Saturday, July 27, 2013

Inhumans, Volume 2 Review

Today I decided to binge read the 12 issue, volume 2 of Inhumans which ran from 1998-99.  The Inhumans are an interesting part of the Marvel universe that will see a reintroduction to the pages of Marvel Now later this year and one that I believe will eventually become involved in the MCU at some point so I decided to do some reading and learn my facts.  Typically I would read my back issues on my tablet via Marvel Unlimited, aka the best idea in digital comics ever, but today I decided to go to the basement of the local antique shop and pick up the issues for $1 a piece and binge read in my free time.

The Inhumans have a fascinating back story that dates back millions of years when Kree scientists did some genetic manipulating on human ancestors in the hopes of better understanding evolution while creating for themselves an army to use in their on-going war with the Skrulls.  The genetic manipulation had extraordinary results: humans with incredible abilities.  The Kree, however, abandoned their experimental army, leaving them on the Earth with no real place among the other, more primitive early humans.  The early ancestors of the Inhumans lived in seclusion in their city, Attilan, developing radically advanced technology such as the Terrigen Mist, a substance that stimulates the latent genes within the members of their society, mutating them and giving them their unique place in it.

Attilan, home of the Inhumans

Volume 2 of Inhumans finds the royal family Inhumans facing crises from both inside and out of their impregnable city.  From within they are confronted with the actions of Maximus, brother to Black Bolt, king of the Inhumans.  Though mad, Maximus' gift allows him to manipulate the minds of other, a tactic he intends to use to wrest the throne away from his brother.  Outside of Attilan, mistrust has built over the Inhumans desire to remain secluded and a small force of soldiers has come to try their hand at overtaking the city.  The inside threat and outside threat are cleverly combined, giving us the illusion that Attilan and the Inhumans are doomed and Black Bolt, their king and savior, stands by seemingly unwilling to lift a finger to save his people.

Things, however, are not as they seem.  While his people doubt him, his defenses crumble under the attacks from the outside, his wife is kidnapped by his brother Maximus, the inside threat and his call for help to Namor is angrily denied, Black Bolt remains stoic.  And, if we pay attention as readers we recall a panel from the first issue in which we are told that if Black Bolt could say one word it would be, "relax."

Black Bolt, as we are told in the pages of Inhumans, unfortunately cannot speak at all.  Black Bolt's Terragenesis, the name given to the changes brought on by the exposure to the Terrigen Mist, gave him incredible powers, one of which altered the effects of the use of his vocal cords.  If Black Bolt speaks, even the slightest whisper carries enough destructive force to level mountains. We also learn that Black Bolt can manipulate the electrons in the world around him, a skill at which he is so adept he could simply will another being out of existence.  Why then does Black Bolt allow the destruction of his city, the kidnapping of his wife and even the death of one of his loyal subjects when he could stop it all with just a thought?  Black Bolt has a plan.

Imagine the self-discipline that would have to be applied if you had the powers of Black Bolt.  A single word, even if uttered while you sleep, would destroy everything around you, including those you love.  It is this same, incredible self-discipline that allows Black Bolt to remain calm while everything around him seems to be lost, including the trust of other members of his royal family, while his plan develops.

Without spoiling it entirely, it turns out Black Bolt has been in charge from the word go.  Everything that we have seen unfold has done so exactly as he has allowed it to.  The endgame: the relocation of Attilan to remove his people from the scrutiny and impending danger from the outside world.  He allows the humans to believe they are winning, he even allows them to see the destruction of his city, which currently sits atop the resurfaced Atlantis.  As Atlantis sinks back to the depths of the ocean, to be reclaimed by Namor as part of Black Bolt's plan, the city of Attilan and its Inhuman inhabitants are transported to the mountains of Tibet, far away from the politics and uncertainty that they have faced. 

Though the 12-issue arc began slowly the payoff was worth the wait.  In fact, I would say that the arc almost demands to be read a second time once you know where things will end so that you can fully appreciate the artistry of Black Bolt's plan one piece at a time.  I certainly left the arc impressed with the writing and plot work and with a wonderful impression of Black Bolt as a leader and one of the most impressive individuals in the Marvel universe.  I know he joins the Illuminati, has many dealings with the Fantastic Four and the Black Panther and, that currently, he is a member of the New Avengers which is basically the Illuminati brought back together but I've never read a comic or series based on him until now.  Knowing he will be back in the picture with his role in New Avengers and the upcoming Inhumanity event and Inhuman series, in which the Terrigen Mist is let loose on the Earth to alarming consequences, gives me hope that this amazing character, and his supporting cast, are not lost in the shuffle.  Additionally, I look forward to seeing just how soon the Inhumans are brought to the MCU and just how they will go about telling their story. 

Inhumans, vol. 2, is a 12 issue arc absolutely worth checking out.  While it may not be the best point of entry into the history of the Inhumans, you do not need any real prior knowledge to understand or appreciate the self-contained story as the writers do a nice job of filling in the gaps for you and detailing the important bits of Inhuman history.  Overall a nice corner of Marvel comics, one worth exploring and looking forward to seeing more of in the future.