Best Shots Review: INHUMANS PRIME #1 a 'Very, Very Soft Reset' for Overworked Franchise

"Inhumans Prime" preview
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Inhumans Prime #1
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Ryan Sook, Chris Allen, Walden Wong, Keith Champagne and Paul Mounts
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

After the events of Inhumans vs. X-Men, it’s time for both families of titles to rip it up and start again. And it seems that Marvel is trying to find a balance between the two. On the surface, there are a lot of similarities between the two groups. They’re both generally hated and feared. They both get their abilities via mutation. And both concepts work better when the population of Inhumans or mutants isn’t massive. Inhumans Prime acts as a bridge between the events of IvX and the new status quos in the “ResurrXion” era. But try as he might to distill the concept of the Inhumans into something more palatable, writer Al Ewing can’t quite make the Inhumans all that compelling. The X-Men have generally been able to sustain lulls in popularity due to their history and general presence in the larger media landscape, but the Inhumans have never enjoyed that advantage. The uneven artwork of Ryan Sook and Chris Allen does the plotting no favors, either.

Possibly motivated by corporate synergy and lack of the control of the X-Men movie license, Marvel has been trying make “Inhumans” a household name for the better part of four years. But in making that push, I’d argue they only hurt the brand. While some of the new Inhumans have carved out niches in the Marvel Universe at large (namely Kamala Khan and Lunella Lafayette), many of the rest have been forgettable retreads of already familiar power sets. And with an explosion of new Inhumans, it became harder and harder to make them unique. In the aftermath of IvX, Ewing attempts to right the ship and give readers an overview of what the Inhumans’ status quo is.

We know that the Terrigen mists are poisonous to mutants, so the Inhumans have agreed to destroy them. Maximus Boltagon is captured for his dissent and faces some sort of punishment. Medusa dismantles the monarchy that has always governed the Inhumans in favor of a more democratic system. And Marvel Boy’s got a secret. To Ewing’s credit, the big fight scene at the beginning of the book is a lot of fun, but the story slowly unravels into setting up a bunch of mysteries.

Remember how all the Galactic Senate stuff in the Star Wars prequel trilogy was boring as all get out? That’s kind of where the second half of this book lives, and if you aren’t already invested in these characters, it’s hard to know what this really means. Is New Attilan even recognized as a sovereign state on Earth? If the Inhumans book that spins out of this is called Royals, are they really dismantling the power structure that’s already in place? Ewing doesn’t get to answer these questions; that’s not his job here. But he doesn’t make a compelling argument for why you should check out any of the Inhumans books after this one and that kind of is his job. It’s not technically poorly done in terms of Ewing’s overall narrative structure and character work but the subject matter is a snooze.

The art takes a similar turn. The opening fight scenes are well-rendered, but everything feels off once we get to New Attilan in the second half. The great thing about the capture of Maximus in those fight scenes is that we get to understand the full breadth of the Inhumans’ power at this point. Just about everyone shows up allowing Ewing and the art team to showcase their powers in interesting ways. Reader specifically gets a fun little sequence that turns the tide of the battle. The inking is what really stands out in the sequence as the heavy blacks help show a lot of good contrast. That’s exactly what we don’t see elsewhere in the book. The second half has some decent expression work, but it’s marred by poor perspectives and bad staging. The panels often feel cramped and crowded out even when there are very few characters.

Inhumans Prime #1 is a very, very soft reset for the Inhumans line. It puts some familiar pieces in slightly unfamiliar circumstances and it puts forward the idea that without the Terrigen mists, this may be the last generation of Inhumans. They’re now a race that faces imminent extinction, at least as far as having superpowers goes. That’s not unlike the X-Men’s status quo post-M-Day. It remains to be seen if a quality story can be built on this foundation, but at least Marvel has acknowledged that they need to make the Inhumans somewhat more unique. The less-is-more approach should help them refocus. As for this issue, it’s does a mediocre job of bridging the gaps because more of these plot points will be repeated in individual titles moving forward.

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