The story of the Inhuman series follows from the mammoth crossover, Inhumanity, which itself spun out of the recent Infinity event. Think about that for a moment. This is a series coming from a crossover arising from an event. That speaks, no screams, a fundamental truth about the present state of the Marvel Universe. At the end of Infinity, Inhuman king Blackbolt helped defeat Thanos by setting off a bomb powered by terrigen crystals, the power source that unlocks the super abilities Kree experimenters encoded in Inhuman genes long ago. The bomb destroyed the sky city of Attilan, now resting, ruined, in the Hudson River off Manhattan, and sent terrigen clouds circling the world, awaking powers in the significant fraction of humanity that has Kree insertions still present in its DNA. Inhumanity chronicled the results of this on a large scale, while this series looks at the situation on a more intimate level. Inhuman focuses on Medusa, ruling the Inhumans following the disappearance of her husband Blackbolt, and a group of her newly identified subjects, particularly a young musician named Dante who develops fire-based powers and takes the name Inferno. Charles Soule certainly knows his medieval literature, but the whimsy lays a bit heavy.
The first few issues chronicle the struggle between Medusa, based in New Attilan, that is to say the wreckage of Old Attilan in New York, and Lash, King of Orrolan. The rebel kingdom of Orrolan split from Attilan over the Orrolan belief that the terrigen mists were sacred and should only be used for the benefit of those who had proved themselves worthy. Lash, like Medusa, scours the world, looking for newly identified Inhumans to bring to his cause. After defeating Lash, Medusa must deal with the return of the Unnamed, the tyrannical ruler her husband overthrew long ago.
If these themes sound familiar, it’s because … well, Thor features a magical city plopped down in America, and the power struggles among a genetically altered subvariant of humanity are one of the oldest and most enduring themes of the X-books. In Inhuman #9 yet a third group of Inhumans, the mafia-inspired, corporately organized Ennilux, enters the fray. To make matters worse, they appear just as the Inhuman series touches on the newly-begun Axis event. And there is yet another event in the offing, as Medusa discovers that Blackbolt, who has reappeared but who is his usual incommunicative self, set off the terrigen bomb deliberately to awaken the powers of the proto-Inhumans, as he foresees a great threat approaching.
The story serves as a good primer on the history and nature of the Inhumans, their relationship to the rest of the Earth, and the intrigues of the royal family that have been winding a colorful path ever since the Inhumans were introduced as a species in 1965. Ryan Stegman’s art is clear and emphasizes the fluid movement of the characters, a must when dealing with Medusa and her serpentine locks. However, he also captures the weariness afflicting all the Inhumans, their faces grown haggard and worried as disaster piles atop catastrophe layered on complication. Ryan Isanove’s colors emphasize the glowing power and beauty of the Inhuman world even in ruins, and the muted tones with which he colors the non-Inhuman characters and locations drive home the lesson of difference.
This story has great potential, but that potential goes unrealized. Instead, we get a repeat of themes long explored in other Marvel books, including previous versions of the Inhumans' history. To make matters worse, it is only a bridge connecting the end of one event and the beginning of another. One wonders whether it is also meant to resonate with plotlines emerging on recent television programs. It is not so much a literary effort as an engineering project, an exercise in calculated creation much like the Kree experiments that brought forth the Inhumans themselves. Unfortunately, there is no terrigen mist to awaken the story's latent power.