By Saladin Ahmed, Christian Ward, and Clayton Cowles
Black Bolt #4 is a trippy look into the minds of Black Bolt and Crusher Creel (aka The Absorbing Man) as they are face to face with imminent death. The book only takes place within one area, the same shot so to speak, throughout the entire issue. The dialogue between Black Bolt (aka Wishbone as he is affectionately known) and Creel really drive this issue and make us root for a future team up, if they can survive. Ahmed paints these two into a corner, as an earlier attempt to escape their incarceration left them chained up with no escape, while the room is quickly losing oxygen. An escapable scenario, so the only thing to do is reflect on life with the one you are with. So that is what happens as oxygen levels drop: intimacy grows between these two unlikely companions. This issue turns introspective as we get a glimpse into the inner working of Crusher Creel and Black Bolt as they discuss their upbringings, how they found out about their gifts, and the great loves of their lives.
This is an issue that sounds great when the concept is pitched, but upon execution could have been terrible. You put two characters in a limited space, locked down, no use of arms or legs, no mobility, same shot, and tell a story. Lucky for us, Christian Ward and Saladin Ahmed are up for the task and absolutely tell a great, unforgettable tale. This issue has a way of lingering long after closing the book. The rich, full, and all-encompassing art style of Ward really grabs the reader and makes the room feel different every page, he adds a new layer of color or design to keep us interested and focused on the story. Put that alongside the clever and heart breaking story Ahmed throws down and you got yourself a great comic book.
This series has done amazing things in only 4 issues, the character arc we are witnessing of not only Black Bolt, but his fellow prisoners is tremendous. There is special focus on Crusher Creel in this issue. Maybe you are like me, maybe you always took The Absorbing Man for granted, considered him another dumb, jock, one dimensional villain and saw no potential in expanding the character. Well, Ahmed will change your mind as you will make room in your comic book loving heart for this guy as we learn about his life. It is kind of cool what Ahmed does here, he takes the comic cannon history of The Absorbing Man and tells the story from his own perspective, adding some definite ugly childhood trauma to make him super empathetic.
There is never enough time or words that a person can put together to really appreciate the art work of Christian Ward; yes he is that good. Every page feels thoughtful, intense, and different from the previous page. He is a master of panel layouts, knowing how to position panels to create maximum impact when the action hits. He is also a master of character design and facial expression, which is important with a soft talker like Black Bolt, but also important when so much gets expressed through his art over narration or dialogue. Most notably, Ward is a master of colors. He knows how to pick a palette to create a scene, convey emotion, and bring together the panels. There is so much to look at in this book, that you will find yourself just looking over every inch of the page looking for clues and details Ward so lovingly puts in.
Black Bolt #4 is a great issue from a series that has a ton of promise. Reading this book, you can absolutely feel the passion for the character and the passion for storytelling through comic books that both of these two have and clearly share. This series may be the sleeper hit of the summer, it is reminiscent of the series Vision from Marvel. A series probably born out of a need to capitalize on some cinematic or televisions fame the character was drawing. Marvel is smart, they know a new Inhumans TV show is going to draw interest into these characters, people love to say they liked something “before it was cool”. However, there is always the potential for the series to be bad, appealing to the lowest common denominator using standard art and a boring story. Marvel gave this series to the right people, and people new and old to comics can enjoy it. The series succeeds and does well because it delivers a great story, with compelling art that feels modern, but is still respectful of the comic book history and universe it lives in.