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

Advertisements

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

Black Bolt 1

Alternating Currents: Black Bolt 1, Ryan and Drew

Today, Ryan D. and Drew are discussing Black Bolt 1, originally released May 3rd, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Ryan D: Confession time: I’ve never cared for the Inhumans. As a child of the 90’s, the X-Men held the allure and accessibility which I impelled me to pull issues off the stand at my local grocery store. Add in how genuinely good the X-Men animated series was (for at least three seasons), and the ready-made allegories to McCarthyism and racial intolerance to keep me intrigued as an adult, and it’s easy to see why my frame of reference for X-Men has always eclipsed that of the Inhumans. However, Karnak’s solo title by Warren Ellis drew me in with its philosophical hook, and now I’m wondering, after a very sound issue number one, can Black Bolt pull me — and many other comic readers who might not be pre-established fans — into this character as Marvel doubles down on the Inhumans franchise? Continue reading

Inhumans v X-Men 6

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Inhumans v X-Men 6, originally released March 8th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

“You guys… who are the good guys?”

Ms. Marvel, IvX 4

Patrick: Kamala’s rhetorical question at the end of issue 4 might have been meant to highlight the idea that there are no “good guys” in war, just people living out of various levels of desperation. And that’s definitely true of both the I and X Camps — these are peoples who believe that their survival is contingent on the destruction of the other. What they’re willing to do to each other is resultant entirely from the treat they perceive from their enemies. In effect, everyone is retaliating, acting in self-defense, and therefore the answer to Ms. Marvel’s question is “everyone.” But that’s not true, is it? There is one agent of aggression who has been manipulating all players, X-Men and Inhuman alike. And that person — the sole “bad guy” — is Emma Frost, who defines her identity by the fear she experiences as a mutant.  It’s a heartbreaking fall from grace as the long-suffering White Queen finally succumbs to paranoia and unequivocally cedes the moral high ground. Continue reading

IvX 1

ivx1

Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing IvX 1, originally released December 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: Last month’s IvX 0 did a fantastic job of summing up the conflict between the Inhumans and the X-Men and showing why their going to war was only a matter of time. Charles Soule, Jeff Lemire, and Leinil Francis Yu’s IvX 1, though, is the issue where that powder keg finally ignites into all-out war, and war…well, war is ugly. IvX 1 plays up the fun of watching these two groups duke it out, but also the pain and sadness inherent in its scenario. Continue reading

IvX 0

ivx-1

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing IvX 0, originally released November 30th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: I don’t know much about my ancestry or heritage other than the fact that I’ve got blood from at least six or seven different European countries in me (I’ve been known to describe my ethnicity as “White Mystery”). Combine that with a family that’s never been all that worried about tradition and you get a guy who just doesn’t care about his culture (if I could even be considered as having one). This is absolutely not the case with the mutants or the Inhumans, though; although the two groups’ concepts of culture and tradition differ greatly, they’re absolutely vital to both camps. That’s something Charles Soule and Kenneth Rocafort make abundantly clear in IvX 0 — the conflict that’s been brewing between them isn’t really about the literal deaths of individuals anymore, but about the possible figurative death of their very ways of life. Continue reading

Death of X 4

death-of-x-4

Today, Patrick and Michael are discussing Death of X 4, originally released November 23rd, 2015.

Patrick: At the risk of making a statement that’s been made a million times already: 2016 has been a hell of a year for high-profile deaths. Calling them “celebrity deaths” would be underselling it — figures like Muhammad Ali, Fidel Castro and Prince virtually changed the fabric of reality simply by existing in it. But for all their earth-shifting influence, their deaths were all quiet, ultimately meaningless affairs. These revolutionaries did not die they way they lived, which is to say, their deaths made no specific statement. Bucking the trend, was David Bowie, who had released an eerie, melancholy record in the final weeks of his life. Bowie knew that his life was performance – it was challenging and honest – and that his death should be the same. In Death of X 4 Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule close the book on the life of Scott Summers, insisting that he die the way he lived, a revolutionary, even if that’s a performance he was never putting on.

Continue reading

The Uncanny Inhumans 13

Alternating Currents: Uncanny Inhumans 13, Drew and Patrick
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Uncanny Inhumans 13, originally released September 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Most people believe that the 20th century was a death struggle between Communism and Capitalism, and that Fascism was but a hiccup. But today we know better. Communism was a fool’s errand. The followers of Marx gone from this earth, but the followers of Hitler abound and thrive. Hitler, however, had one great disadvantage. He lived in a time when Fascism, like a virus… like the AIDS virus… needed a strong host in order to spread. Germany was that host. But Germany did not prevail. The world was too big. Fortunately, the world has changed. Global communications, cable TV, the internet. Today the world is smaller and a virus does not need a strong host in order to spread. The virus… is airborne. One more thing. Let no man call us crazy. They called Hitler crazy. But Hitler was not crazy. He was stupid. You don’t fight Russia and America. You get Russia and America to fight each other… and destroy each other.

Dressler, The Sum of All Fears

Drew: I’m not sure if the above quote appears in Tom Clancy’s novel, but it sure plays a key role in its film adaptation, where a group of fascists run a false flag operation in hopes of pitting Russia and the US against one another. The narrative of a neo-nazi faction gaining by pitting the two powers that be against one another certainly has real-world resonance in the rise of the alt-right during this election cycle, which I suppose highlights the danger of steamrolling any narrative into a simple dichotomy. The US and Russia may have been the only superpowers left, but they were far from the only interests that could benefit from their antagonism. Unfortunately, international relations aren’t always subtle enough to fully understand those smaller interests. The same could be said of superheroes, which, even when they’re fighting with one another, tend to be almost entirely two-sided. The Inhumans already represent a kind of third party to Captain Marvel and Iron Man’s “Civil War,” but an even subtler point is how even smaller factions might exploit that conflict to their own ends. It’s The Sum of All Fears, but with superpowers in place of, well, superpowers. Continue reading