Written by Joel T. Lewis
Forget that this issue of Black Bolt is the climax of a six-issue run that has made me a Black Bolt fan. Forget that this series is also responsible for my new-found love for Crusher Creel, and forget that it concludes with a more compassionately motivated title character on an interstellar journey back to earth with his all-but-adopted alien daughter Blinky by his side. This issue is all about the artwork. As if sharing pages with, and damn-near outshining, comic veteran and guest artist Frazer Irving in issue five wasn’t enough, Christian Ward’s finale work blew me away this month.
Throughout this series, Ward has gotten to play in a pretty large sandbox: here’s an interstellar prison, run by an ancient Inhuman psychic vampire where he can manipulate each inmate’s reality in order to intensify the suffering that he feeds off of. Oh, and here’s a nostalgic flashback section retelling the origin of Absorbing Man. Ward is as versatile as they come but the cosmic is where he lives, bringing the bizarre world of Black Bolt’s Prison, companions, and powers to dazzling life, dripping in blues and bathed in red light. In this issue we get to see the full force of Black Bolt’s powers as our familiar ragtag team of misfits confront the parasitic Jailer one last time, and in a series defined by excellent color work, Ward outdoes himself.
I suppose I should have seen (Spoiler Upcoming) that Saladin Ahmed’s heartfelt tribute and character arc for Crusher Creel in this series was setting the B-lister up for a noble sacrifice but I didn’t and it hit me pretty hard. But what a way to go out! Realizing that none of their powers were able to effect the Jailer from behind Black Bolt’s shield, Creel decides to sacrifice himself for the good of his fellow inmates. He tells Blinky to use her telepathic powers to lure the Jailer into feeding off of his mind, but before that he tells Black Bolt to yell at him. Bolt, knowing that there is no other way, wails with all of his might at Creel and the Absorbing Man does what he does best and becomes the physical embodiment of Black Bolt’s scream. Luminous, saddened, but determined Crusher flies at the Jailer and sends him into oblivion in a sea of technicolor carnage that contrasts beautifully with the red-lit panels of the previous pages.
This first arc of the Black Bolt series has come to a sad but satisfying conclusion as the deposed King of the Inhumans can now begin the long journey across the stars to retake his throne and reunite with his people. As each of the ragtag team bids the silent King farewell he is faced with a complicated decision: what’s to be done with Blinky? Here is where we really see the development that author Saladin Ahmed has weaved into Black Bolt’s character. Instead of a cold monarch’s decree that the child will have to return to her world, where she would be put to death, Black Bolt responds with a newfound softness, smiling quietly, saying yes.
This first arc has been emotional, stunning, and terrifying. Marvel really has hooked into something special with the combination of Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward and I’m thrilled to have been able to follow this series from its inception. To take the prison break trope and breathe such vibrant new life into it is really impressive and Ahmed pulled it off flawlessly. I cannot wait to see where this series goes next. I’ve seen some pretty exciting sneak peek posts from artist Frazer Irving who will be returning to the title and it will be a really interesting dynamic to see a storyline where Black Bolt and Blinky journey across the stars headed for Earth. I love Blinky and I’m so happy to see her story continue and maybe she’ll cross paths with Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur soon! Are you enjoying Black Bolt? What are your thoughts on Absorbing Man? Please comment below or shoot me a message on Twitter @Joelt18. Until next time, Geek On!