Black Bolt has always been kind of an enigma. He's the king of the Inhumans but he's also a bit unknowable, due to the fact that he doesn't speak. He has a voice that can topple mountains and so for the sake of those around him he stays silent. I'm out of the loop on whatever has been happening in the Inhumans, but something about this series appealed to me, so I gave it a try. I'm glad I did.
Apparently Black Bolt is no longer king and has been imprisoned on the far side of the galaxy. His powers have been nullified and he's at the mercy of a sadistic being known only as the Jailer. He is tormented by voices calling on him to repent for his crimes, and even when he breaks free it appears his captor is toying with him. However as he explores the vast prison he encounters other prisoners, including a telepathic child named Blinky and a villain named Crusher Creel. It was fun to see Crusher here as he has tangled with Thor and the Avengers in the past.
The interesting thing here is that this is almost Crusher's story as well as Black Bolt's. Crusher has always been portrayed as little more than a thug, but here we learn more about him, and dare I say he becomes sympathetic? Writer Saladin Ahmed takes a one note character and gives him genuine depth. Together with his new allies (and a few others) Black Bolt attempts to free them from the prison and confront their Jailer in the process.
I know Saladin Ahmed as a writer of YA fantasy, but I've never read his books. I was impressed here- he ties the story into Marvel history just enough without inundating the reader with tedious backstory. Blinky is awesome, and Black Bolt himself is written with a depth that the character has probably never had.
The art is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand I like it- the weirdness of the prison and the alien vistas are handled well- but the art is also occasionally hard to follow. I have to say about Black Bolt and Crusher. I don't think there are two characters more different than these two, and yet the heart of the book may be the relationship that develops between them. Bolt has always been stoic and regal, a king with a tremendous responsibility and a lot of guilt, whereas Crusher has been a thug and unrepentant criminal. The way that they find common ground, and actually become friends, was a joy to read. This is a graphic novel definitely worth reading.