“Radiant Red” #1

By | March 11th, 2022
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

Are you ready for a puzzling spin-off? From the pages of “Radiant Black” comes “Radiant Red,” a series that holds as much promise as the original series, and is just as frustrating. The new series has a new protagonist, introduced in the parent comic, and a whole new creative team. There’s still time for “Radiant Red” to figure out its voice but so far, it’s mostly repeating mistakes of the past.

Cover by David Lafuente and Miquel Muerto
Written by Cherish Chen
Illustrated by David Lafuente
Colored by Miquel Muerto
Lettered by
Diego Sanches

Fan-favourite creative team CHERISH CHEN, DAVID LAFUENTE & MIQUEL MUERTO return for a FIVE-ISSUE MINISERIES telling the next unmissable story from the world of RADIANT BLACK!To her students, Satomi Shen is a diligent middle school teacher. To her fiancé and parents, she’s the rock of their family. To the world, she’s RADIANT RED, a criminal turned matter-absorbing superhero.But with a mysterious stranger in her classroom, a nosy reporter on her doorstep, and $2.5 million hidden in the air vents of her house, she’s going to have to decide who she is, and quickly—before the world chooses for her.
So if you need a quick refresh, here’s what these books are all about. “”Radiant Black” was marketed as a sort of modern American Super Sentai series, which magical color coded space ninjas battling evil. The series was created by Kyle Higgins and Marcelo Costa, both of whom were involved with the excellent “Self/Less.” In actuality though, “Radiant Black” was much more a slice-of-life story, focusing on a young struggling writer.
It’s not that the slice-of-life stuff was bad in “Radiant Black” per se, but it was curious to model a comic after a bright exciting genre and then focus on… not that. The best issue of “Radiant Black” was actually a prequel of sorts to this series, introducing Satomi Sone, an 8th grade teacher from Chicago who acquired a Sentai suit of her own. I was eager for a fresh perspective and a new creative team, to explore this world from a new angle. Well, I’m disappointed.
It’s baffling, but “Radiant Red” emulates the original series’ worst impulses. Despite the intriguing outer space set-up, most of this first issue is spent focusing on things like planning a vacation and talking to a reporter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m capable of enjoying more realistic fiction, but this ain’t it. Satomi’s introduction issue was so packed that it moved along at a nice clip. This #1 issue covers a lot of the same ground, but takes its time. There is no action, very little mystery, and flat drama. Satomi is still an interesting character, and her complicated relationship with her significant other has the makings of a good story, but those things didn’t really come across.I don’t want to beat up on Cherish Chen, who seems like a strong writer given a tough assignment. The dialogue reads nicely, though sometimes character voices can be a little same-y. A scene with Satomi and her sister takes care of a lot of exposition very economically, and you hardly notice you are being given a huge amount of information. Kyle Higgins is an accomplished editor and writer, and he’s got an incredible eye for talent. That talent occasionally comes across in “Radiant Red” #1, but even shining sentences work better in a well-paced story.

The bigger letdown is the artwork, with linework done by David Lafuente and colors by Miquel Muerto. Lafuente is a comic book legend, doing a prodigious amount of work since the early 2000s. Lafuente is known for his cover work, which often really works for me. But for whatever reason, “Radiant Red” is not up to his normal standards. A lot of panels feel sparse, like he was going to add details but ran out of time. Lafuente’s art style is pretty cartoony, which could work for a story inspired by a children’s television program, and occasionally you get a really dynamic panel that recalls the DC animated shows of the 90s. But that’s the exception, most of the comic is muddy and too hard to follow.

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That muddiness isn’t helped by Miquel Muerto’s color work. The colors are a little fuzzy, and in some places, intentionally bleed. This deadens the effect of the linework, which could have used a bit of a boost. Instead we get a lot of monochrome backgrounds and faceless people. It’s a shame because with the story as marginal as it is, some gorgeous artwork could have pushed this book to the next level.
So to recap: “Radiant Red” is a good idea. All the creators are capable of good work, but this isn’t them at their best. But there are some intriguing mysteries at play, especially around the creation of the Sentai suits, and what their purpose is. If this comic continues to be paced like the previous volume, we won’t be getting answers for a while. I was hoping that “Radiant Red” could give some energy to the whole line of “Radiant” books, but it seems more determined to repeat mistakes.

Final Verdict: 4.8 – A team of talented creators can’t put a shine on an exhausted premise.

Jaina Hill

Jaina is from New York. She currently lives in Ohio. Ask her, and she'll swear she's one of those people who loves both Star Wars and Star Trek equally. Say hi to her on twitter @Rambling_Moose!