Oh what an interesting little series Black Bolt is. Black Bolt #4 from Marvel by Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward has thus far been something so unlike a lot of what Marvel puts out at the moment, and it's really the same story with this issue. A wonderfully quirky tale celebrating the beauty of life in the fear of death, even a life filled with hardship and villainy.
Picking up sometime after the previous issue left off, with the titular Black Bolt and Crusher Creel trapped in a room rapidly running out of air, their monstrous and mysterious jailer still torturing them for its own amusement. And finding themselves again powerless, there's nothing for them to do but accept a slow, impending death.
So what best to do than share their stories, though we mainly get the story of the life of Carl 'Crusher' Creel – a tale filled with a life of hard knocks and tragedy and highs of blissful love, even amongst thieves and murderers.
What is it lately with comics exploring the tragic backstories and origins of fairly simple villains? Tom King did a stellar job in Batman #27 a couple weeks ago, and now Ahmed does the same at Marvel, making us feel for Creel in a way that few would have thought possible.
It's perhaps not overly surprising. Ahmed has discussed before how much of what is now Black Bolt stemmed from an original pitch for Marvel for a Crusher Creel series, so that Creel is given so much focus and depth here is understandable. But it is how Creel's history and life bounces off the royal and Inhuman Black Bolt that really helps this series.
His story is relatable and heartfelt, even if the language seems coarse at times, or the life filled with deep lows or crazy highs, Creel's life story feels real, poignant. And the end of the issue, as he faces the end, is a melancholic note to leave the audience on, making us feel the palpable loss of a life, any life, and it's singular importance.
That Ahmed and Ward do this in a 20 page comic story is a testament to the incredible work they're doing with the comic.
And of course, let's not forget the artwork. Ward is putting together a singularly beautiful artefact of comics in this series, and this issue in particular, while at times his most straightforward and simple work structurally, illustrates the story of a life, and an end, so perfectly it heightens the feelings the story brings to giddy heights.
Black Bolt is simply put one of the most interesting, different and artistically vital books Marvel are currently putting out there. I highly recommend getting involved.