Through happenstance, it looks like Joe Glass and I will be having dueling reviews again, even though we have similar feelings on this comic, too.
Black Bolt, the former King of the Inhumans, has been trapped in an intergalactic prison thanks to the deceptions of his brother, Maximus the Mad. He has been unable to escape this prison, and he has been chained with the known human criminal, Carl "Crusher" Creel, aka the Absorbing Man. Now, the two sit in a cell where the air is slowly being sucked out the more they talk. Black Bolt has no access to his powers due to their jailer. Believing they will both die no matter what, Blackagar decides to listen to Creel's story while the two their deaths.
Absorbing Man is a classic Marvel villain. He has unique and weird powers, he is a bit of a doofus, and he has a weird moral code keeping him from being one of the more reprehensible and vicious villains the heroes of the Marvel Universe have had to fight with. He also happens to be one of my favorites.
As such, it's really nice seeing him getting a more in-depth backstory and a humanizing moment like this with Black Bolt of all people.
We get to see what Crusher's childhood was like, what his path to becoming an outlaw was like, and how he feels about his criminal career as a whole. His life is far removed from the likes of Black Bolt, but they both have skeletons in their closets. Together, they are interesting to compare and contrast.
Saladin Ahmed makes the right choice of not trying to totally absolve Creel of his misdoings. Absorbing Man admits that he has always had a mean streak, and he admits to enjoying the violence he has wrought. This is no story of absolution; it is merely a dying man reflecting on his life.
Crusher even manages to get a laugh out of Black Bolt.
While this is all greatly enjoyable, those looking for plot advancement or some action will be disappointed. Neither is really present in this comic. While I am all for character expanding, slower paced comic issues like this, I'd be remiss to say that it has anything more than that present. It does manage to keep tension with its premise though, and that keeps it from being completely without conflict.
Christian Ward's art style is very unique. It's fairly ethereal in nature, but it also manages to be very detailed. He plays with color in a very pleasing fashion too. This comic is a lot of blues and purples, and he uses the color scheme to emphasize certain emotions and actions. We also get to see the slow transformation of young Carl Creel into Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man, with portraits of him at different points in his life.
When reflecting on the history of Absorbing Man, one of Marvel's greatest and most persistent rogues, Black Bolt #4 will be remembered as a touchstone for the character. It gave him a lot of depth, and it is a great read for those who may not even have that much of an interest in Black Bolt or the Inhumans.
Definitely give this one a read. Its premise makes it an interesting addition to Marvel canon due to its relevance in one of its most oft-used villains. It gets a high recommendation from me.
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