Shortcomings of the Lone Wolf in Black Bolt 11

By Patrick Ehlers

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

It might be sorta odd to cast one of the founding members of a famous superhero team as a loner. You’re always going to have your Raphaels, or your Wolverines, characters that bristle at the thought of getting too chummy with their teammates, but always end up affirming the value of teamwork before the issue is through. Black Bolt is a different animal entirely; separated from his people by the nobility of his birth and his inability to communicate, he may genuinely be more content to walk the world alone. Black Bolt 11 teases an origin for this misanthropic streak while also testing its strength. Continue reading

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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

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

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 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

The Uncanny Inhumans 5

uncanny inhumans 5Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing The Uncanny Inhumans 5, originally released February 17th, 2016.

Spencer: I can’t even begin to imagine how much fun Charles Soule is having with the Inhumans. Despite their decades-long existence as characters, Soule’s been able to rebuild their status quo within the Marvel Universe nearly from scratch; that’s an assignment full of amazing possibilities, but it’s also one that comes with a daunting level of responsibility. The amount of thought Soule has put into these characters’ place in their world (and how they’ve worked to define it) is clear throughout Uncanny Inhumans 5, which not only introduces a new layer to their society in the form of the Quiet Room, but then makes it explicit how this works to further their agenda. Continue reading

Uncanny Inhumans 2

uncanny inhumans 2Today, Patrick and Michael are discussing Uncanny Inhumans 2, originally released November 18th, 2015.

un·can·ny
ˌənˈkanē/
adjective
 1. strange or mysterious, especially in an unsettling way.

 

Patrick: In light of the recent nuking and un-nuking (or possibly re-nuking) of the Marvel Universe, readers are reasonably expecting some straightforward adventure storytelling. What better way to get back to the basics of these characters than by comfortably setting them in a familiar world? But writer Charles Soule seems to be after anything but “comfortable” — only two issues in and it looks like he just wiped most of the Inhumans out of existence. The series is possessed by this insane confidence, with little regard to how strange, mysterious or even unsettling it becomes. They’re not joking around when they call this thing “uncanny.” Continue reading

Uncanny Inhumans 1

uncanny inhumans 1Today, Mark and Spencer are discussing Uncanny Inhumans 1, originally released October 21st, 2015.

Mark: Black Bolt is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. He, Triton, and Reader travel back 13,000 years to Attilan in hopes of retrieving Black Bolt’s son and heir Ahura. But in doing so Black Bolt breaks his word to Kang the Conqueror, and Kang doesn’t take very kindly to the betrayal. He transports the Inhumans to an island where a hydrogen bomb is about to be dropped, and then beams in some dinosaurs and WWI troops for good measure. You do not want to cross Kang the Conqueror. And if that weren’t bad enough, moments after Reader is able to get them back to their time by the skin of his teeth, Black Bolt walks in on Medusa making out with the Human Torch. Today is just not Black Bolt’s day. Continue reading