It’s been an interesting several years for the Inhumans. They were one of Marvel’s more obscure collections of characters, most closely associated with the Fantastic Four. In fact, two of the Inhumans have been fill-in members of the FF at different points in their history. During the 80’s and 90’s, whenever Marvel had a new character pop up they didn’t have a good origin worked out for, they were a mutant. But, when Marvel Studios started becoming a powerhouse, Marvel wanted to get back the rights they had sold during their near-bankruptcy in the 90’s.
While Marvel has gotten back many of their characters (Ghost Rider, Daredevil, Punisher, and some sort of shared custody deal with Sony for Spider-Man), Fox has held on to the Fantastic Four (making some fairly terrible movies) and the X-Men and related characters. Not wanting to build up new characters they wouldn’t be able to use, Marvel Comics shifted to having Inhumans be the new origin of choice. Their best success so far would be Kamala Khan, the newest hero to use the Ms. Marvel name. They also used Inhumans as a stand in for mutants on the last few season of the Agents of SHIELD tv show.
The Inhumans, which to most comic fans means the Royal Family of Black Bolt, Medusa, Crystal, Gorgon, Karnak, Trition, and Lockjaw, were slated to have their own feature film as part of the ongoing hit machine that is Marvel Studios. Something changed behind the scenes, and the movie was scrapped, and now the Inhumans are a limited run television show, time-sharing Agents of SHIELD’s time slot for part of the season like the late, lamented Agent Carter did.
The show got a lot of bad press before release. Personally, I prefer to make up my own mind about shows, so I watched the two hour premier, “Behold… The Inhumans/Those Who Would Destroy Us,” as the episodes were titled. I admit I had some bias going in, as I liked several of the actors’ past work. Black Bolt is played by Anson Mount, who starred in AMC’s Hell On Wheels, a great western that ran for several seasons. Serinda Swan, Medusa, was both Zatanna on Smallville and Erica Reed in Breakout Kings. Ken Leung, Karnak, was Topher Zia on The Night Shift, and Iwan Rheon is infamous for the despicable (but well acted) Ramsey Bolton on Game of Thrones. So I was familiar with, and enjoyed, the work of several of the big roles.
I have to say, the bad press was, in my opinion, not warranted. It wasn’t the best Marvel has ever done, but that’s a really high bar at this point. I actually thought it was an enjoyable show, and certainly plan on watching the rest of the run. It was a decent representation of the characters, with a few changes made along the way, as most Marvel Cinematic Universe projects have.
For those who aren’t fans of the comics, the Inhumans are an offshoot of humanity. Millions of years ago, the Kree (who have popped up in other places in the MCU) experimented on a group of humans, but then were forced to leave Earth in their war against the shapeshifting Skrull race. The Inhumans made their own society, apart from the rest of humanity, living in their hidden city, Attilan, which at various points has been located in the Himalayas, on the Moon, and in New York Harbor. The modern Inhumans were discovered by the Fantastic Four, and popped up off and on throughout Marvel Comics from that point forward. Their genetics are unstable, leading to a wide range of both physical mutations and various superpowers.
This version finds Attilan hidden on the Moon, fearing humans. As in the comics, much of the tension in the city is between the wise King Black Bolt and his envious brother, Maximus. As the series opens, Maximus skulks around, very much overshadowed by Black Bolt. He also now is jealous of Black Bolt’s wife, Medusa. After some bickering about the future of the city, Maximus mounts a coup. Much of the initial two episodes is the revolution kicking off, most of the Royals escaping to Earth, and Maximus and his henchwoman Auron trying to find them.
The Inhumans are scattered throughout Hawaii, having been teleported to different locations by Lockjaw, a large, dog-like creature who can cover immense distances with his power. Things don’t go well for anyone. Medusa has been deprived of her powers, but shown that she can fight like hell without them. Black Bolt gets arrested when he clashes with a local and then, after being attacked, accidentally lets part of his destructive power escape and trash a police car. Gorgon finds shelter among an almost stereotypical Hawaiian group. Triton is missing, some believe him dead. Karnak has some issues from a head injury interfering with his powers, and Crystal has been captured by Maximus’ forces.
Another complication is a human scientist called Louise who is starting to suspect the existence of some hidden power on the Moon. Ridiculed to the point of being “encouraged” to take leave from her job, she travels to Hawaii to try and find out what’s going on. The last we see of her in the first two episodes, she hears some news about a mysterious being with powers who just popped up, and is no doubt going to find him soon.
Maximus, in addition to overthrowing his brother, stunning and temporarily de-powering his sister in law, and imprisoning Crystal, has darker plans. He wants to lead the Inhumans from their hidden refuge to a war with the humans to take the planet and give them more living space. This seems like a bad plan at best, has he not seen any of the news coverage about the Avengers? The only Inhuman really capable of standing up to the likes of Thor or Iron Man is Black Bolt himself, and he’s not likely to help Maximus now. Maximus also cuts a bloody swath through the Inhumans’ hidden city, killing off whoever disagrees with him or ones he think might be a threat.
Maximus has also taken an interest in a newly powered Inhuman, who can see the future. A precognitive Inhuman was a big part of the Civil War II story in the comics, so this might be a nod to that major event. He’s certainly feeding Maximus’ paranoia, whether he means to or not. After a lot of action scenes, the two part premier ends with the Inhumans all off by themselves, trying to figure out how to reunite or strike back at Maximus.
I don’t think it was a perfect show. Some of the separated team, notably Medusa, Crystal, and Black Bolt, use their communication devices to speak to each other, but the rest either forget about them or can’t get them to work or something. Maybe they forgot to pay their cell bill. Also, when a man with incredible destructive power suddenly pops up, Tony Stark’s pro-Registration Avengers should at least get a mention, if not put in an appearance. If not them, SHIELD at the least. But it was nowhere near as bad as some critics and fans seem to be making it out to be.
As an aside, I’ll talk about Medusa’s hair for a moment. In the stills, it looked horrible. Everyone agreed with that, myself included. It looks much, much better on the show. The scenes it’s animated are very well done, and it actually looks ok when it’s just the wig. The early pictures were admittedly bad, but they’ve fixed that.
What I liked: This was a good interpretation of one of Marvel’s odder groups of characters. I particularly thought Anson Mount did well as Black Bolt. He was very expressive with gestures and his face, overcoming the problem of playing a man who can’t speak (Black Bolt’s voice is so incredibly powerful, in the comics, he’s dropped the Hulk with a syllable). Maximus, while clearly a bad guy, had some understandable motivations. Medusa and Auron’s fight near the end was well-staged, and showed that Medusa doesn’t need to rely completely on her powers.
What I didn’t: I mentioned the issue of the communicators. Also the shared-world problem of the Avengers or SHIELD not turning up or at least being referred to. They didn’t quite reconcile Black Bolt being so beloved by the people, but them being so willing to support Maximus’ rebellion.
I thought it was a decent start, and deserves to be given a fair change. I’ll give the season opener a solid 3 out of 5. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do next and how they bring the Royals back together and (hopefully) serve up some well-deserved justice to Maximus and his cronies.