Before the Inhumans make their TV debut on ABC on September 29th, Marvel premiered the show in IMAX theaters for avid fans. This was Marvel's way of getting people excited for the Inhumans despite negative press across social media. Unfortunately, Marvel's Inhumans debut turned out to be an absolute flop in theaters – so much so that it was dead last in the box office earnings and had an abysmal critical reception. Take this comment from ScreenCrush's Kevin Yeoman, for example.
Every brand has its limits and this uninspired take on the Inhumans might be Marvel's.
This reception may not come as a complete surprise to fans who had been underwhelmed by the show's trailers, but what's truly intriguing is the way in which Marvel's Inhumans might have been a defeated show even before release.
It Started With The Comics
The Inhumans have been around as the Royal Family (Black Bolt, Medusa, Gorgon, Karnak) since 1965. Since their conception, we've never been given much reason to actually care about them – at least not in comparison to Marvel favorites such as the X-Men and the Avengers. Even though Black Bolt is known as one of the strongest beings in the Marvel Universe and the Inhumans have powers that would give any super team a run for their money, they've never been used as heavy hitters in the Marvel Universe. For decades, the Inhumans were either the punching bag of the Fantastic Four or they were teaming up with them for additional support (in fact, Crystal and Medusa were previously members of the Fantastic Four).
Even though there was a great Inhumans series in 1998, it wasn't until 2007 during Marvel's Silent War that Marvel started to put real effort into making the Inhumans a legitimate powerhouse. But after decades out of the spotlight, the damage may have already been done.
It took Marvel Comics an incredibly long time to add personality to this team. Comic book fans weren't given a reason to ever care about the Inhumans, and adding them into comics while threatening to kill off the mutants didn't exactly build their fanbase. While discussing Marvel's decision to prioritize the Inhumans instead of the mutants, acclaimed comic book writer Chris Claremont said,
"I think the corporate publishing attitude is: 'Why would we go out of our way to promote a title that will benefit a rival corporation’s films when we could take that same energy and enthusiasm and focus and do it for our own properties?' Hence the rise of the Inhumans as the new equivalent of the mutants. I could wish for something else but it ain’t my 5 billion dollars."
Although this certainly makes sense from a business perspective, it's hard to ignore the negative impression this made on fans of the X-Men. However, Marvel had already shown that comic book popularity doesn't necessarily correlate with the success of their cinematic universe. This was perhaps best proven by Guardians of the Galaxy, which went from being a lesser known title to one of the MCU's biggest properties. So, Inhumans still had a shot at becoming a global hit – if it could get an appropriate set up in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Unfortunately, There Was No Momentum After Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. gave the Inhumans a fascinating starting point. They took a character enjoyed by comic book fans and made her the face of the Inhumans, which was undeniably a shrewd move. Daisy Johnson (or Quake) was going to be the face of the Inhumans that Marvel Entertainment used to showcase what they could do – and why not? She's incredibly powerful and turned into a great character, but once we learned about the Inhumans as a whole, they kind of fell flat. From there, the momentum never really picked up again.
Perhaps the worst aspect of this were the hints of the Inhuman Royal Family – which fans never got to see on the show. Most comic book enthusiasts kept asking for Black Bolt and Medusa to cameo, but these appearances never came into fruition, thus losing momentum and interest.
Essentially, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. made a big deal about the Inhumans, but never delivered on what the fans wanted – the famous names synonymous with Marvel's source material. Of course, this was because fans would have to wait for Inhumans. With the new series, we have the popular characters we've all been waiting for – but it's clear that by failing to introduce these characters earlier in the franchise's continuity, momentum was lost.
Even with this in mind, there have been Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D fans who have eagerly awaited Marvel's latest series. But upon release, it seems that the overall aesthetic may be another hurdle for the show.
Are The Inhumans Too Alien For Audiences To Accept?
Of course, the Inhumans are aliens and there should theoretically be no limits when it comes to character design – but we can't escape the fact that Gorgon's appearance is a little jarring, reminding Dave Chappelle fans of his famed sketch, "Black Sheep Rapper".
Another example is Black Bolt. Because he doesn't speak, he needs to look powerful and standout. Anson Mount looks strong as Black Bolt, but his uniform is missing a very important part: his mask.
Black Bolt's mask was something that added a little more character and allowed him to be a distinctive bad-ass, just like other comic book heroes such as Batman, Wolverine and the Flash. Marvel's Netflix shows have done an amazing job keeping their character's powerful traits while maintaining a realistic aesthetic. In fact, during Defenders, the team made it a point to make fun of Daredevil's costume, acknowledging that that is what would happen in real life. The Avengers have also maintained all of the flair they had from the comic books while still not being corny; Hulk doesn't wear his purple pants, Hawkeye isn't wearing a crotch flap, and Sam Wilson (Falcon) doesn't have a real falcon with him. These are prime examples of finding a healthy medium between realism and a style that honors the source material.
So, Is It All Over For The Inhumans? No, Not Quite.
The show might not have had the ideal momentum, our comic book adoration or a hugely satisfying aesthetic, but we must remember that it's still possible for Inhumans to surprise us all.
Despite the early reception of Marvel's Inhumans, it's important to note that we still haven't gotten a real look at the show as a whole. With this in mind, there's a chance that the show's costumes and CGI won't bother fans because Maximus turns out to be a stand-out Marvel villain. Or perhaps Medusa will be such an amazing character that her powers will be the last thing we think about while discussing the character. And there's no way fans don't already love Lockjaw – because what's not to love about a giant teleporting dog?
While early criticism suggests that the show won't satisfy fans, it's also important not to get ahead of ourselves. Marvel doesn't have a tendency to let fans down, so I still suggest giving the show a look for yourself. Critics and fans have been wrong before – and we could be wrong again.
What are your expectations for Inhumans? Let me know in the comments below.