By Saladin Ahmed, Christian Ward & Clayton Cowles
One of the greatest strengths of this current series of Black Bolt is that Saladin Ahmed can make a character who never says anything at all convey more emotion and feel more human than characters who speak twice as much. His portrayal of the titular character is fantastic, knocking it out of the park once again with an emotionally touching issue that looks at the after-effects of Crusher Creel’s death in an issue that also happens to feature Captain America, as well as another surprise cameo from another former Avenger.
Refreshingly for an issue featuring a famous guest star like Steve Rogers, Ahmed keeps the stakes low and personal for the most part of the issue and it is at its strongest when it is at its most human moments. That’s not to say there’s no fight sequences in this issue, this is a superhero comic after all, but Black Bolt #9 handles them just as well as the scenes that are far more sombre in nature, leading them up to an excellent conclusion with a memorable final line.
The artwork from Christian Ward is incredibly eye-catching and his colouring and pencilwork really suit the tone of the issue perfectly. Each panel is a visual treat, and it’s hard to pick a single standout panel across the whole issue due to the stunning consistency that this book brings to the table. The panels where there is no other background aside from the white page are just as impactful as the ones with plenty of vivid imagination, and the depth that Ward is able to give to Black Bolt’s expressions and emotions are just as important in making the character work as the script itself.
The cover art may be a tad misleading for those showing up expecting Captain America to be involved in the action, as this book is very much one of two halves, aside from a brief opening scene at the beginning the first half in which Steve Rogers appears is quieter than the second act, but as mentioned above, it’s all the more impactful that we don’t get to see Captain America coming to blows. Ahmed really gets what it means to be Steve Rogers, and in just a few short panels, humanises him and reminds everyone why he’s such a great superhero, all the while never stealing the thunder away from Black Bolt in his own title. Much of the book is also given up room to exploring Titania’s character as well, as we learn what effect her husband’s death had on her, and this issue spends just as much time developing her as it does any of the other characters, the opening fight scene between her and Black Bolt feeling perfectly justified in its execution. The time spent developing Titania feels incredibly rewarding as a result of this, adding a further emotional layer to the character.
On the whole, Black Bolt #9 is another stunning issue that makes the most out of the expert partnership of Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward, with letterer Clayton Cowles also bringing his A-Game to the table. It’s utterly essential reading, and is arguably Marvel’s best ongoing series at the moment. Don’t miss it.