Advance Review: Inhuman #1 bears an Uncanny resemblance – updated

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From the creative team of Charles Soule, Joe Madureira, Marte Gracia and Clayton Cowles, Inhuman #1 finally sees release this week, and Marvel have offered an advance copy for review. Originally planned to be written by Matt Fraction, the series saw delays before Fraction dropped out himself, and Soule came onboard the project instead. Following on from a plot point seeded – pun possibly intended – in the Infinity event, this first issue has a few problems, but actually makes for a surprisingly coherent whole.

Update – editor Nick Lowe sent us a message on Twitter explaining that once Matt Fraction dropped out of the project, the pages already produced were all scrapped, and the project started from scratch. So rather than my assumption that Soule and Madureira were not yet actively working together, the truth is that this was a typical collaboration between the pair. This updates my feelings on the issue a little – head to the final paragraph for my newer verdict.

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The concept of the series is fairly simple, in that it’s the concept of the X-Men. At the end of Infinity, magic Inhuman dust was sprinkled over the Earth, and it affected anyone on Earth who had Inhuman heritage. If you are descended from the Inhumans, the dust cocoons you in an egg, and you hatch with powers – essentially, a new racial group are invented overnight, and society will both hate and fear these new egg people.

Working off notes from Fraction and what must have been an already half-completed set of comic pages from Madureira, Soule does a decent job of working Marvel method and writing dialogue into an already-existing story. Not very much happens particularly over the course of the issue, and we still don’t have a proper idea of the hook for the series – but Soule manages to make the characters distinct, with interesting voices. He best handles Medusa, who seems as though she’ll be stepping into the protagonist role for the book. With all the other already existing Inhumans conspicuously absent from the issue, she’s the sole voice of experience present in the pages. Every other character here, I believe, is brand new.

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So it’s a little bit of a shame really that Madureira’s designs don’t move beyond perfunctory for any of them. The antagonist, in particular (seen above), is massively uninspired, and looks thoroughly generic. He can tell a story nicely, and towards the end of the issue he does some excellent work in positioning a fight sequence in a very tight environment – but you do also have to be okay with huge exaggerations in anatomy and body shape when you read the issue. His art tends to be very much focused on muscle and boobs in this issue, with Medusa often completely covered in shadow apart from her chest.

Saving the art is Gracia, whose colouring has been some of the best at Marvel recently. Here he mutes the brighter colours from his X-Men run and uses purple and blue as the two primary colours – soaking everything in an Inhuman light, in essence. The issue is set at night, but even when indoors Gracia soaks the characters in purples, which acts alongside Madureira’s already-heightened character models and makes them look truly out-of-the-ordinary. It’s excellent work, and helps to justify the choice of artist for the project. Soule and Madureira don’t feel like a creative team who are working together quite yet (which, as Soule only came onto this issue at the last minute, isn’t the fairest of criticisms for me to make, I understand), and so there’s a nineties sense of melodrama in the art and a more contemporary, cooler and calmer scripting style.

This isn’t to say that Inhuman #1 is a bad issue – this is perfectly fine stuff, albeit without any particular hook to draw you in for the next issue. Things are offered to the reader on a fairly small scale, designed to involve us more thoroughly in the character tics and mannerisms of the new cast, several of whom only get a few pages to make an impression. This dulls down the hype Marvel offered that this was going to be a World-changing type of comic, but actually offers us a far more interesting story than if this were presented as a Great Big Deal. Soule’s dialogue offers the new characters likeability, if not too much individuality as of yet, and his take on Medusa strides across the pages, an excellent choice of lead character.

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Overall, Inhuman #1 is a solid story, despite the various disparate pieces that the creative team have had to reassemble here. This had every chance to be a complete disaster – but it’s a perfectly fine, decent superhero comic. It can’t stand up to the other #1 launches Marvel have had recently (Moon Knight, Captain Marvel, Ghost Rider and Soule’s own She-Hulk all far outstrip this issue for creative content), but Marvel have managed to at least give us a compelling start to a story. It’ll hopefully pick up once the creative team are properly collaborating with one another, or the next artist comes onboard.

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UPDATE! —

So as I now know that the issue wasn’t drawn by Madureira from a Fraction script, and then rewritten by Soule – but was in fact a compete collaboration between the writer and artist from the start – I do come away with a lesser opinion of the comic than I had before. The contrasting styles in dialogue and artwork feel even more out-of-sync with one another, a creative team who do not fit one another in any way. Soule’s script moves the story at a glacial pace, and the generic choices of lead characters means that not even a few elegant pieces of dialogue can give the characters a particularly vivid or engaging life.

Inhuman #1 is a dull, generic comic, and it’s a surprise that Charles Soule – whose work has almost without exception impressed me thus far – has misfired quite so badly. He’s not helped by the unappealing artwork, though, and you get the feeling that if he and Gracia were given something with more vitality to work with than Madureira’s uninspired monoliths, the pair of them could perhaps improve the comic a little with future issues.

For the time being – I absolutely cannot recommend this comic. It’s boring, uninspired, and simplistic. Considering this was meant to be Marvel’s next big franchise, Inhuman stumbles immediately – and doesn’t get back up.

Comments

  1. Too little, too Madureira – whoops, I mean “late.”

  2. Rich H says:

    Thanks for this review.

    I like Soule, but this book sounds too editorial-committee-driven to me to want to pick it up. And it’s a shame they’re doing an X-Men-like concept, when the X-Men should be doing that concept themselves (since it’s theirs). Not having the X-Men be that outsider race thing shows how far Marvel have lost it, when it comes to their brands. The current X-Men books are all about time-travel and interchangeable fights, not discovering your powers in a world that hates you.

  3. Johnny Memeonic says:

    Not sure why you’re bashing the art unless it’s out of some bias against Madureira’s style. If you’re gonna bash it then it generally helps to not post great looking pages in the review.

  4. Suzene says:

    Hrm. Yeah, pass. This was going to be a tough sell with me anyway (been reading X-Men for about 20 years now, so Marvel + minority metaphor is pretty well covered for me) and I’m not seeing anything to convince me that it’s worth jumping on board.

  5. Excited to pick this up after work. I understand that Joe Madureira’s art style may not appeal to you as an individual but to declare it unappealing in general comes across as pretty bold and arrogant.

    I find his work tremendously appealing. These pages are stunning. Joes stuff stands head and shoulders above a majority of generic, boring comic book art that’s being churned out these days. Thank goodness for exaggerated anatomy and style. What is with comic book readers accepting and desiring, boring, bland, stiff art. I don’t want storyboards, I want a loud fun kickass comic book!!!

  6. Joe mad is the epitome of a comic book artist. In a good way.

  7. Skottie says:

    “If you’re gonna bash it then it generally helps to not post great looking pages in the review.”

    One man’s trash is another man’s hallucination that it’s not trash.

  8. Chad G says:

    I will buy anything with Marte Gracia’s name on it.

  9. Marvel, stop trying to make Inhumans happen. They’re ok as supporting characters, but that’s about it. Plus the coolest Inhumans hook (them leading the Kree) was ditched for no good reason.

  10. Dan Ahn says:

    Jesus. What a contrast once you learned that the art didn’t come from a Fraction script. Get a grip. The whole thing turns into an elitist Joe Mad bash fest.

    I was a fan of his art when I was 12, but I’ll be the first to say that his recent stuff hasn’t appealed to me… but this art isn’t THAT bad.

  11. The only thing that seems to have “misfired” is your Frankenstein of a review.

  12. Ben Lipman says:

    Wow, I never knew Joe Mad fans were such babies. ‘Perfunctory designs’ and ‘inaccurate anatomy focused on muscles and boobs’ is as harsh as the review went, inbetween complementing parts of his work, and people are here crying foul? Calling the author out for bashing him, declaring his arrogance?
    Grow up boys.

    “I find his work tremendously appealing.”

    Urgh. That is SO arrogant.

  13. @Dan Ahn
    The reviewer shifted his opinion when he found out the book wasn’t cobbled together last minute. He gave Joe Mad the benefit of the doubt, and attributed the incongruity between art and writing to a last minute rewrite. When he found out that Joe Mad was working from the finished script, he revised accordingly. That having been said, if a comic isn’t up to snuff you shouldn’t grade it on a curve just because the original writer backed out. A lame comic is a lame comic.

  14. As much as the Marvel bullpen doth protest about who wrote the script, echoing Rich H’s comment, this reads like an editorial-plotted book. Soule is too capable a writer to have misfired this badly. It makes sense that editorial has a strong vision for this book; it needs to tie into future film plans and support side projects in the months to come. But they lost one writer already because they couldn’t get on the same page as the editors — that’s a sign that there’s not a whole lot of creative leeway involved for a writer as far as plotting is concerned.

    I remember dropping X-Men/Uncanny X-Men as a teenager when it became apparent that the editors were committed to plotting the books after Seagle and Kelly walked away. This reads eerily similar.

  15. Andrew Brown says:

    It’s a shame more people are going to read this (thru Amazing #1 if nothing else) than any of Soules other, much better work. She Hulk is great, i can’t sing its praises enough.

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