WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Black Bolt #9 by Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward, in stores now.
Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward’s Black Bolt is a fantastic comic. Not only does it provide an interesting deep dive into the psyche of one of the Marvel Universe’s most stoic characters, it also tackles a number of unexpected topics. The series has taken on the prison system, PTSD, and guilt in an interesting way, especially when you consider that its lead character literally can’t speak and comes from a royal bloodline. During his time in the prison, Black Bolt has found his typically deadly voice de-powered, allowing him to speak for the first time in, well, forever. Perhaps even more intriguingly, he wound up finding a friend in the most unlikeliest of characters: Carl “Crusher” Creel, the Absorbing Man.
Creel, originally appearing in 1965, has always typically been a villain of Thor, both the Odinson and Jane Foster varieties. Over time, he eventually had a magical hammer of his own thanks to Fear Itself for a time, along with being a hero briefly thanks to the inversion during AXIS. He and Black Bolt had never shared a comic together, so to hear from Ahmed that they’d be in an alien prison together was certainly…interesting to say the least. But, surprisingly, there’s a lot more going on Creel than just being comic relief during the first arc of the book.
He gets the laughs in too, to be sure, but his main purpose in the plot is taking the edge of Black Bolt’s typically hardened nature and treating him just like he would treat pretty much anyone else. Creel even does what none of the other prisoners do to Black Bolt, and that’s give him an affectionately mocking nickname of “Wishbone.” He had been in the prison for some time earlier than Black Bolt, and though the two of them first fought upon meeting, they eventually bond after Creel reveals his violent upbringing to the Midnight King. In the midst of their second escape from the prison, Black Bolt regains his powerful voice and uses it on Creel so he can absorb the soundwaves, killing both himself and the Jailer running the prison.
After dropping off other inmates to their respective planets, Black Bolt and fellow inmate turned adoptive daughter Blinky have arrived on Earth. Thanks to Secret Empire, none of the Atillan Inhumans are particularly happy to see him, but their wrath is nothing compared to when he and Blinky go off to see Creel’s wife, Titania. Naturally, the initial meeting descends almost immediately into a brawl before Blinky uses her psychic powers to show her Creel’s final words and how he used to endlessly talk about her in the prison. He absolutely loved her, and the way that he talks about her and how powerful she is is something that you don’t typically see in Big Two comics. As a result, her learning about his death goes from standard comic trope to genuinely heartbreaking storytelling.
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