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The Inhumans


Like so many Marvel Comics characters the Inhumans were a creation of writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, first appearing in a late 1965 issue of The Fantastic Four (#45). In fact, one of the Inhumans—Medusa—had been featured in the comic several months earlier as one of a motley group of villains called the Frightful Four, though her criminal career was short-lived. The Inhumans themselves were a carnival-show collection of strange-looking people unlike any other superteam, although team in this case is something of a misnomer, since they were effectively a race apart. Their origin was revealed in several later issues of Thor, which described how, centuries ago, a force from the all-conquering Kree Empire had visited Earth and genetically engineered a hybrid human/alien race. Over the years, these had evolved and mutated, far from the gaze of humankind, before they came out of hiding in the 1960s.

The Inhumans were probably several thousand in number and lived in isolation in the ultra-modern city of Attilan, hidden deep in the Himalayas (or Andes or Alps, depending on how good the writer's memory was!). The small group that ventured into the outside world were in fact the Royal Family, a powerful and fancifully garbed collection of uniquely mutated individuals. Their leader and king was Black Bolt, who could control molecular motion (whatever that meant) and whose voice could destroy everything in earshot with the merest whisper. Needless to say, he did not speak very often and conveyed his wishes through future wife Medusa, who could control her incredibly long, animated, red hair. Other members of the group were the grotesque Gorgon, who could cause earthquakes with a stamp of his cloven hoof; diminutive martial-arts expert Karnak; scale-covered amphibian Triton; and the winsome young Crystal, who could control the elements.

Crystal soon fell for the fresh-faced charms of the Human Torch and, when the Invisible Girl went on a seemingly interminable maternity leave, Crystal took her place in the Fantastic Four (FF). Crystal could whiz back and forth between the two groups with the help of her colossal, teleporting pet bulldog Lockjaw. In time, after the Invisible Girl left again (not for another baby but a marital separation), Crystal ran off with the Avenger Quicksilver, and Medusa briefly became an FF member in what was clearly a sort of job-share scheme for superheroes. The Inhumans as a whole regularly guest-starred in Fantastic Four and other comics (notably The Hulk) and in 1970 finally got their own feature in Amazing Adventures—though it only lasted ten issues. In the mid-1970s, they were given their own comic, but that survived for only twelve issues. Both attempts were well crafted, with an interesting mixture of radical Black Power politics (in Amazing Adventures), alien intrigue (in the 1975 Inhumans comic) and entertaining villains such as the Mandarin and Blastaar, yet neither venture proved popular enough to continue.

Perhaps the problems with the Inhumans were their outlandish appearance and somewhat detached personalities, or it might have been that they were mostly fighting a single enemy: Black Bolt's evil-genius brother, Maximus (in full, Maximus the Mad—which rather gave the game away). Maximus seemed to dedicate himself to overthrowing Black Bolt and the ruling Inhumans, who were endlessly taken in by him: Oh no, he has betrayed us again! However, following a lengthy fallow period, the Inhumans enjoyed something of a revival in the 1990s, with several specials and graphic novels, and a self-titled series under the Marvel Knights imprint in 1999. This series saw the group under siege from humankind, while the following year's miniseries featured the return of the Kree, who literally picked up and carried away the experiment they abandoned so many years earlier. The story culminated with the massed Inhumans deciding to stay in space and banishing the Royal Family to Earth, no doubt bound for intrigue and action (in another ongoing series and, probably, beyond). —DAR

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