REVIEW: Black Bolt #7 – “Nightmare Ride”

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BLACK BOLT #7
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Frazer Irving
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Price: $3.99

Release Date: 11/1/17

Black Bolt broke free of his prison and destroyed its Jailer, but lost his friend Crusher Creel as well as his powerful voice in the process. Now he heads to Earth in an ancient Inhuman spaceship with his teleporting dog Lockjaw and a psychic alien child named Blinky alongside him.

Plot: Black Bolt has been having nightmares of his time in the prison, but he must focus on the nightmares around him in the present instead. He must use powers other than his voice to keep a mysterious monster away from Blinky, or so he thinks. It turns out he was just a manifestation of Blinky’s own nightmare – Londale the Rich, her former captor and tormentor. Though he was merely a vision this time, Black Bolt promises to protect her when her enemy returns for real.

As they continue their voyage, they drop Monsteroso off with his parents before being detained by the Conclave of Seven Planets. In order to protect himself and Blinky, Black Bolt must end their lives – but such a task does not come without guilt and consequences.

Story: Black Bolt #7 opens with dreams that threaten to suffocate the midnight king, as he cannot cry out over them now that he’s lost his voice. In fact, Saladin Ahmed has made Black Bolt unable to use his power for most of the series, which has been an interesting exploration of just who he is without that which makes him Inhuman. The difference is that now he must face the prospect of living the rest of his life in this manner, rather than being able to see it as a temporary setback. One question that the issue itself does not pose, but which past experience with these characters leads me to ask, is what will happen once he arrives on New Attilan? Will other Inhumans recognize him as their leader, or even still see him as one of their own?

Not much actually took place in Black Bolt #7, but it served as a bridge between the prison arc and the upcoming return to Earth. Beyond that, it also explored both Black Bolt’s and Blinky’s psyches and helped readers reconnect with the protagonist and check in with how the last few issues have altered him. While parts of the story grew confusing, it felt like it was on purpose. Both the characters and the audience were walking from dream to dream before the harsh reality of survival awakened them. The switch to killing, even though it was for self-preservation, was abrupt and poignant. Obviously our king has what it takes to survive, but can he live with himself after?

Art: Frazer Irving’s art is a bit of a shock to the system at first, if only because he has a very specific style that is a far from from the art on the rest of the run. That being said, his work on Black Bolt #7 is intricate and allows for an in-depth look at the emotions the Inhuman King is going through at any given moment. The colors are muted, reflecting Black Bolt’s currently repressed state, but Irving makes up for that with several visually arresting textures.

The dreamlike nature of the artwork fits perfectly with the psychedelic adventures contained within the issue, even if it would be hard to imagine future stories that are set on Earth looking like this one. Hopefully Irving returns as a guest artist whenever we next spend more time in the midnight king’s head rather than his surroundings.

Verdict: Black Bolt #7 gives readers a bit of a breather after the claustrophobic prison and destruction of the Jailer, but it also provides another excellent peek into the mind on an Inhuman who grows more human by the day.

Star Rating: 4 out of 5

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