Marvel is putting a lot of effort into making the Inhumans a compelling property, and after a lackluster few years of Inhuman stories, the publisher is trying a new direction for these characters. The Inhuman royal family has taken to the stars in the Royals ongoing series, but one prominent member is missing: Black Bolt, the former Inhuman king. That’s because he’s currently serving time in a mysterious cosmic prison, the setting for a new Black Bolt solo series written by Saladin Ahmed with art by Christian Ward. Ahmed is a novelist and poet making his comic-book debut with this series, and he’s developed a concept that brings out the vulnerability of one of Marvel’s most powerful characters. Bound, chained, and muzzled with no idea where he is or how he got there, Black Bolt is a pale shadow of his former self, and this exclusive preview of Black Bolt #1 emphasizes the claustrophobia and monotony of his current situation.
Artist Christian Ward created some of the trippiest, most innovative comic visuals in recent memory with his work on Image Comics’ ODY-C, but for the majority of this preview, he restrains himself to better evoke Black Bolt’s confinement. Panels are tight around the prisoner, and the primarily blue palette creates a chilly, dank atmosphere. But then Black Bolt stands up. This is a king that can shatter mountains with a single word, and it’s going to take much more to keep him down. Black Bolt’s head and feet break the panel border as he stands, subtly indicating that he’s ready to break free and get some answers. The breaking of his chains is far less subtle, and that big splash page brings in more bold graphic elements, intensifies the color contrast, and features a dramatic composition that heightens the impact of this moment. It’s a spectacular display of power, and if the rest of Black Bolt #1 has as much care and specificity as this opening sequence, it has the potential to be one of Marvel’s most compelling new series.