Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #1
Written by Christopher Priest and Ryan North
Art by Phil Noto and Gustavo Duarte
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Christopher Priest and Phil Noto come together to craft a definitive origin for the Inhuman royal family in Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #1. Rather than focusing on the relationship between the Kree and the Inhumans, Priest focuses on the Inhumans’ relationship with the other hominids on Earth - namely, us.
Thematically, Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #1 leans into the horrors of slavery, with Black Bolt questioning the Inhumans’ use of Alpha Primitives (mind-wiped humans) for free labor. This contrasts with the Living Terragenesis and Maximus who scoff at Black Bolt’s empathy. Being an origin story, Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #1 deals with a younger version of these characters, and Priest does a great job capturing the young trio of Black Bolt, Medusa, and Maximus as they transition to adulthood without making them seem incompetent or bratty. They may be young, but there’s a clear majesty that comes with their roles as royalty.
Unfortunately, while Priest does a great job establishing who these characters are, what their world is, and setting up an intriguing story for these characters, Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #1 doesn’t quite provide anything new to attract readers that have already discovered these characters and come away wanting. There’s no additional dynamic that screams, “This is why you should be interested in these characters!” But that’s where the added factor of Phil Noto’s art comes in.
Noto’s artwork is simply breathtaking. A lot of the youth of the characters is conveyed in Noto’s artwork from the way Crystal twirls her hair while posting up against the wall, to Maximus’ eager-to-please attitude. Noto’s style gives the issue a mythic feel that not only works well, but keeps the comic visually interesting. There isn’t a lot of action in this opening issue, and in the hands of a lesser artist, the issue could have become visually stale. Noto, however, finds a way to heighten the drama in every scene. In particular, a fireside scene inside the Alpha Primitive Barracks is strong, with Noto’s use of the orange lighting and shadow creating a haunting effect that works well, especially as a character emerges from that darkness and adds contextual meaning to this series’ subtitle.
The back-up story is an amusing two pages written by Ryan North with artwork by Gustavo Duarte focusing on Lockjaw and a familiar member of the Marvel Universe. Short and sweet, it provides a nice contrast to the preceding material, and Duarte’s cartooning style works well with North’s story and dialogue.
As an origin story, Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #1 works well on its own, and Priest does a great job setting the stage and the relationships between the characters so that the issue can be approached even by those who don’t know who the Inhumans are. For readers that don’t really care for these characters, there isn’t anything here that will instantly change minds, but the story itself stands quite strongly on its own and it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.
Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #1 is scheduled to debut August 9.