Judge Jim Thomas is getting his motion comic sickness tablets, just in case.
It's a moving issue!
Millennia ago, an alien race known as the Kree performed genetic experiments on Earth's Cro-Magnon population. The result was a race of advanced beings called the Inhumans. As evolution progressed around them, the Inhumans withdrew to form their own insular society in the city of Attilan. The Inhumans are served by the Alpha Primitives, a race of subhumans who perform all the manual labor.
At birth, Inhumans are all pretty typical humanoids, but as an adolescent rite of passage, each Inhuman is exposed to a powerful mutagen; this Terrigen Mist grants each Inhuman unique—and often dangerous—powers, the random nature of these powers is best exemplified by the Inhumans' king, Black Bolt. His vocal cords emit a wavelength that disrupts matter at a molecular level; a mere whisper can destroy a building—a shout could conceivably destroy the planet.
As you might expect, he's not a talkative sort.
Throughout their history, the Inhumans have sought to remain apart from humanity, isolated in their island fortress of Attilan. Unfortunately, forces at work, from within and without Attilan, may bring that isolation to an end—as well as Black Bolt's silence.
The Inhumans have been part of the Marvel Universe for decades; yet, like the characters themselves, they never really made it into the mainstream of regulars. They were often used for social commentary—The Alpha Primitives, once slaves, were an obvious metaphor for civil rights—a couple of characters were for a time regulars in The Avengers and Fantastic Four. Still, they always slipped back into the mists of obscurity.
In 1998-1999, Marvel released a twelve-issue miniseries, Inhumans. Written by Paul Jenkins and drawn by Jai Lee, the series, which chronicled a coup attempt by Black Bolt's insane brother Maximus, was a popular and critical success, winning the Eisner Award for best series. As part of their ongoing Marvel Knights series, Marvel decided to bring this tale forth as a motion comic. The results are decidedly mixed. The central problem is that the tone of the series is contemplative, almost elegiac in nature, and simply doesn't lend itself well to a moving medium. There's an inordinate amount of narration and an oppressive amount of exposition, as almost every facet of Inhuman culture, every single character, must be introduced. That tone works wondrously on the page; you can savor the turns of phrase and take your time bringing yourself up to speed. On the screen, though, if you are not already well versed in Inhuman lore, you are forever playing catch-up.
The art suffers a similar fate. Lee's compositions are striking, but they are dragged down to earth on screen. The actual "motion comic" part of the equation, which is essentially one step up from Clutch Cargo in particular does the art no favors, with too many animations bordering on the ridiculous. Voice work leaves much to be desired; I'll simply leave it at that.
Technically, the disc is excellent; the video is clean and crisp, and the audio is clear. The one featurette gives some nice background on the development of the Jenkins/Lee series, but does not provide a good background of the Inhumans themselves. The story is broken into twelve chapters, mirroring the twelve issues. The Play All feature, unfortunately, does not simply stitch the episodes into a single unbroken movie, so you'll want to keep the remote handy to skip through the credits every 11 minutes or so.
That said, the story remains compelling, both in its action components and its meditations on power. The motion comic format works well for some stories—it was a wonderful venue for Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men—but does not work for this particular story. The graphic novel is highly recommended, but the court cannot say the same for this version of Inhumans.
Give us your feedback!
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
Review content copyright © 2013 Jim Thomas; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.