Marcelo Costa/Image Comics

A mysterious masked vigilante with a vendetta. Seen only briefly thus far, and set to be a much bigger player in Year Two of the series.

How to dive into Radiant Black’s comic Massive-verse

In 2022, Radiant Black is expanding from a single series to a planned slate of releases, and Image Comics has teased plenty of surprises as well. Here’s what the established/announced universe looks like in one-handy graphic.

The Radiant Black/Massive-verse comic book order and schedule Image: Image Comics

Now let’s dive into the books:

Radiant Black, volumes 1 and 2 (Now and March)

Radiant Black volume 1 cover
Radiant Black volume 2 cover Images: Marcelo Costa/Image Comics

The first two collections of Radiant Black are the groundwork for the entire Massive-verse. The action starts when a spaceship crashes on Earth, and various mysterious powers dubbed “The Radiants” escape and bond with various hosts. What starts with Radiant Black ends with a whole team of Radiant Heroes, as the universe expands ever outward. The first volume is out already, while the second volume arrives in March.

Supermassive (February)

Living up to its grand title, Supermassive is a gigantic 54-page one-shot. Poised as the universe’s first big “event,” the story is being kept under wraps and mired in mystery. What we do know is that Inferno Girl Red arrives to the world of Radiant Black and Rogue Sun to pursue ... something. And from that, a whole of cosmic action, secrets, and murder unfold, setting up a whole universe of mysteries and characters.

Rogue Sun (February)

Rogue Sun cover from Image Comics Image: Declan Shalvey/Image Comics

Bursting out of the events of Supermassive is the new series by Ryan Parrott, Abel, and Chris O’Halloran. In it we’ll see young Dylan deal with the death of his father Marcus Bell, secretly the legendary New Orleans superhero known as Rogue Sun. Described as a sprawling character-driven book about fathers and sons draped in superhero mythology, Rogue Sun will find a young man trying to unravel the legacy and truth about his own father — in other words, a big superhero murder mystery saga.

“Ryan’s writing has the kind of drama I really like to work with, and the voice he gives to each character makes sure that each one of them plays freely in my mind when I’m working on a scene,” Abel tells Polygon. “This is really powerful and it shows.”

An exclusive preview of Rogue Sun #1

Rogue Sun in action in Rogue Sun #1 Images: Ryan Parrott, Abel, Chris O’Halloran/Image Comics

“I was really excited to jump in on Rogue Sun and his world,” adds Chris O’Halloran. “I didn’t want to copy the look of another book or hero but try and do something that came naturally. I wanted to match the tone of the story with the colors and hopefully add a tiny extra layer to it. My main goal is to make Abel’s lines and Rogue Sun look cool as best I can.”

Unlike the more openly cosmic titles in the Massive-verse thus far, this one leans much more to the supernatural side, which is a big draw.

Radiant Red (March)

Radiant Red (March) cover Image: David Lafuente/Image Comics

The super-spinoff miniseries stars the rogue rival of Radiant Black. The excellent creative team of Cherish Chen and David Lafuente reunite for a Radiant Black one-shot focused on the ex-super criminal to explore Satomi Sone in even more depth.

Satomi is many things to many people, from the rock of her family to a beloved middle-school teacher. But she’s also Radiant Red. When strangers come knocking to unravel her delicate life, things are going to get real messy real fast. It’s a book about tough, messy choices–starring someone who’s made a number of them, and has gotten in a whole lot of trouble.

Inferno Girl Red (2022)

Inferno Girl Red cover Image: Erica D’Urso

Inferno Girl Red is the teen-superhero title of this shared universe, from the creative team of Mat Groom, Erica D’Urso, Igor Monti, and Becca Carey. It’s also the one project thus far that won’t just be standard single issues. It will instead come out as collected graphic novels, powered by an already completed Kickstarter. Based on the pitch, the series is a big coming of age-story about a cynical young girl who learning to have faith, for if she doesn’t, her whole way of life is over.

Groom, D’Urso, Monti, and Carey say they hope Inferno Girl Red delivers all the thrills of a Tokusatsu action-story with the intrigue of British Boarding School fiction. It’s the closest to classic Power Rangers in that sense — teens with attitude having to come to terms with power and save what means most to them. The book doesn’t have a fixed date, due to the world’s current paper-shortages and supply chain issues, but it’s marked for later in 2022.

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