by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Black Bolt and Crusher Creel are about as different as characters get in the Marvel universe. Sure, Black Bolt is generally a good guy and Creel is generally a bad guy, but they’re also on opposite ends of the relatability spectrum. Creel has that sympathetic backstory that makes his decisions understandable, while Black Bolt’s regality and silence make him almost impenetrably aloof. Black Bolt’s abilities stem from his genetics, while Creel’s came to him later in life. All of these things make Black Bolt and Creel unlikely bedfellows, but Black Bolt 4 finds them forging a connection, even as Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward do everything the can to illustrate how different these characters are.
The two wake up in a cell that is slowly being drained of air. Black Bolt’s reaction is to stop talking in hopes of conserving oxygen, where Creel’s natural inclination is to use up the last of the oxygen telling his story. That story takes up the bulk of the issue, and Ward quickly falls into a nine-panel grid, only breaking the format when the focus comes back to the cell for a little back and forth between these two characters.
And those interjections really do feel like breaks in the story. The shorter, thinner panels of those sequences feel distinctly different from the regularity of Creel’s story. Moreover, Ward sets those panels against a white background, leaving a clear white border between those “real world” scenes and the pale yellow gutters that seem to represent Creel’s memories. Meanwhile, Ahmed uses these opportunities to reinforce just how different these characters are — pretty much every one of them follows this pattern of Creel trying to make a connection on experiences that Bolt just doesn’t share.
That is, until Creel gets to the end of his story, and those white and yellow gutters start blending together.
Even the paneling seems to have picked up the rhythm of Creel’s story, falling into three identical panels (albeit still smaller and with a thicker border than those used for Creel’s memories). These two have made a real connection, in spite of their vast differences. Black Bolt even starts to come out of his shell, reflecting Creel’s own loquaciousness as he reveals a bit about his own life.
…Until that aforementioned “teleporting dog” shows up to rescue Black Bolt, immediately reasserting the differences between these characters, and leaving Creel hopelessly alone, just as the oxygen seems to be running out in the cell. That Lockjaw would arrive in the nick of time to save Black Bolt perfectly fits with his life story, just as Creel being abandoned in his darkest hour fits with his. It’s a brutal, unexpected reassertion of these characters’ differences — a perfect distillation of this issue’s themes.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?