Marvel Studios, the division of the mainstream comics company that produces the box-office bashing mega-franchise, has a problem. That problem starts with “m” and ends with “utants.” Wolverine, Cyclops, Magneto, and the whole host of outcasts are an integral part of the Marvel Comics universe, but as long as 20th Century Fox continues to churn out movies based on the characters, they will continue to own the rights to the X-Men and the hundreds of mutants that come along for the ride. So what is a budding world superpower to do? Why, make new mutants of course! That is how many cynics view the fore-fronting of the Inhuman characters in the comic book realm. Initially created as a higher form of humanity to face off against the Fantastic Four, the new series Inhuman sees thousands of genetically Inhuman people develop abilities all across the world. A world that fears and mistrusts them, perhaps?
In the end, Inhuman doesn’t turn the eponymous group into the mutants. It actually doesn’t do much of anything. Scripted by Charles Soule (of She-Hulk fame) introduces us to a few new characters with super cool names like Kristian and Dante and Lash. None of these guys get a ton of development, outside of some clichéd backstory stuff – by the way, for all you writers out there, just because you point out that something about your character is a cliche does not mean it isn’t a cliche anymore.
Soule also makes use of Medusa, queen of the Inhumans, and the only main character that he didn’t create. Soule has a strong voice for She-Hulk, so hopefully he can bring a similar approach to another female character in desperate need of respect. That will have to come in future issues though, as Medusa mostly just sits around naked, and then rescues a guy toward the issue’s end. Decompression is a common practice in comics today; everything is geared toward being sold in six months as a collection, so it makes sense to take your time, I just hope Soule kicks it up a notch in ensuing issues. More of the Swamp Thing-Soule, less of the Superman/Wonder Woman-Soule.
It is hard to know what to lay at the writer’s feet, however. Inhuman was originally supposed to be published months ago under the guiding typewriter keys of Matt Fraction, a very clever writer with Medusa experience from FF. Fraction abruptly left most of his Marvel projects, leading to Soule’s takeover, and even though Fraction gets no credit on the issue, I am sure Mr. Soule had something of a blueprint to follow.
I haven’t gotten a chance to talk about the art yet. Joe Madureira (hopefully) returns to monthly comics with this project. His anime-influenced art-style may turn some people off, but it comes with excellent kineticism and detail. Plus, Madureira has a great eye for sequentialism, which a lot of those detail-oriented guys miss out on. It helps give the book a cinematic quality, which is more and more becoming the Marvel house-style.
The cover touts this as “Marvel’s latest epic,” and while the issue starts with an impressively wide scope, it narrows completely by the issue’s end; all of the threads come together, which negates that “epic” designation. But Soule did subvert at least one of my expectations during the book, and he hints at larger forces just off in the periphery of the action. The first issue may be pretty rote, but Madureira’s art and Soule’s track record will earn Inhuman another look from me.