Black Bolt has always been an enigma to me. How do you write a character who can’t speak or else he’d kill everyone in the room? He’d always usually let others speak for him–usually sitting on his throne–and sat back while others did most of the work. That’s all changed now though as he’s been sent to a prison and he’s all alone. Let the screaming begin!
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Christian Ward
Publisher: Marvel Comics
So what’s it about?
Why does this book matter?
Having read Saladin Ahmed’s fantasy novel Throne of the Crescent Moon I already know he can do superheroes. That book had heroes of its own, but also a strong voice behind them. If you ask me that’s all you need to write comics so we’re definitely in good hands.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this issue, but was pleasantly surprised as to how obtuse and visceral the experience was. Told via mostly third person captions, the story is narrated by a character we do not know or meet. Instead, the captions put us inside his head without having to hear his own thoughts. It creates a sense of distance from Black Bolt, which suits this story as he’s all alone and imprisoned with no way of escape. The story captures the crushing loneliness and horrible nature of imprisonment very well. Once a king, Black Bolt is now reduced to a thing that is alive, but not remarkable. Ahmed progresses the story well, and don’t worry if you think it’s all told via a single cell–Black Bolt escapes, but how or why isn’t explained. That’s part of the reason the issue is so good, as we are lead to ask questions about what is going on with the promise of some kind of fantastical answer down the road. The issue itself has an arc its own, which makes the reading experience satisfying.
You gotta break those chains!
Christian Ward’s art is excellent and downright mesmerizing throughout the issue. A poster-worthy full page spread below is one example of the creative work in this issue, with pages sometimes reminding me of graffiti. In another, possibly inspired by Escher, there’s an interesting layout of Black Bolt walking down steps and the arches that tower over him framing his brother and the deceit that lead him into this prison. There’s a really cool sound effect used in the issue with someone’s screams of, “Aaaaa” framed with blue and white with a red border creating a 3D effect that’s eye catching. Doorways appear to be a theme that run throughout the issue–they are a means to escape, and Ward does a good job creating differing frames, be it a panel or a frame in the scene itself. It’s a beautiful book and well worth a second read through just to focus on the art.
Oh, that’s nice.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The mind f--k that is this issue doesn’t offer a lot of answers just yet and the impatient reader inside me is screaming for some answers. There’s a possible Dementor thing going on in this prison which is intriguing, but as of this issue we’re introduced to the setup and the isolation, but not a lot more than that.
Is It Good?
An excellent first issue that’s gorgeously rendered with an intriguing setup focused on the horrors of being imprisoned. This is a heroes journey that relates to a real world problem, so if you like social issues tucked into your storytelling give this a look.