Death of the Inhumans essentially brings to a close Marvel’s recent attempts to make the characters the Next Big Thing.
When a radical faction seizes control of the Kree government, they issue a stark ultimatum to the Inhumans around the galaxy: join or die. The new regime intends to use the Inhumans as their shock troops to reclaim their empire. With the mysterious Vox killing Inhumans in alarming numbers, Black Bolt and the rest of the Royal Family spring into action to oppose the Kree. The price the Royals face to neutralize Vox is high, with only a major sacrifice protecting what few Inhumans remain.
The recent history of the Inhumans has been an ongoing case of hope over results. With the X-Men film rights in the hands of another company, Marvel’s publishing line was focusing more on characters it could cross-leverage across various platforms. That led to a radical expansion of the Inhumans in Marvel’s books, attempting to position them as a multimedia substitute for mutants. On the comic book front, that resulted in a variety of titles, involving some rather good creative talent, that produced a series of books that had interesting moments, but quickly became too complicated for its own good. Worse, fans smelled the desperation to make the Inhumans “happen” and it was offputting. Outside of Ms. Marvel and Moon Girl, whose stories have been largely unrelated to the main Inhumans franchise, the attempt was only ever a middling success at best. Marvel realized it was time to retrench.
Death of the Inhumans is a fairly straight forward title, efficient in its mission to winnow down the ranks of a character set that had grown out of control. The upshot of the mini-series is to refocus on the familiar Royal Family (also sparing a handful of the more interesting characters to emerge from the recent attempt at franchise-building).
To get there, Marvel deploys a first rate creative team. Donny Cates has been one of the publisher’s hottest writers over the past couple years. His script cuts out the plot fat and makes use of the Inhumans’ history to craft a believable event to push them near the brink of extinction. He wisely centers the action on Black Bolt, always the most interesting Inhuman, and the sacrifices he makes to protect what few of his people he can. There are some significant character deaths along the way (many of which actually stick) and Cates does an admirable job with the emotions of the conflict. Ariel Olivetti and Jordie Bellaire craft some elegant images to deliver the story, bringing an appropriate horror tinge to the soft focus, dark-hued art. The book looks great, even if there are gruesome moments that might be a bridge too far for some readers. If the overall impact of the series still feels a bit muted, that’s probably more down to readers just not having as deep a connection with these characters. The creators do lovely work all around and make as much of the premise as is possible.
Readers who have followed the Inhumans saga in recent years will certainly want to read this valedictory chapter. It’s unclear if the book has broad appeal beyond that existing constituency, though. For anyone who doesn’t have at least an awareness, if not some minimal investment, in the recent saga of the Inhumans, this could come off as a superhero snuff comic and not an emotional finale. Hopefully, if Marvel brings back the characters at some point, the events of Death of the Inhumans can set the stage for a more focused narrative.