I’m sure if you’re reading this review, you’re aware of the circumstances under which this miniseries came about. Marvel was mad that they didn’t have the movie rights to the X-Men, so they tried to make the Inhumans the new X-Men, and it didn’t exactly work, blah blah blah, etc. I love the Inhumans; I think they have a rich history and lots of interesting themes and plots to explore. Although probably best done in the 1998 Marvel Knights Inhumans series by Jae Lee and Paul Jenkins, the idea of the Inhumans’ use of eugenics in their society and the class system they impose is ripe with fodder for interesting and impactful commentary on the real world.
Death of Inhumans is interesting because it seems like it’s going to take this evolutionary “survival of the fittest,” “weed out the weak and useless” idea that has interwoven itself through most good Inhumans tales and take it to a place that pits that insecurity and primal fear of survival against the royals, who have never felt that sentiment individually or particularly harshly. This first issue is dark. Really dark. Like, darker than I thought Marvel would let any story go in the current climate. But it’s an important sentiment, and I really look forward to seeing what Cates and Olivetti have to say about the fundamental problems of the Inhuman society and the characters that the stories choose to focus on.
Currently, Cates is a juggernaut at Marvel and can have his pick of any project he wants with how well his projects have been selling and received as of late. So to pick something like the Inhumans, which has been delegated to one of the (if not the) most hated properties Marvel has to offer, it’s obvious he had a vision and a message to impart on the audience with this mini. This first issue does a lot to set up the next few issues and feels particularly heavy. Unlike with most “Death of” series, it doesn’t quite seem like the Inhumans are going to be able to come back from this. Not to be overly blunt, but Marvel wants to bury this blemish on their record. That being said, I like that they’ve found a way and a creator who wants to do that with fanfare.
The Inhumans, especially the royals, have never been particularly sympathetic characters. I mean, they have slaves. They’re a eugenics based society. They’re royalty, and they let the poor and disenfranchised of their society wallow and waste away as they eat bon bons and oh, I don’t know, declare war on Earth and kill civilian humans. (The sad thing is that this summary can apply to several Inhuman involved stories.) And that was the fatal flaw with trying to make them an X-Men replacement. Inhumans thrives when it’s using the characters’ fundamentally unlikeable traits and makes that a vehicle to impart extremely timely and biting social commentary. Death of Inhumans #1 does this spectacularly, and Cates and Olivetti work in almost exact sync to make this issue as haunting and affecting as it can be.