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

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

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