The Inhumans has had a long and curious journey from comics to the screen. In a just world, where Marvel had the full cinematic rights to all of its franchises, there would be no need to adapt The Inhumans at all. They’re a great big bunch of fun, sure, but they’re basically just the poor man’s X-Men. And why would you ever want to settle for a C-string superhero team that most dedicated comic fans aren’t all that familiar with?
But sadly, we do not live in a just world. Long before Marvel dove into the movie business headfirst with Iron Man, they were forced to declare bankruptcy when the comic industry collapsed in the 1990s. As part of their long crawl back to the top of the once-shaken industry, they had to sell off some of the film rights to their most popular characters.
Spider-Man went to Sony. Hulk went to Universal. Fox made out like bandits, walking away with not only Fantastic Four, but the X-Men as well.
Although Marvel has tried their best to buy back their outstanding properties — making movies like 2008’s The Incredible Hulk or the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming possible — Fox has managed to hold out making any short-sighted deals with the now reigning masters of superhero blockbusters.
Marvel’s initial plan was to release The Inhumans as a Phase 3 movie between instalments of Infinity War. But as they packed their roster with more and more superhero movies, there just wasn’t room enough for their not-quite X-Men. Spider-Man: Homecoming was the straw that broke the camel’s back, pushing it from their film lineup entirely.
But Marvel wasn’t done with the property yet. People love mutants — and the X-Men in particular — and the Inhumans really are the next best thing. They scaled it back from a film to a TV series, to be released as part of ABC’s fall lineup. And after getting out first substantive look at what that property has become, I couldn’t be happier with the results.
The Inhumans are an offshoot of the Human race: developing mutant-like powers after being exposed to a gas called Terrigen Mist. In the Eons since their creation, they have moved to a hidden base on the Moon, where they look down upon the kingdoms of Man in envious despair.
Their king, Black Bolt, has a power that forces him into a state of eternal silence, for his voice is so Earth-shatteringly powerful that a mere whisper could level cities and a full scream could break the planet apart entirely. His brother, the mad genius Maximus, in unsatisfied with their little kingdom on the barren surface of the Moon while the Earth is so tantalizingly close to them. He betrays his brother, orchestrating a coup against the rest of the royal family, and sets to execute his deposed monarch.
Just before his men could fire upon Black Bolt, however, he is rescued by the unlikeliest of saviors. Lockjaw — a monstrously large dog with the power of teleportation — jumps in at the last second and transports him outside of Maximus’ grasp: to the bustling streets of Earth. Alone and set adrift in a foreign land, the mute king in exile must find a way to stop his brother from his ultimate aim of global conquest.
Marvel has billed the series as something akin to X-Men by way of Game of Thrones, and the comparison is an apt one. You not only get the crazy mutant powers and bombastic action scenes from the former, but the political intrigue and betrayals within betrayals of the latter. Not only that, but you mix in Marvel’s trademark brand of televisual storytelling to achieve something wholly unique on TV: a gripping political drama with all aesthetic trappings of a comic strip, and that’s something worth watching.
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