Spoilers for the first two episodes of Inhumans
With Marvel’s Inhumans finally in IMAX theaters, one of the most questionable products of the MCU can now be properly scrutinized. We’ve already made our thoughts clear on its narrative and visual shortcomings in our review of the two-hour premiere, but there’s plenty more to dive into when it comes to the adaptation.
Ever since Marvel decided to change the proposed film to a television series, questions have arisen about how well the characters, powers, and settings of the Royal Family could be transposed to the television format. While the medium certainly opens up storytelling possibilities and the IMAX assistance seemed to indicate a sizable budget, the series ends up falling short in both areas.
Part of the translation issue has to do with the way the characters are reworked for the series. And while all superhero properties have to alter things from the comics for film or TV, the MCU has generally done a good job of keeping their heroes and villains engaging while updating them for the new universe. When it comes to Inhumans, however, how well do the characters stack up to their comic book counterparts?
Selling Inhumans will be challenging enough to general audiences without diving into the weeds of the various character histories. As such, some streamlining makes sense. That’s why it’s likely for the best that King Black Bolt is never referred to by his real name, Blackagar Boltagon. Created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Black Bolt first appeared in 1965’s Fantastic Four #45. The child of the current rulers of Attilan, Black Bolt is exposed to the Terrigen Mists while still in the womb—something highly unusual. While all Inhumans undergo a transformation during the process, Black Bolt’s early exposure gave him extraordinary power, allowing the merest sound he utters to wreak devastating havoc. As a result, he’s a walking nuke who must keep his emotions in check.
As played by Anson Mount, there’s little nuance to the character. The sell was always going to be a hard one, as all an actor can do is use facial expressions. Mount added a form of sign language, but the result is flimsy as Medusa translates for the audience what Black Bolt’s family would surely understand. Mount also wears a stripped down version of the character’s costume, removing some of the fantastical flair from the comics. His abilities also come off as somewhat laughable, including a scene not from the source material where a teenage Black Bolt explodes his parents during a tantrum.
Queen Medusalith Amaquelin Boltagon, better known as Medusa, first appeared as a member of the villain group the Frightful Four in 1965’s Fantastic Four #36. She was later revealed to be the queen of the Inhumans, having suffered a form of amnesia which led to her going rogue for a short time. A distant cousin of Black Bolt, the two have been in love since they were young, with Medusa being one of the few people to interact with the powerful prince. Like Black Bolt, she’s part of the royal bloodline. Her abilities are her wild tangle of prehensile hair, which she can control and extend to unknown lengths.
Most of Medusa’s key traits are kept for the series, those she’s said to be unrelated to Black Bolt or the royals and is instead part of a lower caste. Her hair also is markedly less powerful and is easily nullified with a generic electric razor. Though she later shows some of her signature skill in battle, the Medusa from Inhumans is greatly deprived of the sense of power and command she exudes in the comics.