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Comics Review

Comic Book Review – Black Bolt Vol. 1, Hard Time

Volume 1 of Black Bolt’s solo series, subtitled Hard Time, is out.  Writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Christian Ward fulfilled the promise of the first issue (which I looked at previously) and more.  Ward says a lot about who gets put in prison and why, while not ignoring the kickass fights and teleporting dogs we all crave.

Who is Black Bolt?  Why should I care?

It’s funny, despite the fact that Marvel’s been pushing them for the past few years, AND there was a TV show (which wasn’t great) out this year, AND they are an original creation of Jack Kirby, the Inhumans still feel like a group people don’t know much about.  I think it’s because Terrigenesis is being used in place of “I hit puberty and got my mutant powers” for how to power up new teen heroes.  Everybody’s familiar with a few Inhumans, like Ms. Marvel or Moon Girl, but mostly ignore the Royal Family.

Black Bolt, the silent king of the Inhumans, can speak and shatter mountains.  His voice is a weapon so powerful that he had to be trained from birth to stay perfectly silent (he’s great at parties).  Both his status as king and his necessary silence keep him at arm’s length from most people beyond his immediate family.  This has left Blackagar Boltagon (yeah, that’s his name) as a bit of a blank slate, compared to other heroes who have been around this long.

Doing Hard Time

This series sees Bolt trapped in a crazy prison, his brother Maximus the Mad managing to switch places with him.  He hears a voice, a demand, “NAME YOUR CRIMES!  REPENT YOUR CRIMES!”  He dies, is reborn, and eventually frees himself.  Black Bolt meets his captor and speaks…but nothing happens.  He dies again, and that’s when thing really start.  The other prisoners convince him to work with them on an escape, and it’s a great cast of characters.  The most notable is long-time henchman Carl “Crusher” Creel.  He serves as a sharp contrast to the noble, remote Black Bolt.  My favorite addition to the Marvel universe might be Raava the Unskrulled, a Skrull space pirate who never learned to shapeshift, because she wants her enemies to die seeing her true face.  The book is a great balance between philosophical discussions and butt kicking.

That ART

Christian Ward’s art is gorgeous, from the inky depths of space to bright shocks of color when Black Bolt uses his power, it looks AMAZING.  This might be my favorite comic art since I first encountered David Aja’s work on Hawkguy.  Matt Fraction is actually where I first learned of Ward’s art, in their fever-dream gender-swapped Odyssey comic ODY-C.  I am so glad he’s getting mainstream work, and I sure hope it continues.

Conclusion

If you’re not afraid to think about what we do to criminals and poor people in our world in between all the smashing and crushing, check out Black Bolt: Hard Time.

Categories
TV

How The Inhumans Should’ve Started

The first three episodes of The Inhumans have aired (the fourth is tonight), and they are…not great.  I’m no pessimist, and I’ll probably keep watching, but I have a LOT of thoughts on what went wrong, and how it could’ve been fixed.

Why Inhumans couldn’t be a movie

I actually agree with Marvel that The Inhumans shouldn’t be a movie.  They already caught lightning in a bottle with Guardians of the Galaxy.  Taking a group nobody knows and making them a huge hit may not have worked again.  Plus, you’ve already introduced the idea of Inhumans on TV via Agents of SHIELD.  Why give up that synergy?  It’s one place where Marvel could look to DC for inspiration.  A lot of the fun with the DC TV universe right now is how they can intermingle at will.  Wally West can pop in on Legends of Tomorrow, Felicity can slide into The Flash.  Use that.

Rushed it

“…”  -Black Bolt’s best line of the series

It seems clear to me that the background strive between Marvel’s TV and movie arm had a huge negative effect on The Inhumans.  What we ended up with was a movie-length story stretched to fit 8 TV episodes.  We have no reason to care about the Royal Family.  You can’t even tell whether or not Maximus is in the wrong.  That might work as an action movie where you just keep up a breakneck pace, but for 8 TV hours, nope.

Should’ve been SHIELD

If it were me, I would’ve gone ahead and made this part of Agents of SHIELD.  They had some great success with story arcs last season, and that could’ve worked well here.  You can even start building things the same way.  Triton comes to Earth to rescue an Inhuman, but instead of finding some babe in the woods, it’s Daisy.  I mean, it’s unclear how many times Black Bolt has sent people to Earth to rescue Nuhumans.  Has he really never encountered someone aware of the whole Inhuman society that happened?  How did he find out about Nuhumans, period? Those things break down the more you think about them.  If you bring SHIELD into the mix, you can build from a stronger base.  Maybe the Royal Family team with Coulson/Daisy to help the Nuhumans escape from a shadowy organization that’s hunting them.  You can then build Maximus’s betrayal out over the whole episode arc.  It would also give you time to show just WHY Black Bolt’s rule is a good one.  Because brutal caste systems aren’t usually something we’re supposed to root for.

Marvel missed big with The Inhumans.  On the plus side, the characters exist now in the MCU (albeit the TV branch).  Even if their show is cancelled, there’s no reason they can’t appear further.  In the mean time, read Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward’s Black Bolt series.

Categories
Review TV

Agents of SHIELD Recap – S03E05 4,722 Hours

This will be quick as I’m very late getting this out.  AoS wastes little time in showing us just what happened to Agent Simmons on the blue-tinged planet.  It starts out as you expect, with Simmons falling back on her training for survival – at first staying near the portal exit in case it can be reopened, then eventually setting off for food and water.  Jemma shows both her resourcefulness (“You’re dinner, biatch!”) and the stress from being stuck on a planet that seems to have near-permanent night.

The surprising twist comes when Simmons is captured…by another human!  “Will” seems nuts at first, not believing Jemma is even real, but turns out to be a decent sort.  Turns out he was the muscle on a NASA mission sent through the portal with hopes that they’d be able to return in a year…14 years ago.  Oops.  Simmons begins working with Will on a plan to get home, with her relentless positivity becoming infections.  It’s all for naught however, when they miss their window to get through the portal, and their message in a bottle backup plan fails as well.  Though it’s quite possible the near-miss may be what knocked the alien dust back through the portal that Fitz found.

Fast-forward to the 4,722nd hour, and Jemma and Will are living a life together on the planet now, as a couple.  They are awaiting the once a generation sunrise…when Fitz’s flare is spotted.  They make a run for it, but the strange dust storms come and in it, Jemma spots a strange figure – one of the other astronaut suits, covered in strange vines or webbing…the ‘death’ that Will warned her about.  He tells her to go while he fights it off with his one remaining bullet.  You’ve seen the rest from the other side, with Simmons pulled through at the last moment, but now you know why she wants to go back so badly.

Poor Fitz is immediately supportive of the task, despite the heartbreak he must be feeling at the reveal about Will and Simmons and the relationship.  It seems likely that at some point in the season, we will be back on the planet, as the end scene showed Will still alive.  But will he still be sane after losing Jemma?

Random thoughts:

  • So NASA had the monolith and knew it was a portal.  Will said the information about how they knew a planet was on the other side was “classified…above my pay grade” but it’s an interesting question.  Did someone make it back?
  • The prevailing theories about what that planet is are fun.  Ego, the living planet?  I doubt it, but the fact that it is heated internally means I can’t immediately discount the idea.  Still, I think something Kree/Inhuman related makes more sense.
  • What the heck was the ‘Death’ on the planet?  Can’t be a coincidence that the word Death appeared frequently around the monolith in the places it was hidden.  Makes the idea that someone came back twisted by whatever it is on the planet a bit more likely.