Oh, The Inhumanity!

Inhumanity #1 is a not-bad comic book. The story is a little too talky, the art's pretty good, but the talents of both Matt Fraction and Olivier Coipel are wasted, basically, on a book that has two serious issues. The first of these is in kind, the second is in concept. 

The problem with the kind of comic book that Inhumanity is that such books are not comics-- in fact aren't really art-- in a traditional sense, because they doesn't serve their own purposes. Instead, they're merely set up for something else, in this case the upcoming Inhuman series, which once upon a time was going to be written by Fraction, and now is to be written by up and comer Charles Soule.  And, so, Inhumanity #1 is loaded with information; the prehistory and current state of the Inhumans, what exactly went down at the end of Infinity, the unknown status of most of the Inhuman royal family, and so on. For fans of comics with deep worlds and dense mythologies to explore, this is a doozy. But it makes for boring reading. 

So Matt Fraction does his best to keep us interested. He brings in the Avengers. He has a character walk out of a window at the end. But these things are a distraction, at best, from the fact that his job here is to manufacture interest in a story, which brings us to the problem in concept: it's not clear to me that this is a story that very many people are going to be interested in. It's not clear to me that anyone really cares about the Inhumans, a property that has been humming along quietly since its introduction forty years ago. Occasionally, they've been players in Fantastic Four stories, and they have regularly appeared in minor Marvel mini-series every couple of years since the beginning of the century. Every character is somebody's favorite, but the number of people clamoring for a density of books about these characters were likely few and far between.

This isn't to say that I don't think that the Inhumans are interesting, or that I think that Inhuman isn't going to be good. It's not out yet. I can't say. But I do know that Marvel fired Matt Fraction off of the comic, which means that they have certain things that they want done with it, things that Fraction wasn't doing. That suggests that Marvel has big plans for this story. But for those big plans to work, people have to actually care. And the biggest barrier to caring here is that readers actually have to know about the Inhumans, and I'm not sure that many people, particularly many casual readers of comics, do. 

To some extent, Inhumanity is the remedy to that. It's a history lesson, more or less, and it lays out the major players. But, even so, it relies too much on its readers when it expects them to know who Medusa or Triton or Lockjaw (here referred to as "the king's dog," perhaps the blandest possible way to describe a giant mustachioed canine teleporter with a tuning fork on his head) are, or when it expects them to feel something when Karnak, a character with an interesting history that most of them have literally just been introduced to, steps out of a window. In some ways, it seems a little bit like an exercise in erasure, which may actually be the solution to the problem I'm describing. 

The problem, at least for right now, is that you can still see Jack Kirby's chalk on the board.

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