Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Inhuman 1, originally released April 2nd, 2014
Shelby: I have always been somewhat baffled by racism. I can’t understand the reasoning behind looking at another human being and deciding that they are inferior because of the color of their skin. I understand that racism exists, I’m certainly not trying to deny it, I just don’t understand the logic (such as it is) behind it. How can any one human be inherently better than another? And what could skin color possibly have to do with it? As Charles Soule kicks off Inhuman 1, he presents us with a situation where there IS a branch of humanity which is measurably superior. The Inhumans are stronger and more powerful than the rest of us mere mortals, and some are not afraid to show it. The real question is, once these inferior humans start instantly transforming into superior beings, what are all those racist Inhumans going to do about it?
As the Terrigen Mist makes its incredibly slow way around the globe, it cocoons Kristian in Norway and Dante in good ol’ Des Plaines. Kristian, unfortunately, is found by the Inhuman Lash, who explains the whole situation as Kris gestates. Lash is from Orollon, a town of Inhumans with only a limited supply of terrigen; for him, terregenesis is a sacred transformation available only to a special, select few. He had a problem with Black Bolt’s generosity with terrigen BEFORE he unleashed it upon the entire world. Now, Lash travels about collecting pods and killing the new Inhumans as they emerge. He also finds Dante, but luckily Medusa finds him as well, and she drives Lash away. After helping Dante put out his fire powers, she explains there is a war coming, and he will soon need to pick a side.
There are some interesting ideas gestating in this issue. I assumed the inevitable conflict would be between the Inhumans and the rest of humanity. Inhumans are just like the rest of us, in that some of them are huge dicks, so I figured a new influx of evil Inhumans would try to wipe out/enslave the rest of the world, and it would be up to the Queen and her people to save everybody. Instead, Soule is complicating things by making this a war between the Inhuman factions, and everyone else is just caught in the line of fire. In Lash’s eyes, Black Bolt has been following the advice of Syndrome, villain of the movie The Incredibles. Syndrome was so hurt over being spurned by the supers that he created tech for people to use so they could be like the supers themselves. That way, “when everyone is super, no one will be.” For Lash, being an Inhuman is a great gift, and he doesn’t intend to see that gift wasted on a bunch of jerks like you and me.
As lovely as that panel is, I actually have one big problem with artist Joe Madureira’s work on this book, and it’s all in how he draws Medusa. It’s no secret that I like Medusa a lot as a character, and Madureira falls back on some of the grosser tropes used to draw women in comics. I knew it was going to be rough when, in the first panel we see her, she’s naked. Not only is there no reason for her to be drawn in the nude, it obviously is supposed to follow immediately after the end of Inhumanity 2, where we see the Queen in bed and clothed.
What the hell? It only gets worse from there; every image of Medusa is predominantly ass, tits, or both. Madureira also does that thing I hate where, instead of making women’s costumes stretch over their breasts like material does, Medusa’s costume molds completely around each breast like it’s just painted on. Attention, comic book artists of the world: NEITHER CLOTHING NOR BREASTS WORK LIKE THAT. I like Madureira’s general style, it has a painterly quality similar to Kenneth Rocafort, and I think this horrifying treatment of the female lead is in jarring contrast to how nice the rest of the book looks. I love Soule’s work, and I’m intrigued by where he’s taking this story, but I already don’t know how much more of Madureira idea of women I can take. Sorry Patrick, I got a little distracted by my building rage and didn’t talk much about the actual meat of the story. I’ll leave that to you, unless you’ve got some rage to deal with as well.
Patrick: I don’t have any rage to work through — which is strange because those certainly sound like issues I would have with Madureira’s art. Honestly, I have a hard time even reading Medusa’s body when her hair is in the panel. That shit’s out of control 24/7. Upon closer inspection, I’ll echo that he way he’s drawing the costume is troubling, but I’m less angry about the decision to make her sleep in the nude. As a life-long fan of the Simpsons, I still remember noticing when they stopped letting Marge sleep in the nude, and for whatever reason that image resonates with me — even in a maternal kind of way. Let’s talk about something else before this gets any more Freudian.
Shelbs, I think we have a slightly different read on what Lash is up to. He waited outside of Kristian’s pod to see what manner of creature would pop out of it. When Kristian emerges, looking like a mix between Gollum and E.T., Lash obliterates him. We’ve seen some weird reactions to the mist, but this poor bastard had some rotten luck.
Lash isn’t just trying to wipe out all of the Inhumans created by Black Bolt’s stunt, he’s selecting which Inhumans pass his own strict standards of Inhuman perfection. He’s traveling the world, recruiting the Inhumans he likes and vaporizing those he doesn’t like. This way, the Inhumans retain their universally “better” status, without all those crummy dudes mucking up their reputation. Lash’s conviction in the moment before he blows Kristian away is terrifying — he’s a monster with practically religious sense of the righteousness of his actions. To quote Captain Malcom Reynolds: “Nothing worse than a monster who thinks he’s right with God.”
But hey: sure is weird that Kristian is characterized at all in those first couple pages, huh? We meet him in a bar, after having just gotten his first of two fists-to-the-face for the evening. He’s kind of a jerk, but he’s also accomplished — his friend (who even gets a name, Erik) identifies him as a smart, impulsive guy with an impressive new job at a University. Then Kristian goes on to bemoan how nothing changes in his life. This is actually pretty classic origin story stuff: Kristian has all the makings to become a superhero. Smart? Check. Impulsive to the point of violence? Check? Desire to change something in his life? Check. When we see the mists rolling in, we’re already four or five steps ahead in our minds, designing his costume and imagining the adventures he’ll have in Bergen. Soule, calmly and matter-of-factly, stops those expectations in their tracks.
Suddenly, we don’t know what to make of these character details. I know I flipped back a page to Dante’s equally-formulaic “I’m taking care of my family because they need me to be the grown-up now” story. If the first hero-candidate we had in the issue could be discarded so easily, surely the second could be as well. I mean, there are a few details that betray Soule’s obvious affections for Dante — for starters, he’s a musician who primarily gigs at weddings. Did you know that in addition to writing three books each for DC and Marvel (and one more for Oni), and running a legal practice, Charles Soule also runs a wedding music business? Dante is clearly Soule’s jam, and the effortlessness with which that Led Zeppelin joke tumbles out of the character’s mouth speaks to that connection. I don’t know Soule personally, but I’d be willing to bet you dollars to donuts that naming a baby “Bonham” has crossed his mind before.
Also, I’ll confess that I love seeing an actual musician that becomes a superhero. Say what you want about Darla or Dazzler — they’re not musicians, they’re pop stars, which is more a function of celebrity than anything else. Dante (all D names… weird…) is a working musician, meaning that he takes a shitty gig if it pays, and meaning that he might need to work some annoying nights. It’s a perspective I don’t think we see all that much of from superheroes, even from the Marvel camp.
Plus, he’s a fire-man named Dante. How badass is that? Madureira draws a much cooler Human Torch-esque hero than I’m used to seeing.
Flame on, indeed.
Then again, it be too early to count Kristian out either. Yes, he was blown away halfway through this issue, but he still gets a dot on the map that closes out this book. Along with “Gelohoff” and fully functioning codename for Dante — “Inferno” (I get it!). I guess S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t caught wind of Kamala’s Ms. Marvel just yet. This is all such effective world-building, and it’s invigorating to have a character like Medusa anchoring the whole thing. Let’s just hope Maduriera can get his shit together and lean something about boob-physics between now and next month.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?