BLACK BOLT #1 by Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward
The characterization leaves more to be desired, but the plot is an emotional rollercoaster.
82 %
Dark and mysterious!

As someone who’s not overly familiar with the ins and outs of the Inhumans, I was at first skeptical about embarking on the journey that is BLACK BOLT #1. However, the titular character’s first solo issue provides easy access for less informed readers. More than that, it offers a storyline that’s both emotionally compelling and rife with mystery.

The Downward Spiral in BLACK BOLT #1

The issue opens with Blackagar Boltagon — Black Bolt, the Silent King — chained and muzzled in an unknown location. Though an ominous voice calls for him to repent for his crimes, Black Bolt has no recollection of how he came to be imprisoned. It’s always a gamble for a series to open at such an extreme low — if the “normal world” is established as something so bleak, one has to wonder where the call to action will lead. However, Black Bolt’s defiance of his situation propels the story forward.

Black Bolt #1
Image from BLACK BOLT #1, courtesy of Marvel

Black Bolt breaks free of his chains, though the muzzle restraining his powerful voice doesn’t budge. Amongst extreme temperature and darkness, Black Bolt’s trek through the prison seems endless. And being chained seemed like a low, huh? Just when the story starts to drag, the tortured scream of a young girl reaches Black Bolt’s ears. He runs to save the girl, but he’s too late. He finds only her charred body. Oh, and also Creel, the resident face-breaker.

READ: Want to know more about the Inhumans? Here’s their role in AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.!

Is Black Bolt Unchained in BLACK BOLT #1?

Creel challenges Black Bolt and asserts that he’s the only thing standing between the former king and his jailer. Black Bolt battles both his fellow inmate and some serious self-doubt, dancing around some heavy punches and witty banter. That is, until Creel lands a blow to Black Bolt’s face, damaging his muzzle.

Making quick work of Creel, Black Bolt moves on to The Jailer. The issue certainly has its slow moments. However, I have to commend writer Saladin Ahmed for the utter anticipation built while waiting for Black Bolt to say his first words. The results of the Silent King reaching out to his voice are somehow all the more dismal and disheartening, in the very best of ways. Remember when I said it’s difficult to overcome a low point in the opening of an issue? Well, BLACK BOLT #1 certainly backflips over that particular hurdle.

Black Bolt, Who?

Overall, BLACK BOLT #1 is an exciting read. It’s a story that reaches out and digs its claws into the heart — an endless cycle of powerlessness and loss. While the story and the stacked complications had me madly flipping pages, I was a little wanting for more characterization. Sure, I cared why all these horrible things were happening, but I want a reason to care why they happened to Black Bolt specifically. I want a hero who is more than his powers, especially when he loses them.

READ: Want more on Black Bolt’s past? Check out our review of ROYALS #1!

I’m curious, too, how The Jailer will factor in upcoming issues. So far he’s a pretty flat villain, so I don’t imagine him being any sort of main antagonist. The Jailer is a mere annoyance at this point. A murderous annoyance, but still. My concern going forward with him is that the aspect of Black Bolt’s failed escape could become overly cyclical. I imagine that it’s going to be quite some time before our hero makes it out of the secret prison, and I’m thinking his fellow inmates have something planned he won’t be expecting. I’m looking forward to when he finally breaks free, as his complicated history with his mad brother promises a dramatic confrontation.

Marvel's Black Bolt #1
BLACK BOLT #1, courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Feeling Blue with the Artwork

The art by Christian Ward is breathtaking. The use of color throughout the entire issue is stunning. The immersion of cool blues makes the panels radiate a feeling of isolation. Then, on the last page, the splash of colors outside the jail — yowza. Quite frankly, I could have stared at that page for hours. The fight scenes were visceral, too. I could feel the movement of some of those punches. It really made the story feel active, and it immersed me in the plot.

Onward and Out

BLACK BOLT #1 kept me on my toes and surprised me. I think it’s a genuinely promising start to a series, and I’m definitely hooked so far. With more questions forming than I’ve had answered, I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the second issue on June 7th.

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