Review by Ian Keogh
Each volume of Radiant opens with a few colour pages before the remainder rolls out in black and white. It’s a manga tradition, but too many creators seem to treat it as a frustrating obligation rather than an opportunity, so check the sample art to see what Tony Valente can make of the simple scene of two people entering a shop. The viewpoint from below offers a spectacular breadth, and it’s matched by a pin-up page later in the book. The wonder continues in many subsequent panels set in the shop as Seth restocks for Mélie. He’ll need to, as Inquisitor Dragunov played a clever game in Rumble Town during Radiant 4, fooling a lot of people, and is now promoted and charged with hunting down Seth and his brother.
A joy of Radiant is how Valente keeps finding new roles for characters who appear to have served their purpose, which occurs again here as the crooks from the previous few books now serve Alma. This is cleverly established as Valente ties up a loose end, and midway through we have a returning favourite. This doesn’t mean he’s coasting by avoiding the introduction of new characters. Ocoho is the star turn, having the appealing naivety that Seth’s now losing, and we’re given the merchant barons, a group of mega-wealthy salesmen dressed in ridiculously ornate clothes entirely unsuitable for the environment. Unfortunately, Valente becomes too enamoured of them, and multiple pages are given over to their economic assessment of recent events, information we don’t really need to know even if they are due to reappear later, their discussions slowing the pace to a crawl.
Seth’s primary purpose here is to contact the Order of Merlin, an association of powerful sorcerers who could be encouraged to help Seth with his mission to find Radiant, source of the nemeses. Rumour even has it that at one time they knew precisely where Radiant is. However, we already know how good Valente is at ensuring things don’t go to plan. That’s to be expected, but coming as a complete surprise toward the end is the revelation from a popular supporting character.
The cliffhanger leading into Radiant 6 is an imaginative humdinger that comes out of nowhere, Seth having a real dilemma. Valente’s art, characterisation and overall concept always raises Radiant above average, and this is no different, but more eye on the main plot would be appreciated.