Snow as Setting and Tone in Black Bolt 10

By Patrick Ehlers

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

Not only is it cliche to say that setting of a story becomes its own character, it’s also inaccurate. I don’t care how much you think New York City is a character in [whatever movie you’re talking about], characters have wants, desires, arcs — characters can change and be changed by the story. A location cannot. A good setting can be incredibly additive, coloring in emotional information and setting an appropriate tone, but, y’know — isn’t a character. In Black Bolt 10, writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Christian Ward use the ancient Inhuman city of Orollan, nestled away in Greenland, to emphasize the cold lonely journey Black Bolt has been on since issue 1. Continue reading

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Best of 2017: Best Series

Series

We all love a good one-off or anthology, but it’s the thrill of a series that keeps us coming back to our comic shop week-in, week-out. Whether it’s a brand new creator-owned series or a staple of the big two, serialized storytelling allows for bigger casts, bigger worlds, and bigger adventures. That bigness was on full display this year, as series made grand statement after grand statement about what they were all about. These are our top 10 series of 2017.  Continue reading

The Inelegance of Grief in Black Bolt 9

By Patrick Ehlers

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

I just finished reading Who Killed My Daughter?, fiction writer Lois Duncan’s real life account of her daughter’s murder in 1989. It’s less a narrative, and more a collection of interviews with police, transcriptions from psychic readings, re-printed newspaper articles, and half-remembered conversations with loved ones. But the book opens and closes with the saddest, richest, most beautiful and heartbreaking mediations on love, loss and acceptance I’ve ever read. The explicitly stated point of the book was to bring tipsters out of hiding, to provoke someone who knew something to come forward, but for these moments, Duncan nakedly expresses her feelings. The truth is, the mess of primarily source documents that pad WKMD‘s page count add immeasurably to the expression of Duncan’s grief, because that’s what loss is — confusion, contradiction, a mess. Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward’s Black Bolt 9 embraces that same messiness to say farewell to Crusher Creel.  Continue reading

Best of 2017: Best Covers

Best Covers of 2017

You know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but that doesn’t mean you can’t judge the cover on its own merit. This year found us marveling at covers that weren’t just carefully designed and lushly colored, but that actually did a great deal of storytelling, cramming all of the drama, excitement and emotion of the whole issue into one succinct image. Some did it literally, some did it metaphorically, but all moved us in some way beyond simply broadcasting which of our favorite characters would appear in the issue. These are our top 10 covers of 2017. Continue reading

Reconciling Black Bolt in Black Bolt 9

by Patrick Ehlers

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

After surviving every possible kind of of mythological encounter in the ancient world, Odysseus returns home to find his quiet domesticity in shambles. His home has become a campground for suitors intent on stealing his wife away from him. Odysseus isn’t much for subtlety by this point in his journey, so his solution is to slaughter the lot of them and forcibly reclaim the seat he was forced to vacate so long ago. Black Bolt is also returning from an unexpected journey and is forced to reconcile his time away with his desire to return. Unlike Homer, writer Saladin Ahmed does not allow his hero to slay his way back to normalcy.  Continue reading

There’s No Such Thing As “Down Time” in Black Bolt 7

by Patrick Ehlers

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

I think it’s fair to ask where superheroes find their peace. Zipping through space, or ruling ancient kingdoms, or even fighting street-level crime leaves very little time or energy for self-reflection. Realistically, all these guys would be suffering from PTSD, so even those quieter moments would be rife with unease and conflict. As Black Bolt heads back to Earth, writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Frazer Irving demonstrate how, even when the weary do get to rest, it’s not very restful. Continue reading

Agency and Sacrifice in Black Bolt 6

by Drew Baumgartner

Black Bolt 6

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

“Freedom isn’t free” has become the insulting platitude gun advocates offer to justify the United States’ unrivaled gun violence numbers. Never mind that countless countries enjoy similar freedoms without the same body counts — the freedom to own a gun, the logic goes, is worth the lives of any number of concertgoers, congressmen, nightclubbers, pedestrians, or schoolchildren. It’s strange that the notion of the cost of freedom has gone from personal costs one might make in order to secure freedom for themselves and their country to some kind of blood sacrifice we demand of others, since the two couldn’t really be more different. One is about noble sacrifice, the other is about throwing someone else under the bus to save your own skin. It’s a point that Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward make elegantly in Black Bolt 6, as the mad scramble for freedom yields some unexpected costs. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Making a Connection in Black Bolt 4

by Drew Baumgartner

Black Bolt 4

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. Continue reading

The Page Becomes the Prison in Black Bolt 3

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. Continue reading