It's no secret that whilst I have been enjoying the Inhumans titles as a reader, I have not been a fan of how they have been set up thematically within the Marvel Universe of late. There were too many inconsistencies that made it hard to see the Inhumans as big time heroes, as it was hard to get passed the fact their actions were leading to the extinction of another species.
Most of that is over with now that that era of Marvel is over, ending with Inhumans vs. X-Men. Most of that.
It's also no surprise that I'm a massive X-Men fan, so with both X-Men and Inhumans Prime issues coming out this week, it is perhaps a bit of a surprise that of the two – I preferred Inhumans Prime.
Written by Al Ewing, the man who is pretty much single-handedly exploring the Marvel Universe's deeper cosmic aspects and 'weird shit' of late, Inhumans Prime does exactly what you expect from an issue claiming to be a primer for a line: it sets up pretty much every book in that line.
The story within the issue itself largely deals with the Inhumans hunt for Maximus, his trial and also the decision of the Royal family to abdicate and initiate a new age for Inhumanity as a new democratic culture. The issue isn't filled with surprises or shocks, but it does set up mysteries that will most likely be unfolding in each of the main books of the Inhumans line (bar Secret Warriors, which as we understand it is heavily linked to Secret Empire, so I suppose it makes sense that that one book of the line isn't really touched on).
One such mystery is one that was perhaps the most intriguing to me, and is set up in the opening pages and explains why Marvel Boy aka Noh-Varr would be joining the Inhumans titles: that the Inhumans don't really know what Terrigen really is.
The art duties are covered by Ryan Sook for the majority of the issue, and the art is really beautiful. It's kind of a shame he isn't on one of the books coming out of this, as the his work in this issue is really a joy to behold. Each character gets fun, dynamic expressions and there's a sense of detail which is amazing. The art is also backed up in a section by Chris Allen, who while very different, does not come across too jarring. With confident, bold inks from a team of inkers in the form of Sook, Walden Wong and Keith Champagne, and colours throughout by Paul Mounts, who adds to the sense of fantastical realism in the issue.
Whilst this issue does a good job of dealing with the majority of the issues around the Inhumans, with them even openly accepting and owning the mistakes of their monarchy, from causing the deaths and sickness of an entire other race to the fact that, yes, up until very recently the Inhumans held slaves, it does seemingly fail to address one of the major problems I did have with Inhumans.
Throughout IvX, I had a big problem with how Inhumans kept saying losing Terrigen would mean the end of their race, the end of Inhumans. And whilst yes, Terrigen is sacred to them and losing it would result in MAJOR changes to their culture (but hey, hadn't they already done that by just pouring the stuff into the atmosphere), the loss of it would not cause the extinction of the Inhuman race, it just means they'd no longer have superpowers. It's something which has been loosely touched on before, before Marvel decided to bring the Inhumans into the limelight more as a major portion of the Marvel Universe. Inhumans culture had almost a caste system with those who had undergone Terrigenesis viewed as higher than those who had not, and their slave race at the very bottom of the social ladder.
As Inhumans became more prominent, this seemed to be forgotten rather than confronted. Though this issue does indeed deal with many of the issues of the culture and moves them forward, it however doesn't tackle this. In fact, it would seem it will continue, as in a scene near the end, Crystal, former Inhuman princess, waxes poetic about how this generation of Inhumans will be the last.
It's actually very poetic, beautiful even. It's also patently not true. Inhumans will still be born, they just will not have superpowers. It reads to those who know the history of Inhumans as though she is putting more worth on powered/post-Terrigenesis Inhumans than she is all Inhumans.
I'm a little surprised to see this still around. Fear the end of their culture as they knew it, sure, but writing off the species because it won't be the same?
It could, however, be interesting to see if this does get explored in depth in the series' spinning out of this: as Inhuman culture changes and involves, might we see those troubled by the changes, or with contradictory worldviews explored and expanded upon. I hope it does, especially if it is one of the 'heroes' of Inhumans who holds these outdated and controversial views. I think that could prove an interesting and poignant discussion right now.
Overall, Inhumans Prime sets up the Inhuman line with intriguing mysteries, allows the Inhumans to move from a well written (largely) but controversial time to a time when they can maybe finally be total heroes without causing the displacement of others, and presents a potentially exciting time of exploration and adventures to come. Setting up almost all the series of the line to come, and itself a great read with stunning art.