The Inhumans made their first appearances in the pages of Fantastic Four in the mid 1960s. The Royal Family of Attilan were different from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s previous creations.
They were a motley crew of space oddities, led by a king who cannot speak lest his quasisonic voice tear the world asunder. Their queen uses her prehensile hair to manipulate objects. Their dog has antennae. Oh, and he teleports.
Intended as a 2018 Marvel-owned big-screen competitor to 20th Century Fox’s X-Men, Inhumans languished in development hell for years. In 2014, it was to be a big budget film slated for release in 2018.
That project fell through, leaving the door open for IMAX and Marvel Television to try something crazy–a TV series with a two-episode premiere exclusively in IMAX theaters, to be released a few weeks prior to airing.
In the wake of the disappointing IMAX premiere, there’s real concern for Inhumans‘ viability as a mainstream TV franchise.
Yet, for all the critical venom directed at it, Inhumans is by no means an abject failure. Despite having a TV budget, a near-impossible shooting schedule, and Iron Fist‘s notorious showrunner Scott Buck at the helm, Inhumans isn’t all terrible.
Just in time for the series’ premiere on the small screen, this article gives a spoilery overview of Marvel Television’s Inhumans weaknesses and strengths.
Here are the 10 Things Wrong With Inhumans (And 6 Things It Did Right).
16. Wrong: Breaking from the Kree-Skrull War’s version of Black Bolt’s origin
Arguably Roy Thomas’s greatest achievement, the Kree-Skrull War features the best version of Black Bolt’s accidental rise to power. Thomas’s telling of Black Bolt’s worst deed happens in flashback in “Something Inhuman This Way Comes,” a mid-arc storyline that focuses on the Inhumans’ roles in the great War.
Then-prince Black Bolt discovers his brother “Maximus the Traitor,” as Thomas calls him, and a Kree conspiring against the Inhumans’ King and Queen on “the soil of sacred Attilan!” As the Kree flee in their spaceship, Black Bolt shouts, causing the ship to crash, crushing the King and Queen.
In the show, he simply answers his parents’ question after his adolescent Terrigenesis. His quasisonic voice slams them through a wall. How is that better? It isn’t. It’s cheaper, and it cheapens the turmoil between the brothers. An MCU version of the Kree-Skrull War will play a major role in the upcoming Captain Marvel.
15. Right: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and other MCU tie-ins
Terrigen in the water supply is the most obvious tie-in to the MCU but there will be more. “It’s all connected,” Inhumans executive producer and President of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb has said of Marvel Television’s connections to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Perhaps the Inhumans series’ strongest connection to the MCU is Louise, a human scientist who is “aware of everything that’s happened” thus far in the MCU, according to showrunner Scott Buck. That’s a broad claim, and there has yet to be substantial evidence to back it up.
Buck dialed it back, saying, “She’s aware that there are people out there who possess super powers, so she’ll be a little bit more ready to be among them.” As the series continues, we hope to get a better sense of how she ties it all together.
14. Wrong: The Cast Is Too Limited
As viewers, we need to know the rules. How can Medusa intuit so much about her king’s thoughts from simple gestures? (Is her interpretation ever incorrect?)
What exactly are Karnak’s powers? Why doesn’t Gorgon get more screen time? What’s Triton’s deal? Heck, what’s King Black Bolt’s full name? (Answer: King Blackagar Boltagon.) You wouldn’t know it from watching the first two episodes of the show, though.
Frankly, the cast is too small for the grandiose style of storytelling that Scott Buck’s team tried to pull off. The main cast is basically six vaguely defined freaks (only five of whom speak) and a giant magical CGI dog. The fewer characters who matter, the more the specifics matter, the more imperative it is to spell out the lore. Inhumans didn’t even try.
13. Right: Maximus’ Jealousy Towards Black Bolt
Maximus the Mad’s resentment of King Blackagar Boltagon is one of Marvel’s oldest tropes. It’s a mix of ordinary political rivalry, fear of Black Bolt’s destructive voice, and righteous anger at the inglorious way his brother acquired the throne.
At the same time, the dude is completely insane in the comics. He’s a mind-controlling, Medusa-obsessed, Hypno-Gun-wielding maniac.
You see, in the comics, Maximus’s deceitfulness (i.e. his eagerness to strike a secret deal with the Kree and betray his family even before his parents’ deaths) plays as prominent a role in their parents’ demise. The TV series oversimplifies the catalyst for the character’s vengefulness.
Removing Maximus’s role from the accidental killing of their parents was a bad idea. That said, Game of Thrones alum Iwan Rheon does what he can to make the show’s poorly written Maximus worthy of his namesake. It’s a valiant effort.
12. Wrong: IMAX Premiere
All in all, the IMAX premiere was a failed experiment. Filming in IMAX typically requires a big budget. Inhumans‘ IMAX deal required the first two episodes to be made in very short order under a tight budget, meaning the action scenes would be shot on IMAX cameras and the rest would not.
As a result, some scenes looked awesome on the massive screen and others looked horrid. The only reason to see it in IMAX was to experience IMAX versions of the epic trailers for Thor: Ragnarok and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
In virtually every scene, there is a disheartening reminder of what could have been. During Triton’s terrestrial misadventure, for instance, he seemingly gets himself killed, setting in motion the turn of events that will bring the Royal Family from their city on the moon to Earth.
Considering how the city is supposed to be mobile, you’d expect Black Bolt to simply bring the city along for the ride, which could be sweet in IMAX, but the show just doesn’t have that sort of budget.
11. Right: Terrigen in the water supply of Earth
There’s an important distinction that should be made. Thus far, the so-called Inhumans on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are not technically Inhumans. They’re Nuhumans. It’s an important difference. The true Inhumans were products of Kree experiments while the Nuhumans were the descendants of the original inhumans.
As in the comics, in the MCU, Terrigen is the substance that activates Inhumans’ powers, triggering the irreversible transformation known as Terrigenesis.
In the final moments of “S.O.S.,” the two-part season finale of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Terrigen from a case of broken Terrigen crystals pollutes the water supply, gets consumed by fish, and ends up in fish oil nutritional supplements on store shelves. The threat of a global Terrigenic crisis connects Inhumans to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
10. Wrong: Medusa’s hair
This criticism might seem superficial but Medusa’s hair matters. Her powers derive from her hair, which behaves in the same serpentine manner as her mythical namesake’s. In the best Inhumans comics, Medusa’s hair isn’t just “tentacle-like.” It’s wild, emotive, and useful in combat. It expands and contracts at will.
Getting her hair wrong is like forgetting Batman’s gadgets or Spider-Man’s “spider sense.” It’s like neglecting to mention Jessica Jones’s superhuman strength or Wolverine’s adamantium claws.
As Hyper RPG‘s Hector Navarro and Adam Hlavac pointed in a detailed post-mortem, Inhumans features brief lackluster sequences in which she uses her hair and then–bzzz–Maximus’s minions cut it all off using electric razors which they somehow smuggled from Earth to the moon… It’s dumb.
9. Right: Ken Leung as Karnak
Ken Leung is an underrated actor. As Karnak, an incredible martial artist with the uncanny ability to identify flaws, he’s hilarious and fun to watch. Leung went to the comics for inspiration, and it shows.
Unfortunately, production woes prevented Leung from fulfilling the character’s true potential. His powers are indecipherable. At one point, he seems to have the ability to rewind time, an ability which he doesn’t have in the comics.
Then, suddenly, he slips and falls and knocks himself out cold, conveniently forgetting to do that magic time trick he did moments before.
The script does him zero favors. Karnak, the one Inhuman who is not exposed to the Terrigen mist in the comics, narrates the proceedings of the Terrigenesis ceremony. What? Why?
In the comics, he’s literally the one Inhuman who never went through the process, fearing he might turn into the Creature From The Black Lagoon like his brother Triton did. It’s Ken Leung, so he makes the scene work, anyway.
8. Wrong: The generic costumes
“With the introduction of the Inhumans [in the comics],” as researcher Sean Howe wrote in Marvel: The Untold Story, “it was suddenly apparent that the Marvel Universe was infinite, that there could be whole civilizations in every corner of the entire cosmos. The Inhumans were like nothing that had come before.”
According to Howe, the Inhumans’ strange appearances were essential to their identities. “Their intentions were ambiguous, and their bodies—[Gorgon] had earthquake-inducing hooves, [Medusa] tentacle-like hair, [Triton] gills and fins—verged on the grotesque.” Sadly, the only thing grotesque about Marvel Television’s Inhumans is its conspicuous lack of imagination.
So why, in the name of Jack Kirby, did Marvel Television give the Inhumans such drab costumes? Blaming X-Men director Bryan Singer for popularizing generic-looking superhero teams, YouTuber La’Ron Readus (via Scott Niswander’s NerdSync) rightly identified Inhumans’ dull costume-design as an unwelcome reminder of the cautious pre-MCU era.
7. Right: Aloha, Hawaii
Originally, the Inhumans’ home city of Attilan was located in the Himalayas. Black Bolt moved the entire city to Dr. Victor Von Doom’s Latveria and, when that didn’t work out, to the Blue Area of the Moon.
So why is much of the series set in Hawaii? Money woes. Given the project’s limited budget, the showrunners looked for cheap alternatives to extravagant set pieces.
Shooting in Hawaii is super-cheap, so setting the Earth scenes in Hawaii was a clever, cost-effective move. In earthly terms, you can do a whole lot worse than the natural greenery, volcanic mountains, and oceanside cliffs of Hawaii.
In a fish-out-of-water scene that could’ve come from The Man Who Fell To Earth or The Brother From Another Planet, a shopkeeper assumes from Black Bolt’s silence that he doesn’t speak English. No fan asked for a scene like this, but it works, anyway.
6. Wrong: Hype Trainwreck
For the most part, the MCU’s properties have been entertaining, with high production values, solid performances, and reliable fan service. People look forward to Marvel movies and TV shows the days. With each new MCU-bound triumph, Marvel generates hype for the next one. Usually, that’s a good thing. (Sometimes, not so much.)
Toxic rumors and doubts were circulating back when Inhumans was going to be a big budget movie. Did Inhumans as a franchise have a big enough audience? Its cancellation seemed to answer that question with an emphatic, “nope.”
So, once it was finally greenlighted as a TV series, the excitement was dwindling. The hype machine failed Inhumans. What should’ve been yet another Marvel marvel turned into an embarrassment equaled only by showrunner Scott Buck’s other Marvel Television disaster, Iron Fist.
5. Wrong: The cheap-looking teleportation Special Effects
Lockjaw is a two-ton teleporting bulldog. His feats of interdimensional teleportation make for some breathtakingly psychedelic panels in Marvel comics.
It’s a crime that the effects team weren’t given more time to do justice to the pup’s awesome powers. Instead we get the cheap CGI equivalent an invisible vacuum-cleaner tugging gently at the dusty fabric of spacetime. It’s tacky.
Now, you don’t need a big budget for great, trippy special effects, if you’re willing to experiment with practical effects and unconventional cinematography, as the early works of Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, Robert Rodriguez, and many others attest.
Sadly, Inhumans takes no such risks. Rather than mind-melting adorableness– he’s a 2-ton bulldog, and he’s teleporting– we get another case of cheap-looking CGI blandness blandly presented. Imagine what could’ve been if only they’d had Dr. Strange‘s resources.
4. Wrong: Complicates the already way too complicated MCU
The MCU’s major conceit is that it’s all one big interconnected world, all of the major motion pictures and the TV series. Making sense of the timeline was a herculean task long before the arrival of Black Bolt and his Inhuman posse.
Already, the MCU is home to Black Widow, Jessica Jones, Thanos and the Infinity Stones, Hulk, Iron Man, Daredevil, Captain America, Ultron, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Ant-Man, Bucky Barnes, Dr. Stephen Strange, Star Lord, Gamora, Luke Cage, Scarlet Witch, Thor, Spider-Man, all of the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and many, many others.
Adding godlike Black Bolt as an afterthought is a crime. That’s to say nothing of the missed opportunity for a big budget Rocket Raccoon-Lockjaw team-up.
Physically, the MCU encompasses Earth, the solar system, and all of outer space, down to the subatomic level, as well as parallel magical dimensions and mythical locations like Asgard. There were enough existential threats out there. Now we’ve got to worry about Black Bolt sneezing in his sleep.
3. Wrong: Atrocious writing and hackneyed dialogue
In another reminder of the Kree-Skrull War’s superior writing, the opening sequence involving Triton’s panicked pursuit the ill-fated nuhuman recalls the first panel of Roy Thomas’s classic “Something Inhuman This Way Comes,” as Triton emerges from the ocean.
In the comic, Triton isn’t chasing a rogue Nuhuman in Hawaii. He has been sent to find the Fantastic Four, seeking their help against the machinations of Maximus the Mad. Forgetting Black Bolt’s real name, screwing up Medusa’s hair, and even neglecting to explain satisfactorily the origins and limits of Karnak’s powers could be forgiven if the dialogue were snappy. It’s isn’t. It’s flat-out awful.
As Daily Dot‘s Gavia Baker-Whitelaw scathingly put it, “Every line is painfully obvious and stilted, without an ounce of emotional authenticity… It’s the verbal equivalent of delivering a hastily drawn storyboard instead of an actual film.” Ouch. Ultimately, Inhumans‘ inhumanly bad writing gives viewers the impression that it disrespects its source material.
2. Right: Lockjaw
Who doesn’t love Lockjaw? He’s a two-ton teleporting bulldog with antennae, the product of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby at their absolute zaniest. In the comics, Lockjaw typically serves as Crystal’s royal chaperon and as Black Bolt’s canine pal, showing up to provide comic relief, be adorable, and occasionally wield the freakin’ Infinity Gems to save the universe. (Good boy, Lockjaw!)
The show’s fully CGI version of Lockjaw is relatively faithful to the character’s comic origins. Critics and fans responded favorably to this Lockjaw. He’s pretty faithfully rendered. Here, as in the comics, Lockjaw steals every scene he’s in. If Lockjaw gets more screen time, there might still be hope for Inhumans.
The official opinion is that Lockjaw is a Terrigen-mutated dog but that hasn’t stopped fans from speculating on the possibility of his once having been a human. Then again, he could just be a very, very good dog.
1. Wrong: Not using Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee’s Inhumans (1998-1999) for story inspiration
A highpoint of Marvel Knights, Inhumans by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee tells a tense tale. If Scott Buck wasn’t ever going to bring the Kree and the Skrulls into the picture, he could have taken inspiration from this near-perfect story arc featuring the Inhumans.
Jenkins and Lee’s Inhumans arc reveals disparities between the plight of the Alpha Primitives and the lavish lives of the Inhuman Royal Family, as well as the humans’ distrust of the Inhumans. In the first few pages of Jenkins and Lee’s tragic tale, one Inhuman gains the power of flight and the other gains nothing.
Promisingly, Inhumans‘ Terrigenesis ceremony also features a flyer and a failure. That’s unfortunately where the similarities end. Whereas the comic goes on to explore the dark realities of Attilan’s idyllic-seeming society and the paranoia of humanity, the TV show seems more interested in watching one cop car flip over from seventy-eight different angles.
What’s your opinion of Inhumans? Let us know in the comments!
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