Written by Joel T. Lewis
This issue of Black Bolt began with a response to the brilliantly retold Absorbing Man origin story in issue 4. Over the course of the first 4 pages, guest Artist Frazer Irving retells Black Bolt’s origin story from the point of view of his faithful pup Lockjaw. Irving’s style and texture is a great contrast and complement to the sleek polish of Christian Ward who illustrates the rest of the issue. As he depicts the classic tale of the Inhuman Prince and his teleporting dog, Irving’s panels are gorgeous. My favorite panel in these early pages is one showing Lockjaw flanked by Black Bolt, Ben Grim, and a fiery Johnny Storm. These quick snapshots of Black Bolt’s past accomplish two goals: one, they are a great recap of the Black Bolt Origin for somebody new to the character, and two, they firmly establish the special bond between the silent King and his massive pooch.
As the artistic reins are handed back to Christian Ward we find Black Bolt finally freed thanks to his faithful pup. As his power returns, Black Bolt is torn over his next steps. Usurped and betrayed by his brother Maximus the Mad, Bolt wishes to return to Earth in order to expose the cruel farce his brother has been playing out posing as the king of the Inhumans. However, because of the bonds he has formed with his fellow inmates in that cosmic nightmare of a prison, and his faith in his wife Medusa’s ability to handle Maximus, Black Bolt decides to return to rescue his friends.
After freeing Crusher Creel, Blinky, Metal Master, and Raava and capturing the vile guard Spyder, Black Bolt charges ahead to confront the powerful telepath at the center of the prison, the Jailer. Spyder manages to spring a trap and in the process, seriously injures Lockjaw. Amid a spectacular two-page spread of wild combat and action demonstrating the power of each of the former captives, Black Bolt unleashes his full power against Spyder, disintegrating him. Do not mess with Black Bolt’s pup. In order to end the madness of the cruel prison, the company must leave the wounded Lockjaw behind and they discover another layer to the mystery of the Jailer.
The first inmate of the prison they have come to despise was in fact their Jailer. A telepathic vampire who regained his powers and was able to feed on the villains of the cosmos for centuries undiscovered, the Jailer unleashes one last defense before the conclusion of the issue. The group of former inmates turn around to discover a shimmering legion of ghosts. The ghosts of their loved ones. The angry ghosts of their loved ones.
Saladin Ahmed is doing a spectacular job of making one of the most stoic and inaccessible figures in Marvel Comics into someone you can instantly relate to and want to root for. It’s not just that he has a comically large dog, it’s not just that that comically large dog is instantly and forever loyal to him, but it might be that the juxtaposition of that silly, slobbering pup and the joy he inspires from a stern serious figure like Black Bolt that gives this issue, and by extension Black Bolt, such charm.
The additional artistic support of Irving in no way confuses or diminishes Ward’s ability to light up every panel he touches. A particularly spectacular panel depicts Crusher Creel after he absorbs one of the prison’s containment devices. For a character whose costume consists of not wearing a shirt, as Black Bolt pointed out last issue, the versatility of what Creel absorbs is where the artist truly shines. Liquid blue punctuated with streaks of eerie pink is a good look for Creel and Ward’s design is impressive. I can't wait for issue 6 when Black Bolt comes face to face with the parents he accidentally murdered as a baby. Until next time, Geek On!