(Marvel Comics, 2014)
Written by Charles Soule
Artwork by Joe Madureira
Color Artwork by Marte Gracia
Lettering by Clayton Clowes
No other book in recent memory has been more mired by misfortune and hindered by complications than Marvel’s Inhuman. This book has been delayed by creator changes over story concepts and scheduling delays of every kind. In fact, when Matt Fraction left the book it seemed, for a moment, like all was lost. Enter the writing machine known as Charles Soule; Soule has been amazing in both quality and quantity of his work which spans several publishers, most of it at the big two. So when it was announced that he would be manning the controls alongside Joe Madureira I breathed a sigh of relief because as a lifelong Inhumans fan, I was happy to see two of the best and brightest creators working today on this title. Now the obvious question is, after overcoming all this brouhaha over creative differences and various other obstacles, is Inhuman #1 worth the wait? Well that is not as easily answered as you might think. Let me explain.
First of all the events that precede this issue are well over three months old; at this point the conclusion of Infinity is understandably not as fresh in the mind as it was back in January when Inhuman #1 was first scheduled to ship. This in no way is the fault of the creative team who labored above and beyond the call to get this book out in any form, especially Joe Mad who had finished the lion’s share of the artwork for Fraction’s story which was scrapped outright. Hence the second problem; due to internet propaganda and just plain disgruntled fans speaking out in anger, this book is shrouded in misinformation. The truth is when Soule was handed the ball on this one he started his story from square one, which meant Joe Mad had to start over completely with new pages of artwork; this is not Soule’s attempt to re-script pages that Joe Mad had already completed for Fraction’s story as many misinformed and disgruntled “fans” erroneously reported on the web. So now having these added hurdles to negotiate, Soule and Madureira’s work takes on the insurmountable task of living up to impossible expectations. Did they do it? Almost.
The story focuses on events just after Black Bolt detonates the Terrigen Bomb and the now familiar menace of the Terrigen Mist is creeping its way over the face of the planet creating new Inhumans as it goes. Therein lies another problem, Soule is too concerned with these new Inhumans, so much so that he all but ignores the stellar cast of characters that he has at his disposal with the existing members. In fact with the exception of two panels featuring Black Bolt, Medusa is the sole member of her glorious race representing the Inhumans as we have known them for so many years. I appreciate Soule’s desire to get these new characters involved but to do so at the onset of such an important juncture in Inhumans history really diminishes the epic sense that Marvel was hoping to achieve and this line of characters deserves. Inundating the readers with new characters also lessens the impact these characters have, in fact only Lash makes any kind of lasting impression. Soule does a fine job of establishing him as a sort of religious zealot whose philosophical beliefs are greatly at odds with Black Bolt’s rather unceremonious detonation of the Terrigen Bomb. In Lash’s eyes, this bestows the great gifts of the Inhumans’ to undeserving rabble, to him it is a rite of passage reserved only for the worthy. It’s not that the new characters are weak, they have potential to be key players down the road a bit but, to kick off such a major endeavor based solely on their strength is a huge misstep in my opinion
There is great potential underlying every element of this book but it just lacks the sense of grandeur that this kind of book should convey. The Inhumans are Marvels next big ticket team; they are in many ways the key to sustaining interest in the cinematic universe, so this is no small time one-shot we are talking about here. Much like the Guardians of the Galaxy who came from out of nowhere to the general public, the Inhumans have the kind of appeal that could attract the next generation of fans. Soule is a great writer, I am an unabashed fan of his work and there is no doubt that Inhuman will become an engrossing series, however it has to hit its stride very quickly, in fact it should have hit the ground running in combat boots instead of meandering along at a leisurely pace. As far as being a jumping on point for new readers, Soule very adroitly brings the unindoctrinated up to speed with a concise version of the story-so-far. His economic use of exposition works well enough but it’s what he uses the time he saves for that goes somewhat awry. There are no big action sequences that have any deep reaching ramifications or plot progressing intrigue; there is instead complex set-up and new character development. These things are all great but there just isn’t any earth shattering revelation here to drive up the excitement.
Visually, Joe Mad comes to the rescue. His un-inked approach to this book yields some of the most gorgeous pages in recent memory. Madureira is without a doubt one of the very best super hero artists working today. These pages are some of his finest since his days on Battle Chasers and certainly among the very top at Marvel, or anywhere for that matter. Joe Mad’s stunning visuals are well worth the price of this book, that is not to say Soule doesn’t turn in a solidly written story but Madureira’s art is the saving grace of Inhuman #1 in my opinion. Marte Gracia’s diverse palette compliments Joe Mad’s energetic imagery perfectly, ranging from subdued and muted hues to the more vibrant and vivacious end of the spectrum on other pages, sometimes shifting from panel to panel within a single page.
Overall, I have to admit I had expected and hoped for more from this issue but I remain hopeful that Soule will find his groove and Inhuman #2 will take off like a rocket and never look back. This is by no means a bad comic book; my main concern is that it lacks the epic scope that I would have liked to have seen in an Inhumans inaugural issue. Granted this book is called Inhuman not Inhumans thus divorcing itself from any mandatory inclusion of existing characters but to completely ignore such a vibrant cast, save Medusa, I find to be a squandering of assets. I am going to stick this out for at least the next few issues, if for no other reasons than Joe Mad’s artwork and my strong belief that Charles Soule will deliver as he has done so many times before. If you are a longtime Inhumans fan like me, you might want to stick around, the party might just be slow starting but those glowing embers of potential could ignite into a raging inferno at any time. I don’t want to miss that. (3/5)
To purchase “Inhuman” #1 please click here.
Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.