Black Bolt #2, by Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward, is an alright installment saved by some great artwork.
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Christian Ward
Publisher: Marvel Comics
In this issue, Black Bolt meets a few of his fellow captives, and one of the jailer’s henchmen, Spyder. He whisks Black Bolt away to some kind of arena to fight another captive, Raava. Without his powers, he has to rely on his apparently excellent fighting ability. After Bolt refuses to kill his opponent, Spyder kills him, which apparently happens a lot in this weird jail. Back with the rest of the friendly captives, it’s revealed that Raava threw the fight to test Black Bolt, as well as the fact that the captives have an escape plan.
The story in these pages is okay. Without reading issue 1, I can’t really compare, but at least in this installment Black Blot talks, as his powers are dampened somehow. I think that might be actually a bit more of a problem though. Ahmed doesn’t really take the opportunity to develop his character. Instead, Black Bolt is mostly confused and kind of angry. Understandable emotions, but that doesn’t really tell us much about his character. For someone who normally speaks through others, I would have liked to get a better sense of his unique voice and motivations. We get more insight about his compatriots than him. Just kind of disappointing, especially if you, like me, don’t know too much about the character and were hoping to find out more.
Luckily, the art carries this book. The line work has a kind of otherworldly, weird quality to it. I think it is due to the detail level shifting from panel to panel. Like most artists, the detail level changes as the shot gets wider, but it seems like the changes are a lot more drastic than most artists. A closeup will be pretty well detailed, and then the next panel, a mid shot, might have just character outlines. It’s an interesting, and disorienting, effect that I think really fits with the story.
The colors, too, contribute to the off-kilter feel. A lot of gradients and color shifts make the rather repetitive design of the prison more interesting. In an issue with great art, I need to mention two things Ward does that I love in comic books: breaks up a fight scene into many small and uniformed panels, and plays with the panel gutters themselves. Both are used sparingly, but to great effect here.
Black Bolt #2 is a slow issue that seems to be a bridge to bigger things. That, unfortunately, leaves the story feeling kinda thin and stagnant. Little development of the main character hurts especially in this case. Luckily, some really excellent art helps pick up the slack.