Marvel continues to knock it out of the park when it comes to reinventing old classics in their whole Marvel NOW! initiative. They have really been expanding and making proper use of old concepts that have been left by the wayside, like Ms. Marvel, the Silver Surfer, and now The Inhumans too. Writer Charles Soule, who is already doing wonders with Marvel’s She-Hulk series and Superman/Wonder Woman at DC, has turned his attention to one of the weirder concepts that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby concocted during their massive 100-plus issues of Fantastic Four back in the sixties. It’s a cool concept that’s always been ripe for a proper revival, and after several tries over the years, it is really the team of writer Charles Soule and artist Ryan Stegman who manage to do the trick.
The set-up for the new Inhuman series is thus: When the Inhuman king Black Bolt released the Terrigen Mists on the world during Inhumanity crossover event, many humans around the globe thought they were just your average ordinary homo sapiens, but actually had Inhuman DNA in them. Suddenly, they gained powers and, in some cases, gained weird new appearances as well. The Inhumans went from being a small, secluded civilization in hiding, to having several thousand new members of their race. Some of them are looking for refuge and, as we learn in this issue, some are looking for revenge for their recent top-to-bottom transformations. Not everyone wants to suddenly be orange with horns.
The Inhuman capital of New Attilan is now off the East Coast, right by New York, and Queen Medusa has opened up the borders to any and all who wish to come, regular old human or newly powered Inhuman (or “NuHuman”, a term Medusa has coined for the freshly super powered. Good name for a potential spin-off? It’s only a matter of time). As a representative of the Avengers, Thor has come to visit New Attilan to remind Medusa that the last time his home of Asgard reappeared on Earth hovering over Oklahoma, the human governments of the world freaked out big time, and that’s with having Asgard appear over a small Oklahoman town, not New York City. (That entire storyline plays out in J. Michael Straczynski’s Thor run, which you should totally run out and buy. It’s pretty amazing.)
Medusa figures she can calm the human paranoia by merely opening up New Attilan to anyone who wants to visit (or live, if they’re an Inhuman) and show regular old humans that, although they might be centaur people or have living hair, they’re really all “just like you”. (Because that went over well when humans and mutants tried that in the Marvel universe. Anyone remember the mutants? Where did they take off to?) But, as it turns out this issue, some of the new Inhumans who show up are less than thrilled at their new pointed ears and multi-colored skins, and attempt to assassinate Medusa. Because they obviously have a death wish, they decide to kill the Queen…with Thor, of all people, present. Needless to say, it doesn’t go well for them with the big guy around.
But it’s really Medusa who shines in this issue, not Thor, and she shows what a strong, capable ruler she is. All I ever thought of Medusa before was that she had a cool (although silly) power and visual; she barely registered as a character, even in Mike Allred’s under appreciated FF: Future Foundation series. But under the guidance of Charles Soule, she’s become a character I really admire.
The B-story of the issue centers around a young girl exhibiting her Inhuman traits for the first time in a small farming village in China. Named Xiaoyi, which translates to “Little One,’ her new powers draw the attention of the government, who come to forcibly take her from her parents. Luckily for her, an all-new Inhuman named Reader has come to take her away before she can cause any further damage. Reader has the power to make whatever he reads come to life; when this ability was discovered by the Inhuman leaders when Reader was a child, the Royal Family took his eyes out to protect the community. As an adult, Reader has a special Braille pad which allows him to use his powers again. In this issue, he reads the word “frozen” on his pad and time seems to freeze. Not a bad power to have. I’ve been reading comics for a long time, and I’m always shocked when someone comes up with a cool power set for a character that is genuinely new because it’s so rare. When it comes to Reader, though, consider me shocked. Oh, and Reader has a little seeing eye dog sidekick called Foury, short for Four Eyes. I think he’s officially my new favorite character of 2014 now.
The two stories don’t come together, at least in this issue, but Soule finds a way to keep both storylines interesting and showcase two very different sides of the new Inhuman experience in the Marvel universe, both from a female perspective no less. Between She-Hulk, Wonder Woman and Medusa, Charles Soule is becoming the premier writer for female characters at both DC and Marvel. Artist Ryan Stegman has come a long way in a short time as well. He definitely come from the Joe Madureira school of pencils, which makes sense since that’s who he’s replacing on this book, but in many ways he has surpassed him already. (Madureira does variant covers for the book, if you still want a Joe Mad fix.)
Overall, Inhuman has become a fun and integral part of the Marvel Universe, essentially replacing mutants as the new feared and hated superpowered minority, and so far, at least in this series, it seems to be working. Exploring how these newly powered people suddenly find themselves in a giant ancient community makes for a fun concept that shockingly, Marvel has never done right before. Based on issue #4 alone, I would definitely keep checking out this series if you are a Marvel universe fan because it’s offering a look at this universe from a perspective that isn’t totally played out yet.