The Inhumans ponder the fate of their own political system as they abolish their monarchy in Inhumans Prime #1.
Inhumans Prime #1
Cover Price: $4.99
Story Pages: 30
Release Date: March 29th, 2017
Collected in: Royals v1
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The other half of the X-Men relaunch belongs to those quirky folks Marvel was so keen on shoving down our throats the last few years: the Inhumans. For a long time the Inhumans were background characters amongst background characters, and would only occasionally pop-up in Fantastic Four stories before migrating towards the cosmic arena. When Fox refused to let the X-Men license lapse Marvel/Disney pitched a bit of a hissy fit and tried to break their own toys rather than let anyone else play with them (to oversimplify things greatly). However, the X-Men were (and still are) immensely popular, and Marvel couldn’t just turn their back on one of their biggest money-makers. So they kept published X-Books, but all the while they tried to push the Inhumans as the next big thing.
There is a certain amount of logical reasoning for this as the Inhumans could, in theory, occupy the same role as the oppressed outsider, but it was still an uphill battle. A battle they ultimately lost, both in terms of sales and in the more recent Inhumans vs X-Men crossover. Fans didn’t want replacement X-Men when they could have the X-Men they grew up with, and new fans were confused by the differences between the Inhumans in Agents of SHIELD and the ones in the comics (which were vastly different). Marvel does have a proper Inhumans series coming to the small screen later this year, but that is effectively too little, too late.
Marvel isn’t keen to admit defeat just yet, and there is that aforementioned television series to hopefully draw in new readers, and so we get Inhumans Prime #1 as a last ditch effort to build up the franchise. And, apparently, that last ditch effort will involve shoe-horning in a plot that was already used in the X-Books, and generally disliked by fans (to be polite). Twice.
The mutants have been Marvel’s stand-in group for writing stories about challenges faced by minorities for decades now. In the 90s and early 00s it was realized that so many mutants existed now that they really barely qualified as a minority anymore, so efforts were made to wipe them out. This eventually took the form of the House of M story, which left 198 mutants left with their powers. It was a poorly thought out story that didn’t do much of anything for a number of years before it was resolved around the time of Avengers vs X-Men. The idea was reexamined more recently with the rise of the Inhumans and their giant clouds of terrigen mists that were poisonous to mutants. It was, again, a lackluster plot that will hopefully just be a footnote in mutant history. It was resolved with Inhumans vs X-Men. In the aftermath of that story, though, the Inhumans have now become the endangered minority since the terrigen mists (which create new Inhumans) were destroyed.
To be fair, the whole “we can’t make any more” story works much better with the Inhumans than it ever did with the mutants. For one thing, the Inhumans have a defined society and their exposure to the terrigen mists is akin to a religious experience they undergo as a rite of passage, so there is actual weight behind the idea that their current generation is their last. For another thing, the Inhumans are already considered peripheral characters by readers so you could conceivably have them face significant losses without everyone assuming the reset button is right around the corner. Does that necessarily mean that going for this story one more time is all that great of an idea? Not really, no, but at least it makes more sense here than it did in the X-Books.
As for the book itself, Inhumans Prime #1 was a much better title than I was hoping for. Now, granted, it is written by Al Ewing who I have occasionally raved about over in U.S.Avengers, but you never can tell when it comes to the Inhumans. The main point of the issue is two fold: wrap up some lingering plot threads about Maximus (the main antagonist of most Inhumans stories) and then dissolve the Inhumans monarchy. The former is important since it will (hopefully) draw a line under that story for a while, and that has to be a good thing since Inhumans stories with Maximus doing his best Loki impression are a dime-a-dozen. The latter sets up the ongoing story for the Inhumans which will presumably be the focus for the next few years.
The Inhumans have always been a monarchy in the comics, with Black Bolt as the king and Medusa as his wife and voice. Rarely one of Maximus’ schemes will work and he’ll be on the throne for a while, but hopefully that plot is behind us. They’ve apparently decided to do away with the entire idea for whatever reason (perhaps explained in Inhumans vs X-Men and perhaps not) and are going with some sort of democratic republic by the look of it. The results of that will be handled in the new ongoing series spinning out of this, and there is some potential in that. While I may not be entirely convinced it is a decision that makes logical sense for the Inhumans it could make for some interesting stories.
Unlike X-Men Prime #1, which also shipped this week, this book sets out to tell a (fairly) cohesive tale, and in that it succeeds. It serves as a decent introduction to the Inhumans for new readers, and shuffles the pieces around for veterans who already know the key faces. The Maximus story has a satisfying conclusion, and I do genuinely hope that it keeps him off the board for a while so the Inhumans can deal with newer (better) stories, but I doubt it. The transfer from monarchy to republic/democracy could either see Maximus turned into an irrelevancy due to his royal background, or reinvigorate him as a political force with a legitimate chance of taking over. I believe it is obvious where I side in that choice.
The transition of political systems is a different matter since it seems to be rather arbitrary. It is possible it makes more sense in the context of Inhumans vs X-Men, but if you’re pitching this as a jumping on point then I’d assume you would want to cover it here. While I think it does have interesting story potential the justification is non-existent at this point, and that’s a problem. We’ll have to see where they are going, and if Al Ewing is at the helm then I expect it will at least be entertaining if not necessarily cohesive.
Like X-Men Prime #1 this book is tasked with launching multiple new titles, but this does a better job of it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it has convinced me that I need to pick up any of those titles, though, and that could be a problem. For myself I am intrigued enough by the political chaos that is sure to follow this transition in Royals, but we’ll see how much mileage they can get out of it. The other two books launching from this, Black Bolt and Secret Warriors, barely get acknowledged at all, but I’m sure there are plot points here that will make sense somewhere down the road. At least, I hope that is the case.
Inhumans Prime #1 is a decent start to the rebranding of the Inhumans, but it still faces an uphill battle. It also comes with a slightly higher cover price than most other Marvel books, and because of that it makes it hard to recommend. There is more substance to this book than X-Men Prime #1, but not so much that it becomes a “must-read” unless you’re already invested in the Inhumans story. There will be, at least for a while, a stigma attached to the Inhumans because of Marvel’s attempts to shove them down our throats, and so that is the bar this book must overcome in addition to the usual obstacles for new books. Personally, I don’t think this book does enough to get it past reader apathy, which is probably a decent way of looking at the Inhumans in general for the time being.