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I must admit I’ve never been a big follower of the Inhuman Royal Family, and that I only picked up Black Bolt because it was written by Saladin Ahmed (who has produced distressingly little fiction in the last few years). I was not disappointed – not by Ahmed’s compelling (if a little too dialogue-heavy) story, nor by Christian Ward artwork, especially the stunning and surreal page layouts. The story finds Black Bolt stripped of his powers and trapped in a prison where he intended to put his vill
Last year marked the television debut of the Inhuman Royal Family, so in preparation I read Inhumans by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee, which is a terrific examination of a reclusive society of super-powered beings who each have their own flaw (let alone abilities) and how they confront it. However, due to the universal derision towards the TV series, I chose to stay away from it but did start my fascination with the Inhumans, continuing with Karnak: The Flaw in All Things, which loosely continued som
Based on the first-ever solo series featuring the silent king of the Inhumans, if there is a flaw towards Black Bolt ridding of his evil brother Maximus, who is always the main culprit for the many catastrophes the Royal Family faces. Although he doesn’t physically appear in this volume, Maximus sets up the trouble for Black Bolt, who is locked up in a secret prison somewhere in the cosmos. Accompanied with a number of prisoners, including the Absorbing Man, Black Bolt (without his destructive hypersonic voice) fights his way to escape from the clutches of the Jailer.
When I initially witnessed the first issue’s cover, I did wonder how can one create a comic solely about a character who can destroy everything with the slightest whisper. And yet, writer Saladin Ahmed found a way as placing our eponymous hero in a prison setting where he remains powerless sets up an interesting premise and how a figure of such royalty can work alongside with low-class criminals, whom he oddly grows fond of.
Granted, I have not read every Inhumans book ever published, throughout these six issues Ahmed delves deeply into Black Bolt’s history and looking back at his own mistakes, particularly his son and former Queen Medusa, who apparently is dating the Human Torch. Given how Black Bolt says very little, you never really get inside his head, but it is credited to Ahmed’s third-person captions to give some coherence to support the extravagant art by Christian Ward (more on that later).
It also helps that Black Bolt is surrounded by a likeable supporting cast, given some of their criminal pasts. Never before have I felt so emotionally engaged with the Absorbing Man as Crusher Creel is introduced here as an antagonist towards the king, to later realise there are greater threats than the both of them and how they must work together, which leads to a great gag of Creel finds out about Black Bolt’s real name, which is Blackagar Boltagon. To make you like this absorbing foe even more is in #4 that it is dedicated to a conversation between two prisoners, in which Creel explains his backstory and shows there was goodness in his life, including his relationship with Titania, acknowledging the original Secret Wars.
Having previously drawn Matt Fraction’s Image comic ODY-C, Christian Ward’s psychedelic art is some of the most stunning visuals out there in comics in his experimental use of panel layouts and multi-layered colouring. In terms of world-building, which does evoke Jack Kirby’s influence in the Marvel universe, the prison is a dark labyrinth where every location differs whilst our heroes come across a variety of well-designed aliens. Only drawing four pages, Frazer Irving (someone who has never won me over) does his best work, which is close to being painterly as we witness Black Bolt’s history from birth through the POV of his trusted teleporting dog Lockjaw, which gave me the feels.
Despite my initial reluctance about the prospect of a Black Bolt solo series, Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward proved me wrong as it is a mature sci-fi romp that found vulnerabilities within powerful figures and surprising emotional engagement towards the most unlikely characters.