D.C. here for another throwdown. I had hoped to finish this first, but I wanted to share my thoughts on this crew:
I haven’t watched Marvel’s show “Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” yet to see the difference (still on my Netflix queue), but meet the original Inhumans.
The Inhumans are just another sub-species of humans that came about centuries ago as a result of genetic tampering and lofty conquest goals by the alien Kree Empire. While they have mostly sequested and secluded themselves from the rest of humanity (and mutantdom…and Atlanteans), the Inhumans have a great deal of history with the Fantastic Four and Avengers (of which Crystal was a member). In this 1998 12-part graphic novel written by Paul Jenkins and drawn by Jae Lee, we get a concise and comprehensive look at just who and what the Inhumans are…both to themselves and to the rest of the world.
Props to the art
Simply put: I love this graphic novel. the dark tone of the art by Jae Lee is fantastic. I couldn’t believe that the art is 18 years old. It almost disgusts me that the art I’ve seen out of comics pale in comparison to that of Jae Lee.
Jae Lee’s penciling of the characters in Inhumans is well proportioned, even with a species of people with wildly different mutations. Facial expressions were very different for many of the characters I observed, and those expressions gave each character a distinct identity.
Most importantly, to me, Lee’s art fit perfectly with Jenkin’s writing for many of the characters. Gorgon’s gruff and pugnacious attitude was depicted well in his physical demeanor; even when he was humbled, the art conveyed Gorgon’s diminished appearance. Karak’s stoice face and poise go hand-in-hand with his deliberate speech. Maximus…oh, we’ll go into that a bit. 🙂
But you get the point. You FEEL the emotions on the faces and bodies of these characters.
I was captivated by the coloring provided by Dave and Dan Kemp and Avalon Studios (which I’m NOT familiar with). The colors showed great detail whenever Karnak of the royal family seemed to use his powers of detecting the flaw in all things. But that is just one such example.
The synthesis of pencils and colors, as dark as they are, shine brightly in the Inhumans. It is my belief that colors set the tone of the story, and “Inhumans” is a great example.
Props to the writing…
I thoroughly enjoyed “Inhumans” because Paul Jenkins explored not just the royal family of the Inhumans, but also several citizens of Attilan. Life is given to the Inhuman royal family, the next generation of Inhumans, and the humans who lead the attack on the Inhumans.
I was thoroughly pleased with Jenkins’ depiction of Maximus in particular. With Jae Lee’s art, we get the perfect picture of the mad Inhuman prince. And the term “mad” is seen on Maximus’ face and in his speech in so many ways. We see the generic “mad” when Maximus’ body is flailing about while he speaks nonsensically:
We also see how mad–ANGRY–Maximus is at his brother and the Inhumans in general, and how that drives his motives. Maximus’ sticking his tongue out is another beautiful touch to his madness. I couldn’t tell if he was angry, mentally ill, or simply sadistic at those moments. It was a thrill.
Another pleasing inclusion in Inhumans is that we get a tour of just how the Inhuman pet Lockjaw thinks and what he thinks about. What does a dog think about the conspiracies and events threatening to destroy the Inhumans? Does he care? Does he even understand? You get a delightful experience with Lockjaw, even among the chaos befalling the Inhumans.
The questions Jenkins captions throughout the story makes you really want to seek the answers. They are well written questions that deal with morality, decisions, indecision, and the consequences with which you find your answers to these questions.
From the beginning of the story, and especially towards the end, we are forced to question just who Black Bolt is, and just how do he choose to rule over the Inhumans. What does he do to safeguard his people from a “primitive” world that seeks only to reap their existence? When he seems defiant, content to observe his people’s annihilation, how are we supposed to see Black Bolt? He surprises even me at the end, especially with how he treats Maximus, his brother and antagonists. We see so many emotions in the silent king that speaks more than anyone’s in this saga.
Nonetheless, we see similar aspects throughout this saga, and with so many other characters. We see how conflicted the old and young are, and how determined and heroic and tired many of the characters can be.
You know what? In my opinion, there is very little I found bad in this story. If I have even one beef, it’s regarding Jenkins’ writing on Triton.
Specifically, his speech patterns.
Jenkins did a fine job having many of the character orate in a manner that is characteristic of them. Gorgon had his own way of speaking, as did Medusa, and (of course) Maximus. Even Black Bolt had a taciturn, yet characteristic, speech form.
Triton, however, seemed to have an inconsistent speech pattern throughout. Triton’s speech in issue #1 was addled and unfocused:
“If it pleasing your majesty… This poor being am poor foolish. I humble apologize.”
–Triton, when speaking to Medusa.
His was clearly distinct, almost like he lacked intelligence. However, in issue #9, in which Triton’s character is highlighted, his speech is starkly different:
“…And I bring the personal note from King Black Bolt, together with regards and respect from all people of our great city to our Atlantean cousins.”
–Triton, when speaking to Namor.
As soon as Triton spoke in issue #9, I couldn’t help but feel confused. What happened? Why is he so eloquent, so articulate? Why does he sound UNLIKE Triton?
From this issue to the end of the series, Triton spoke in the same regal manner, without justification for the change. The lack of consistency is too stark to have left alone without a reason.
It’s no lie that to continue with Triton’s original speech pattern could have been a challenge, but that does not justify an unexplained change. I was fine with Triton’s more complicated speech because it set him even further apart from his cousins in the royal family, just as much as his physical characteristics. To change Triton’s speech midway through to something so similar to the others diminished his individuality a bit.
“Inhumans” is a great and satisfying story that covers so many aspects.
And in this story, we see that the Inhumans really are just like us, though in my opinion, they are more pure and almost more innocent. We see that even Inhumans are prejudiced against one another, that they are, in their own way, racist against themselves and the Alpha Primitives that were their slaves. Even boisterous commanding soldiers like Gorgon can be humbled and shattered at the decisions (or lack thereof) they have to endure.
We see not just the prejudices the Inhumans place on one another, but the prejudices directed towards them by the human world. It is a trait we have seen in years, decades, and centuries past in human history. It is a cautionary tale of that we are doomed to repeat these prejudices whenever we meet “the other.”
Most strikingly, we get a true understanding of how heavy the crown Black Bolt wears. How, in spite of his regal aire, Black Bolt’s own decisions tear at him more than the insults and condemnations of his people. We see the true price of the crown.
If you’re looking for something new to read, pick up this oldie. For Marvel fans who have little knowledge of the Inhumans and want to read an in-depth storyline that highlights the various characters, give this book a read.
And besides…you people who like to read comics before a movie, “Inhumans” comes out in theaters in about 3 years. So you have no excuse to get a great look into one of Marvel’s most isolated people.