Classic Inhumans gets the weird, right.
The Inhumans have always been a strange group of characters, which has been one of their staples. They’re a relatively unknown group of superpowered characters who, in the early days of Marvel, had strange customs and even stranger behavior. Among them were heroes, romances, and a leader who only wished to be heard without killing everyone.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
From Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Roy Thomas and Neal Adams — the titans of the Marvel Age — come the Inhumans! For the first time, the stories that defined these regal outcasts are brought together in one collection starring Black Bolt, Medusa, Karnak, Gorgon, Crystal and the loveable Lockjaw! Their quest for peace is threatened not just by a world that fears them, but also by Black Bolt’s own brother, Maximus the Mad, and his evil Inhuman cohorts! It’s a family epic full of intrigue and treachery, told in the mighty Marvel fashion — as only comics’ greatest creative talents could craft it!
Can I jump in easily?
Yep! These classic Marvel tales took on a format that could be easily digestible in each installment, or in some cases across a few issues (like in Amazing Adventures). Stan Lee and Jack Kirby tended to wrap up stories within a single chapter even if there was a cliffhanger. Take the Fantastic Four issues in this collection which run from #81 to #88 and then later #99. A story arc following Human Torch and the Inhuman Crystal has a nice arc across these issues, but they also defeated villains and overcame conflicts in each chapter too.
Reason 1: The Inhumans were basically outcast medieval aliens.
Magneto’s story is delightfully over the top.
In the first quarter of this collection, readers are taken to the Inhuman society which is littered with gladiator arenas, men in kingly capes, and guards posted among the alien architecture. Then you have Black Bolt, the king who cannot speak but has a servant who speaks for him and various people among his court. The first story has Medusa joining some human villains to help her husband Black Bolt speak. This suggests they are apart from humanity and do their own thing. The next story has Hulk being transported to the Inhuman society which involves some hero fighting hero confusion and the eventual team up. The fact that Hulk and these strange people connect is a major statement about how even outcasts like Hulk can find solace amongst the Inhumans.
Reason 2: They had some major relationship issues.
For a brief time Crystal, Medusa’s sister, dated Johnny Storm aka Human Torch. This book collects their romance with plenty of make out sessions and familial drama. For a period she joined the Fantastic Four but required permission from the king. Unfortunately for her, Black Bolt was imprisoned and his brother Maximus took over. In what is one wild and weird Jack Kirby and Stan Lee sequence, Maximus sends his army of Alpha Primitives–the Inhumans Deadly drone race–to kidnap her. Let’s ignore the fact that the Inhumans have a drone race and focus on the fact that Crystal, a grown woman, has to seek permission just to join a super team. Weird customs you got there Inhumans. There’s also the strange and cold relationship Medusa and Black Bolt have (they seem to run off on each other to do their own thing all the time) and Maximus’ near constant desire to lock up his brother and you have a race of people who are very strange.
Reason 3: Black Bolt learns to understand humanity by saving a random child, help a terrorist group, and be tortured by Magneto.
The child isn’t that random–some crooks are making him help steal something presumably because he’s small–but it leads to Black Bolt throwing on civilian clothes and carrying the child to a hospital. Along the way, he is gassed by a terrorist leader (while Medusa must flee Chinese soldiers and run past bodybuilders in California…don’t ask) and has someone impersonate him with his costume. Black Bolt is really put through the ringer as he then escapes with the child (never once seeking out help from his people or any superheroes I might add) only to be gassed again by Magneto’s minions! This section of the comic is quite good if you’re looking for classic over the top and boastful villainy. Magneto is great and he tortures Black Bolt so as to convince him to join him. A terrible plan to be sure, which eventually leads the book to its finale where Black Bolt helps Earth’s mightiest heroes.
Johnny is mad emotional.
It was teh
Reasons to be wary?
This is classic comic book storytelling so expect slower moving stories that are way over the top. The range of emotions Human Torch goes through when Crystal is kidnapped (or just flips out on him and Thing) is hilarious though that wasn’t the intention. I expect people who pick up a classic collection like this are well aware of the older style of comic book storytelling, though. That said, the final chapter in the book reprints Not Brand Echh #12 which is a spoof comic that isn’t very funny.
Is there a rationale to the reasons?
I’ve never been a big fan of the Inhumans, but dammit this collection is so wacky and so weird I fell in love with the stories. Black Bolt is of course at center stage for the most part, but there are interesting glimmers of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original intentions for the characters. Neil Adams and Roy Thomas do a great job capturing the melodrama and certainly offer entertaining stories that slant towards the strange any chance they get.