Two issues ago, The Silent King was granted the ability to speak without fear, without the violence that usually accompanies his words…without its power. Can he, and the other powerless prisoners, escape from the Jailer’s clutches and recover what was lost? Does he even want to? Minor spoilers ahead
Written by Saladin Ahmed
Illustrated by Christian Ward
Colored by Christian Ward
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
• The prisoners revolt! But are Black Bolt and his unlikely allies simply pawns in a bigger game?
• Plus: Death’s Head! Is he there to help…or hunt?
• And who — or what — is the warden of this strange place? Whatever it is, the Jailer knows only penance and fear. And soon, so will the Silent King!
The simple answer to these questions are yes and yes. Considering Ahmed hasn’t really dwelled on Blackagar Boltington’s (I’ll never stop loving that name) newly found vocal abilities, it was a pretty safe bet that he never even considered staying powerless. I’ll get to it later but it seems like this is a really big missed opportunity for Ahmed. I’m also kind of surprised by how fast this storyline is progressing. Midway through issue three and they’ve escaped, taken down Spyder and gotten their powers back. Ok, I’m getting ahead of myself a little. First, though, I need to gush about something that I haven’t felt this early into a Big 2 series in a long while – a strong sense of character.
Something that has surprised me the most about “Black Bolt” so far has been the focus that Ahmed and Ward have put on crafting memorable, distinct and likeable characters. I mean, the last book Crusher Creel was in, “Illuminati”, had tons of characters but, honestly, I can’t remember anything about them. Hell, I can’t even remember what Crusher was like in that. None of those characters really felt fleshed out.
Here, on the other hand, we’re only three issues in and it feel like we’ve been palling around with Blinky, Crusher, Black Bolt, Raava, and Metal Master for much longer. In fact, we’ve only really known Metal Master, and this version of Crusher, for two issues and Raava for even less. Blinky wasn’t really in the last issue too much either. Additionally, other than Black Bolt, and arguably Crusher, every character in this series is either a super obscure Marvel character (especially our Kirby monster, Monsteroso) or new/a different character in disguise (I’m looking at you creepy disembodied head). Yet I find myself cheering for these characters audibly when they regain their powers.
There are just so many great little character moments that Ward’s art is able to capture. Like the two-panel exchange between Crusher and Black Bolt right before Metal Master opens the box of powers. Crusher is being his usual brisk and jokey self so when Black Bolt fires back his own little jab, Crusher’s slight look of disapproval and Black Bolt’s little smirk make a lot of sense. Then, when they all get their powers, they each react very differently. Black Bolt floats up into the air, becomes the focal point of the page, with him literally floating about them all, regal and radiating power. Blinky just silently prays in the background while Crusher flexes and absorbs whatever red-substance the wall is made of. Raava, at first looking up a Black Bolt, slowly flies up towards him, expositing about why she does not shapeshift. In a different book, her exchange here might have felt like a cheap explanation by the writer or a clunky bit of exposition but here, it feels like another one of those character moments. She is comfortable with who she is and her facial expressions compliment this. Her face is calm and content before twisting into a warrior’s grin, covered in shadows, as she pulls out her two swords, Angry Daughter and Hungry Son (both references to her lost children).
It could have been so easy to just have the box open and then get a splash page of everyone demonstrating their powers. But instead Ward breaks the pages down into relatively small panels, using a couple to just show a fist or a silent face, and gives us a diffused but character driven demonstration.Continued below
If you read my micro-review last month, you’ll know that I talked about how Ward uses his panels to emphasize the emotions or the actions of the comics to great effect. He continues to do that here, like when he shows just how powerful Metal Master is by having the panel rend and twist along with the doors when he tears them open. Bits of the door flies off, as if they’re coming towards us and really making the comic feel like it’s taking place in 3-d space. He does this again later on when Black Bolt whispers the Jailer through a wall and the panel is angled so that we can see the explosion of rubble behind it, really accentuating just how powerful Black Bolt is. Or when the panels are angled to be like a corner that Black Bolt is sneaking around or….You get the idea.
There are, however, a few pages where the layout doesn’t flow very well, especially in the battle scene with Death’s Head. There’s just too much going on and it’s a bit difficult to really get a grasp on who is shooting or what many of the lines actually are. It’s not UNclear but because of the clarity of last issue and of the rest of the action, it kind of stands out.
Finally, I should really get to addressing Ahmed’s missed opportunity. Considering this is a Black Bolt solo story, I wish we could have gotten more of Black Bolt’s reactions to having his powers been taken away. He can finally talk without repercussion and, although he chooses not to talk very much, he CAN now. Some wrestling with it, with whether or not he wants his powers back, even if he knows that without his powers he is trapped, would have made for an appropriate and interesting plot point. However, I get why he didn’t focus on it. The Black Bolt here doesn’t care about that. He cares more about knowing why he got his powers taken away, what happened to the prison, and about the other people/aliens trapped there with him.
Ahmed may deal with this later on down the line, and I hope he does, but for now, the mystery of the Jailer is more important. Considering how fast this arc is going, I fully expect the next issue to answer most of our questions about the Jailer while also giving Ward permission to go full on trippy.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – Another great issue, filled with excellent characters, color, horror, and a boss from Dark Souls. The Silent King may have had a mouth but now, now he must scream.