Deadshirt is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more.
David Uzumeri is reading…
Black Bolt #9
Written by Saladin Ahmed
Art by Christian Ward
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“Some very bad things were done to your people while you were gone, and they were done in my name.”
This is the first issue of Black Bolt to not fully land like a haymaker, and it’s not due to a decrease in quality as much as it is a change in focus. After six to seven issues of LSD-soaked psychological horror, this is the first issue of Black Bolt to function as a proper superhero comic, and while Ahmed and Ward are to be commended for getting out of their respective comfort zones, “supervillain funeral issue” is an odd fit for them both for quite different reasons.
The first arc of Black Bolt felt refreshing because of how fully it was in command of the form; this was a book that was paced rhythmically, set to a narrative beat, and the story’s context—an interstellar prison drama—made that easy to do with a repetitive lifestyle cycle. There was narration, sure, but it felt of a part with the sparse layouts and environments, rather than overpowering them.
Meanwhile, Christian Ward’s psychedelic style was a great fit for the weirdos and head trips of the prison of the Jailer, and the flashes of normalcy and humanity that shone through seemed all the more noteworthy and potent for it. When everyone’s an amorphous superhuman or alien, Crusher Creel showing up to just crack wise and act like he’s in the Bronx is a breath of fresh air, and Ward does a great job of making him look synchronous with the rest of his style.
But then you have this issue, a fairly straightforwardly scripted goodbye issue, heavy on the narrative captions (I mean, by necessity, as Black Bolt’s most noted deal is that he’s effectively mute) and largely consisting of regular-ass real-life locations. It’s…incongruous. After a whole lot of issues with deliberately unnatural dialogue and weird-looking characters, the same creative team handling a comic about the funeral of a big dumb criminal from the Bronx and with heartfelt speeches is a hell of a hard turn. They’re both out of their comfort zone—certainly for the current book—and while the overall effect is lesser than earlier issues, I’d still recommend it for two major reasons:
- “Not as good as previous issues of Black Bolt” is still a high bar.
- Creators breaking out of their paradigms to challenge themselves with new situations and material should always be rewarded.
It’s a very above-average in general but, for the title, somewhat clumsy “grounded” issue and I’m excited to see Ahmed and Ward do more of them, try new things, and find their voice on this kind of material.
Chuck Winters is reading…
Written by Gail Simone
Illustrated by Cat Staggs
Lettered by Simon Bowland
“I’m not going back.”
Even though I was intrigued when I first heard Crosswind was in the works a couple of years ago, I slept on it until I happened upon it by dumb luck. So if you’ll permit me, let me take you through the five other issues of this awesome series before I dive into how they stuck the landing.
Crosswind is the story of Cason Ray Bennett, a slick yet ruthless hitman in Chicago, and Juniper Blue, an aspiring author and abused housewife in Seattle. On the whims of a bitter old mystic, the two of them are body-swapped, forcing Juniper to deal with Cason’s monstrous associate Cruz and the psychotic son of his boss. Cason, meanwhile, has to adjust to a slightly simpler life as a housewife, where his biggest problems are a bullied stepson that doesn’t respect his stepmom, a group of kids that aren’t nearly shy enough about wanting to bang the MILF next door, and a husband who’s a little too insistent about how his spouse acts for him.
Here’s the thing: they both find themselves surprisingly comfortable in their new lives. But now we come to the end of the first arc, with Cruz snapping his tether after learning that Cason was snitching to the feds, and then learning about the body swap from the man that initiated it. Issue #6 has Cason and Juniper finally meet face to face at her house for the very first time since the swap, just as Cruz is bearing down on them with a small crew. It looked like we were about to watch some serious John Wick shit go down…
…until we suddenly weren’t, and you know what? It turns out great! We get a couple of great badass moments that Cat Staggs—whose watercolor-style art gives the title a unique, fluid vibe—sells the shit out of, making great use of splash pages to sell the “hell yeah” of it all. But the real highlight is a tense moment revealing that the one who would traditionally do anything to get their old life back is the one willing to kill to keep their new life. It’s unexpected, but Simone successfully sells the idea that these two leads really are better off as each other, which actually opens up a bunch of new possibilities going forward.
I’ve got a couple of qualms. I wasn’t able to make much sense of something Mika (Cruz’s fiancée, cheating on him with Cason) does near the end; I think that character needed a little more time to cook, though with everything that goes down in these six issues, space was clearly at a premium. I also wish the characters were a little more expressive; as it is, Simone’s writing carries everything well enough, but there are a couple of panels where people’s faces look more blank than I’d prefer.
Still, this is a book I do not regret picking up at all, and you can do much worse when the trade paperback hits the streets next month. I’m glad there seems to be more on the way, and I’m glad it’s popular enough that there’s a TV show in active development with Simone as an executive producer. That said…if you pick up this book, try not to cry when you mentally cast Oscar Issac and Rachel McAdams in the lead roles.
Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!