Friday, March 09, 2018

Reader's Diary #1756- Saladin Ahmed (writer), Christian Ward (artist): Black Bolt Hard Time Vol. 1

The hype for Saladin Ahmed's Black Bolt: Hard Time run was well deserved.

Black Bolt is not an easy character to write and, as the recent tv Inhumans show proved, when he's adapted poorly he comes across as a dud, though he's supposed to be one of Marvel's most powerful superheroes. The challenge comes with his main power, a voice that can flatten buildings with as much as a whisper. He cannot, however, control when his voice has force and it always does. This means that the character cannot talk most of the time and in TV or comics, where dialogue is typically relied upon heavily to tell a story and to give insight into a character, options are limited. (In the TV show the actor raised an eyebrow now and then which... didn't cut it. Like at all.)

In the first chapter of Hard Time, Ahmed uses skilled narration to do the work.

Black Bolt wakes in filth. He does not know where he is. He does not know how he got here. He only knows... that he is leaving.

Written narration isn't new to comics of course, but I find it less common now than it was in the 70s and earlier and when you read some of those older comics, it makes them seem dated. It also makes it feel like the writers didn't trust the artists to get their points across and the results were often redundant. Ahmed's narration, however, works with the art. He pulls back when the art pushes the story forward and steps in when it does not.

In later chapters, Ahmed "cheats" a little by having Black Bolt and his fellow prisoners (the overarching story is essentially a prison break-out) discover that their powers have been stripped away leaving Black Bolt free to talk without hurting anyone.

Likewise the art by Christian Ward is most fascinating in the first chapter, full of futuristic, pyschedelic shapes, angles, and colours. In later chapters this is all toned down a little.

But while I may feel the first chapter was the strongest, it's not like the collection ever goes off the rails. It remains an engrossing, exciting story with wonderful character building. The friendship that forms between Black Bolt and Absorbing Man is a beautiful thing. 

1 comment:

Loni said...

I was disappointed by the Inhumans show, but, yes, Black Bolt is difficult to write. I wonder what Black Bolt has to say when he can finally speak.