Update: For spoilers - head on over here!
He was last seen in the brilliant War of Kings limited series, trying to bring peace to a warring galaxy by transforming everything into a diversity the universe has never known. Strange strategy that, and yet very likely keeping within the mindset of this powerful Inhuman king.
For that belief, he seemed to pay the ultimate price.
Now, at least according to solicits for FF #5, this “beloved Marvel hero” may be returning. Because, if I can read my Mark Bagley silhouetted covers correctly, that hero is – Black Bolt!
Black Bolt's first appearance established the character as being a member of the Inhuman ruling class, but it was in a back-up feature called Tales of the Inhumans in Thor which recounts the character's origin story. The son of two preeminent Inhumans, Black Bolt is exposed to the mutagenic Terrigen Mist while still an embryo and eventually demonstrates the ability to manipulate electrons. To protect the Inhuman community from his devastating voice, Black Bolt is placed inside a sound-proof chamber and is tutored in the use of his powers. Reentering Inhuman society as a young man -- having vowed never to speak -- the character is attacked by his younger brother Maximus, who attempts unsuccessfully to goad him into speaking.
Black Bolt proved popular, and decides to leave Attilan to explore the outside world. The character reappears in a story focusing on his cousin (and later wife) Medusa, drives off the Hulk after the monster defeats the entire Inhuman Royal Family (Medusa, Gorgon, Karnak, Triton and Crystal) and with the Fantastic Four battles his brother Maximus and his own group of rogue Inhumans.
After being forced to intercede in the budding romance between the Fantastic Four's Johnny Storm and his cousin Crystal, Black Bolt and the Inhumans feature in the title Amazing Adventures and battle master villains such as the Mandarin and Magneto. A story told in flashback in The Avengers reveals how Black Bolt came to be ruler of the Inhumans and Maximus was driven mad. Black Bolt discovers his brother has secretly allied himself with the alien Kree -- the race whose genetic experiments first created the Inhumans -- and in trying to stop an escaping Kree vessel overextends his sonic powers and causes the vessel to crash. Several members of the Council of Genetics -- including his parents -- are killed, with Maximus driven insane by his proximity to Black Bolt's use of his voice. Black Bolt assumes the title of King, but is haunted by the consequences of his actions. (Where The Unspoken fits in here is anyone’s guess. Ask Marvel writer Dan Slott.)
Black Bolt and the Inhumans eventually feature in a self-titled bi-monthly series battling threats such as the villain Blastaar and the Kree, who regard the Inhumans as abominations. The character encounters Nova villain the Sphinx, aids Kree hero Captain Marvel in preventing a war between the Kree and Skrulls on Earth, joins with Fantastic Four member the Thing to defeat the mutated villain Graviton, and appears briefly during an announcement that Crystal is pregnant with husband Quicksilver's child.
Black Bolt's search for a new site for the city of Attilan (eventually the Himalayas) is detailed in a back-up feature of What If? Another back-up feature in that magazine details how Black Bolt worked with the Eternals to move the city of Attilan to the Himalayas. Black Bolt also directed the eventual move of Attilan to the Blue Area of the Moon when the pollution on Earth became too much for the Inhumans.
Black Bolt and Medusa finally wed (after an interruption -- a battle between a Kree and Skrull soldier). Years later, Black Bolt clashes with Attilan's Genetic Council when he conceives a child (Ahura) with Medusa.
Black Bolt is featured again with the Royal Family in a third self-titled limited series that has major developments for the Inhumans. Ronan the Accuser leads the Kree in a surprise attack, capturing Attilan and forcing the Royal Family into service against Kree enemies the Shi’ar. Karnak, Gorgon, and Triton covertly join the Imperial Guard while Black Bolt and Medusa must attempt the assassination of the Shi'ar ruler Lilandra at a ceremony ratifying an allliance between the Shi'ar and the Spartoi. Although the attempt fails and Black Bolt manages to defeat Ronan in personal combat, the Inhuman people choose to leave with the Kree and pursue a new future. This leaves Black Bolt and the Royal Family alone to fend for themselves. The Inhumans eventually resettle in the Blue Area of the Moon and begin to rebuild.
In New Avengers, Black Bolt is revealed to be a member of a covert superhero council called the Illuminati. Via a retcon of Marvel continuity the group form after the Kree-Skrull War to deal with threats to Earth. In the limited series Silent War, the U.S. military attacks the Inhumans to prevent them from retrieving a stolen cannister of Terrigen crystals. Believing the stolen crystals should be returned to Attilan, Black Bolt issues a warning to the United States concerning further acts of aggression, and eventually launches an offensive against the nation. Gorgon and other Inhumans are captured during the attack, which prompts Black Bolt to personally head a team to rescue his subjects and retrieve the crystals. While the mission is successful, Maximus takes advantage of the situation and overthrows and temporarily incarcerates Black Bolt.
The Illuminati also collect the Infinity Gems, and to prevent the abuse of power by the Mad Titan Thanos and others, split the gems between themselves, vowing that they never be used in unison again. Black Bolt is given the Reality gem.
The character apparently suffers a setback when brutally beaten by the Hulk, on an rampage during the World War Hulk storyline and seeking revenge on Black Bolt for his role in the Hulk's exile from Earth. During the events of the Secret Invasion limited series, it is revealed that this was not in fact Black Bolt but rather a Skrull, who is killed in battle by members of the Illuminati. The true Black Bolt is captured by the Skrulls, who intended to use his voice as a weapon of mass destruction. The character is rescued by the Royal Family, who take to the stars in search of their missing cousin.
The King, angered by the repercussions caused by the Skrull invasion, changes long-held tactics and embarks on an aggressive campaign against all former persecutors of the Inhumans in the War of Kings limited series. At his command, the Inhumans attack the Kree and overthrow Ronan the Accuser, with Black Bolt declaring himself supreme ruler of the Kree Empire. (Ronan not only concedes to this, but marries the fair Crystal; as a bonding of the occurrence.) This is followed by a preemptive strike against the Shi’ar empire, now controlled by the usurper Vulcan.
Black Bolt intends to release the Terrigen Mist across the galaxy and end the war when, courtesy of the subsequent mutations, all are rendered different and equal. The plan is interrupted by Vulcan, the two clashing as the bomb charges up. Although Vulcan was nearly killed by Black Bolt's voice, Black Bolt prepared to abandon his plan when Crystal pointed out that the powers produced by the explosion would only inspire more harm rather than good. However, an enraged Vulcan retained enough strength to stop Black Bolt from teleporting away with Crystal and Lockjaw, with resulted with Black Bolt and Vulcan apparently dying in the subsequent explosion of the Terrigen bomb, as Crystal only negated the Terrigen Mists within the bomb without shutting down its ability to explode.
At that moment, the rip in Marvel U. space/time known as the Fault was born and Black Bolt was apparently gone. Now comes the solicit and shadowed cover of FF #5. I guess we will have to wait until June to find out the answer to anyone’s return … but remember you read it on Cosmic Book News first!
FF#5 hits stores June 22!