Over the last few years, there’s been a real push from Marvel to set The Inhumans front and center across all its media. From the influx of new Inhumans comics to a movie announcement, a TV series, and appearances in computer and mobile games, the residents of Attilan have had more exposure than ever before. This exposure hasn’t always been successful, however. The movie was quietly canceled in favor of the TV show, which was also canceled after just one season. The comics have taken a quantity over quality approach, and many fans were concerned that the Inhumans were being set up to replace the X-Men, something Marvel has always denied.
Despite the Inhuman waters being muddied slightly, there’s no denying the strength of that original core team of characters. Less of a superhero squad and more of a metahuman monarchy, the royal family of Attilan were first introduced in Fantastic Four #65 from 1965, at a time when the creativity of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby knew no limits. The core group consisted of Queen Medusa, Princess Crystal, the philosophical martial artist Karnak, cousin Gorgon and, of course, King Blackagar Boltagon, aka Black Bolt. The Inhuman ruler remains mute for the majority of the time, due to the devastating energy that is emitted every time he talks. This power -- a mutation from the mysterious Terrigen mists -- allows him to level mountains with a whisper, and destroy planets with a scream.
"Thanos Wins" is a recent storyline which saw the Mad Titan confronted with a future world in which an older version of himself had conquered the universe. King Thanos recounted his journey to becoming the final being in existence, including the reveal of how he defeated the almighty Celestials.
After murdering his way through Earth, the Celestials returned to their garden world to intervene in the destruction of the human race. Knowing he was outnumbered, Thanos killed Black Bolt in front of them, and the resulting blast from the force of his dying scream not only decimated the entire Celestial army but a good chunk of the planet in the process.
In the bleak, post-apocalyptic future depicted in "Old Man Logan," there are many weird and dangerous creatures lurking around every corner. Not least of these was the latest host for the alien Venom symbiote: a T-Rex from the Savage Land.
As Logan and Hawkeye race across the wasteland, they draw the attention of the Venomsaurus Rex, revealed in a later story to have been on the hunt for Hawkeye for years. They are watched by Emma Frost of the Mutant Forbidden Quarter of Chicago, who sends Black Bolt to assist them. The Inhuman King uses his power to blast the Venom symbiote clean off the dinosaur, allowing Logan and Hawkeye to escape.
During the Infinity event, Thanos and his Black Order descend upon Earth with the sole purpose of finding the Mad Titan’s long-lost Inhuman son, Thane. The first stop for Thanos is the Inhuman capital of Attilan, where he confronted King Black Bolt about Thane’s whereabouts so that he could track him down and murder him.
Black Bolt, incensed by this invasion into the royal city, unleashed an almighty “No!” which not only knocked Thanos back but destroyed Attilan completely. Black Bolt’s roar had a secondary effect too, which was to power a Terrigen bomb within the vaults of Attilan, a bomb which detonated and spread a cloud of Terrigen across the planet, activating latent Inhumans across the globe.
After being shot off into space by the superhero Illuminati, crash-landing on an alien world, being enslaved and forced into gladiatorial combat, rising up to challenge and defeat the king and finding happiness with a new wife only to have her killed by the same rocket that stranded you, you’d be as mad as Hulk was too.
That’s the prelude to World War Hulk, which saw the not-so-jolly green giant return to Earth for his vengeance. His first stop was the Moon, where even Black Bolt’s mighty scream couldn’t slow him down. Now, before you say anything, we know that this was technically a Skrull imposter and not the real Black Bolt, but in our defence, we didn’t know that at the time, so we think it still counts.
War of Kings was a Marvel cosmic event that was the culmination of many storylines, including Annihilation and events running through the X-Men comics at the time. It chronicled the war between the Shi'ar empire, led by Vulcan ( the third Summers brother), and the Kree empire, led by Black Bolt and the Inhumans.
The war came to a head when a massive Terrigen bomb -- designed to turn the Shi’ar into Inhumans too -- was detonated by Black Bolt’s scream, which not only seemingly killed him and Vulcan but ripped a hole in reality as well, a tear that opened up our galaxy to the dreaded Cancerverse.
Among the ruins of Attilan, following the detonation of the Terrigen bomb during the Infinity event, Thanos and Black Bolt emerged and continued to fight. The Mad Titan has been known in the past to confront gods and the cosmos itself, as well as being the most infamous wielder of the Infinity Gauntlet, so readers knew this battle would be epic.
Despite leveling their entire city around them, Black Bolt was still unable to defeat Thanos. Even when the latter grabbed Black Bolt by the shoulders, forcing him to scream directly into the face of Thanos, all it did was destroy his armor and anger him even more. Maximus believed that the Terrigen bomb reduced his brother Black Bolt’s powers after it detonated, giving Thanos a lucky escape.
Earth X was a limited series from 1999 created by Alex Ross, which envisioned a dystopian future in which Terrigen mists have transformed all of humanity into superheroes. Throughout the story it’s revealed that Earth is merely an embryo for a giant, unborn Celestial and that this advanced mutation puts its life at risk, causing the Celestials to return to Earth to wipe out humanity.
Black Bolt of Earth X is similar to his 616 counterpart, except his Inhuman mutation had advanced further, turning his body into some form of organic metal. In the battle against the Celestials, Black Bolt sacrificed his life screaming across the cosmos for Galactus, who came to Earth and consumed the Celestial embryo.
Not much is known about Vortex, the galaxy-collector, except what is recounted in a sort of modern legend surrounding Black Bolt. In the Inhumans series by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee, the grand cosmic meeting is merely mentioned, implying that Black Bolt was victorious against this unspeakable, nigh-omnipotent being.
In the single page in which he is referenced, Vortex is shown like a god of the universe, and Black Bolt described as an “impossible speck of nothing.” When Black Bolt merely threatens to use his powerful voice, however, it’s noted that the creature “blinked.” It’s a simple, yet epic moment in Black Bolt’s history.
Black Bolt’s early life and childhood were understandably restrictive. When your child has a scream that can destroy the planet, you need to take precautions. He was protected and trained in his powers until the age of 19, where he was finally allowed to roam freely in Attilan.
His freedom was bittersweet, however, because he stumbled upon a plot between his brother Maximus and their enemies in the Kree. Black Bolt went against a lifetime of training and used his voice to destroy the escaping Kree’s ship. The ship, however, crashed on the Attilan parliament, killing many, including his parents, and the reverberations of his scream sent his brother mad.
During the early days of the Inhumans in Marvel comics, their adventures were wrapped up with those of the Fantastic Four. They were a strong addition to that series, one that would lead to their stories and lives being intrinsically linked for years later. In one such story, following a failed plot by Maximus the Mad, the Inhumans were trapped under an impenetrable energy dome.
This negative barrier was impervious to all attempts at disruption, and it was Maximus’ plan to force Black Bolt to use his voice, and potentially kill them all in the process. With no other choice, the Inhumans sought shelter underground, and their king unleashed the full power of his voice, destroying the barrier and Attilan in the process.
The Illuminati were a secret group of superheroes in the Marvel universe that had been working behind the scenes for years without anyone knowing. Reed Richards, Professor X, Black Bolt, Tony Stark and Namor all came together in the shadows to protect and defend against Earth’s greatest threats.
On one occasion, the group convened to once and for all collect the Infinity Stones and destroy them. They already possessed the Soul, Power and Space stones, and Black Bolt was tasked with collecting the Reality Stone. Using an amplification device, Black Bolt’s voice was able to tear a hole in reality itself to find the stone hidden beyond spacetime.
The shape-shifting alien race the Skrulls have always believed that Earth was their ancestral home, and have tried on multiple occasions to invade and conquer the planet. Their most successful attempt was depicted in Secret Invasion, where many heroes -- including Black Bolt -- had been replaced by the shape-shifting invaders.
Once the invasion was uncovered, an all-out war erupted between the superheroes and the Skrulls, with the latter sending an army of Super-Skrulls -- soldiers enhanced with the powers of superheroes -- to Earth. Black Bolt, still incensed from his kidnap and replacement by the Skrulls, merely whispered at one of the Super-Skrulls, and completely obliterated it.
Marvel What Ifs are a goldmine for alternate reality storylines that allow writers to really cut loose with the characters of the Marvel universe in a way that the regular continuity just doesn’t allow. In the issue, entitled "What If the Alien Costume Had Possessed Spider-Man?" we see a different world in which Spidey hadn’t overcome the Venom symbiote, and he was fully possessed.
After the symbiote drains Peter Parker of life -- turning him into an old man in a matter of days -- it jumps to Hulk, and then to Thor. The heroes turn to Black Bolt, and his vocal powers are the perfect weapon against Venom, decimating it, destroying Mount Rushmore and saving Thor all at the same time.
If you’re unaware of who Gladiator is, he’s the Preator of the Imperial Guard and at one time the head of the mighty Shi’ar Empire. He is, in short, one of their greatest warriors, champions and leaders. He’s also one of the closest characters Marvel has to Superman, which is a great shorthand for describing his powerset.
He’s confronted Black Bolt on numerous occasions, and despite Black Bolt’s voice, in a fair fist fight, the Inhuman King stands no chance of defeating Gladiator. As we saw in the War of Kings event, however, Black Bolt’s powerful voice -- even at just a whisper -- is enough to knock Gladiator off his feet.
Being the Herald of Galactus, you can imagine that the Silver Surfer would have many enemies across the galaxy. Perhaps none is so strange as Midnight Sun, however, a villain with a convoluted backstory that stretches from Shang-Chi comics, through Kang the Conqueror, and landing with the Kree, who decided to use him as a weapon against the Surfer.
One of their conflicts took place on the moon, where Midnight Sun had retreated for some solitude. Seeing as the Inhumans were living on the moon at the time, this fight was basically in their backyard, causing Black Bolt to quietly say one word -- “Stop.” -- and cracking the ground beneath the feet of the cosmic combatants.
It’s always epic seeing Black Bolt completely decimate his foes with a whisper, no matter what reality it’s in. Take House of M, for example, a world created by Wanda and Pietro Maximoff which posited mutants as the most powerful species on Earth, and their father Magneto the ruling Monarch.
In this reality, Black Panther had recruited Black Bolt to help defend Wakanda from the mutant enemy Apocalypse. Luring the ancient villain into a trap, Apocalypse came face to face with Black Bolt, and his word was so quiet it wasn’t even depicted in the word balloon, but it was enough to leave nothing but a crater in front of him.
We saw what happened when Hulk battled Earth in World War Hulk, but in a very different world, it could have been Hulk himself who died back on Planet Sakarr, and his wife, Caiera, who undertook a mission of vengeance. Not held back by Hulk’s compassion, Caiera -- as seen in an issue of What If -- cut a ruthless path through the superheroes.
Her first stop, as was Hulk’s, was the Moon, and Black Bolt. She was able to overcome the Inhuman King, shattering a chunk of the Moon in the battle, and enslaved him, dragging him with her to Earth. As Sentry and Dr. Strange approached her ship to investigate, she forced Black Bolt to speak, and the shockwave turned the heroes to dust.
The Death of X event was just a small part of a grander storyline that saw the Inhumans and the X-Men collide in a complex battle over the survival of both of their species. Specifically, Death of X looked to fill in the eight-month gap after Secret Wars that led to the Death of Cyclops.
In the event, it’s revealed that the Terrigen mists -- unleashed by Black Bolt after his battle with Thanos -- are deadly to Mutants, and seeing as they are vital to the survival of the Inhuman species, this led to an epic showdown between Cyclops and Black Bolt, the later obliterating the long-time X-Man with one powerful scream.
Following the House of M event, which saw mutants everywhere lose their powers, Quicksilver stole the Terrigen crystals from the Inhumans to try to use them to kickstart mutant powers once again. This theft was thwarted by S.H.I.E.L.D, who decide to hold onto the crystals as they saw them as a weapon that could be used against the United States.
Black Bolt and the Inhumans -- their entire culture based around the Terrigen crystals -- declared this an act of war, and stormed S.H.I.E.L.D. in order to retrieve what is rightly theirs. Black Bolt found himself confronted with The Sentry -- Marvel’s mentally unstable Superman -- who was promptly wiped out by a whisper from the Inhuman King.
If there’s one thing that Doctor Doom always craves, it’s power, and in Fantastic Four #375, he got just that when he was able to steal the power of Aron, a rogue Watcher. Crafting a new suit of armor to harness this incredible cosmic power, Doom set his sights on destroying Uatu -- the Watcher of Earth -- before going on to kill his enemies the Fantastic Four.
With both the FF and the Inhumans convening on the Blue Area of the Moon to confront this new, Cosmic Doom, Reed Richards gave Black Bolt a machine designed to channel the Inhuman King’s power and funnel it into Doom, overloading him. With a single word, the machine exploded towards Doom and wiped him out in the blast.