The Massive-Verse is a shared Superhero universe, first seen in 2021 with the launch of Radiant Black. It is primarily published through Image Comics.
Coming off the back of licensed comics for Toku franchises Power Rangers and Ultraman, Kyle Higgins launched Radiant Black with artist Marcelo Costa in 2021. They took the everyman superhero approach and applied it to characters who were well into adulthood and who had less than glamorous lives and wrestled with what could be considered more mundane problems, like stalled careers and the struggles of gambling addiction. Some of the backmatter for Radiant Black advertised something called Inferno Girl Red, which would later be revealed to be a Kickstarter project by Higgins’ colleague and fellow Power Rangers writer Mat Groom, with pencils by Erica D’Urso. The two writers teased a connection between the two series, but would not say what it was.
Then, in late 2021, the Supermassive special was announced, and revealed that Radiant Black was only the first part of a shared universe. Helmed by Kyle Higgins, Mat Groom and Ryan Parrott, all of whom had worked on Boom! Studios’ well-regarded Power Rangers comics, the universe is the first new shared superhero universe to come out of Image since its earliest days.
In order of release, comics set in the Massive-Verse include:
- C.O.W.L. — A series about a superhero union published May 2014 to July 2015 but retroactively made part of the Massive-Verse.
- Radiant Black — The first title in the Massive-Verse. Nathan Burnett is a down on his luck writer moving back to his hometown, and while lamenting his situation with childhood friend Marshall, is suddenly bestowed with superpowers. What seems like a gift is followed by chaos, as other “Radiants” appear, and the origin of the Radiant powers puts Earth in danger. Written by Kyle Higgins with art by Marcelo Costa. Began in February 2021.
- Supermassive — A special that formally launches the shared universe. Radiant Black appears, and the one-shot also features the debuts of Rogue Sun and Inferno Girl Red in a team-up. Written by Kyle Higgins, Ryan Parrott and Mat Groom, with art by Francesco Manna. One-shot, released in February 2022.
- Rogue Sun — After the murder of the superhero Rogue Sun, his estranged son, Dylan Siegel, learns who his father was. On his quest to solve his father’s murder, Dylan is forced to confront his feelings on the man he grew up hating. Written by Ryan Parrott, art by ABEL. Began in March 2022note .
- Radiant Red — The first spinoff in the Massive-Verse. After her run-ins with Radiant Black, Satomi Sone returns to her life as a middle school teacher. However, her already fragile life is thrown for a loop when a nosy reporter shows up, not helped by the $2.5 million in stolen cash she has hidden in her air vents. Written by Cherish Chen, with art by David Lafuente and Miquel Muerto. Five-issue miniseries, began in March 2022.
- "Shift" — A story published in the first four issues of the Image! Anthology Comic, featuring the origin of the eponymous villain, who had previously appeared in Radiant Black and Radiant Red. Written by Kyle Higgins, with art by Francesco Manna and Danilo Beyruth. Began in April 2022.
- The Dead Lucky — Bibiana Lopez-Yang returned from Afghanistan with PTSD and the ability to control electric currents. In her home of San Francisco, tech consortium Morrow is building "peacekeeper" robots, and Bibiana is forced to step up to be the hero her city needs. Written by Melissa Flores with art by French Carlomagno and Mattia Iacono. Began in August 2022.
- Inferno Girl Red — When Apex City is stolen by an army of demons, Cássia Costa is forced to discover her legacy for the sake of her home. Written by Mat Groom, with art by Erica D’Urso. Funded through Kickstarter, and notably the only instalment not primarily published through Image Comics. Kickstarter original graphic novel released in November 2022, later published by Image Comics as a three-issue miniseries, which began in January 2023.
- Radiant Pink — Radiant Pink tries to get home, along with her girlfriend, Kelly. Written by Melissa Flores and Meghan Camarena, art by Emma Kubert. Five-issue miniseries, began in December 2022.
- NO/ONE — Nine months ago, the Richard Roe murders sparked a dangerous political movement, spawned copycat killers, and created a new hero determined to hold those in power accountable — NO/ONE. Written by Kyle Higgins and Brian Buccellato, art by Geraldo Borges. 10-issue miniseries, began in March 2023.
- Supermassive (2023) — The first (Nathan) and second (Marshall) Radiant Black team-up with the new Rogue Sun (Dylan) and newly public superhero Dead Lucky (Bibi). One-shot scheduled for May 2023.
- Versus | Radiant Black vs. Blaze — An animated short featuring a fight between Radiant Black (Marshall) and Blaze, first mentioned in Radiant Black #15. Released on Youtube in June 2022. Found here.
- Who Is No/One — A monthly companion podcast to NO/ONE with Rachael Leigh Cook and Patton Oswalt as Pittsburgh Ledger reporters Julia Paige and Teddy Barstow. Began in March 2023 alongside NO/ONE.
The Massive-Verse provides examples of:
- Anti-Villain: Very rarely is a prominent superpowered villain presented as outright evil. They’re usually people put into crappy situations trying to do their best.
- Radiant Red struggles with her partner’s gambling addiction and started robbing banks to pay off his gambling debts.
- Doppler only wants to be able to play music again after an accident left her with tremors. Her equipment is the only way to stop her tremors, and she can only use it so long as she pays Shift's gang, and she needs to be near a radiant to charge it to begin with.
- Gwen Siegel only wants to protect her son from his negligent and Jerkass father's influence, and when said father wouldn't leave them alone, she killed him.
- The Salvation Gang is also apparently a direct response to the over policing of the Morrow company, at least according to one character.
- Author Appeal: Kyle Higgins, Ryan Parrott and Mat Groom have all worked and collaborated on Power Rangers comics (and in the case of Higgins and Groom, both have worked on Marvel's Ultraman comics). This has influenced the Massive-Verse, in particular the designs of most of the characters (Rogue Sun is the only exception, being more knight-themed and instead drawing inspiration from superheroes Parrott was a fan of like Ghost Rider and Darkhawk). The Sentai influence in particular is obvious with the Radiants and Inferno Girl Red and her allies.
- Been There, Shaped History: Mourningstar is an otherworldly demon responsible for every single magical creature and myth in the main universe, having offered power to people throughout time. The Devil is specifically named after him.
- By the Power of Grayskull!: Inferno Girl Red needs to shout "Inferno ignite!" while doing a hand sign over her bracelet, while the Rogue Suns yell their own name while holding the Sun Stone.
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience:
- The Radiants all wear extremely similar costumes, so they’re colour-coded so we can tell them apart, and have their colours as part of their names.
- In a Flash Forward, we see that Inferno Girl Red is eventually joined by two allies. Since everyone is glowing energy, we can tell because one is green and one is blue.
- Colourful Theme Naming: The Radiants and Inferno Girl Red have colours in their names.
- Daddy Issues: A common trend is characters having complicated relationships with or views of their dads.
- Nathan Burnett seems particularly worried about what his dad thinks of him. His dad believes in hard work and paying your dues, and so Nathan feels he condescends to him in regards to not being able to make it in Hollywood.
- Marshall's dad left him when he was a kid and was abusive before that, and it's implied this is part of what led to him growing up a trouble maker.
- Marcus Bell's father was an abusive drunk whose parenting it's implied led to Marcus being an absentee dad and jerkass. But he still respects that his father saved the world as Rogue Sun a few times.
- Dylan Siegel hates his father, the aforementioned Marcus, with a fiery passion and will take any opportunity to shit on him or his memory. Marcus abandoned Dylan and his mother when Dylan was 2, and Dylan grew up a resentful delinquent.
- Wendell is himself an absentee dad because he wanted desperately to provide for his family. As a result, he wasn't there for his daughter, who he grew apart from by the time she was an adult, since he doesn't really know her anymore.
- Cássia Costa grew up without a dad, and her mum, Ana, had to make a lot of sacrifices to provide for her. She specifically brings up her complicated relationship with her father when talking to Thomas Park after seeing the tension between Thomas and his father.
- Hate Sink: If a villain isn't given a prominent role, they're likely to be a Jerkass who talks about how evil they are, or are just an asshole in general. Examples include:
- Accel, an aggressive mercenary who gets off on his own power.
- Billy Bludmoon, a werewolf-bat who just wants to kill Rogue Sun so he can become head of his pack.
- Demonika, an emotional vampire who kills and feeds off of others just to prolong her own life.
- Hellbent, the son of a Mook out to avenge his father... who quickly jumps off the slippery slope into supervillain territory and takes pleasure in causing people pain.
- Sheer, an irresponsible money-hungry influencer committing crimes for money.
- Shift, a corporate saboteur who saw a chance for even more money and murdered his friend to take it.
- Henshin Hero: So far, every hero with the seeming exception of No/One counts, possessing a Transformation Trinket that grants them superpowers and a costume.
- Legacy Character:
- Radiant Black is not about a single hero. The first, and initial protagonist, is Nathan Burnett. However, the powers are soon bestowed upon his best friend Marshall, who becomes the second Radiant Black. Later on, they share the powers.
- Doppler is a supervillain codename devised by some hired mercenaries who abused some sound-based alien technology. A few mercs used the name and gear and were easily defeated by Radiant Black. The first Doppler to be a threat is Anja Wronja, a former musician — but by that point, it's unknown how many people had used the name and gear.
- Rogue Sun was a title first held by Caleb Hawthorne in the 14th Century. It passed through several hands through the centuries, and in modern times became a superhero identity, and was eventually held by the father of Marcus Bell. Marcus inherited the powers and name from his father, and after Marcus' murder, the mantle passes onto his estranged son, Dylan Siegel at the start of Rogue Sun.
- There have been at least two holders of the Inferno Girl Red identity — Cássia Costa and one before her, implied to be the head of her school, Doctor Caro.
- The Multiverse: There are various dimensions. Rogue Sun laments that there are always problems when visitors show up, and Inferno Girl Red is herself not from the same universe as the Radiants and Rogue Sun.
- Origins Episode:
- Radiant Black gives one to one of the other Radiants every 6 issues. Issue #6 featured Red's, issue #12 had Pink's and issue #18 had Yellow's.
- The "Shift" story from Image! is one for Shift.
- Pun-Based Title: Rogue Sun is about the estranged and bitter son of the previous superhero to use the name Rogue Sun.
- Remember the New Guy?: Rogue Sun's introduction establishes that superheroes do exist in the main universe proper. While there was mention of C.O.W.L, it was written as if it was just an in-universe comic book. However, the Rogue Suns (and there was at least one before Marcus) are active enough that Marshall is an admitted fan, and the citizens of New Orleans don't bat an eye at supervillain activity due to his presence. However, Radiant Black was initially written as if the Radiants were the first superpowered beings to appear, as Nathan had nobody to talk to about his powers and the police were willing to work with the inexperienced and potentially dangerous Radiant Black to stop Radiant Red, despite Rogue Sun apparently being around and very experienced.
- Secret Identity:
- Nathan and Marshall as Radiant Black have one, but people seem to realise there's more than one. Two local cops immediately know who Radiant Black is, the other Radiants either figure them out or are told quickly, and Shift figures it out because they hid it poorly. Some writers they work with are also let in on it.
- Radiant Red has one... that her enemies know, as her bank robberies were easy to track for criminals. Before that, the other Radiants and her fiancé were in the know. She eventually confesses to her crimes, so it's not really an issue anymore.
- Radiant Pink pulled double duty to keep hers, with Eva being a separate Twitch streamer to Radiant Pink, with her even doing a "collaboration" at one point between them. The other Radiants knew, as did her best friend. However, once she gets into trouble with paramedic Kelly, she also finds because Eva gets flustered and unmasks in a panic.
- The Rogue Suns have secret identities... to the general public. The majority of other characters, whether they be families of the Rogue Suns or their villains, know and use it against them. The only villain who doesn't know is Billy Bludmoon, the runt of his pack.
- Inferno Girl Red I had one and it's still maintained even once she stopped being active. Even the reader doesn't initially know who she is.
- Inferno Girl Red II has one but her mum knows. The head of her school also finds out thanks to security cameras.
- Dead Lucky is the first character to entirely avert one once becoming a superhero. She had one as an unnamed masked vigilante, but once she becomes a superhero (and enforcer for Morrow Tech), her powers are publicly revealed. Weirdly enough, this is when she adopts a superhero name.
- NO/ONE's identity is completely unknown to both the characters in-universe and the readers themselves.
- Shared Universe: Image's first shared superhero universe since its early days.