by Patrick Ehlers
This article containers SPOILERS. If you have not read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
The title Death of the Inhumans makes one specific promise: some Inhumans are gonna die. But y’know, this is a comic book, and odds are just as good that the title is sensational hyperbole that they are of the title being literal. Writer Donny Cates and artist Ariel Olivetti spend the entirety of issue 2 insisting on three simple things:
- The Inhumans who have been killed already.
- The Inhumans left to kill.
- Vox’s ability to kill any Inhuman.
By the end of the issue, the reader is forced to take the threat of the title seriously. Cates and Olivetti cash in on that seriousness with one hell of a gut punch.
Part of what makes reading this issue so difficult is that both our way in to the world of the Inhumans and our perspective character throughout this series is Black Bolt himself. Even as Olivetti shows us Crystal discovering what very-little remains of Lockjaw, the whole thing is framed by Black Bolt’s solemn narration (or… y’know, whatever that third person omniscient narration is that favors Black Bolt’s perspective).
Black Bolt makes a list of names of people he’s lost, all just from the previous issue. This is a dude who can’t speak for fear of destroying cities, and who resorts to signing and writing infrequently. In fact, he only signs once in this issue, and the creative team doesn’t even clue us in to what he says. That puts extra weight on the one thing Black Bolt does choose to articulate in this issue: the names of seven dead Inhumans.
Of course, he crumples that list up. He puts the loss out of his mind before pivoting to point #2 above: the team that he does have. They’re all heavy hitters in Inhuman lore — none of the newbies or filler Inhumans. Olivetti is kind enough to group them together in a small, desperate panel.
It’s a sad state of affairs, but it is sort of a safe sadness, right? I like the Inhumans, but I can recognize that the royal family as depicted here have become increasingly insular over the course of their run. In terms of other heroes in the Marvel Universe, who will mourn when these five are dead? The nameless Kree commander that greets Karnak seems more than happy to remind the readers that “Inhuman” has come to mean so much more in the last several years. He stands in front of a monitor that reveals the faces of everyone else who is vulnerable.
I love this moment because it takes my assumption that Cates and Olivetti are positioned to wipe out a tiny corner of the Marvel Universe, and blows it wide open. I’m no longer just wrestling with the question of “is the Royal Family actually in danger?” because I now have to think about whether Moon Girl and Ms. Marvel are going to make it out of this thing alive.
Which brings me to my third point. The whole issue is a build-up to Vox stabbing Black Bolt in the throat, but before we can get to that, Cates and Olivetti know they need to soften up the audience a little. That’s why Karnak gets stabbed in the gut — we’re being primed for further suffering. Vox’s goal is to kill all the Inhumans, and with issue two, he makes such significant gains on that goal, the head spins to imagine where he might turn next.
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