Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Inhuman, Volume 1: Genesis Review (Charles Soule, Joe Madureira)

In last year’s Infinity, Black Bolt detonated the Terrigen Bomb at the heart of the floating Inhuman capital city of Attilan, a last ditch move by the desperate king against Thanos. The fallout of the bomb was a massive cloud – the Terrigen Mist – floating across the world, transforming anyone with dormant genes from human to Inhuman. And that number turned out to be surprisingly high.

But the Inhumans are divided: Attilan, now fallen, is now without a king as Black Bolt has disappeared. In his stead, Queen Medusa rules over a peaceful city, welcoming and educating the new and confused Inhumans (or NuHumans as they’re called) about their changed forms. And then there is Orollan, the other, hidden Inhuman city – a more militaristic place ruled by Lash, a powerful Inhuman hunting down newly transformed Inhumans. If they prove useful to him, they live; if they don’t, they die.

Oh dear. The usually dependable Charles Soule has written his first turkey with Inhuman, Volume 1. In a way, it’s not entirely his fault. Matt Fraction worked on developing the series initially but left just months away from the first issue’s release – the reason being mutual disagreement with Marvel over the title’s direction – so Soule was brought in at the last minute to make it all work. And it’s not terribly written, or a bad idea to bring focus on the Inhumans. But there are several big problems with the book.

The setup feels very much like what’s currently happening with the X-Men. There was M-Day when mutants suddenly became an endangered species, then there was AVX which reversed that situation, and now we’ve got tons of mutants popping up everywhere. Chasing down and recruiting the new mutants are Cyclops’ renegade group and Wolverine’s people.

That’s basically the same situation with the Inhumans – suddenly there are tons of new Inhumans popping up and two opposing forces are intent on recruiting them, which is repetitive but also terribly boring. It’s actually ok for a bit but it’s also been done and Soule doesn’t really bring any new surprises to the setup.

And while we’re on the subject of the X-Men, what is the difference between a mutant and an Inhuman? That’s the basic question that this book really needed to answer and it didn’t. Mutant or Inhuman - they’re interchangeable. 

Then there’s the lack of any memorable, unique or likeable characters. Medusa’s your typical strong female character – she’s smart, she kicks ass, she’s wise – but she’s also pretty cold and her pompous attitude is at odds with her message of inclusion. Lash is your typical one-dimensional villain – from his appearance to his speech, there’s never any doubt about who he is and what his intentions are. That leaves the new, main character: Dante.

Why is he called Dante? Because his Inhuman power is fire, so he’s named Inferno. Dante’s Inferno. That’s so uncreative, it’s jaw-dropping. Who is Dante? Well, he’s the hero, I guess. I can’t really tell you any characteristics he has. He’s the good looking lead, he’s … got fire powers. I give up. He’s some guy we’re supposed to root for and I didn’t give a damn about him at all. 

About halfway through the book, the hunt for NuHumans more or less ends and then the book struggles to find traction again. It treads water, focusing on a group of uninteresting NuHumans as they complain about how their lives are over now that they look different, blah blah blah. Then there’s the most half-assed attempt at making it seem like Attilan is in trouble which is resolved laughably quickly. And then it’s done!

Except for that sucker punch of a last page - THAT was what I wanted to read about in Inhuman! I wanted to see THAT storyline instead of the crap that preceded it (all of which should’ve been a sidestory instead of the main event). The only real positive I can take away from this book is that with that tantalising final page, the series might pick up a lot in the second volume. 

Joe Madureira’s art is really excellent and the first three issues look lush – the figures are fully realised, the whole book having this sense of epic scope, and Lash’s character design in particular looks outstanding. Then halfway through there’s a change as Spider-Man artist Ryan Stegman is brought in and, wow, is there a massive difference in their styles! It doesn’t help that a lot of Stegman’s work looks extremely rushed, with several panels looking like thumbnails rather than the finished article.

I can understand why Marvel want to make the Inhumans into a big deal – besides the fact that they’re a curious bunch of oddballs, they don’t own the rights to the X-Men so they’re building up the Inhumans to be their X-Men surrogate on screen. Unfortunately, based on this first volume full of false starts and dead ends, they’ve got a long, long way to go before they can prove these characters are of the same rich quality as the X-Men.

Inhuman Volume 1: Genesis

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