I dubbed the first volume of this series “visually stimulating” and I stand by that statement. This series, primarily drawn by Christian Ward, is the best kind of out-of-this-world entertainment. Saladin Ahmed has done an impeccable job making a character I’ve never cared about deeply human. Together they’ve made a series many didn’t want to end, but it ends here.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Black Bolt and his unlikely allies are finally free from their strange captivity, but their escape came at a high cost. Now, the Midnight King returns to Earth with a heavy heart and a new companion: the telepathic alien Blinky, a child with nowhere left to go! But the journey home is long and full of dangers – and a horde of space pirates is the least of them! And what awaits Black Bolt at his destination is judgment! In his absence, the Inhumans were rounded up and imprisoned – and now they struggle to maintain their fragile democracy. Someone must pay the price for the horrors they’ve endured. Will Black Bolt survive the wrath of his own people?
Why does this matter?
This series is up for an Eisner for best new series. Need I say more?
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This volume focuses on Black Bolt and Blinky making their way back to Earth and further developing their father/daughter relationship. Ahmed does an amazing job capturing their bond via Blinky speaking for Black Bolt, but also the impressively written introspective captions. Their relationship is further probed when Black Bolt’s son enters the story–who of course feels a direct conflict of Black Bolt’s new more fatherly behavior–and it’s quite fulfilling. By the end, when Blnky is put into great danger you’ll feel great despair and worry for the character due to the great character work Ahmed has done over the 12 issue series.
There’s a melancholy nature to the entire book in part because of the father/daughter element I mentioned above, but also the Absorbing Man. The character met his demise in the last volume and there’s a lot of attention given here to his heroic last acts before his death in the previous volume. Ahmed devotes nearly an entire issue to the Absorbing Man and his funeral, and the sentiments are heartfelt. The characters, rendered perfectly by Ward, truly feel pain and anguish and you see it in their faces and read it in their words. It’s top notch stuff.
Ward is without question doing some of the best work I’ve seen in comics for years. The visuals are incredible and perfect for a cosmic style comic like this one. There are pages in this book that are so complex and layered you’ll wonder how long it must have taken to create something so beautiful. Frazer Irving (chapter 7) and Stephanie Hans (part of chapter 10) join him but their styles work well with Ward’s. Irving’s chapter, which opens the book, is dark and weird and suits the monster-focused portion of the book.
It can’t be perfect can it?
This volume suffers a bit from the turmoil and drama of other series’ stories. Black Bolt arrives to Earth only to discover quite a lot of unrest with the Inhumans, but since I never read those books it’s somewhat strange and foreign. These plot elements seem like holes that need to be filled but never are. Late in this volume we find out they refuse to help Black Bolt due to their own troubles which seems very convenient to the plot (and really misguided given Black Bolt is such a paramount figure in their culture). You can tell the overarching structure of Marvel stories pulled at this story and didn’t allow it to be quite as good as it was meant to be.
The only other element that bothered me was the Absorbing Man. I’ll say as few words as possible to avoid spoilers, but there’s a trope that ends up occurring that doesn’t feel earned. Since it’s a trope it gets a pass, but it somewhat cheapens what came before.
Is it good?
This a deeply emotional and downright gorgeous finish to a series that has earned its Eisner nomination and then some. The only question is whether we should wait for a definitive hardcover or pick this one up!
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