Marvel has earned itself a lot of goodwill over the last few years. Successfully releasing three phases of films — all to critical acclaim and solid box office returns — as well as launching a slew of television programming in the same universe (gaining equally positive responses all around).
Yet, there's one project on the horizon that brings with it a certain degree of wariness. The #Inhumans has long been in development, and is finally making its way to television this fall. For all the benefit of the doubt #Marvel has earned in the past, it's hard not to feel a bit of skepticism concerning this show.
Perhaps more than almost anything else that's come before, it's having to work against a lot of established factors: rules, precedent and framework that exists within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not to mention the particular role (in the same vein of metahumans and mutants) they're likely intended to play here.
None of this is really helped by the fact that this was originally supposed to be a film, before Marvel turned things around and decided to make it a TV series. What's more, the earliest pictures released haven't won a lot of fan confidence, with criticism already in play for even the basic look of its characters.
Here are some of the most vital issues the show needs to overcome in order to succeed:
3. Acknowledge The Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Elephant In The Room
As many a fan of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can attest, the show has increasingly felt like the red-headed stepchild of the #MCU. It's a series that was dogged by heavy expectations and a weak first season, even though it's blossomed into one of the consistently greatest comic book shows on television. This problem is further compounded by the series' tendency to reference goings on throughout the rest of universe, something that has yet to be done in return by any other single property in spite of the extensive world-building that the show has been laying down.
This is even more a particular issue with the Inhumans TV series. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has not only been utilizing the concept since its second season, it also established the foundation for the Inhumans' within the MCU to begin with.
If The Inhumans does nothing to acknowledge the show, then it's just going to breed resentment. Not only will it increase that tension for fans between AoS and the rest of the universe, but it will look more and more like Marvel cares more about this new show than it does AoS (perhaps to eventually supplant it, with little thought to the impact AoS has made).
The smartest thing to do will be to harmonize the two series. Make it accessible so viewers can watch one without the other, yet at the same time demonstrate a mutual exchange between them that indicates they're not foes but allies. AoS did this to great effect during two seasons of Agent Carter, and Arrowverse has near perfected this formula.
2. Don't Just Be The X-Men
On paper, the concepts of Inhumans sounds an awful lot like mutants — an evolved/enhanced branch of the human race for which — under a specific set of circumstances — powers will emerge (with a genetic, inheritance basis).
This is one of the most difficult positions for the show, as X-Men is one of the biggest players on the market, and Inhumans are basically serving as stand-ins for the lack of mutants in the MCU. Obviously, there's likely going to be that tendency to mirror, which isn't entirely in it of itself a bad idea. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been cribbing from the X-Men playbook for the last couple of seasons to great effect, much in the same way Arrow borrows from Batman, and Supergirl picks up storylines from her cousin.
At the same time, that's not all that these shows are, and that's where Inhumans needs to follow suit. If all it does is play things as "X-Men-lite" then it will emphasize the perception that these are just the less-interesting cousins of mutants. This inevitably risks further comparisons, and will likely see the show lacking when it's not able to utilize iconic characters like Wolverine, Professor X, Magneto and others.
What's more, Marvel has been pitting Inhumans and X-Men against each other in recent comic events (with a plot device that seemed to be symbolically wiping out mutants in favor of Inhumans). This just enhances fears that Marvel is giving X-Men the shaft in the comics because of licensing rights, and trying to make Inhumans the new mutants. If the TV shows behaves too much like mutants, it will only increase these fears.
1. Cut Back On The Elitism
This is perhaps going to seem a bit contradictory to the last point (which just goes to show how complex a web this series is already entangled in), but one of the least appealing aspects of the Inhumans is their pride. They believe that their powers and heritage makes them superior to the human race, distancing themselves, living on the moon, under a royal family.
One of the best parts of X-Men is that humanity hates them for being the "other," and yet they never stop fighting on behalf of the human race. They endure all that resentment, and do everything in their power to try and find peace with people that hate and fear them. It's a fantastic concept, and why X-Men reigns supreme in this arena.
So, while Inhumans can't borrow too liberally from X-Men, this might be one area that would work to its advantage. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. already explored Inhumans living apart from humanity with a bit of a superiority complex, but they also gave solid reason for some of that behavior. Also, the show isn't entirely about Inhumans, so it's not as make-or-break for them as it will be for this one.
If the Inhumans remove themselves from humanity due to a perceived superiority, that will just make them boring. The core of being a superhero is the desire to do well by others with the abilities that you've been given, often times at great personal cost. Watching a TV series about superpowered people who want nothing to do with the human race is unlikely to be very interesting in the long term.
The show has a rough road ahead of it, but hopefully things will work out in the end. It has a solid foundation in the MCU to work with, a lot of smart people working behind the scenes, and plenty of precedent. Let's just hope that it finds a way to work past the many problems ahead of it and craft something that lives up to the Marvel reputation.
What are you hoping to see in the Inhumans? Please share in the comments below.