Lockjaw and D-Man’s adventures continue and we learn the source of the mysterious signal that has set this all in motion in this third in a four issue series from the creative team of Daniel Kibbelsmith, Carlos Villa, Roberto Poggi and Chris O’Halloran.
The story so far has seen Lockjaw stirred by a mysterious signal that alerted him to the fact that his siblings may be in trouble. He teleported into action, checking in on his brothers and sisters to make sure they were okay. First he traveled to Brooklyn to see Bixby, a long-lived bulldog cared for by a kooky old woman. And it just so turned out that this woman is the neighbor of the retired super hero and one-time Avenger known as D-Man.
D-Man had lost his super powers some time ago and it has left him adrift, feeling depressed and purposeless… trying to find some new sense of meaning in life. Yet being a hero is in his nature and, powers or not, D-Man jumped into action and assisted Lockjaw when a swarm of hamster-piloted flying saucers attacked.
Together, Lockjaw and D-Man were able to fend off these hamsters and, once Lockjaw was sure Bixby was safe, he teleported off to his next sibling. D-Man accidentally tagged along and the two had another adventure in the prehistoric Savage Land. There they encountered Ka-Zar and Zabu and battled a pack of giant wolves. The fight was cut short, however, when it was revealed the pack was lead by ‘The Great Beast’ whom it just so turned out is Lockjaw’s sister.
The Beast herself had been also attacked by hamster in flying saucers yet she and her pack where able to defeat them without aid. Seeing his sister was doing fine and needed to protection, Lockjaw teleported off taking a very confused D-Man with him.
This most recent teleportation was a much more significant jump… Lockjaw transported to an entirely new dimension. This is Earth 8311, the anthropomorphic universe populated be cartoon animal versions of the various heroes and villains of the Marvel 616 Universe.
D-Man had no idea such a dimension existed and is quite confused by it. He has little time to bend his mind around the matter before he and Lockjaw are attacked by The Wisker and his Wrecking Zoo (an anthropomorphic version of The Wrecker and the Wrecking Crew). Fortunately, the Spectacular Spider-Ham swings in to lend a hand and the villains are defeated.
Teleporting to a whole new dimension has taken a lot out of Lockjaw and Spider-Ham leads them to a safe location and it is here that they meet Lockjaw’s other sister, Doc Jaw. This sibling had been brought tot he 8311 Universe when she was just a puppy and the anthropomorphic filed surrounding he world impacted her development, changing her into an anthropomorphized version of herself. She was discovered by Mooseter Fantastic, who took her in. Under Mooseter Fantastic’s tutelage, Doc Jaw would gone on to become a great scientist.
It is here that D-Man is finally offered some answers as Doc Jaw explains to him (and to us the readers) what exactly has been going on. It is a bit of jarring information dump, but the exposition is appreciated in that it was nice to discover what exactly has been going on.
Here’s the deal… Some thirty years back Lockaw’s mother was a regular dog who was experimented on by an unscrupulous Inhuman scientist (has there ever been an Inhuman scientist who wasn’t unscrupulous?). Lockjaw’s mom was exposed to a version of the mutagenic Terrigen Mist whist she was pregnant and she gave birth to a litter of puppies, each of whom had been altered by the mists. The most powerful of the puppies was Lockjaw, who was imbued with enhanced size and strength, cosmic awareness and the ability to teleport himself and others through dimensional portals. Lockjaw was gifted to the infant prince, Black Bolt, and would go on to be an important member of the Inhuman Royal Family.
Some time thereafter, Lockjaw used his newfound powers for teleportation to transport each of his siblings to new homes. Bixby was transported to Brooklyn, The Beast to The Savage Land; Doc Jaw was teleported to Earth 8311… and so on.
Although Lockjaw’s intentions were good, he was just a puppy and, well, a dog. And in his efforts to transport his siblings to safe places, he accidentally happened upon The Negative Zone. This is a violent realm lorded over by the powerful Annihilus.
Annihilus is a terrible being whose only aim is to destroy everything possible and he has been bent over trying to find access to the multiverse so to spread his nihilistic right of terror and destruction. This being sensed Lockjaw stumbling into the Negative Zone. He sought out the sibling Lockjaw had left there (a brother) and captured him.
Again, Annihilus is intent on accessing the multiverse so to spread his terror. Yet he can only create small, temporary portal to access it. His plan, it would seem, is to seek out Lockjaw and use his genetic material to obtain the ability to teleport between dimensions. To this end, Annihilus has sent out hi minions to capture Lockjaw’s sibling, hoping to lure out Lockjaw and capture him.
With her enhanced intellect, Doc Jaw was able to discern Annihilus’ scheme and she sent out a beacon to him hoping that she could get to Lockjaw first and warn him of Annihilus’s plan.
If ll of this wasn’t complicated enough, there is the additional wrinkle that Lockjaw no longer remembers how to teleport to the Negative Zone. He had made the trip once before, but it was by accident when he was just a puppy. He needs to somehow remember how to make the jump to The Negative Zone so that he can rescue his brother and put an end to Annihilus’s scheme. In order to access this memory, Doc Jaw has created a machine that will allow D-Man to enter into his unconscious dream-scape where hopefully the hidden memory might be found. Or something like that. It’s a bit confusing.
In any case, D-Man is rather reluctant to travel into Lockjaw’s dreams. Doc Jaw convinces him it is a challenge he must step up to. Fate has put him and Lockjaw together. She can sense D-Man’s heroic nature and appeals to his sense of needing to do the right thing. D-Man ultimately concedes and agrees to put on the apparatus that links his and Lockjaw’s minds.
Sleep is induced and D-Man and Lockjaw find themselves wondering through the dreamscape. There the two are attacked by nightmare entities drawn from each of their unconsciouses. These nightmare creatures are destroyed by the timely arrival of a new ally, the mysterious being known as Sleepwalker. And it is here that the issue confused with the promise of continuation in the next issue.
Oh kay… A rather wacky issue with a complicated plot, but still a lot of fun. The Marvel Anthropomorphic Universe is a pretty silly place, with cartoon animal analogs of familiar characters each offered their own pun-based animal names (some better than others. Thunderb -owl?).
It was kind of tough bending my head around Doc Jaw’s exposition of the plot points. I’m still not sure I have everything figured out… are the hamsters in flying saucers Annihilus’s agents? Still, I suppose some degree of confusion is to be expected when you get an information dump from a talking dog. And I can certainly relate to D-Man’s feelings of befuddlement.
In that the two previous issues were a good deal lighter on plot, it offered up more room for exploration of D-Man’s character. Conversely, this issue was much heavier on plot and, as such, D-Man didn’t receive as much character development.
Sleepwalker showing up at the end was surprising. He’s a character I know very little about… although he certainly fits right in alongside D-Man, Ka-Zar and Spider-Ham. I’m loving how Mr. Kibblesmith is drawing from such random corners of the extended Marvel Universe.
I’ve know idea how this nutty story is going to wrap up nor how it is all going to conclude in just one last issue. But I sure am looking forward to finding out.
The art by Villa, Poggi and O’Halloran is once again terrific. It fits perfectly with the tenor of the tale and I especially liked the way the over arching style has shifted from one bizarre location to another.
Definitely recommended. Four out of five Lockjaws.
The Fantastic Three story comes to it’s fantastic conclusion by the fantastic (and Glyph Award nominated) creative team of Brandon Montclare, Natacha Bustos and Tamra Bonvillain.
Here’s the situation: the evil Super Skrull has come to earth and created a terrible machine with stolen components. This device is a kind of de facto Omniwave Projector, an ultra-powerful particle accelerator that can create a doorway to an antimatter universe. Somehow, The Super Skrull has learned that creating such a doorway would beckon the arrival of the Omnipotentis, a being of unlimited destructive power that will destroy not only the earth, but the entirety of the universe.
It’s the sort of crisis that used to be right up the Fantastic Four’s alley. Unfortunately, the Fantastic Four isn’t around anymore. And hence it has fallen on Lunella Lafayette petit shoulders to create a new Fantastic Four and find the perfect balance of brains, brawn and heart needed to stop the Super Skrull and save the day.
To this end Moon Girl teamed up with the remaining members of the FF – Ben Grimm, the ever-lovin’ Thing, and Johnny Storm the hot-headed Human Torch. They proved a formidable squad yet were unable to prevail. There was something missing. They lacked cohesion and couldn’t work as a team. They were unable to recreate that inexplicable magic of the original Fantastic Four wherein the team became greater, more powerful than the sum of its individual parts.
Why this didn’t work was confusing to Lunella. It was like a math problem wherein the solution was anything but mathematical. Yet she finally figured it out and realized that the missing ingredient was her former partner, Devil Dinosaur!
A plan was put in motion. Moon Girl was able to coerce Galactus, the former consumer of worlds, to fight off Omnipotentis and buy her and her team time to take out The Super Skrull’s machine and close the portal. Meanwhile, Lunella was able to tap into the energies created by the Super Skrull’s machine to fuel her own Omniwave Projector, which she used to travel back to the alternate dimension where she had left Devil Dinosaur.
They returned and the team was whole. Now it was clobbering time and they took on The Super Skrull.
A good-old-fashioned super battle ensued as this new FF took on the Super Skrull on the Brooklyn Bridge. The Super Skrull is a tough customer. He’s more than a match for The Fantastic Four in any of its iterations; yet the team has always found an x-factor that stepped in, swayed the battle and saved the day. Something about their unity, they’re being bigger than the sum of their parts allowed for such an x-factor to step in. And Lunella was successful in recreating the formula. And that x-factor stepped in a very literal fashion as Devil Dinosaur actually stepped on The Super Skrull, catching the villain off guard and squashing him under the dinosaur’s giant foot.
With the Super Skrull defeated, Ben and Johnny were able to turn off his machine and cause the vortex between realities to close. Lunella quickly flew off to the gateway between realms to tell Galactus and the Silver Surfer to disengage their battle with Omnipotentis.
Defeated, Omnipotentis offered discouraging words to our hero. She said that Moon Girl and the others may have won for now, but she will be back… nothing can prevent entropy in the grand scheme. The universe will not last forever, it will eventually die just as all things die… a harsh truth sewn into the nature of reality. Lunella takes these harsh words in stride. Basically sticking her tongue out at Omnipotis and telling her, better luck next time.
The day is saved and it’s all thanks to the new Fantastic Four. Ben and Johnny are more than ready to go on to the team’s next adventure, but Lunella realizes that it is not to be. The whole ordeal helped Lunella realize that she was not whole without her partner, Devil D… and that the same is true for Ben and Johnny. Their family is somewhere out there and it is long past time that Ben and Johnny go about finding them.
The two are saddened that Lunella is breaking up the team, but they both seem to realize that she is right. Reed, Sue and the kids are out there somewhere and it is The Thing and The Human Torch’s destiny to find them and re-attain wholeness. An adventure that is currently unfolding in the pages of Marvel Two-in-One.
Lunella and Devil D return to the Lower East Side. Finding a quiet playground to rest, Lunella apologizes for her having left Devil D in the first place. She had thought she was doing the right thing, that the prehistoric reality she had found for him was where he belonged. He tried to tell her she was wrong, but Lunella didn’t listen and for that she is sorry. Manhattan is no place for a Dinosaur… except for when it is. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur are partners, they were meant to be a team. It took Lunella being without him to realize that she is better when with him… that together they become greater than the sum of their parts. Sometimes you have to do things on your own, but it’s always better to have someone their to support you.
There is not a lot to unpack or analyze here. The moral of the story is made abundantly clear. It is a base truth that independence and self-agency is a matter born out of healthy dependence and the capacity to rely on others. Being as smart as she is, Lunella often feels that she doesn’t need to rely on anyone but herself. And time and again, her experiences teach her that she is better when can rely on others. Mutuality is not a crutch that one leans on and inhibits growth, rather it is a scaffolding that supports and fosters such growth.
Lunella sums the matter up aptly in her narration of the action unfolding. Stating, “Sometimes you’re your own. But when someone os looking out for you? Those are better times.”
Where was Lunella way back when I was writing my dissertation? The above is as succinct a summation of the general concept of the theory of psychological object relations as one is likely to find…
There is, however, a more furtively planted thematic in the story… an element of existentialism sewn stealthily into the narrative.
In my capacity as a child psychotherapists, I’ve worked with quite a few highly capacious kids. Being exceptionally smart is a gift, but it is not without its costs. Children who are especially smart can often also exceptionally anxious. They know things on a cognitive level before they have developed the faculties to cope with such knowledge on an emotional level.
And even when you have those faculties, there is a kind of knowledge that no one really has the ability to cope with. The Omnipotentis is correct. All things do come to an end. Every thing is finite and, though it is billions of years in the future, the eventual heat-death where the entire universe comes to an end is an inescapable inevitability.
The harsh, existential truth of our own mortality, of the fact that everything has an end, can be a difficult abyss to stare into. No one has the ability to fully deal with it. One really have only two choices: you can either give in to nihilism (as the Super Skrull had) or you just thumb your nose at the matter and basically say that you’re going to go on anyways (e.g. Lunella’s parting words to Omnipotis).
I prefer Lunella’s approach.
As always, the art by Natacha Bustos and Tamra Bonvillain gels wonderfully with the script, bringing the story alive with vibrant action and rich colors. As far as I’m concerned these two can illustrate the Fantastic Four any day of the week. I especially enjoyed the cosmic battle between Galactus, the Silver Surfer and Omnipotentis. It acts as a wonderful homage to Jack Kirby while remaining true to Bustos and Bonvillain’s individual styles.
What a great ride. Fantastic Three stands right alongside Cosmic Cooties as being my favorite Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur tales. And I’m so glad that Devil D is back. I knew it would be only a matter of time before the big red lug would be back. But I really missed him nevertheless.
Oh yeah, and there’s a really nice letter printed in the back pages. Whomever that guys is who sent that letter in seems like he’s pretty cool (wink wink).
Four out of Five Lockjaws for the issue…
…and Five out of Five Lockjaws for the arc as a whole. Highest recommendation!
Bruno’s back and Kamala becomes an aunt in the latest issue of Ms. Marvel from the creative team of G. Willow Wilson, Nico Leon and Ian Herring.
Things have been rather hectic of late, with Ms. Marvel and her pals having to take on the evil Inventor… but the villain has been defeated and now the real drama is ready to ensue.
The story starts off at the maternity ward where Kamala’s sister-in-law, Tyesha, is about to give birth to her and Aamir’s child. It’s an intense ordeal, too much so for poor Aamir, whose kicked out of the delivery room after he faints. Fortunately, everything turns out fine and it’s not too long before Kamala is introduced to her nephew, Malik.
Aamir is overwhelmed by the joys and terrors of parenthood. Within an instant he is dedicated heart-and-soul to this tiny human and is just consumed with the anxiety that he can never live up to the extreme pressures of being the ideal parent.
Kamala, meanwhile, is on cloud nine. She’s in love with little Malik, loves being an aunt, and it all just fills her with a bubbling joy. Some time later, she goes out on patrol as Ms. Marvel and just dances across the rooftops, feeling like a Disney princess in the first act of a movie where they sing and dance over the joys of their lives.
It’s all interrupted when The Red Dagger jumps in to join her. Ms. Marvel has had mixed feelings about this mysterious young hero who has so suddenly relocated from Karachi. She feels a bit defensive toward him in that he sometimes acts in a way that has made Kamala feel as though her idealism stems from a place of naïveté.
Yet Red Dagger catches her off guard, when he professes how much he had missed her, how he’s thought about her constantly and just feel that she is wonderful.
Kamala is often very hard on herself and to hear this debonaire hero profess such admiration kind of sweeps her off her feet. Before she knows it, she and Red Dagger are kissing atop the minimart. Kamala’s first kiss! And it’s a good one.
Yet the romantic moment is cut short when Ms. Marvel realizes they are being watched. She looks down to see Bruno, who has just arrived back from Wakanda, glaring up at her… clearly alarmed to see his longtime crush making kissy-face with some handsome stranger with perfect hair.
Bruno had been living in Wakanda and his school in the Golden City has gone on break. He’s returned home in order to try to figure out his future – should he stay in Wakanda or return home to Jersey. He’s accompanied by his roommate, Kwezi, who has taken the opportunity to explore America.
Kamala and Bruno meet the next morning before school. They catch up, likely hoping that they can slip back into being lifelong friends the way things had been in the past. It’s not to be. Too much as changed.
Bruno is in love with Kamala, he has been for as long as he can remember. Kamala had believed that Bruno blamed her for the accident that left him so badly injured. And though she’s very happy that he no longer hates her, it’s clear that Bruno still doesn’t agree with Kamala’s double life as Ms. Marvel. He wants things to go back to how they were; she wants him to accept her for who she is.
In Bruno’s rush to come see Kamala, he has entirely forgotten that when he initially left for Wakanda, he had basically abandoned his then girlfriend, Mike. Mike sees him when she arrives for school and it is crushing for her. It’s quite clear to her that she hasn’t at all been in Bruno’s thoughts and she runs off in tears. Bruno doesn’t seem especially phased by it, more intrigued in learning that his classmate Zoe has recently come out as gay.
As all this unfolds, Kamala and the gang are also introduced to a new student at their school… a brash, glamorous and conceited ‘mean-girl’ named Kaylee Kirk. She’s a total snob, but also quite attractive, and she very much catches Zoe’s eye (much to Nakia’s chagrin; she’s not going to stand by and watch her bestie fall for such poorly mannered glamortant).
Artists Nico Leon does a great job at capturing the look of abject befuddlement on Bruno’s face as he takes in all that has changed in his absence.
After school, Kamala catches up with Bruno at the Circle Q, where they continue their conversation. Bruno explains the ways in which Kamala’s becoming Ms. Marvel was so difficult for him. They had been such close friends, but Kamala’s priorities changed after she went through Terrigenesis. She became a masked superhero and Bruno was cast down to the trusty sidekick – a role that left him feeling unappreciated and left behind.
Hearing Bruno express his feelings in such a straight forward manner has a dramatic effect on Kamala. It all leaves her hugely confused and conflicted. She dashes away, b-lining to her local Mosque to seek council from her Masjid, Sheik Abdullah.
This is where the issue really comes to life.
Sheik Abdullah is such a wonderful character and his depictions have always maintained a near uncanny balance of humor, poignancy, snark and reverence. Furthermore, the conversation he and Kamala have re-centers the story back onto Kamala and her ongoing struggles to grow, learn and become the best person she can.
Navigating around keeping her dual identity a secret, Kamala explains that she had kissed a boy, might actually love a different boy, and doesn’t have the faintest idea what to do.
Sheik Abdullah has to admit that when it comes to young romance he often feels it represents a great failing in his effort to guide those who come to him for advice When one is young, everything felt so monumental, romantic interests were overwhelming and seemed the biggest thing in the world. As one grows older, however, recollections of the intensity of young love tends to fade, leaving the older generation Ill-suited to truly relate to these confused, love-struck kids. It becomes essential for someone in Sheik Abdullah’s place to think back and fully remember what it was like to be so young, how every decision felt unbearably crucial and world-changing.
Ultimately, Sheik Abdullah’s guidance is that Kamala should slow down, understand that she has room to make mistakes, and follow her heart as best she can. It’s sage advice.
Elsewhere, Zoe seeks out new girl, Kaylee Kirk. She just wants to be friendly, welcome Kaylee to the school. Kaylee is disinterested in any ovations toward being friends She’s angry, she’s mean, and it would appear that she possesses super powers. In the heat of barking her dismissal of Zoe’s friendship, Kaylee clutches at the metal of the school lockers… squeezing and contorting the metal as though it were a soft clay. She then marches off leaving poor Zoe feeling rather alarmed.
I’ve no idea who this Kaylee Kirk is, what her deal is nor the nature of her apparent super powers. With her being so angry, so mean, and so strong, however, it’s a rather good bet she may quite soon become a threat that our hero, Ms. Marvel, with have to face off against.
Unfortunately, this matter, along with Kamala’s romantic crisis will have to wait until next issue.
There were some parts of this issue I quite liked, as well as a few I didn’t at all care for…
I enjoyed the change of pace, focusing more intently on Kamala’s emotional development and struggle with the onslaught of feelings that are so endemic to being a teen. After her relative absence in the previous arc, it was nice to see Kamala and her inner life so center stage.
And her discussion with Sheik Abdullah was the highlight of the issue, managing to be both funny, touching and profound all at the same time. I liked the way in which Sheik Abdullah’s advice paralleled with Aamir’s being so overwhelmed by the prospect of parenthood. The advice Kamala gleaned could just as easily apply to Aamir and his own struggle. Every stage of life can feel like a bombardment… the only way forward is one step at a time, learning gradually, understanding perfection is unattainable, and just trying to do the best you can.
As for what didn’t work so well for me, I found the pacing a bit off The narrative made some odd jumps and the scenes didn’t move with the same degree of effortless fluidity that I’ve come to expect from this book.
Kaylee Kirk’s introduction felt obtrusive, characters seemed to be coming and going all at once and Kwezi was sort of wasted as comic relief (though he did have some very funny lines).
Nico Leon’s art was terrific as usual, yet his line work and panel composition is not as crisp and dynamic as it had been in the previous arc.
These quibbles on my part may be just that, quibbles… small, unimportant complaints that actually stand in for what actually rubbed me the wrong way. That being that I just don’t really like Bruno.
I know I’ll catch heat from pro-Bruno Ms. Marvel fans out there, but for me the character just kind of perturbs me. Yes, he’s had a difficult life, but I don’t think he’s treating Kamala fairly and I’m rather disappointed to find that Kamala may actually have feelings for him.
His relationship with Kamala all too often feels transactional… like he feels deserving of her love because he’s been a good friend. The injuries he sustained in the civil war II story were entirely his own fault, yet he blamed Kamala; he basically got Kwezi to help him by acting pathetic and eliciting pity; the way he has treated/is treating Mike is altogether inexcusable.
I’m likely not being fair here… but I just don’t like Bruno.
I’d much rather Kamala not have a romantic interest, or her be with Kareem as opposed to her being with Bruno, whom I see as kind of manipulative and self-centered.
Here of course I’m speaking entirely as a fan with a fan’s opinion and not some objective reviewer. We’re closing in on fifty issues of Ms. Marvel and she has definitely become a fictional character I care a great deal for. And as such, I want the best for her and feel quite protective.
I guess I’m worried Bruno will end up hurting her.
And it’s hard to tell if my distaste for Bruno has acted to diminish my enjoyment of this issue as a whole. As such I’ll give it two scores. A more objective four out of five Lockjaws; as well as a less objective, more gut-felt two out of five Lockjaws.
Either way, it’s nonetheless very much recommend.
It’s the final issue of the truly awesome Black Bolt by the Hugo Award nominated team of Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward. Recap, review and series review follows.
By way of the sinister trickery of his brother Maximus, Black Bolt had been imprisoned in a terrifying space gulag on the other side of the galaxy. There the one time king of all of Inhumanity was merely yet another prisoner where he and his fellow inmates were tutored mercilessly by the ghoulish Jailer.
This Jailer was an ancient Inhuman and one-time prisoner who had taken over the space prison and assumed the role of its warden. This Jailer was a vampire of sorts who fed off of the psychic suffering of others; the torture he subjected his inmates to offered up a variable feast to sate his endless hunger.
Black Bolt suffered terribly whist a prisoner in this space jail. It took away his awesome powers and humbled the once proud king. He came to make allies of the various rogues and aliens who were imprisoned alongside him… the sort of beings the Inhuman king had once seen as beneath him.
Black Bolt had always been a solitary man, partly a product of his incredibly destructive voice and the need to remain always silent less he were to unleash havoc.
He had his family, his wife and son, and cousins he loved dearly, as well as his subjects among old Attilan that he dedicated his life to. Yet he never allowed himself to depend on them, seeing such dependency a sense of weakness not afforded a king. Ultimately his stoicism, his need for self reliance and the difficult decisions he had to make as leader cost him everything. His wife left him, his son resented him, Old Attilan was destroyed. And having lost everything offered Black Bolt a new perspective, a vantage that allowed him to see the key differences between power and strength; and in so doing provide him with the opportunity of redemption.
Power is solitary. A king sits alone and Black Bolt’s withholding solitude enabled him to keep this power, like a building energy that he could release with a devastating whisper. Strength, however, is mutual… it comes from the bonds of relationships, dependency and relying on others.
This was the sort of strength Black Bolt found in the forging of bonds with his fellow inmates. Together with the assistance of his trusted teleporting dog, Lockjaw, Black Bolt and his friends were able to defeat the Jailer, destroy the prison and escape their incarceration.
The victory came at a cost. Crusher Creel, the earthly super villain known as The Absorbing Man had sacrificed himself so to enable Black Bolt to strike the killing blow that destroyed the Jailer. And in delivering this blow, Black Bolt lost a sizable portion of his powers.
In the aftermath, the prisoners went their separate ways, leaving Black Bolt to care for the youngest of the lot, a little alien girl with physic powers. Her name is unpronounceable by earthly language, so she just goes by ‘Blinky’ …a suitable nickname for a youngster with so very many eyes.
Black Bolt was reluctant to take Blinky under his wing, care for another child after failing so terribly with his own son, Ahura. Yet their was no choice in the matter. Blinky had nowhere else to go and Black Bolt was not going to abandon her… so he brought her with him as he traveled back home to earth.
His homecoming was not as he had hoped. Medusa, his former wife, was gone having ventured out on a dangerous mission tot he stars in hope of discovering a new source of Terrigen. And his son, Ahura, was embittered to see that his dad had taken on a new ward in Blinky; he felt replaced.
Before Black Bolt could tend to these matters, however, he was obligated to fulfill a promise to seek out Creel’s wife and inform her of his passing. Creel wife is Titania, a villainous (albeit noble) super powered being in her own right. Titania was devastated to learn of her husband’s fate yet took solace in the heroic and selfless fashion of how he died.
Following her husband’s funeral, Titania was there to witness as the evil Inhuman known as Lash attacked Back Bolt. His powers halved, Black Bolt was bested by Lash and he abducted Blinky.
Lash had concocted a poorly devised scheme to utilize the purified Terrigen in Black Bolt’s blood to create a new Terrigen Cloud and hence produce a new army of Inhuman soldiers with which Lash planned to subjugate the world. Playing into his trap, Black Bolt and Titania rushed to Lash’s layer in Greenland, desperate to save Blinky from his clutches.
Lash and his forces outmatched Black Bolt and Titania. Black Bolt was poisoned and installed into some bizarre machine meant to atomize his blood into a new Terrigen Cloud. All of it was too much for Blinky. The trauma of it caused her to be overwhelmed by her own psychic powers. It turned out that a small portion of The Jailer’s sentience had survived by hiding away within the recesses of Blinky’s mind. And the psychic trauma enable this sliver of The Jailer to take over, utilizing Blinky’s power to create tangible illusions to transform her into a reconstituted version of himself.
Reborn and re-powered, The Jailer cut through Lash’s forces and killed the would be despot. Unwilling to see Titania perish as her husband had, Black Bolt forced her to flee and chose to face The Jailer on his own, hoping against hope that he might prevail and save Blinky.
A foolish move. Black Bolt was no match for The Jailer, especially with his powers at half strength. Yet somehow, via his unconscious, Black Bolt was able to once more utilize the lesson that enabled him to defeat the Jailer the first time. It wasn’t something he could do alone; he needed help.
His mind called out to Blinky and hers called out to Ahura. Ahura is a powerful psychic in his own right and somehow his astral self was pulled in alongside Blinky to the mind-scape of Black Bolt’s tortured ego.
Blinky and Ahura wander through the folding architecture of Black Bolt’s memory. They come across his earliest memories, where he was the subject of his parents cruel experiments.
Black Bolt’s parents, King Agon and his wife, Queen Rynda, were obsessed with unlocking the higher potentials of Terrigenesis… so much so that they exposed their son to the Terrigen gasses in utero. He was born with his awesome powers already en tact and his initial infant cry unleash a wave of destruction. As a result, Black Bolt was forced to spend his childhood in seclusion, within a lonely sound-proof chamber where he’s only company were brief visits by his loyal dog, Lockjaw.
Intent on honing his son’s incredible powers, Agon continued to subject Black Bolt to further training, using harsh means to bestow a sense of absolute self control and self reliance. He induces terrible nightmares into his sleeping son’s mind, insisting that Black Bolt endure these terrors quietly and with abject stoicism.
Seeing this is shocking to Ahura. He knew his grandfather was a stern man, but he never imagined his father’s up bring was so painful and lonely. Still, all this is just a memory, something that occurred in the past. But Blinky reminds him that memories of pain are never truly in the past, they are dynamic, constantly recurring in the present. And hence Ahura opts to act, yelling at his bastard grandfather to leave his dad alone.
The visage of Agon hears his grandson, a sinister smile etched across his face. He becomes an amalgam of Agon mixed with he Jailer, lashing back against the invasion that Blinky and Ahura represent.
The shockwave sends the two further into the contours of Black Bolt’s psyche. They find themselves facing off against the nightmare beasts projected into the toddler aged Black Bolt’s mind.
Yet Blinky and Ahura are not defenseless and are able to use their own powers to vanquish the nightmare monsters. In its wake, Ahura received the very odd opportunity to meet the child version of his own father.
Elsewhere, Lockjaw has used his teleporting powers to transport Titania to the graveyard where her husband was buried. There was no body to burry so they had to make do with burying his weapon of choice, an iron ball and chain that he wielded like a mace.
At first Titania is angered and perplexed that lockjaw had brought her here. She wanted to go gather up Creel’s former allies among the Wrecking Crew to return and take on The Jailer. Still, Lockjaw possesses an extra-perceptual sense. He has brought Titania here for a reason and that reason soon becomes evident. The ground of Creel’s grave begins to stir and a metallic hand reaches out from he disturbed soil. Creel himself emerges from the ground, resurrected. It turns out that a portion of his sense of self remained within the molecules of his weapon. Just as The Jailer had hitched a ride in the back of Blinky’s mind so too had Creel stowed away within his weapon. And finally he had managed the will to reconstitute himself. These hows and whys do not matter to Titania, she is overjoyed to have her love back in her arms.
Their tearful reunion is sidetracked when Titania informs Creel that The Jailer is still alive, that he has Blinky and Black Bolt now fights him alone. Creel knows that they must go to fight the Jailer, but must admit that he is terrified by the prospect of it. It’s perhaps the first time that Titania has seen her husband openly express true fear. Yet it’s a fear that he won’t let stop him. Bravery is not fearlessness, it is action despite the fear.
Lockjaw teleports the trio to Greenland and they leap into the fray, taking on the Jailer alongside Black Bolt.
As the battle rages on the outside of Black Bolt’s mind, so too does it within his mind as his child self, Blinky and Ahura fight against the terrible imago of the Jailer mixed with Agon.
Blinky and Ahura fight valiantly but ultimately are no match for the terrors of a lifetime of sorrow, pain and trauma. The child aged Black Bolt holds back, still fearful of losing control of his own rage. Seeing his new friends in such peril unlocks him, he sheds the sense of restraint and withholding that his father’s training had instilled in him… unleashing the terrible power of his voice as he demands that this monster leave his friends alone!
And this power obliterates the sinister imago.
It’s a catharsis, a psychic breakthrough that offers the adult Black Bolt sense of clarity and understanding. His powers have not been halved due to the strain of his earlier battle, rather it has been a psychosomatic condition that he had bestowed onto himself.
Power and strength. Black Bolt gained power through his solitude and strength through relations. He so wanted to maintain that new strength, these new relationships that he repressed his power… erroneously believing that one cannot exist with the other. But he is able to see things more clearly now. It is not a matter of autonomy or mutuality, but rather autonomy and mutuality… power and strength.
Black Bolt full powers have returned. The Jailer makes a last gambit to prevent Black Bolt from unleashing this power, muzzling his mouth with a red energy that seems to represent purified fear.
Black Bolt is afraid. He’s afraid in a way he would have never admitted to before. Yet he sees his new allies, Creel and Titania fighting alongside him, coupled with sensing the presence of his son and daughter fighting within him, imbues him with the power and strength to break through this fear.
He rips off this red fear and speaks a single phrase to the Jailer: ‘It’s over.’
The energy unleashed by these words disintegrates the Jailer, ripping away all of the fear and pain and suffering that empowered him. What is left behind is a weak and lonely man, an ancient Inhuman being who was cast away and imprisoned eons ago. Stripped of the fear that sustained him, this sad being also dissipates, fading off into the past like a memory that is fully digested.
The Jailer gone, Blinky regains her body. Somehow, Ahura’s physical self has been transported to the scene as well. Black Bolt does not understand how it is his son has come here, nor how his friend, Creel, has been resurrected. And once again, the hows and whys do not matter… he is simply overjoyed to see them.
Ahura tentatively approaches his dad. He understands his father better than he had before, but still isn’t sure how to really connect with him. Black Bolt relives Ahura of this uncertainty, taking his son in his arms and embracing him. The kind of hug, of nurturing poor Ahura had long since been denied. It cannot make up for the pains of his childhood, but it is a start toward a new path forward.
The narrative jumps a week forward. Creel, Titania, Blinky and Lockjaw sit about Creel and Titania’s apartment, playing video games and eating ice cream. Black Bolt is in the kitchen, taking his twelfth attempt at frying an egg.
Black Bolt has learned a great deal through this whole ordeal, he has grown tremendously. But he still has much to learn. He is still rather new and awkward with the concept of friendship, offering to buy Creel his apartment building as payment for his aide. He still struggles with the idea that interpersonal relations are not a matter of commerce, trading goods for service. And he continues to be a really lousy chef, once more burning the egg he attempted to cook.
And just as Black Bolt has learned and grown, so too has Blinky. She has been imbued with a new confidence and bravery. She speaks of returning to her home world and leading a rebellion among the downtrodden of her peoples.
Creel comes into the kitchen and has to laugh at Black Bolt’s continuous failed attempts to fry an egg. The one time Inhuman king has the power to levels mountains, yet the simple act of cooking an egg seems beyond him. Not that Black Bolt minds. He’s shed his pride and hubris; he can laugh at himself and accept his own shortcomings.
A loud thud echoes from atop the building. Something has landed there and Black Bolt can sense what it is that has arrived. He flies up to the roof where he finds his former wife waiting for him.
Medusa has endured her own trials. She and her team of Royals had ventured to the World Farm were the stole from the godlike beings known as The Progenitors the raw Primagen, from which a new source of Terrigen can be derived.
The theft garnered The Progenitors’ attention and they had traveled to earth to destroy it and process it for resources.
These Progenitors are beings of our logic and Maximus had devised a means to defeat them by way of the total lack of logic existent in emotion. Medusa was sent to an astral plain to battle these being on her own. In this task, Medusa summoned Black Bolt’s mind. Just as Black Bolt was fastened to Lash’s machine, struggling to resist it, so too was Medusa on the astral plain fighting against The Progenitors. Somehow, the two were able to link minds and draw strength from one another. And the strength derived from their mutuality enabled Medusa to repel the Progenitors… as it ultimately also allowed Black Bolt to resist Lash’s machine as well as destroy The Jailer.
Now the two are reunited in the physical as they had been on the astral. His powers fully restored, Black Bolt can no longer speak. Yet he doesn’t have to. Black Bolt and Medusa had once been so close with one another that words were not necessary. Medusa was able to infer her husbands thoughts and feelings simply by way of their intimate interconnectivity.
They had drifted apart as their divergent obligations create a schism between them. They lost that connectivity and the lack of communication drove them further apart until it reach the point of no repair.
Black Bolt takes Medusa in his arms and the two float above the New York skyline. The two no longer king and queen, no longer husband and wife. They have lost much but through it all regained that connectivity. They are together once more and can know one another without words.
And here the issue and the series itself comes to a conclusion.
We know from their brief cameo in the first issue of Lockjaw’s own solo series that Black Bolt and Medusa are once more a couple. As for what the future holds for the pair, for the Inhumans as a whole… that will have to wait to be revealed this summer when Donny Cates and Ariel Olivetti will bring us the ominously entitled ‘Death of The Inhumans.’ It’s a frightening prospect, but for the time being we get a happy ending.
Endings are tough; final issues even tougher. There is a pressure to wrap things up just right so not to adulterate all that had come before. In hindsight, I should never have worried about Ahmed and ward’s ability to stick the landing… of course they would. This series has been an absolute marvel to behold and the last issue is no different, offering up a final battle that both summarizes and cements the overarching thematic of Black Bolt’s journey.
In as such the narration at times leans a bit heavily on exposition, spelling out matters that are already evident to those who have been following the series from the start. And yet I don’t mind it because it reenforces and affirms the central premise. There’s no longer a need for guesswork and subtly. This is the end so it makes sense that the narration should be so up front with exactly what is going on.
Power and strength, autonomy and mutuality. This is the dichotomy at the heart of this series as a whole. Black Bolt has always been powerful, but has not been especially strong. As king, Black Bolt needed to be powerful to care for and defend his people. To this end he consolidated his power by closing himself off, withdrawing into himself more and more – amplifying the power by augmenting his solitary, autonomy and self reliance. He did so because he felt he had too and accepted the tole that it extracted. Harkening back to the Infinity and Secret Wars events, Black Bolt’s actions helped to save his people and the world as a whole. Yet it cost him everything. He lost his throne, his wife and his family. He became too autonomous and such autonomy is tantamount to abject solitude.
Cast off to the space prison, Black Bolt had his powers stripped away. Without his power, he was forced to cultivate strength. Autonomy was no longer an option and he had to cultivate the foreign notion of mutuality. He had to make friends, rely on others, interconnect. He needed to allow himself to be maternal toward the alien child Blinky as well as true collegiality with the human rogue, Creel.
Fumbling his way to achieve these things offered Black Bolt strength. Yet strength is quite different compared to power. Power has certainty and fearlessness, whereas strength entails accepting uncertainty and allowing oneself to admit to fear.
It so uncommon to see superheroes truly afraid. It makes it easy to mistake fear with cowards and weakness. Yet fear is not weakness, it is an acknowledgment that things are important, that there are matters one is fearful of losing. The truth is a person cannot be strong without being afraid. Being strong means admitting that others are important to you and such an acknowledgment cannot exist without the fear of loss.
Black Bolt had to face that fear when he originally escaped the space prison. Lockjaw had engineered his escape and Black Bolt could have easily fled, leaving his new friends behind. He feared for his life and freedom, but mores feared for the wellbeing of others. And through that fear he was able to muster the bravery to return and help save his friends and vanquish the Jailer.
We see this same thematic reiterated with the fear Creel expresses when he learned the Jailer was still alive. He had just resurrected himself and reunited with his wife. The prospect of facing The jailer once more filled him with dread and again it was quite surprising and unusual to see a super powered comic character so openly express such fear. But again, such fear is part and parcel with the strength and mutuality and, with Titania at his side, Creel was able to transform the fear into bravery and jump back into the fray, offering up the crucial support that tipped the scales and allowed the good guys to prevail.
All of these matters were facilitated by way of the story’s willingness to make the supporting characters fully dimensional and present. It’s an odd irony that this series should be considered a Black Bolt solo series in that the word ‘solo’ is so antithetical to the plot and heart of the story. The relationships that Black Bolt forged with Blinky and Creel was paramount to the story and that’s why it was so important that these characters be given such intricate attention and development. Which also offers up a nice bonus for me as a reader in that I now love the character of The Absorbing man as much as I love Black Bolt.
Speaking of mutuality, another matter that has made this series work so well is the keen interplay between the writing and art. Ahmed and Ward worked hand in glove, creating a synergy where they produced a product greater than the sum of its parts.
The heavy introspection of Ahmed’s scripts were augmented and realized by the dynamic line-work and psychedelic layouts that Ward’s art provided. The words never overpowered the visuals nor did the visuals overpower the words. Instead they worked in cohesion… creating yet another example of the strength endowed by mutuality.
This book is a triumph. It’s crushing that it has come to an end. I could read a hundred more issues and still want more. Still, there are some benefits to brevity of the series. Twelve issues and all of them pretty much perfect. The series ended before it could sway off course, before a lackluster filler issue could be introduced to sour the mix. Black Bolt is done and in its conclusion is frozen in amber and cannot be taken away. Maybe Marvel will forget about The Inhumans, maybe Cates and Olivetti will kill them off in gristly brutality. Who knows what the future holds… whatever it is it will be unable to take away what Ahmed, Ward, Cowels and Moss has achieved.
It’s not easy being a super fan of The Inhumans. First they were obscure fringe characters that few of my friends were even aware of, then they became hated usurpers unfairly charged with trying to replace the X-Men. And then there was the utter embarrassment of that awful television show (great performances by the cast, but a rushed, hasty effort that made my beloved heroes seem a laughing stock). And now the future casts an ominous shadow with the prospect of their death. So, yeah, being an Inhuman super fan isn’t easy… Yet the fact that The Inhumans were involved in such a flawlessly executed comic as Ahmed and Ward’s Black Bolt, that an Inhumans book could actually be nominated for a Hugo Award. It’s a dream come true. And Mr. Ahmed and Mr. Ward will always have my great gratitude for it.
This is comics at its best. Five out of five Lockjaws for the issue…
a million Lockjaws for the series as a whole.
Lockjaw and D-Man excellent adventure continues in this second of a four part series from writer Daniel Kibbelsmith and artists Carlos Villa, Roberto Poggi and Chris O’Halloran.
Lockjaw’s dogo senses have been tingling, something not quite right is afoot and he is intent on finding out what is going down. The first step in his journey was to Brooklyn where he met up with Bixby, a friendly pupper who is reportedly thirty years old and in (as it turns out) Lockjaw’s brother!
Lockjaw had arrived just in time to rescue Bixby from a marauding swarm of miniature flying saucers piloted by intelligent hamsters. With the aide of the retired hero and one-time Avenger, D-Men, Lockjaw was able to repel these sinister hamsters and successfully protect Bixby.
Yet there was no time to rest, if one of Lockjaw’s siblings was in danger then it stood to reason the others may be in peril as well; and Lockjaw dashed off. D-Man tagged along, not realizing Lockjaw’s particular pedigree and teleporting powers. Before he knew it, D-Man found himself transported to the prehistoric Savage Land, where the two appear in front of Ka-Zar, protector of the jungle, and his trusted sabertooth tiger ally, Zabu.
Ka-Zar and D-Man do not know each other, but the nonverbal interactions between Lockjaw and Zabu make it quite apparent that they are allies not threats. Still, the Savage Land is a dangerous realm, filled with all manner of dinosaurs, predators and prey. It’s no place to just dally around, so Ka-Zar brings the foursome back to his and Zabu’s shelter.
Prior to this unexpected foray with Lockjaw, D-Man (aka Dennis Demphry) had been rather down in the dumps. He had lost his super powers, broke up with his boyfriend, and has felt vert adrift in life; listless, lacking in purpose and more than a little depressed.
It turns out that Ka-Zar of late has been feeling a bit shiftless himself. Lording the Savage Land is hard work, yet the repetitive nature of it all has kind of gotten him down. Tracking, hunting, fighting dinosaurs, eating… rinse and repeat… Ka-Zar has come to want more in his life, something new. And hence he has tried his hand at farming. He’s terrible at it.
Ka-Zar’s main crop seems to be some sort of cabbage filled with worms. It’s pretty gross, but Lockjaw is more than happy to have his share and seconds. D-Man asks if Ka-Zar might try his hand at livestock. This he had attempted, penning a heard of gazelle. Alas his whole heard was slaughtered by ‘the Great Beast’ and its horde.
As if on cue, a terrible howl bellows through the land. The Beast and its pack is upon them, giant wolves that quickly surround our heroes. A battle ensues. Ka-Zar, Zabu and Lockjaw are adept at battling giant wolves, but this is sort of a first for D-Man. He feels quite vulnerable without his former superpowers… yet he was once a professional wrestler and manages to use an old judo moves fend off one of the wolves.
Still, the foursome is outmatched by the pack.
The attack comes to a sudden halt as the Great Beast, the alpha who leads this pack comes walking onto the scene. This ‘Beast’ is not another wolf, but rather a rather cute little bulldog that carries herself with the utmost in confidence and poise.
Quite clearly it is Lockjaw’s sister; and unsurprisingly she’s a total badass.
Lockjaw and his sister commune in their unspoken dogo fashion. Whatever warning and information Lockjaw has come to deliver may be unnecessary. His sister produces the wreckage of one those menacing flying saucers. It would seem that the villainous hamsters had come for her as well, but she was not as easy a target as Bixby. The Beast and her pack had made quick work of the invading saucers. She is not in need of her brother’s protection… still, it’s clear that the two siblings are happy to see one another.
Yet there is work to be done. The firs two of Lockjaw’s siblings are safe, but he is no closer to discerning the origins of this threat and the strange beacon that has been calling out to him remains a mystery. It’s time to return to the chase. Saying their goodbyes, Lockjaw and D-Men teleport off to places unknown, leaving Ka-Zar and Zabu bit mystified over all that had happened.
Elsewhere, The Amazing Spider-Ham (a piglet version of Spider-Man from an alternate universe populated by anthropomorphic animals) has been monitoring a dire threat. He and his unseen colleague are clearly quite worried over some unknown threat and have been desperate to beckon Lockjaw to their realm. Somehow, Lockjaw is the key to plan to save everything. They’ve constructed a beacon shaped much like the Inhuman glyph tuning-fork… it seems to be meant to lurer Lockjaw to them.
Whether or not they will succeed and the mystery of the terrible threat Spider-Ham needs Lockjaw’s aid will have to wait to be revealed, fore the issues comes to an end with the promise of continuation.
Another fun ride and terrific follow up the wonderful first issue of this series. D-Man, with his depressed, existential crisis, had been the unexpected heart of that first issue. Though he gets much less time to wallow in his angst, he plays off really nicely with Ka-Zar; who himself has arrived at something of a transitional crisis.
For many, the path of life and development can seem quite clear. You grow up, go through education, get a job, get married, have children, raise those children, get old, et cetera. This path works for a lot of people, but not everyone. And for those for whom the path isn’t for them, adulthood can come to feel quite like something of a savage land, a frightening realm that’s quite difficult to navigate.
Despite his chiseled body, incredible good looks and impressive capabilities, Ka-Zar is coping with many of the same problems as Dennis. Having adventures and fighting dinosaurs was fun in his youth, but now he yearns for the next step and isn’t quite sure what that next step is.
He’s tried farming, but is terrible at it and the various threats of the Savage Land has made it quite difficult.
Dennis and Ka-Zar are kind of in the same boat; two men heading toward middle age with no clear path of how to get there; no roadmap to show them the way to fulfillment. Yet whereas Dennis had taken to this crisis by wallowing in his sorrow, in a darkened apartment, watching gameshows and eating cold pizza, Ka-Zar had taken a different approach. He tried new things, sought out something that might bring him fulfillment. Yeah, he sticks at farming, but at least he tried… he’s put in the effort to find that thing, to discover a new path. It’s a lesson that doesn’t seem lost on Dennis.
Granted, seeking out one’s path is frequently easier said that done. Dennis is a rather depressed guy and one of the many hardships of depression’s is that it can completely sap a person’s energy. Getting out there and trying to find what it is that will make you happy is a near impossible task when simply getting off the couch feels a herculean effort.
Still, it was likely heartening for Dennis to see a veritable adonis like Ka-Zar coping with a similar plight.
Although this ‘path’ in Dennis’ case may seem illusive to him, for us readers it may appear rather evident. He is not ready to stop being a hero. Powers or not, Dennis still wants to be a hero, to have adventures and make a positive difference. This is his path toward actualization. he wants to be D-Man… not ‘D’ as in depression, or dysthymia, dimwit, or even demolition. D as in determined, daring and destined for greatness.
And Dennis steps up when Ka-Zar decides that the savage Land is no place for farmers; it is a realm of hunters. He picks up his spear ready to fell one of the wolves as it walks away. Dennis intervenes, preventing Ka-Zar from spearing the animal in the back.
The Savage Land may be a realm of kill or be killed, but Dennis is not about to sit back and watch a defenseless animal taken down from behind. Preventing Ka-Zar from doing so is what heroes do… Dennis’s ‘path’ is to be a hero; and it is quite possible that his adventure alongside Lockjaw is just what he needs to accomplish this task and find that path and become the hero he needs to be.
Again, the art, inking and colors are top notch. Villa and company excel at depicting the Savage land with the same verve and dynamism as they had Arctillan and Bushwick, New York. It’s quite a testament that these artist can jump around such a variety of setting and not miss a beat, maintaining a visual continuity despite the great differences in settings.
Villa’s knack for depicting facial expressions continues to pat off. Dennis’s sense of awe over Ka-Zar’s physical beauty is evident, as is Ka-Zar’s feeling perplexed Dennis’s civilized values. And I love the joke that everyone from the outside world that Ka-Zar meets is always from New York.
Likewise, Villa and company illustrate a wonderful Lockjaw, toeing that tiny line between cute and ferocious. The introduction of Lockjaw’s sister was the highlight of the issue. Seeing this little pupper saunter up as the alpha leader of the giant wolf pack was both hilarious while making perfect sense. Of course Lockjaw’s sister is this ‘beast’ and leader of the wolf pack… she’s Lockjaw’s sister… what else would she be doing?
While the issue offers up a fun and thrilling adventure, it doesn’t offer much in the way of clue regarding the overarching plot. There’s still no breadcrumbs indicative of what it is that has Lockjaw’s siblings in peril. Although I suppose that is likely to be made evident int he next issue which looks to see Lockjaw and Dennis traveling to another universe where they’ll team up with the amazing Spider-Ham. Definitely looking forward to that.
Once more, lots of fun and highly recommended. Four out of five lockjaws.
The Teenage Wasteland story-arc comes to its thrilling conclusion as Captain Marvel and the daring Kamala Korps fill in for the missing Ms. Marvel to battle the tyrannical Inventor and his horde of bionic monsters. All from the creative team of G. Willow Wilson, Nico Leon and Ian Herring.
The villainous Inventor has enacted his final gamut, triggering the release of a variable army of monstrous cyborgs and giant mutated reptiles with bionic appendages… and it looks as though Jersey City will be destroyed unless our heroes can prevail.
Captain Marvel has faced such terrors before and is more than willing to jump into the fray with reckless abandon, yet feels that all this might be too much for the merry band of Ms. Marvel’s friends and fans. Not that they’re going to stand for being left behind. They’re in it ‘till the end… besides, they already have the proper outfits.
…and a tremendous battle ensues.
Elsewhere, Kamala’s pal, Neftali, has come to the end of his investigation over the whereabouts of his missing friend. Following the clues, Neftali has tracked her down to the gated ‘Over-Lee Private School,’ a fancy prep school where students wear uniforms and the biggest threat is being iced out from a clique.
Neftali is able to get Kamala’s attention and the two speak. What is she doing here, he asks. Kamala responds that she needed a break from all the drama; needed a place where she could just blend in and assimilate and not have to deal with the constant demands of being different, smart, Muslim, and all of the things that make her special and herself. Her uniqueness has felt a huge burden and one she’s felt she’s had to bear all on her own.
Neftali isn’t buying it. As he sees it, Kamala doesn’t need to deal with this all on her own; she has only done so because she has been too proud or myopic to actually ask her friends for support. She has friends, people who love her and they are there to help her. She doesn’t need to run away, doesn’t need to assimilate and pretend to be something she is not… she simply needs to rely on the people up the support she so needs.
The scene ends here and it remains to be seen whether or not Neftali’s words will truly resonate with Kamala.
Back in the city square the battle rages on. Captain Marvel is able to best many of the Inventor’s beasts, but their numbers seem endless and they keep on coming. Mike, Gabe, Zoe and Nakia hold their own, but they too to quickly getting overwhelmed. Even the otherwise competent Red Dagger is out of his depths. He’s used to the petty thieves from the back allies of Karachi, giant cyborg lizards are a good deal over his head.
In the midst of all this, The Inventor offers up a garden variety villain’s monologue. As he sees it, some lives are more important than others. Only those who contribute to society in a manner tat he sees fit should be allowed to live and all others should be subjugated and utilized for energy.
The Inventor feels he is owed thanks. The world is suffering from both overpopulation and an energy shortage and he has the solution to both problems. The only catch is that he gets to decide who is and who is not of merit… who benefits and who should be ground down as energy.
Things aren’t looking so good. The Kamala Korps are spent and Captain Marvel is becoming overwhelmed. The Inventor releases his largest monster yet and things are looking rather grim. Out heroes are in desperate need for reinforcement.
Which they get when the real Ms. Marvel shows up on the scene. Using her embigoning powers (it’s a real word now) she takes on the giant lizard and wrestles it to the ground.
Seeing that the tide has turned against his favor, The Inventor employs his last resort – initiating an electrical surge that fries the various circuits in his army of cyborg monsters. The monsters are destroyed, but Ms. Marvel is caught in the massive surge of electricity. Electrical based attacks have remained one of Kamala’s greatest weaknesses and she is knocked cold by the surge.
The monsters having been taken out, The Kamala Korps have little difficulty apprehending The Inventor and Captain marvel goes to tend to the injured Ms. Marvel. Channel wakes up in her former friend’s arms and is surprised to see her. After all that had happened during the Civil War II debacle, Kamala thought Carol no longer liked nor cared for her.
Carol tells her not to be silly. They may have disagreed, but they will always be friends. The threat is passed and now it is up to Kamala to decide what sort of future does she want. She can be a hero if she so chooses, but it s her choice… great power, great responsibility, et cetera…
Captain Marvel carts The Inventor off to the prison cells of New Attilan and the laborious task of cleaning up begins.
The next day at school, Kamla’s pals are happy to see that their friend has returned. It’s a happy reunion and the whole ordeal has helped Kamala to realize that she was never as alone and on her own as she had once believed. All she needed to do with look around to see that she has good friends, they have her back, and with their support she is free to be exactly who she is. And here the tale comes to its end.
What can I say, another great Ms. Marvel adventure. And I was quite surprised about how the actual thematic snuck in at the end, hitting with greater poignancy in that it so snuck up on me.
Kamala didn’t run away because she needed a break, because the life of a hero was proving too much for her. Rather she was drained by the constant pressure to fit in… the seemingly unending arduousness of being different.
People who come to America from other countries, and the children of those people, are constantly assailed by the pressure to assimilate… to become some prefabricated version of what an American is.
Of course what an American truly is defies definition, there is no set parameter… but there nonetheless persists this undercurrent that assimilating into American society entails adopting white, Christian, patriarchal and heterosexual values. An American can be brown or Muslim or have different ideas about what is right and what is wrong… but only if they’re quiet about it, keep it to themselves, and don’t rock the boat. This is the base root of cultural assimilation.
The Inventor acts the role of the bellowing demagogue, belching out the virtues of homogeny. Only those who fit in, who contribute in ways deemed suitable are viewed as being of value. He’s the arbiter of so-called ‘merit based immigration.’ The idea that to become an America one must toe the line and adhere to a standardized set of values. If you can contribute as a doctor or mechanic or computer technician then welcome aboard. If however you want to be an artist or cook or don’t yet know what you want to be, then you’re little more than chaff. No need to apply. The Inventor takes it a step further suggesting that these meritless layabout are best used as batteries to provide much needed energy to those who deserve better.
Kamala has always been true to her uniqueness. She has idiosyncratic tastes; she likes wearing fun clothes and silly hats. She has nutty adventures. She is true to her Muslim faith yet also questions the chauvinistic aspects of the old ways. She’s an Inhuman, a fanfic maven, an unabashed member of the Carol Corps. Her friends are Black people and Jews and nerds and gays and lesbians… she is rocking the boat big time.
And sometimes, being true to yourself is exhausting. It can be tempting to just fade into the background, assimilate, not stick out and just relax.
Kamala’s short tenure at the Over-Lee Private school offered her just such a respite. There’s standardized uniforms, standardized values, and big protective walls that shelter students from the real world so that they can be molded into standardized non-boat-rocking cogs.
Thankfully Neftali (a wonderful new addition to the Ms. Marvel extended cast) is able to seek Kamala out and talk some sense into her. Neftali is a kindred soul… he basically looks like an extra from Westside Story fashioned with a sporty kippah. Like Kamala he has had to struggle to maintain his uniqueness, to be true to himself and not assimilate into the vacuum of central tendency. And he’s been able to do so in part by way of his friendship with Kamala. He supports her, she supports him and their mutual support protects them from a world that is rarely excepting of difference. He reminds Kamala that she has lots of friends, a whole bevy of weirdos and freaks who have got her back. She doesn’t have to endure her individuality on her own… she can rely on her friends just as much as they rely on her.
Great fun, an important and timely message and definitely recommended. Four out of five Lockjaws.
It’s the penultimate installment of Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward’s stellar Black Bolt series as the story hurdles toward its conclusion with all of the wild, mind-bending, cosmic awesomeness we’ve come to expect.
Black Bolt and his alien ward, Blinky, had escaped the terrible space prison and its despotic Jailer, yet it is revealed that their escape was not as complete as originally thought.
The Jailer is an ancient Inhuman and a type of psychic vampire who had fed on the emotional pain of his prisoners. Somehow, a fragment of his psyche managed to escape his destruction and take root in the back of Blinky’s mind. Blinky is a powerful telepath in her own right and The Jailer has been able to seize control of these powers, taking over her body as well as her ability to manifest concrete illusions. He has transformed her into his former self, a towering ghoul with vast destructive power.
The Jailer’s ability to take control of Blinky’s body and powers was facilitated by the intense stress and trauma of witnessing the Inhuman known as Lash nearly killing Black Bolt. Lash had hatched some harebrained villainous scheme to create new Inhumans by way of weaponizing Black Bolt’s blood into a new Terrigen Cloud. The process poisoned Black Bolt and he was about to perish when the terror of it all caused Blinky’s defenses to drop, allowing The Jailer to assume control.
Now free, the Jailer is hungry. He grabs the nearest morsel, one of Lash’s minions (an Inhuman named Jack Chain), and consumes his energies leaving behind nothing but a burnt husk of a corpse. Lash’s other minions flee yet Lash himself is unafraid.
Lash strikes with his own energy blasts but they have no effect. Before he can fully realize his folly, Lash is also swept up in the Jailer’s giant hand and he too is fed upon and destroyed.
Titania and the weakened Black Bolt can only look on in horror. Titania recognizes the Jailer from the psychic images Blinky had relayed of her husband’s noble sacrifice in facilitating their escape from the prison. Realizing that this was the same monster who had killed her husband Titania is intent on getting revenge. Yet Black Bolt knows that the two of them are no match for the Jailer; furthermore, Blinky must be trapped somewhere inside of the monster and he cannot risk harmer her. Much to Titania’s dismay, Black Bolt sweep her up in his arms and uses his flight to beat a hasty retreat.
Although his powers have been diminished, doubly so due to Lash’s poisoning, Black Bolt still cannot speak without unleashing destruction. He is unable to fully explain to Titania that they must find a way to defeat the Jailer without harming Blinky. There is no means to relay this matter and Black Bolt is still quite new to the notion of depending on others. So he simply leaves Titania behind and rushes back to do battle against the Jailer; hoping against hope that he might somewhat prevail and save his young ward’s life.
Although enraged over Black Bolt’s interference, Titania can tell that the Jailer is too powerful for her to defeat on her own. She needs aide… she needs a crew. Titania encounters a pair of Lash’s former minions, Sheath and an as-yet unnamed Inhuman (who I’m just going to call Purple Nurple). Titania opts not to fight the two; they are simply Lash’s flunkies. Titania has been the pawn of villains like Lash herself, she knows the drill… they are just angry souls like herself looking for a sense of purpose and direction, an outlet for their anger and fear.
In short, they can be used and Titania recruits them to take Black Bolt’s flying car back to The States so that she can gather reinforcements.
The narrative switches to somewhere on the astral plain, the psychic realm beyond the physical world. Blinky’s psych, her sense of soul, has fled to this astral plain, evicted by the terrible Jailer. Aspects of the Jailer’s corruption continue to pursue her, in the form of sickly black tentacles. This blackness surrounds Blinky, consumes her. She is about to be snuffed out from it when a new energy emerges.
It is not clear what or from where the help has been beckoned but it arrives in the form of Black Bolt’s son, Ahura, who has himself been drawn into the astral plain.
Ahura was born with psychic abilities and had these powers greatly augmented when he went through Terrigenesis (back in Uncanny Inhumans #0). He’s a powerful telepath and though perturbed over being brought into the astral realm against his will is also impressed over Blinky’s having done so. Yet Blinky professes that it wasn’t her doing; suggests instead that it was Black Bolt who called out to him. She can feel that Black Bolt is battling the Jailer back in reality; and that the battle is going poorly for him.
It is difficult for Ahura to accept this notion. He has had a very acrimonious relationship with his father; it’s hard for him to believe his dad capable of asking for help, much less his help.
Ahura collects himself after trading some harsh words with Blinky. He apologizes to the child; he was cruel to her when they first met, but it was only because she made him feel jealous. Black Bolt had been such a lousy father to Ahura, it angered him to see his dad act in a paternal fashion toward this new kid. Blinky felt sort of like his replacement and it made him spite her. Yet that wasn’t her fault and it was wrong of Ahura to take out his anger on Blinky. It’s nice to see that despite his troubling childhood and poor upbringing, Ahura nonetheless has the ability for self reflection and empathy… as well as the ability to acknowledge and apologies for mistakes.
The contours of the astral realm begin to shift before the two can discuss these matters any further. Suddenly the plain takes on the attributes of the space prison where Black Bolt and Blinky had been incarcerated. Ahura’s psychic abilities enable him to witness and feel the terrible traumas that his father and Blinky experienced in the prison. Having tasted this terror Ahura comments that it is no wonder that the ordeal had so affected his father.
The specter of the Jailer pursues Blinky and Ahura. They have to run and as they flee through shifting parameters of the space prison the setting begins to change and mutate, transforming into something more familiar to Ahura. They have traveled to some new corner of the astral plain and he recognizes the architecture as being of old Attilan.
They come across what appears to be a laboratory where two Inhumans are conducting terrible experiments on a young child. Blinky initially assumes that this scene must be some kind of trace memory of something awful that had occurred in the space prison… but Ahura knows better. These Inhumans are the former king and queen of old Attilan. They are Agon and Rynda, Ahura’s grandparents… and the child they are torturing in the pursuit of discovery is Black Bolt himself.
Elsewhere, Titania along with Lash’s former minions race back to America in the flying car. Sheath and Purple Nurple just want to escape, but Titania has other plans. She wants to gather up her former colleagues among The Wrecking Crew and utilize their combined might to return to Greenland and destroy The Jailer. Suddenly Lockjaw teleports into the car! No sooner than he arrives Lockjaw teleports away, taking Titania with him.
The two arrive at the graveyard where Titania had buried her husband. She is confused and upset and tries to rationalize with the giant Inhuman dog. She demands Lockjaw take her to gather her allies, but is unsure if Lockjaw can even understand her. Lockjaw has plans of his own and he leads Titania to the grave of Crusher Creel. Her sadness overtakes her once more and she asks why Lockjaw has done this. The question is suddenly answered as the ground at the gravesite is disturbed and begins to stir. A hand emerges from the rock and soil, the art itself begins to take on the form of a man.
Crusher Creel, The Absorbing Man, has somehow returned to life. He smiles at Titania and asks his wife what he’s missed.
And it is with this surprising turn of events that the issue comes to a close with the promise of a concluding installment with the next (and sadly last) issue.
Holy crap! Yet another exciting, psychedelic and thoroughly captivating ride! It’s surprising to be so continuously surprised by the twists and turns that Ahmed and Ward throws at us throughout this series. The first couple of pages were a bit heavy on exposition, spelling out what had happened to cause Blinky to be infected and overtaken by the Jailer’s psyche. With this I sort of expected the rest of the issue to proceed in a more straight-forward fashion, with Black Bolt prevailing through some manner of ‘love conquers all’ type deus ex machina resolution. Nope… Instead a left turn is thrown in and it makes for a terrific and satisfying twist.
It remains mysterious what exactly is going on. The Jailer gains his energy by way of feeding on emotional turmoil. He has been able sustain himself on Blinky’s past trauma and she has fled to the one place she feels safe: Black Bolt’s mind. I’m not sure she is actually in the astral plain, but is rather in the intangible realm of Black Bolt’s psyche.
Ahura has been beckoned and brought in as perhaps a secret weapon. Not only in that Ahura possesses formidable psychic powers of his own, but also because a sense of reconciliation between Ahura and his dad may be what turns the tide against the Jailer.
If negative emotion is how Jailer sustains himself, then it stands to reason that positive emotion could weaken and destroy him.
Ahura and Blinky are made to see what Black Bolt endured in his childhood, the atrocities afflicted onto him by his parents. Agon and Rynda’s tinkering imbued Black Bolt’s voice with vastly destructive properties and the nature of this power has forced him to keep his feelings constantly in check. Even the most subtle of sighs or most quiet of laughs could unleash absolute carnage and it forced Black Bolt to be entirely withholding, completely restrictive of his feelings. …Of course all this left Black Bolt a rather lousy husband to his wife and seemingly neglectful father to his son.
If Ahura can manage to be able to understand this, see why his father is the way he is and comprehend the great sadness and regret it has caused his dad, then perhaps Ahura might forgive him. Forgive Black Bolt and allow for a new beginning and a new relationship… one based on mutual understanding and support rather than sorrow and resentment. If such a thing could be forged between Black Bolt and his son; if something similar could also be created with his former wife, Medusa, it would surely create a huge swell of happiness and relief. A wave of positive emotion that could destroy the Jailer the way that sunlight destroys a vampire. And by destroying the Jailer, Black Bolt will succeed in saving Blinky.
And if that weren’t enough, we are also treated to some great character beats for Titania. She could have so easily been rendered a perfunctory presence just there for effect. But that’s not how things go in this series; the characters are built up and feel real. Titania’s anger and desperation for revenge against the Jailer is palpable. And I love the interactions between her and Lash’s goons… the sense of sympathy Titania has from one former flunky to another.
Resurrecting The Absorbing Man is just a gift… a gift to Titania and to us readers. Creel is such a fun character and his role in this series has made even more fun. It may seem a little like a cheat to bring him back, but it fits in that The Absorbing Man has returned in this fashion a couple times before.
Perhaps Ahmed and Ward would have held off on bringing Creel back were the series to continue past the next issue. In that the series is ending, however, bringing Creel back for the finale feels right and I just cannot wait for the big ending.
And then on top of that, there also another awesome pop in by Lockjaw. I should have seen it coming, but was just as excitingly surprised to see Lockjaw teleport in this time as I was when he showed up back in issue four. That big old pupper is such a good boy.
The setting of the astral plain (or perhaps Black Bolt’s psychic realm) loans itself so nicely to Christian Ward’s illustration. He is able to cut loose and depict impossible visages that are a feast for the eyes. Ward’s ability to effectively transition back and forth from this realm to the more grounded setting of Greenland, the flying car and the graveyard is rather impressive.
More to the point is the way that Saladin Ahmed script and Christian Ward’s illustration gel together. They have established a synergy that is some next level awesomeness. This is comics at its best.
As excited for the finale as I am, I’m also a bit nervous over it. Endings are difficult and there is a lot of matters for Ahmed and Ward to tie up. Yet, if they are able to stick the landing and wrap up the 12th issue with the same level of terrificness as the proceeding eleven issues, then Black Bolt could very well go down as one of the best comic book series of all time. Naturally I’m biased, but I’ll stick by the hyperbolic statement any day of the week.
So it goes without saying… definitely recommend. Once more, five out of five Lockjaws.
The Fantastic Three story-arc continues on from the peerless creative team of Bredan Montclare, Natacha Bustos and Tamra Bondvillain.
Egads! The terrible Omnipotis is coming. It’s a being of pure antimatter (or something to that effect) that could destroy not only the earth but the entirety of the universe. It’s exactly the kind of threat that used to be right up The Fantastic Four’s alley. Unfortunately, the Fantastic Four are no more and Moon Girl has had to team up with the remaining members, The Thing and The Human Torch, in a desperate effort to repel this oncoming terror.
It’s revealed that the Omnipotis has been beckoned to earth by The Super Skrull, intent on destroying all of reality as vengeance for the eradication of the Skrull Throne-World by Galactus (an event depicted way back in Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #257). Moon Girl, The Torch and The Thing do there best in battle against The Super Skrull, but he’s a tough customer and the ‘Fantastic Three’ still don’t quite have the whole ‘working as a team’ thing down. Fortunately, the intervention of the Silver Surfer is enough to turn the tide.
The Super Skrull realizes he’s met his match and trips up Galactus in order to facilitate his escape.
Back in Moon Girl’s underground lab, HERBIE explains to the gang the nature of the threat that The Super Skrull has brought to earth. Part of HERBIE’s original programming was to detect and search out cosmic threats such as Galactus; and this same programing allows the droid to understand how The Super Skrull has gone about summoning the Omnipotis… as well as how the team might succeed in preventing this calamity.
In a previous issue, we saw a villain (a cad who turned out the be The Super Skrull) thieve a number of key items, gold, conductive cable, some experimental quark particles… HERBIE explains that these items are all ingredients representing the four fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, the weak force and the strong force. Somehow, The Super Skrull has combined these key physical interactions to open a gateway to a nether-realm through which the Omnipotis can enter into reality.
This Omnipotis has not yet arrived so there is still time to save the day, but Moon Girl does not feel confident that she, Ben and Johnny have what it takes to save the day. They are missing a key ingredient of their own and Lunella sits down to try and figure out who exactly they need to help them succeed. And it is with this mysterious cliffhanger that the issue comes to an end with the promise of continuation…
Field Theory, the notion that all physical interactions can be boiled down to four fundamental forces, is a rather highbrow scientific matter… not exactly the kind of thing one expects to encounter in an all ages comic. Still, Lunella is the smartest of the smart in the Marvel Universe, so I suppose it’s suitable that she should cope with high-order theoretical psychics…
The way HERBIE and Lunella talk about the matter is sort of similar to instances in science fiction where characters blurt out seemingly nonsense scientific concepts simply as a means of furthering the plot. What’s fun here is that this is not actually nonsense, but rather a matter that is rooted in real-life science…
Here’s the deal, it is theorized that the four forces of gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force are all inter-related and might be able to unite into a singular force, a fifth force otherwise known as ‘Dark Matter.’ Unfortunately, even the most advanced particle accelerators cannot produce enough energy to prove this. What scientists have been able to see is voids that occur when particles are slammed against one another at enormous speeds… voids that suggest the presence of dark matter, but cannot prove it or fully probe it.
It would seem that The Super Skrull possess the knowledge to build a super advanced type of particle accelerator, a machine powerful enough to not only observe dark matter, but open a doorway to the dark matter universe (through which this Omnipotis creature can emerge). Neat…
In some ways, The Fantastic Four themselves can be seen as representational of the four fundamental forces… the Human Torch as electromagnetism; The Invisible Woman as gravity; The Thing as the strong nuclear force; and Reed Richards as the small nuclear force. That last one, Reed as the small force, requires a bit of a jump in that Reed’s real power is his intellect and the small nuclear force can be seen as sort of similar to the miniature explosions that occurs between neural synapses in the process of thought.
More important to the context of this story, however, is the ways in which the Fantastic Four relate to primary aspects of human character. Herein Johnny represents bravery and decisiveness; Ben represent strength and selflessness; Reed represents intellect and rationality; and Sue represents emotionality and connectivity. Together they created the fifth force of ‘family’ and were unstoppable.
It is this last ingredient, the sense of heart provided by Sue Storm, that The Fantastic Three are lacking. It is that missing component that Lunella must ferret out and add in if she Ben and Johnny are to succeed.
The answer seems obvious… to me at least. The teams needs Devil Dinosaur!
He may be a big lumbering brute, but there is something pure to Devil D… He’s just lovable. And perhaps more importantly, Devil D elicits in Lunella deeply parental feelings. She loves him and looks out for him; he acts to melts the cold logic of Lunella’s thinking and brings out the squishy sometimes irrational factor of emotionality.
Adding Devil Dinosaur to the fold will give Lunella, Ben and Johnny the missing factor they need to prevail against the Super Scrull and his doomsday plan. It’s sort of like a superhero version of alchemy that only exists in comic books. The recipe of Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny was key… remove any one of those ingredients and the soufflé wilts. It is only together that they become something more than the sum of their parts; they create that fifth fundamental force and that is how they prevail.
Lunella now needs to locate that fourth variable, the final piece of the puzzle needed to defeat Super Skrull and stop the Omnipotis. I could be wrong, but I’m feeling very confident that this fourth ingredient will be Devil Dinosaur. …we’ll see.
Anyways, the art and colors provided by Natacha Bustos and Tamra Bonvillain are, as always, just exceptional. Closing in on thirty issues, I’ve long since run out of verbs and adjectives for relaying how awesome I think these two artists are. They rock… ‘nuff said.
The plot is a touch heavy on exposition, relying on HERBIE and Lunella dialogue to spell out a lot of the headier matters. Still, this is fine by me in that it elicited a lot of exciting ideas regarding Unified Filed Theory and the comic book version of how team composition can mirror Field Theory. Really cool stuff.
Another fun and thought-provoking romp. Definitely recommended. Four out of five Lockjaws!