Writing a silent character presents its own unique set of obstacles; certainly we have seen many varied takes on the speechless king of the Inhumans since his introduction way back in Fantastic Four #45, however the most recent portrayal is perhaps the most innovative to date. Writer Saladin Ahmed focuses on the introspective elements of Black Bolt to extremely effective results. Ahmed essentially gives us as readers a window into Black Bolt’s thoughts thus affording us a unique perspective on the character’s inner conflicts and the process by which he endeavors to resolve them. In this issue we see Black Bolt’s resolve pushed to its final breaking point.
After finally making good their escape from The Jailer last issue, Black Bolt and Blinky are heading for home. Black Bolt’s former home of Attilan that is, however our hero is still plagued by his own inner fears and to make matters worse his dreams are now attacking him with images of his torture filled captivity. His only defense is to forgo sleep in an attempt to deny the dark thoughts passage into his mind. Although Black Bolt remains vigilant he cannot defend against Blinky’s dreams which are now somehow manifesting themselves into reality, or at least into Black Bolt’s perception. Dreams take on an almost tangible role in Ahmed’s narrative as the writer uses this imagery to depict the deepest fears of the two main characters. As if the esoteric onslaught of their dreams wasn’t enough, the duo is now faced with an external foe hell-bent on impeding their journey home to Attilan. Now Black Bolt most choose between being destroyed outright by this opposing force if evasive tactics fail or strike first and show Blinky the aggressive side of his nature. Ahmed again allows us to peer into Black Bolt’s decision-making process, using the protagonist’s inner turmoil to progress the plot at an exciting pace while further exploring the character through this personal perspective. This innovative approach to Black Bolt allows for not only an engrossing characterization, but an organic one that unfolds via his own thoughts and decisions. We are granted the ability to watch this as it happens, which to my knowledge is a first.
Frazer Irving handles the visuals on this issue and if you are not familiar with this guy’s work, shame on you. Irving has worked with Grant Morrison, Dan Abnett and James Robinson to name only a few of his brilliant collaborators. The artist brings so much emotion to every project he works on that each individual page is like a work of art unto itself, complete and fully actualized in its emotional impact. His abstract infused imagery is a perfect fit for Black Bolt, taking the elements Jack Kirby began with and exploding them across the cosmos in a dazzling dance of chromatic chaos. Irving maintains a strict interpretation of anatomy while exaggerating or at times distorting the facial expressions to squeeze even more emotive energy from the characters. One really experiences Frazer Irving’s art more than simply appreciates it, the images take on a viability of their own thus telling a story within a story like a modern-day Salvador Dali. At times the characters seem to meld with one another or even with the environment, becoming little more than a color or some cloud like mist, this effect is especially poignant when we view the dreams of the characters. Each page is designed to transcend its borders, Irving doesn’t use splash pages perse instead there is an organic feel to the images as they move across the surface of the page, alive with vibrant colors and emotions.
Black Bolt and Blinky are denied a happy ending, but it wouldn’t seem right to get one here anyway. Instead we are given a cliffhanger worthy of another tremendous issue of this series that has quietly (no pun intended) risen to the top of my Marvel must-read list. The writing has been top-notch since the first issue, intriguing and imaginative, Saladin Ahmed has crafted the definitive Black Bolt saga. He has an understanding of the character that has eluded many of the previous scribes and through his unique approach to telling this story, he has given us a front row seat to the mind of the main character. 5/5
Writer- Saladin Ahmed
Artist- Frazer Irving