Radiant Red Vol. 1Radiant Red Vol. 1

Writer: Cherish Chen
Artist: David Lafuente
Colorist: Miquel Muerto
Letterer: Diego Sanches
Publisher: Image Comics

There is certainly no shortage of superhero titles on comic book shelves. Because of this, it’s crucial that any new superhero book do something to stand out, and that’s exactly what the Massive-Verse line of comics published by Image has done. Starting with Radiant Black, there are now a handful of titles in this expanding superhero universe. Radiant Red had its first trade paperback volume released recently — Radiant Red Vol. 1 — and it kicks all kinds of ass while also telling a poignant story.

The first volume collects Radiant Red #1-5 as well as Radiant Black #1, which serves as a prologue/origin story for the titular character. The Radiant Black issue is penned by Kyle Higgins while the five Radiant Red issues are written by Cherish Chen. David Lafuente handles the art and Miquel Muerto tackles the colors for all the issues while Diego Sanches handles the letters for the Red issues (Becca Carey lettered the Black issue). It’s a stellar creative team that is clearly firing on all cylinders for the entirety of the volume. The prologue issue gets readers introduced to the main character and her immediate supporting cast. The basics are that Satomi Sone is an 8th grade literature teacher with a loving fiancé, Owen.

Though the two clearly care for each other, Owen has a severe gambling problem that has plagued their lives. When Satomi finds the power to turn her into Radiant Red, she takes things into her own hands by robbing banks. From here, things get more complicated and escalate to wild heights. Chen does a phenomenal job of escalating the story in a natural way. Though there’s an otherworldly alien presence and superpowers involved, everything feels really grounded. The character drama is always the most important part, and Satomi is always the strongest character on the page.

That strength isn’t always in raw power, though she does have some awesome moments of action throughout the volume, but in clear character motivation and emotional relatability. She’s a character that readers will instantly connect with and want to see succeed. The relationship between Satomi and Owen is the biggest conflict in the series and it leads to some heartwrenching scenes. Relationship drama can become tiring easily. “Will they won’t they” drama is extremely played out, luckily, that’s not the kind of drama that’s on display here. The problems Satomi and Owen face feel genuine, even if they’re heightened by the superheroic nature of these comics.

That superhero element is also a big draw for this book. The Radiants feel like Power Rangers with a twist, and it works wonders. The tone of the book is also mature, while not quite reaching the level of something like Invincible. It’s like a mature PG-13 movie that uses its one allotted f-bomb in key moments. When the book focuses on the power punches it’s really a sight to behold. Satomi’s powers are based on matter absorption and redistribution and they’re used in some really cool ways. Not only that but seeing people with superpowers punch each other through buildings will just never get old.

Lafuente’s art and Muerto’s colors fit the tone of the series perfectly and work together seamlessly. The art is full of personality and the colors pop off the page. Character expressions are nailed time and time again, selling points of comedic effect and intense drama. It’s impressive how much visual real estate is fit into some pages without feeling claustrophobic. There are just a ton of jaw-dropping moments throughout this series that this artistic duo knocks out of the park. Panel layouts stay varied and engaging, never letting the book feel repetitive.

This series is also wonderful for binge-reading. It’s a breeze to read in one sitting and is something that begs readers to read all that’s available. The story builds its stakes in intelligent ways and weaves into the larger story of the Massive-Verse without feeling like a tie-in series. It stands on its own two feet but definitely feels like a part of something bigger. It’s a fine balance to maintain but it does so deftly.

Radiant Red Vol. 1 is also brilliantly self-aware. There are a ton of superhero tropes that readers are familiar with at this point, and this book pokes fun at them in just the right ways. Some elements are laughed at, while others are embraced with the perfect amount of understanding. “Yes, this is that type of book” is a vibe readers will get on numerous occasions while reading, and it just works.

If someone is looking for a hot new superhero title to read, they really can’t go wrong with Radiant Red Vol. 1. It’s full of heart, humor, and bombastic action. Satomi is an instantly compelling character and her problems offer a fresh angle on the standard problem of juggling a superhero’s secret identity. With Radiant Red, Chen and the rest of the creative team deliver a pulse-pounding and earnest superhero comic that rivals any it will find itself next to on stands.

Verdict: BUY

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