The Past is Both a Strength and a Weakness in Black Bolt 5

by Drew Baumgartner

Black Bolt 5

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

I had a boss who used to say “your greatest weapon is ultimately also the sword you fall upon.” That is, our strengths tend to secretly carry weaknesses. He usually meant it in terms of workplace skills — natural leaders might not make for great team players, for example — but I’ve found this idea remarkably insightful in people’s personal lives, as well. Maybe you draw strength from your extended family, though that may tie you down geographically, or from a hobby that also sucks up most of your free time. It’s an idea that’s relatively well-worn in superhero comics, but is generally limited to loved ones becoming liabilities. Black Bolt 5 offers a different take, injecting its usual style and emotional depth to both Blackagar’s strength and his weaknesses.

The issue opens with a four page flashback chronicling Lockjaw’s life — and his relationship to Black Bolt. It’s a remarkably touching story about a boy and his dog, only, told from the dog’s perspective. Indeed, guest artist Frazer Irving not only lends the sequence a decidedly different style, he also fills it with over-the-shoulder (and great closeup reverse-shots) making it crystal clear that this is Lockjaw’s story.

Woof?

We snap back to Black Bolt’s perspective once these two are reunited (and Christian Ward takes back over art duties), but the message is clear: Blackagar’s greatest strength is his history.

It would be easy to see his relationship to Lockjaw as his greatest strength — especially as Lockjaw’s wellbeing is threatened — but Black Bolt is able to continue the fight even after Lockjaw is injured. Instead, the thing that actually stops him in his tracks is the visions of the rest of his past. As Lockjaw’s flashback reveals, it’s impossible to separate their relationship from the alienation and tragedy of Black Bolt’s life. Only, now he has to face that past without Lockjaw. It’s the strength we didn’t now Black Bolt needed until he lost it, but Saladin Ahmed (and his collaborators) seed it so well, we can’t help but feel that loss deeply.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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One comment on “The Past is Both a Strength and a Weakness in Black Bolt 5

  1. The clever thing about telling a story about a man and his dog is that, by the focus on a pet, it really makes clear how alone Black Bolt was. Lockjaw was so meaningful as you can see that Black Bolt has no one. Or at least, had. Now, he has his Royal Family, and by seeing just how alone Black Bolt was at the start, we understand the importance of Medusa and the others. So absence is used to demonstrate the importance of family, which is THEN used to demonstrate the meaning of Black Bolt’s choice. He chooses to go back to the prison above his own family. The lonely man choosing not to go to those that make him feel a family, because it is just that important. A fantastic example of using dramatic turns for a more meaningful choice. It could easily have been simpler.
    But it is so key to push things as complex as possible, as only with a complex tapestry can the characters choices really mater. When Lockjaw is hurt, it is important that Black Bolt chooses to go on. That, there, is Black Bolt’s heroism. Placing his duty over his family. The prison is injust, and must be brought down. Fantastic how a simple, four page Lockjaw story can set up everything so well, that every choice Black Bolt makes is powerful and meaningful. It is rare when someone managed to outdo Ward, but Irving made this issue his own in four pages

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