There’s always a unique nature to the stories written by novelists turned comic book writers in part because they seem to understand character so well. Dialogue is typically well written and the stories can draw you in interesting ways. Saladin Ahmed’s Black Bolt has had that and more.
So what’s it about?
Why does this matter?
Christian Ward is doing some of the greatest work I’ve seen in comics in ages. I wouldn’t be surprised if an Eisner is in his future for this series as the art is awe inspiring. Saladin Ahmed and Ward are creating something very special here that’s hard to ignore.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Jeez, chill dude.
What a welcome surprise this issue was and the surprise has nothing to do with Black Bolt. No, instead there’s a great deal of focus put on the Absorbing Man, whose youth and backstory Ahmed goes into great detail with. This is one of those cases where a character who has never really been used beyond punching things is shown to be complex and compelling. Ahmed draws you in as Absorbing Man and Black Bolt lie waiting to die as oxygen is sucked from the room they’re in. Since the characters have assumed death is imminent there’s a calmness to Absorbing Man’s sharing of his past. I was surprised by the tale and also found him relatable. It’s a case where a story can draw you in because it makes you understand a character’s point of view even if they’ve done bad things. Ahmed intermixes Black Bolt sharing tidbits about his life too, which makes these two characters grow a bond. It’ll be interesting to see if this friendship is touched upon in future stories as it’s off to a great start here.
Ward draws yet another great issue with color used here and there (a certain Inhuman pops up with a great spattering of color behind them as they enter a scene). As panels get closer to faces or objects you get a rhythm that’s not customary in comics. Like a sweet dream this issue draws you in and makes you pay attention. There’s also a fantastic use of Ben-Day dots here and there to make the imagery pop as well as a fantastic panel showing off the laughter behind the characters in big “haha” bubbles. Much of this issue is told via 9 panel layouts with a great mix of colors to shake up what you’re looking at. In one page, we see Absorbing man age from maybe eight all the way to sixteen and the transformation of his face (and the anger that grows inside him) is very apparent.
It can’t be perfect can it?
I did find myself questioning the pace of the story given the outstanding action and progress of the last issue. This issue bides its time as the characters wait to die and chat and while it’s certainly not bad, the main story is definitely on hold, which is somewhat frustrating. Even though Absorbing Man’s story is well told, it’s also unexpected and probably no of interest to most.
Is It Good?
Black Bolt #4 takes a detour down a villain’s backstory who is usually given no character work at all. Ahmed and Ward are crafting a story that’s something special and, if you let it, it’ll flow over you in a wave of compelling character work.