By Saladin Ahmed, Christian Ward, and Clayton Cowles
Black Bolt #1 is a new solo title from Marvel that is certainly fit for a king. It tells the tale of Black Bolt, former king of the Inhumans, as he tries to find his way out of incarceration. Why is he imprisoned, just who is keeping him held captive, and where the hell is Lockjaw, are just a few of the questions you will be asking yourself after reading this book. Writer Saladin Ahmed gives the readers a rare glimpse into the mind of an underutilized character as we get an intimate look into his psyche. This series promises to tackle tough topics like imprisonment, criminality, and justice, all while giving us dreamy gorgeous pages from artist Christian Ward.
Just so we’re clear, artist Christian Ward is a hidden gem in the comic industry. Pages from him in books like Ody-C from Image and Ultimates from Marvel will make you feel things and experience the story in a new way. He is an underutilized talent in this industry, so it’s fitting for him to be on a Black Bolt book, another underutilized character in this industry. With that out the way, imagine the delight you will receive from ingesting this book that is a combined effort of transcending art from Ward and thought-provoking story from Ahmed. These two together really are a powerhouse team, especially when they are paired with a character like Black Bolt. He can be a difficult character to flesh out on the page; his words literally tear down cities after all, so Medusa is often used as an interpreter for Mr. Boltagar. In this setting, there is no Medusa, no crazy brother Maximus, or any other Inhuman to stand with him or speak for him. Ward and Ahmed rise to the challenge of providing emotion with all the subtext to show without dialogue.
The layout of this book and the pacing of the story are completely in sync. This book flows effortlessly from start to finish, as we follow Black Bolt from the confines of his cell to the confrontation at the end. The pages melt away, we get so much story and meet new characters all in the span of 24 pages. The book does not end the way one would predict, it is safe to assume readers would anticipate Thanos or Maximus to be behind the imprisonment of our former highness of Attilan, but this team opts for a different, unexpected path.
The biggest topic Ahmed address is the perseverance of survival from Black Bolt and the acceptance of his confinement. The prison is in a secret location, only the royal family of Attilan know of its location. Black Bolt sent his brother, the usurper Maximus, to this well hidden prison only to be tricked with an image inducer to being switched with his brother at the last moment and being accidentally sent to the prison himself. This surely awful scenario is accepted by Black Bolt as he calmly and determinedly tries to find resolution.
The story is brought to life from the beautiful and thoughtful illustration and page layout from Ward. The use of color is probably the most notable aspect of Ward’s work. Each page is uniquely and purposely colored, with brights and darks contrasting and emphasizing aspects of his drawing that would otherwise be overlooked. The palette, the use of bright and dark tones, is done so expertly by Ward that they never clash, but rather complement one another throughout. The silhouette of Black Bolt, walking in silence through these adorned hallways, plays as a gorgeous backdrop as we get some narration. Another great feature is the use of lines and colors to create movement; there is so much energy throughout that it appears like something will jump off the page. The layouts of single pages and multi-panel pages are creative as Ward finds ways to keep our character fully involved without sacrificing introducing new characters or showcasing the scenery. His creative approach to color and layouts really mark this book and make his work stand out from other artists in the industry.
Black Bolt #1 is a gorgeous book that will draw you in with the beautiful artwork, but keep you buying because of the low-key deep story of injustice and perseverance. Ward and Ahmed come together and give us a harmonious story that is unlike other books on the shelves. Yes, this is a Marvel superhero story, but there is so much more than that going on here. This book gives you edgy artwork you won’t see anywhere else while also delivering a thought-provoking story. Inhuman fan or newbie, everyone can get behind this book. There is enough information to catch up new readers while also adding on to the Inhuman mythos for the die-hard comic fans. If you are looking for a new title to read, Black Bolt is a must have to add to your pull list.