Marvel’s Inhumans characters have been experiencing a renaissance of late, headlining a number of series and playing key roles in such events as Infinity and Inhumans vs. X-Men. Ironically, one of the most well-known of the Inhumans is Black Bolt, their king who can wreak havoc with but a whisper. Due to his royalty and the barrier his destructive voice creates between him and the rest of the world, he’s often inscrutable and written as a silent Sphinx, quiet and uncommunicative.
However, in a dozen issues, writer Saladin Ahmed (Abbott) and artist Christian Ward (Ody-C) have taken the Midnight King and circumvented narrative roadblocks that often made Black Bolt unknowable. Following exile by his brother Maximus, who posed as Black Bolt and usurped the throne, the hero found himself in a prison for super-powered criminals. However, while running into criminals such as Thor mainstay Crusher Creel–the Absorbing Man–and other prisoners, Black Bolt begins to reconsider his thoughts on everything from justice to the law and how his ideas of right and wrong don’t always match up with the realities of the world beyond his palace.
This week, Black Bolt concludes with issue #12 this Wednesday, seeing a culmination of the seeds that Ahmed has laid since his inaugural story. While speaking with Mr. Ahmed recently about his work, the writer gave insight into how was able to find a hook to creating Black Bolt’s stories, how his love of Crusher Creel meshed with his plans for the series, and what we can tease about the book’s ending.
FreakSugar: What was the initial hook for you to how you approached Black Bolt?
Saladin Ahmed: Initially the hook was that Marvel asked me. [laughs] Working for Marvel was a lifelong dream. Almost anything they came to me with, I’d find a way to work.
When I began to dig into Black Bolt, my first reaction was, it’s the guy with the little wings who blows things up when he talks. [laughs] I knew vaguely who he was and the Inhumans, but I didn’t know the recent stuff with him and the push with Marvel with the Inhumans to put them to the fore.
I had these barebones images of who he was. When I began to dig in, though, I found him fascinating in a love/hate way. I’m always interested in working class character. I’m not interested in imperious types, and that’s what he is. He’s a king. He’s one of the most powerful characters on Earth in the Marvel Universe. I had this contentious relationship.
But then as I dug into who he was and what his limitations were, I kind of fell in love with the character. I should say that I had been working on a pitch for a Crusher Creel [the villain known as Absorbing Man] limited series. Marvel had invited me to throw something at them before they called me before they called me for Black Bolt. But I just couldn’t get it together. It was lopsided. [Editor’s note: Crusher Creel plays a key role in the Black Bolt series.]
However, I wedded that with my story. Black Bolt had to be out of the way for six months doing something else. As soon as I merged that with a prison book, it all fell into place. He became a perfect character that, even when I didn’t care for him, served as a perfect counterpoint to the stories I wanted to tell. It just worked out great. It’s sad: we’re coming up on issue #12 now. I told the story I wanted to tell and it’s the ending I was working toward. But it’s still sad.
FS: You mentioned Crusher Creel, who is important to the story. He’s a character that I could never connect to, but you made him incredibly sympathetic. What was it about him that wanted you to do a whole miniseries around him?
SA: Crusher is a character who’s been around 50 years. He’s an archetypal lunk-head: a kind of one-note, working class villain. To me, he stands in for a lot of the what’s wrong with the politics of superhero comics, who the bad guys are and why. The bad guys are the ones who are robbing banks and so on. My take on Crusher was a bit of a subversive one. Wedding that to a takedown of a king worked out really well.
FS: Issue 12 is the final chapter of the book. Black Bolt is kind of having a reckoning with sins of his past and past of inhumans. What can you tease about the fallout we can expect to see?
SA: A lot of the book is dealing with legacy and where you come from. Black Bolt realizes that he can’t fix everything. By the end of 12, we’ll sort of come full circle. He’ll have learned some things. As teased from cover of issue 12, There’s a reunion that we and Black Bolt have been waiting for. I’m a happy writer. For all darkness and torture that’s in my writing, I like my heroes to come out on top even if they’re a little scarred. I hope it feels earned.
Black Bolt #12 debuts this Wednesday, April 4th, from Marvel Comics.
From the official issue description:
THE RECKONING OF THE MIDNIGHT KING! A former queen’s promise to her former king. Medusa swore to find Black Bolt, and she has — but will she be in time to save him? Voiceless and betrayed, the former ruler of the Inhumans faces a darkness he thought he had put behind him. But he won’t face it alone. Old friends. Reunited lovers. A son and a new daughter already lost. Black Bolt faces his penance with all he loves by his side.