REVIEW: Black Bolt #1

The former king of the Inhumans awakes in a prison cell; a cell that he built for his power-hungry and mentally unstable brother. Blackagar Boltagon is one of the most powerful and dangerous men in the Marvel universe; a character who has a voice that can level a city with nothing more than a whisper, but inside the confinement of this new prison someone has taken that massive power away from the Midnight King.

Right from panel one the reader is just as off-balance as Black Bolt himself. This is uncharted territory for the Inhuman King, who has always played as part of an ensemble cast; the Inhuman royal family constantly in town. Here, this is just Black Bolt. No Medusa, no Lockjaw, none of the usual crutches to lean on, and for perhaps the first time I came to an understanding of why this character always fascinated Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

This is the story of a man who feels that the universe around him serves at his whim. He is an aristocrat in thought and in action, but it had always escaped me as to why so many fans found this character fascinating. This issue brings home the answer – restraint. To have the ability of mass destruction at your fingertips at every turn; the power to be unrivaled by anyone and still have the resolve to lead by example and not by force is the virtue that makes a true hero.

While this new series takes the Midnight King in a new direction its real victory may come in the form of fleshing out a character that has long been seated on the fringe of mass appeal since his inception.  This could bring Black Bolt to forefront of Marvel—just in time to coincide with the soon-to-be-released Inhumans TV project.

While it might be a shock to see this king waking up in a rat and danger filled prison; it might just be the best move Black Bolt ever made. It’ll be interesting that’s for sure.

Ahmed takes away Bolt’s biggest gun right away. Stripping him of his power and forcing him to fight will automatically make the character more relatable to the readers. It also removes the emergency hatch that so many writers have used before when writing for Bolt. Get in tight plot space and need an easy out? Just have Black Bolt whisper and blow up the bad guys! Here Ahmed is forcing himself to dig deeper into the would-be ruler and find something more than just power. Kudos for that!

The art is where this comic stumbles. Ward’s style is too sloppy to convey the mood that the story is shooting for. At times the figure work is too stiff and rushed, taking away from the impact of the narrative. There are other points where the art style slips from looking like rushed pencils to badly water colored images that had been cleaned up in Photoshop. Then there is the almost 3-D color palette that ran throughout the issue…it hurt my eyes, just like bad 3-D. By the end of the issue I could feel myself getting a headache. (I don’t write that for dramatic effect, my head did start to ache from the colors)

It’s the misfire on the artwork that drags this book down in my final score. I like where the story is headed but the art is a big hurdle to jump over to find that enjoyment.

Final Score: 3 stars out of 5.

Black Bolt #1
Story:  Saladin Ahmed
Art: Christian Ward
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles

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