by Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Black Bolt is trapped in a sci-fi prison so trippy, I’m not sure how to refer to it. Is it a a prison out of time and space? Oooh! Maybe some kind of psychic labyrinth! It’s a space between dimensions or beyond death or beside reality — anywhere you can’t quite describe without feeling like a huge dork. But as tough as it is to describe the space, the physicality of it is massively important. It’s a prison, after all; if the readers don’t have a sense of the jail being broken, what the fun in a jail break? That’s where artist Christian Ward steps in and grants every indescribable room a stunning clarity. I may never be able to tell you what this space is, but there’s never any confusion about what the room-to-room experience is for Black Bolt and his new friends.
The first thing that Black Bolt et. al encounter after leaving their cell is literal labyrinth. That’s some primordial story-work there, tracing all the way back to Daedalus. Ward introduces the maze with a wide, high angle, giving the reader an extended view of the twisting corners and winding hallways to come. But it’s on the second page of maze adventuring that the page itself takes on the qualities of the maze.
That first panel is a long hallway, typical of the maze — the form of the comic matching the form of trial. Same thing is true of the last row of panels: Black Bolt is turning a corner, and Ward sets up his panels as though they are a 3D representation of that corner. Also fun to note that Black Bolt is following the left hand rule, all but assuring he’ll eventually find his way out. Ward is effectively communicating space and solution in these seven panels.
This is the whole issue — our heroes enter a space that defies explanation, and Ward deftly explains it by engaging the medium in fascinating ways. When the crew enters a room full of cylindrical pistons that are part of the engine powering this space, curved panel dividers grant the page the appearance of being cylindrical.
It’s almost like writer Saladin Ahmed has issued Ward a series of challenges — “oh yeah, draw this room” — and Ward kills it every time. I don’t need to understand what the prison is, when the simple fact is that the prison that Black Bolt is stuck in is this comic book.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?