Black Bolt #12 is the final issue in Saladin Ahmed, Christian Ward, and Clayton Cowles’s mind-bending, emotional, exciting series and concludes Blackagar’s fight against the Jailer. Does the series end with an Inhuman yell or a whimper?
Plug your ears. As always, Ahmed, Ward, and Cowles produce an issue proving this series is the definitive Black Bolt story. Ahmed’s script takes us literally and figuratively to the heart of Black Bolt’s humanity, centering the narrative of the issue on the strength he finds in the bonds he’s made across the series. As Blinky and Ahura travel through Black Bolt’s psyche in their own metaphysical battle against the Jailer, we get a look into some of Black Bolt’s deepest fears and the trauma’s that made him who he is today. Ahmed’s use of narration to maintain the script’s pace while exploring Black Bolt’s mental processes makes his emotional development compelling and affecting without the character himself having to utter a word.
Focusing on the emotional ties he has with other characters also allows the series’ breakout stars, Crusher Creel, Titania, and Blinky plenty of time to shine as they feel necessary to the resolution of the story. All three characters have such distinct voices and feel fully realized and emotionally complex and one of the bitterest parts of the final issue is not getting to spend more time with them. Even if I only see these characters in later series in passing or as cameos in crowd shots, I know I’ll smile and say, “Hey, there’s Crusher Creel! There’s Titania!” I also want to highlight how much I appreciate Ahmed allowing Black Bolt and Creel to feel and express emotions like fear, sadness, and affection in an unapologetic way. These are characters I can point to as examples of how to write masculine characters that never felt toxic in their masculinity and are instead grounded in a full spectrum of human emotion that makes them all the more likable because of it.
The emotions of all the characters would come across clear as day even without speech bubbles thanks to Christian Ward’s always stunning artwork. Throughout the entire series, I’ve lacked the vocabulary to describe what it is that makes the feelings of Ward’s characters come across so clearly just by looking into their eyes. Ward’s panels are never overcrowded with lines, especially when rendering people, yet he’s able to take what relatively few lines he does use, pair them with expert control of color and texture to help mold a character’s expression, and convey a rich, nuanced feeling like few others can. Whether it’s Black Bolt’s fiery determination mixed with steely resolution or Titania’s look of disbelief, joy, and affection, Ward once again proves that he was the perfect artist to pair with Ahmed’s scripts that focus through the cosmic-fantasy superhero drama and focus on how these people feel about one another.
I know you’re thinking, “Obviously the people look great and their emotive faces shake me to the core too, but what about explosive, cosmic, trippy eye candy?” Ward delivers that in spades as well. As I’ve said, Ward can convey a lot with a little, but when he wants to do a lot, he puts the pedal to the metal and gives you rivers of colors, stars, and effects all swirling together to make frame-worthy pages of mind-bending beauty. Clayton Cowles’ never falls behind with his lettering, either, from action effects that dance across the page to distinct font choices to convey different character voices. His lettering matches Ward’s art time and time again and has always been an invaluable component to each issue that elevates the series overall.
I could go on for days about this comic, mostly because finishing this review will mean the series will really feel like its over and I’m not ready to accept it. If you’ve been reading the series so far, you won’t be disappointed in this ending at all. Buy this comic and tell your friends to buy the trades and back issues. You don’t want to miss the end of a classic.