BLACK BOLT #2
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Penciller: Christian Ward
Colorist: Christian Ward
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 6/7/17
No longer the king of Attilan, Black Bolt finds himself powerless and imprisoned in a top secret facility known only to a few select Inhumans, thus creating a mystery inside of the mystery of who imprisoned him. Black Bolt was always going to have to find some means of communicating with fellow prisoners, but Saladin Ahmed dispensed with the nonsense and used a good, old-fashioned powers-dampener, which means we get a Black Bolt who can speak and a Black Bolt who will be forced to make alliances with folks that he’d fight on another day.
Ahmed could’ve gone in so many different directions with jailhouse alliances, but Carl “Crusher” Creel truly was a nice touch, showing Ahmed isn’t afraid to take chances early and that he’s going to write the former Attilan king his way, but we see Ahmed clearly using the groundwork laid by the Inhumans over the years. It is obvious that Ahmed wants to create his own character, but use the lore fans know and love as his base. A writer who isn’t afraid to take a chance, but finds a way to make his first statement matter; this is Black Bolt under Saladin Ahmed.
Plot: The plot for Black Bolt is narrow but broad enough in scope that discerning readers can see there’s more than meets the eye. Taking out someone as powerful as Black Bolt isn’t an easy task, but it would seem that our captor not only pulled it off without anyone knowing a thing, they also kill prisoners just to bring them back to life.
One of the prisoner notes that the luckiest among them are the ones who stay dead, unable to be revived. Black Bolt, we’re told, has been resuscitated more than three times. The what, how, and why of their imprisonment is not explored in this issue, but rather it is spent establishing whether or not Black Bolt is the type of character who will work with whomever he needs when it’s clearly unfair or if he’s going to have a holier-than-thou approach that he used to run Attilan into the ground.
Story: As stated above, most of this story is spent seeing what type of place he’s really in and where he fits in the pecking order. Ultimately, Creel was testing Black Bolt to see exactly how he was going to handle his new station in life. Surprisingly, Blackagar has no qualms with forming an alliance with Creel. Pretty standard stuff in any good prison story, but done in an inventive way by Ahmed.
There are a number of characters he could have used and Creel is an interesting choice. Ahmed will make it clear why Creel when he’s ready to do so, but the choice of Crusher is bold, not without it layers, and has some serious potential on the supervillain side. He’s a capable baddie and is seasoned as they come on the fighting side of things. If the alliance holds true, Creel has serious potential as an anti-hero for an arc. As it stands, Ahmed has my attention already.
Art: Christian Ward has a handle on the style he wants and pulls it off with grace and ease. Each character is artistically layered as they convey their story to Black Bolt toward the end. There is a very frank discussion had by Black Bolt and Creel toward the end where everyone tells their story. The artwork during those panels is brilliantly worked to match how you’d imagine a sincere person telling their story. The look in their eye matched the pain in my chest as I read their words. If the art and writing can pair together to make it a bit dusty in your living quarters, both parties have knocked it out of the metaphorical park.
Stoic as he ever is, Ward does a great job of balancing the outsider approach to Black Bolt’s personality and the natural need for partnership in his situation. The fight scenes with Raava is done well, but also use bold and improvisational techniques for the former king in battle. Ward is very much a perfect compliment to Ahmed’s verbal style of writing. The art feels purposeful and with intent, which is what you’d expect reading about a dude who was a king for over fifty years. It’s like pairing a good craft or vintage with a nice steak.
Verdict: Black Bolt is an intriguing story. It’s impossible to know what’s going on just yet, it’s too early in the series for all that. That would be like predicting the Falcons were gonna win the Super Bowl because they were up 28-3 and refusing to believe that it could change. It’s off to a strong start, but we’ll see how it goes. Ahmed and Ward are an outstanding team, both aren’t afraid to take a risk and each of them showcases why they should be entrusted with a risk or two. They go to the liberty of taking a risk just to show you that it’s all in good hands and those risks work out perfectly.. — JW
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars