Here at Comics Bulletin we’ve had Chase Magnett read through and review the offerings of Marvel’s two biggest franchises The Avengers and The X-Men in week long series. While these two families may have the most history and largest collection of team-based titles at the publisher, there is a new arrival on the scene that isn’t far off. With the announcement of an Inhumans movie from Marvel Studios and the appearance of many Inhumans characters in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the comics branch of the entertainment titan has also begun to push for this third Kirby and Lee created group in their own lineup. This week Chase will be taking a look at all of the most recent Inhumans publications to figure out whether this synergy-oriented publication push is any good outside the boardrooms at Disney.
All-New Inhumans #5
Written by James Asmus
Art by André Lima Araújo
Colors by Andres Mossa
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Most of Marvel’s franchise-anchoring team books aim for the middle of the road and the publisher is very good at hitting that target. Whether you’re looking at All-New, All-Different Avengers, Extraordinary X-Men, or All-New Inhumans, you get comics that certainly deliver on the subjects of their titles, but never come close to the adjectives describing them. All-New Inhumans #5 is exactly what someone familiar with mainstream superhero comics might expect from any team book. There are crossover elements, subplots aplenty, and a forced excuse for a little bit of action before the issue wraps up. It’s by no means bad; it is simply the entirely expected and unsurprising Inhumans book that won’t fail for being too ambitious.
That’s not to say this comic book is bad, there are certainly a few standout elements that might elicit a smile or creased brow and it fills twenty minutes of time perfectly well. The inclusion of Spider-Man in All-New Inhumans #5 certainly adds a spark of character-based humor that enlivens the proceedings of the plot. James Asmus has Spider-Man’s haranguing style and wit functioning at maximum capacity as he manages to annoy everyone in these panels without becoming a nuisance to the story itself. He’s helpful in spite of himself and his interaction with each character helps to bring out who they are.
Unfortunately, many of these characters only seem to spark when Spider-Man is around to summon their irritation. Almost all of the Inhumans read like bland summaries of power stats and generic identifiers. Of the team leaders Crystal is lifeless in speech and action and Gorgon moves the reader as well as he can move himself. A small scene with Dinesh speaking of his engineering background and tackling the trouble of doing his hair without the use of hands does provide some interest to this new character though. He isn’t written as a broad stereotype like the Irish (I think, it’s hard to tell with that accent) racist Jack, but a young person struggling with changes. His solution to a relatable problem is charming and makes this domestic moment the most interesting in a book filled with “big” ideas.
The focus on mysterious, enormous poles from space spread across the Earth reads like a riff on Warren Ellis and Jason Howard’s Trees, allowing characters to react to a powerful, unknown object and slowly explore the reason for their existence as well. There’s not much progress made in finding answers, but these Skyspears do instigate plenty of movement. The more interesting focus of Asmus’ script lies in concerns over weaponization. Despite the Skyspears serving no definable purpose, there is an assumption by some that they must be weapons. This obsession with military might and applications crosses over into the increase of Inhumans and a secret locale filled with weaponry. It’s unclear what Asmus aims to say at the beginning of this story, but he has crafted a canvas to explore some very interesting ideas in All-New Inhumans #5.
Artist André Lima Araújo makes all of these concepts about weapons and power compelling on the page. While the outfit designs for Inhuman characters leave a lot to be desired (Crystal’s costume is a low point for Jack Kirby and Jack reads like a poor man’s Metamorpho), their technology and powers improve the issue’s appeal. Dinesh’s magnetic hands and prosthetics light up a panel when utilized and leave a desire to see him manipulate more on the page. The ship that Crystal and her companions arrive in creates an air of uniqueness around Inhuman technology, as does their method for descending from the still flying craft.
Araújo’s depiction of actual people is not as enlightening as the big reveals of technology and weapons. There’s an influence that can be traced to Frank Quitely in these drawings, but the tight, divisive lines on faces in All-New Inhumans #5 occasionally results in characters who inhuman in a non-specific way. Teenagers appear to have adult faces grafted onto their bone structure. While it’s not a constant issue, when faces and bodies are malformed like this it puts the story to a jarring halt.
The course of All-New Inhumans #5 isn’t to provide so much of value that missteps like these contorted faces can be easily overlooked, but that they call into question why to read the comic in the first place. The appearance of Spider-Man and plot points on weaponization provide footholds to an ongoing plot with some merit and visual charm, but none of it distinguishes All-New Inhumans in any marked way. The most interesting concept in the entire comic, the Skyspears, is a lesser version of something currently being published at Image Comics. If there is really a call for Inhumans stories, then fans could expect worse than this, but that’s assuming there was ever a call to begin with.
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