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.
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.
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.
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.
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.