Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Steve McNiven
It’s been a while since I remembered what it felt like to be new to comics.
To pick up a book I had never heard of, full of colorful characters and interlocking stories. To be confused, tilt my head, Google characters every other page, and ultimately frustrated by the whole thing. Yet thankfully Uncanny Inhumans #1 was there to remind me of those feelings and pity all the more newbie comic fans.
I was under the impression that the point of the Marvel relaunch was to provide an entrypoint for new readers and help eliminate some of the continuity problems of its universe. Yet Uncanny Inhumans #1 demands that you have read Uncanny Inhumans #0, which was released in April. April. That is six months between issues, and there is zero recap page at the beginning to give even the sparsest of details. I’m of the opinion that an issue zero for a book should never be required reading – at most it should provide an extra little bit of context or back story – because otherwise, why wasn’t it a number one instead?
Furthermore, if you wanted to learn about the new Inhumans cast, you’re going to want to put this aside and only come back after you’ve read the three or four trades of Soule’s Inhumans already out. Uncanny builds directly off of that series, with name drops to serve instead of introductions. Normally, you’d get at least a little text box saying “INFERNO – HIS NAME IS A BAD PUN”, but we don’t even have that luxury. I would not be surprised if you read this issue front to back and couldn’t describe to me a single character, let alone tell me what their names were.
This is probably the point in the review where I should mention that I’m a longtime X-Men fan. And on that basis, I should actually like Uncanny Inhumans. Afterall, they are X-Men. Medusa is basically Charles Xavier, Inferno is a slightly less dickish Cyclops, the world hates and fears them, and hey, Hank McCoy is even here! We even have the most stereotypical of X-Men stories show up – a team needs to go into the field to rescue someone whose powers have just developed, and end up being shot at and called freaks.
But as an X-Men fan, I admit my bias, because Marvel’s vendetta against Fox Studios has caused them to make the Inhumans the new mutants. Even though there are still an ungodly amount of X-Men books hitting the shelves, Marvel really wants Inhumans to fill that niche, to be where they can push the film and TV properties that actually make them money. And for that, I do have a salty taste in my mouth.
Narrative and structural problems really damn this book, which is a shame, because Charles Soule is a capable dialogue writer. I have no issues with how Medusa sounds as she delivers grandiose lines to reporters or the relatable frustration Flint shows during training. Yet the expectations this book has for you to already be very familiar with its large cast drags it down. There’s a plot twist in the end whose impact requires you to have been invested in Medusa and Black Bolt’s relationship, and without that, your eyes are going to roll.
What’s even more of a shame is that visually, it’s absolutely beautiful. Jay Leisten is an astonishingly talented penciler working Steve McNiven, a master craftsman with inks, and they provide an attention to detail that never trespasses into busy and realistic proportions that still manage to show off incredible beauty or deformity. The color work is never eye-bleedingly bright but used for emphasis – for flames, for glass skin, for nuclear explosions – and creates a world that seems almost real for its textures and lighting. Pausing to look at a panel of Triton, a fish-man Inhuman, you really understand the roughness of his scales and crags, and the bizarreness of his webbed hands.