No one wants me to complain any further about Marvel’s abortive attempts at elevating the Inhumans. I’m even sick of hearing my own rants on the topic. Things were looking up in the aftermath of Jason Aaron’s Infinity, but from the moment Inhumanity was introduced as a focal concept on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., we’ve endured a mediocre Inhuman title, two sputtering All-New All-Different launches, and a positively atrocious television mini-series. The latest flame-out came as Al Ewing’s once-promising Royals series drew to a close with issue #12. This week, in order to provide some semblance of closure to the Inhumans’ intergalactic quest for answers to new questions about their origins, Ewing is joined by Kevin Libranda and Mike del Mundo on the one-shot Inhumans: Judgment Day.
Despite knowing what this comic was going to be — a semi-rushed capper to a storyline that likely had been envisioned for a much deeper run — there are three distinct takeaways worth appreciating. The first is the fantastic art of Mike del Mundo. Even though he shares duties with Royals fill-in artist Libranda, any opportunity to see interior work by del Mundo is worth the price of admission. And in this issue we get not one, but two multi-page spreads.
Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward’s Black Bolt series continues to be one of the best comic books Marvel has published in years. Which is pretty important, I think, considering ABC’s Inhumans was one of the worst things to ever air on television. And recent efforts to push the New Attilan contingent to the forefront of the comic book universe have stumbled mightily. Poor Jack Kirby. At least Taika Watiti’s Ragnarok pays appropriate homage to the King’s style and legacy. But the Inhumans were always one of my favorite concepts, both in character origin and design, and it has bothered me to see so much of that colorful cosmically charged energy go to waste, whether in half-ass crossovers or gawdawful televised mini-series. Ask anyone only casually familiar with the Marvel universe for an opinion on the Inhumans, and you’re likely to garner a reaction ranging from dismissal to outright mockery.
And if damaged popular opinion prevents even one person from checking out this brilliant series, that’s a real shame. Saladin Ahmed has turned a character who, for decades, had been an emotionless and austere pillar of Inhumanity into something, well, human. A self-examination that begins in classically Golden Age-style narration gives way to actual dialogue, after Black Bolt is depowered by the Jailer. He explores what it means to be a king and, more importantly, what it means to be part of a family, in the most unlikely of places. All the while, artist Christian Ward portrays the King of the Inhumans as someone suddenly vulnerable, soft-shouldered and somewhat undersized, but with a strength and dynamism that comes not from his mountain-shattering vocal cords, but from his character.
In this first issue under the Marvel Legacy banner, Black Bolt returns home. He has a promise to keep, and intends to visit the Absorbing Man’s widow. My first question, before picking up this book, was whether or not Ward’s art was going to be as intense and exciting here on planet earth as it was in the Jailer’s trippy space prison. That was answered quickly enough. Even without the rest of the royal family to play around with, seeing Ward take on the other Inhumans in New Attilan and the capes n’ tights world of NYC, has moved this title even higher up my monthly must-read list.
Last week’s opening shot into Marvel’s Legacy initiative was a surprise-laden tour de force featuring a main story peppered with enough coming attractions trailers to put a Hall H Saturday to shame. And while we’re eagerly awaiting developments in Thor’s story (well, not eager to see Jane Foster edge ever closer to death, but the Mangog business is exciting) and wondering what the hell is going on with this Black Panther planet, Legacy Week 1 begins with a gem from another segment of the Marvel Universe. Avengers #672, by Mark Waid and Jesus Saiz, kicks off “Worlds Collide,” the highly anticipated crossover between two of the best team books going. With the fates of multiple earths on the line, the Champions attempt to make nice with their former mentors, The Avengers.
The issue opens with simultaneous debates in both camps regarding the same impossible claim: a “counter-earth,” run by the High Evolutionary, exists on the opposite side of the sun, completely invisible to detection by anyone here on normal earth. Of course, those of us familiar with decades of Marvel legacy, know this to be true, and we’ve enjoyed numerous storylines involving the home of that unhinged scientist and his hordes of crazy animalmen. And in wonderfully adept adherence to the premise of this publishing initiative, Mark Waid uses the new generation of Marvel heroes as a sounding board for a modern understanding of physics and comic book plots anchored in a proper respect for scientific fact.
But then you’d be missing the point, Amadeus and Nadia! You operate in a universe of impossibility, and the last thing any one of us Marvel fans wants is to retcon away the marvelously campy and cosmically inaccurate tales from those halcyon days of 70’s four color fantasy! Give us counter-earth! And save Kentucky, while you’re at it, because a meteor just belched into the atmosphere and is rocketing towards the planet.
I initially reacted with a little disbelief upon hearing that this Black Bolt series was the Inhuman king’s first solo series. Brought to life by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in the pages of Fantastic Four in 1965, Blackagar Boltagon and his compatriots have been central figures in a multitude of mighty Marvel storylines for decades. But he’s never fronted his own title? Hell, even his damn dog got to star in Lockjaw and The Pet Avengers back in ’09. Then I quickly realized, well… a protagonist who can level a building with a whisper probably won’t factor well in a dialogue-rich comic book. Or, a comic with any dialogue, really. He’s always relied upon Medusa or another member of the royal family to translate a series of stern gazes and austere gestures. And a book featuring even one of those folks wouldn’t really be a Black Bolt solo title anymore, would it?
The question regarding how much dialogue this series would contain, or how it would be handled, was just one of the mysteries tucked inside that gorgeously ominous cover to issue #1. If this was meant to fold into the current ResurrXion continuity, how might a solo book work? Wasn’t Black Bolt rocketing through the galaxy with his family, searching for ancient Inhuman secrets? Or was this going to be a flashback series a la Gamora? With the upcoming debut of ABC’s Inhumans series, was this just a substance-less ploy to generate rack awareness and promote the television property? And what about this creative team? Saladin Ahmed has good sci-fi and fantasy credentials, but this was going to be the novelist’s first comic. That could go one of two ways (see Ta-Nehisi Coates versus Geoffrey Thorne). Did Christian Ward, with a résuméof beautiful covers and amazing fill-in work on Al Ewing’s Ultimates under his belt, have the chops to fully illustrate a monthly book? And, maybe most importantly, solo series or not, were we going to see Lockjaw?
No humor whatsoever would be preferable to what passes for jokes in Iceman. And acknowledging that something is a “dad joke” doesn’t make the inclusion of one acceptable. Everything in Iceman falls flat. Dumb art? Check. Constant hamfisted reminders of Bobby’s homosexuality starting on page 1? Check. Way too much dialogue in unimportant scenes to the point where half the page is dialogue bubbles? Check. Overused devices like starting a book out with someone questioning themselves before answering “check”? Check. This book is terrible. Read anything else. – IP
This book misses every pitch. I get why someone would want to make a Classic X-man that has been retroactively written as gay more appealing to contemporary audiences, but the whole “dating-profile” device is super lame. Iceman is both literally and figuratively cool. Dude would be on Grindr or Tinder or something. If you’re gonna do it, fucking commit. Seeing Iceman go on an awkward Grindr date could be much more effective at getting these themes across, rather than traversing the typical tropes of disapproving parents and self-discomfort. After Bobby trains himself, why doesn’t he ask younger Bobby some questions about being gay? There’s an interesting conversation. And are we just gonna avoid the whole masturbating question? If young Bobby and future Bobby were to mess around….what would it be considered? Where’s that joke? – tyrannofloresrex
Collection: Iceman, Vol. 1 (January 2018)
12 All-New Wolverine
Tom Taylor & Leonard Kirk beginning with #19
I really like the dynamic of Laura and her clone Gabby as a team. The alien virus crash-landing on Roosevelt Island was a little unoriginal, but the fact that the virus was transmitted by an innocent child with some kind of connection to Laura, made it a bit more intriguing. I’d want to keep reading this. Also, Governor’s Ball is definitely cancelled. – hltchk
I really like Laura, but she seems to be stuck in a recycle. Wolverine built a huge fanbase off of solo books as a mentor to younger, equally deadly characters, including X-23, and it just seems really uninventive to throw Laura in the same situation so soon. – tyrannofloresrex
Despite receiving considerably less fanfare than any of their regularly scheduled publishing initiatives, like All-New All-Different or the forthcoming Legacy, Marvel’s recent refresh on their mutant and Inhuman books has not only shown some sorely needed love to these teams and characters, but produced some wholly entertaining titles as well. The first few months of ResurrXion, rising out of the ashes of Death of X and Inhumans vs. X-Men, has given us thirteen new series or storyline kickoffs.
It’s a good time to shine a spotlight on these two venerable Marvel properties. Fox’s X-movies are still popular as hell, with current buzz building for the Deadpool sequel. FX’s Legion series was fantastic, and their network mutant show, The Gifted, looks promising. Marvel Studios has been forcing Inhumanity down our throats for a few years now, but with the highly anticipated debut of ABC’s Inhumans show this fall, the royal family finally takes center stage. Nothing against Daisy Johnson or that creepy porcupine monster that Ruth Negga turned into, but we want to see Black Bolt and Lockjaw! Continue reading Marvel’s ResurrXion Ranked→
Both Marvel and DC have engaged a number of prominent novelists and screenwriters over the last few years, giving these writers their first opportunity to pilot a monthly comic book series. Invariably, every one of them opens a press conference or interview with the same caveat: I don’t know what I’m doing, but I love comics and I love these characters. It’s been hit or miss for the most part; comics is its own storytelling medium, and it often takes time for a writer to ably adapt his or her voice to accommodate the differences. But once in a great while, an author really figures things out. No growing pains, no collaboration difficulties, and no real sense of inexperience. A year ago, Ta-Nehisi Coates took the reins of a heralded Black Panther relaunch and delivered one of the best superhero comics on the shelf. But he hasn’t stopped there: there’s an entire corner of the Marvel Universe that has expanded and thrived under his direction. First with a further exploration of Panther‘s supporting cast members and Wakandan folklore in World of Wakanda, and now, this week, Coates flexes his muscles beyond the homeland in Black Panther & The Crew #1.
Inspired by the orignal “Crew” story from Christopher Priest’s Panther run, Coates has partnered with Yona Harvey (another esteemed writer from a different medium quickly proving her mettle in the comics biz) and veteran artist Butch Guice to showcase street-level superheroics in a very different jungle: New York City.
Edit, 4/10: This isn’t how Marvel Comics should be making the news. After all the outstanding progress and forward thinking that has become a hallmark of the company’s titles in the last few years – a number of all-female creative teams, that totally Asian Totally Awesome Hulk, Kamala Khan, America fer crying out loud – this controversy is a major setback. And to have it take place in a relaunch of the X-Men of all things, a comic that has, for generations, stood for abolishing bigotry and promoting acceptance, is particularly disappointing. Hopefully we’ve seen the last of Marvel’s –
or any comic book publisher’s – relationship with this particular artist.
As promised, Marc Guggenheim is going back to basics in X-Men: Gold #1, the first new ongoing X-book in Marvel’s ResurrXion initiative. Following the events of Inhumans vs. X-Men, and, really, all the second-rate treatment given to mutants not named Deadpool over the last few years, this new team with a classic feel is just what the comics world needs right now. Kitty Pryde is back, leading a group comprised of Colossus, Storm, Rachel Grey (Prestige), Old Man Logan, and Nightcrawler. And it’s not just the team’s composition that hearkens back to the Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne glory days. This is the first X-launch in years that feels like those great stories so many of us grew up with. No disrespect to Lee & Kirby, but the X-Men – as a series and as an institution – didn’t reach their full potential until that first reset in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
The comic opens, appropriately, with a supervillain bout, wherein this team gets a chance to showcase its battle-tested dynamic. Also, a little reminder that Kitty Pryde, codename or not, is a legitimate badass. And then the battle segues quickly into an all-too familiar statement. What makes the X-Men heroes – perhaps even more heroic than any assemblage of Avengers or Justice Leaguers – is that these mutants have forever worked to protect and save a society that hates and fears them. It’s the enduring X-Men theme; in Guggenheim’s hands the selflessness and courage still seems fresh.
Marvel’s X-event this month seems to be about a lot more than a refresh on their stable of mutant books. Developing out of the ashes of Inhumans vs. X-Men, ResurrXion looks to not only provide a new publishing initiative for mutant and Inhuman books, but also to re-establish the X-Men as one of the preeminent Marvel properties. For three solid decades, beginning in the 80’s, the X-Men were arguably the most popular characters in Marvel’s catalog. But with the success of Marvel Studios, and accompanying company mandates to focus on characters developed in the Marvel-controlled MCU, the treatment of the X-books, and mutants themselves, seemed to mirror the fictional resentment and discrimination that had been a hallmark theme of mutant storylines for so many years.
Despite understanding Marvel’s inclination to increase exposure for their Marvel Studios characters, when the All-New All-Different era kicked off in 2015, we were still nonetheless a little taken aback. The Inhumans were figuratively (and somewhat literally) killing off and replacing the mutants. It was happening in the comics, and it was happening on the comic book shelves. But after force-feeding us too many unsatisfying and underdeveloped “nuHuman” characters, Marvel seemingly saw the light. Extinction averted, IvX behind us, and we’ve got a spate of new X-related releases in the coming weeks, including an exciting team series that promises to go “Back to Basics.”
But that doesn’t mean the Inhumans have been passed over; part of this ResurrXion rightly belongs to them, and a return to form works both ways. In the first of two intro issues this week, Inhumans Prime brings the focus back on the Inhuman royal family, and sets the stage for some glorious cosmic adventure.
Somewhat lost amid the dragged-out Civil War II event, the ongoing Captain Hydra drama, various Marvel NOW! debuts, and even the fresh look at the cosmic catalog in the pages of books like Thanos and Ultimates², is the impending conflict between The Inhumans and the X-Men. This has been brewing for some time – indeed, for more than a year, since the opening weeks of Marvel’s All-New All-Different initiative. And in the pages of Charles Soule, Jeff Lemire, and Aaron Kuder’s tantalizing Death of X, we learned just exactly what Cyclops did all those months ago that served to both brand him as a despised mutant terrorist, as well as instigate the forthcoming Inhuman-Mutant war. In this week’s prologue book, Inhumans vs. X-Men #0, Soule and Kenneth Rocafort deftly summarize the mutants’ fight for survival, and set the stage for the big showdown.
In the aftermath of the Infinity event, we learned that the Terrigen mists unleashed by Black Bolt, while transforming both Earth’s populace and the greater Marvel Universe by awakening the Inhuman potential in thousands of unsuspecting humans around the globe, also have a terrifying side effect. The Terrigen mists are deadly to mutants.
The threat to mutantkind felt real. If it was Marvel’s intention to make readers perceive the circulation longevity of the X-books running short, then props to editorial genius. Two new Inhumans series debuted. The “Unity Team” featured in Uncanny Avengers, first formed following Avengers vs. X-Men, now unified Avengers, mutants, and Inhumans. Wolverine was still dead, ostensibly replaced by X-23 and Old Man Logan. Professor X was still dead, seemingly replaced by the Inhuman Gorgon (he’s a wheelchair-bound mentor to new Inhumans!) Cyclops, apparently, is dead, and the entire world hates him. Conspiracy theorists were going nuts: was Marvel really replacing their beloved mutants with these Inhumans? Does Marvel Studios, supplanting their absent X-license with Inhumans on television and, purportedly, in movies, carry that much clout? Continue reading Inhumans vs. X-Men→