Before we get into reviewing this year’s Super-Massive, we at Stately Beat Manor thought it might be worth taking some time to explain exactly what the Massive-Verse is and how it got its start. Recapping a multi-year saga will inevitably lead to a few spoilers, so if you have any desire to be surprised by any of these elements, feel free to skip to the end!
The State of the Massive-Verse
By Cy Beltran
The Massive-Verse kicked off with the launch of Radiant Black in 2020, from writer Kyle Higgins, artist Marcelo Costa, letterer Becca Carey, designer Rich Bloom, and editor Michael Busuttil. The core of the series revolves around writer Nathan Burnett and his best friend Marshall [no last name] in their hometown of Lockport, Illinois, and their struggles balancing life and superpowers.
Initially, Nathan becomes Radiant Black after touching a floating black hole, and gains the powers of gravity manipulation. He decides to use these powers for good, but after a run in with Radiant Red (a woman named Sotomi Sone, who has acquired absorption powers from a similar black hole), Nathan is knocked into a coma…and Marshall takes over as the new Radiant Black.
The series takes off from there, with the introduction of Radiants Pink (Eva, portals) and Yellow (Wendell George, precognition), a whirlwind adventure around the world, and a cosmic trip of an issue, where Marshall dives into an other dimensional plane known as ‘The Existence’ to pull Nathan out of his coma. Along the way, Marshall and Nathan receive mysterious visions of an enormous robot, who begins to hint toward a much larger world they are a part of, and the duo begins to realize they’ll have to share the power of the Radiant in order to keep it.
As the success of the series continued to skyrocket, Higgins was given the greenlight to expand upon the world of the Radiants, and teamed up with Ryan Parrott, Mat Groom, and Francesco Manna (fellow creators from his enormously popular BOOM! MMPR days) to debut Supermassive #1, an oversized one-shot establishing the official launch of the Massive-Verse. The issue introduces Inferno Girl Red (Cássia Costa), Rogue Sun (Marcus Bell), and Dead Lucky (Bibiana Lopez-Yang), all separately heroes in their own right, and, along with an obligatory team-up, showcases a vision of what’s to come in this newly unveiled shared universe.
Now, things kind of explode from here, so here’s a brief rundown of every Massive-Verse title thus far:
- Radiant Red (mini) – Checks in on Sotomi Sone, as she grapples with her sense of right and wrong and the pressure from those around her to use her powers for their own nefarious purposes.
- The Dead Lucky (mini) – Follows up on Bibi Lopez-Yang, a heavily scarred veteran struggling with PTSD, who has the power to manipulate electrical impulses, who, quite literally, has to deal with the ghosts of her past. Set in San Francisco, this mini establishes the presence of Morrow, an enormous tech company with plans to install their own private security forces across the city and the US.
- Inferno Girl Red (Mini) – Cássia Costa is from another dimension, one where, in the not too distant past, she was just an everyday college freshman, entering her first day on campus. However, after her city is ripped out of the earth itself, Cássia receives the power of Inferno Girl Red, and is tasked with stopping the malevolent force hellbent on destroying her and her home.
- Rogue Sun (Ongoing) – Though we were introduced to Marcus Bell, he is immediately killed off and replaced by his estranged son, Dylan Siegel, who gains the power of the Rogue Sun, wielding flight, super strength, energy manipulation, and the ability to summon a massive sword. Taking place in New Orleans, Dylan faces off against an enormous rogue’s gallery and fights against his father’s legacy.
- Radiant Pink (mini) – Eva, a streamer, works to balance her complicated personal life and her new life as a superhero, with a key focus on the strain these powers can have on one’s mental health… especially in the face of complicated interdimensional hijinks.
- No/One (mini) – Described as a true crime superhero drama, No/One is set in Pittsburgh, and follows a city in turmoil after a string of grisly murders. This series only has three issues out so far, and there’s no telling where it’ll go next. The title also comes with a companion podcast featuring Rachel Leigh Cook and Patton Oswalt.
- C.O.W.L. (maxi) – A Higgins series grandfathered into the Massive-Verse, this title follows the Chicago Organized Workers League, a superhero union dedicated to stand against a brotherhood of supervillains, as well as improve their image to the public. The series has appeared numerous times as a favorite movie of the Radiant Black duo.
Outside of this deluge of titles (many of which feature brief backups as well), the Massive-Verse has stretched into merch, an animated short, social media campaigns, and more, in an unprecedented takeover of a superhero space commanded by the Big Two.
Each of these titles are unique, though they all share a lot of heart and tend to take their time with character interactions, fleshing them out in with an amount of space that honestly feels a bit rare in modern capes comics. Though these are, ostensibly, superhero stories, there is a ton of variety, with stories ranging from fantasy to dystopic to noir and beyond, along with plenty of room for further exploration.
NOW, with all of that context out of the way, onto…
Written by Kyle Higgins, Ryan Parrott, Melissa Flores, and Mat Groom
Illustrated by Daniele Di Nicuolo
Colored by Walter Baiamonte
Lettered by Becca Carey
Production Artist – Rich Fowlks
Designed & Edited by Michael Busuttil
Published by Image Comics – Black Market Narrative
The most recent arc of Radiant Black featured the build up to an invasion from the forces that created the Radiants, ending with an insane trip in the Existence, and a question to readers: should Marshall or Nathan keep the Radiant (vote here!)?
Now we get the kick-off to the first event in the Massive-Verse… the Catalyst War. Or so I thought, until this issue took a complete curveball and started with a challenge to Rogue Sun to find the Holy Grail. The way the writers bring much of the Massive-Verse into this story is pretty impressive, giving Dead Lucky, the Radiants Black, and Rogue Sun strong reasoning for linking up with one another.
The manga influence in Di Nicuolo’s art is strong, and keeps the issue moving and fresh from panel to panel. There’s a great sense of movement, along with characters that feel as if they’re constantly mid-action at all times. Baiamonte’s colors keep the book bright and fun, even in some rather dark moments for our protagonists.
Something I didn’t really get into in the recap was how versatile Becca Carey is as a letterer. She’s handling duties on nearly every title in the Massive-Verse (including this one), and she manages to deftly switch styles from character to character between series and within them. Carey makes some really fantastic choices here, creating fresh new styles just in this issue that perfectly fit the story.
It’s not clear who wrote which portions of the issue, but the scripting throughout is both casual and dramatic, balancing the light with the foreboding in the best possible ways. The voices, as with every issue in this universe, have been tremendously strong, and it’s been great to jump from story to story and see that consistency. There’s a brief cameo by Inferno Girl Red that sets up some fascinating questions for her future, and it’s going to be great to see her return… whenever that may be.
All of that said, this is just a fun one-off treasure hunt set in the Massive-Verse. There are stakes that directly affect each of these characters moving forward, but the majority of this is just a neat lil adventure story. There’s a shocking cameo in a post-credits scene at the end that I will not spoil here, but it raises a ton of interesting questions
Verdict: BUY – whether you’re invested in the Massive-Verse or not, this is just a solid read.
Vampirella vs. The Superpowers #1
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Pasquale Qualano
Colorist: Ellie Wright
Letterer: Jeff Eckleberry
Few crossovers of the Dynamite titles have been on my miniseries pull list. Many like Vampirella vs. ReAnimator, Dark Shadows/Vampirella, Aliens/Vampirella, Vampirella/Dejah Thoris, and even Vampirella/Red Sonja weren’t team-ups that drew me in. All feature good characters from fine source material, but Vampi alongside them just didn’t generate a flint-and-steel spark.
That changed with this week’s release of Vampirella vs. The Superpowers #1. Mostly it’s because the standalone public domain superhero issues Dynamite’s put out recently have been high quality entertainment, a trend continuing in this premiere issue. Our alien vampire also comes off as a perfect contrast of supernatural sass and superhero skepticism.
In the Dan Abnett-scripted story, the interdimensional superhero group known as the Project is working to help a parallel Earth where powered individuals, natural and created, were reasons for their First and Second World Wars. There it’s 1948, and in the aftermath of those conflicts, elixirs are being developed and sold illegally. Customers include veterans who were powered soldiers during the war, now suffering withdrawal, along with vigilantes and criminals who crave power at any cost. Demand is high and keeps the black market booming.
Combine this epidemic with a Cold War spurred on not by a nuclear arms race but a metahuman one, and it’s an alternate reality which may not live to see 1949. Superhero members of the Project have gated over from their reality offering assistance to this world’s leaders, citing experiences with the advent of superpowers in their own world. One of the most influential politicians of the Projection 1948 reality, however, is convinced that only an Elixir Prohibition passed into law and strictly enforced will provide a lasting solution.
As an ally of the Project, Vampirella is also on P-1948, working undercover. Posing as a tavern owner and torch singer, the Daughter of Drakulon makes connections within the elixir trade so Project heroes can shut it down. But will even her vampiric powers prevail as a global superhuman Cold War heats up?
Abnett is experienced dealing with super-groups (Guardians of the Galaxy, Legion of Super-Heroes) and the familiarity shows in issue #1. With a naturally evolving narrative style and a few file entries regarding the history of P-1948 as well as the Project itself, Abnett sets up the situation, the supers, and the setting effectively.
Artist Pasquale Qualano has a style suited for the post-war era. His fashions fit the time period while crafting the distinctive charm of G-men in sensible suits displaying superhuman powers. Colorist Ellie Wright bestows balance on the hues of the book, traversing upbeat, semi-colorful skies and shaded, murkier noir-ways.
If you’ve enjoyed the Golden Age heroes and stories the Project titles have featured, Vampirella vs. The Superpowers #1 is a must-buy. If you enjoyed Abnett’s previous Vampirella: The Dark Powers series, this offers a worthy continuation of its premise. And if it’s your first foray into this kind of Dynamite crossover, there’s enough backstory to make the introduction enjoyable without having read previous installments.
More Wednesday Comics Reviews
- The Forged #3 (Image Comics): This week sees The Forged conclude it’s first story arc in over-the-top, action-packed pulpy sci-fi fashion — and it’s absolutely great. There’s been plenty of mech-fight activity so far, but this issue still really upped the ante. Artist Mike Henderson is just doing outstanding work on this one, colored to perfection by Nolan Woodard. Henderson is one of those artists whose style is cartoony in the exact right way that it just elevates comics concepts, and this book with its deep space haunting mech-heavy storyline is a fantastic concept to start with. I also liked how this series to date has been published in three oversized issues without sacrificing any pacing, as is sometimes the case with large format periodicals. Just great work all around, and you should have the trade of this one on your radar if you’ve missed it in singles. This book is written by Greg Rucka and Eric Trautman, with letters by Ariana Maher. —Zack Quaintance
- Harrower #4 (BOOM! Studios): This new golden age of horror comics has really been a fun thing to follow as it unfolds. There’s just so much variety in the monthly horror comics being made right now, from mythology-heavy ancient evil stories to modern life anthologies like Ice Cream Man to I don’t know what all else. There are a lot of horror books, but I think the teen slasher genre has been a bit underrepresented in comics. Harrower, which concludes with its fourth issue this week, changes that. It’s a teen slasher through and through, done well and done right, with an interesting concept that I could see lending itself to more minseries in the future, which is always fun. The creative team for this one is writer Justin Jordan, artist Brahm Revel, and letterer Pat Brosseau. —Zack Quaintance
Read more entries in the Wednesday Comics reviews series!