BIN SIFTIN’ with Rene LeClair: DOUBLE BILL – The Uncanny Inhumans #1 / Karnak #1 (Marvel Comics)

The Uncanny Inhumans #1 / Marvel Comics

Writer/ Charles Soule   Pencils/ Jay Leisten   Inks/ Steve McNiven   Colours/ Sunny Gho

I’m a little excited to read this series. The Marvel Universe IS a marvel, but the best parts are in or from space. Silver Surfer (v2) took me there in the late 80’s and that’s where I met Thanos, Adam Warlock, Moondragon, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, Pip the Troll and an insane amount of cool and far out characters.

imageJim Starlin, Thanos’ creator, is to this day, the best at writing Thanos. Some might feel that Starlin, despite being a legend, is a relic from the past, and I might agree with you at times. His run on DC’s New 52 Stormwatch series, mucking about with my buds from Authority, was mediocre at best.

Now, Starlin’s been writing comics for a long time and his style is his own, but it doesn’t always apply very well to today’s comics, which seem to depend more on the visual narative to show and tell the bulk of the action coupled with a “less is more” approach to the actual written word on the page. Starlin is NOT like that. If you’ve ever read a Chris Claremont comic in your life, for better or for worse, you’ll know what I mean. So much reading bordering on a chore. Claremont was, in my opinion, the master of making every character on the page talk at the same time with conversations interweaving in any and all circumstance and direction, whether it was ten people at a dinner table or the X-Men in the middle of a huge battle, there were word bubbles everywhere. It took some actual time to read a comic back then. Now, five minutes and I’ve read the last page. Today’s comics sometimes feel like a rip-off that way, but I wouldn’t really want to go back to the old way. Everything in life, including the art of comic book storytelling, evolves and changes, and this is good.

Yet, no one really seems to capture the full complexity that is Thanos except Starlin. There are whole comics with Thanos talking almost only to himself and reasoning his way in and out of the most complex scenarios. It’s just too good. Marvel has recently started releasing new original graphic novels like they did Uncanny Inhumans #1bin the past. One-shot storylines delivered in a sharp looking hardcover format at a reasonable price. My favourite of the “old ones” is the Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment story where they team up to confront Mephisto in his domain in an attempt to rescue Victor Von Doom’s mother’s soul. Of the new Marvel OGN’s, Starlin’s putting out a Thanos trilogy (Infinity Revelation, Infinity Relativity and the hopefully soon to be released conclusion Infinity Finale) and it reads like it was written in the 80’s, but with current characters. It’s an odd, yet nostalgic feeling. Almost corny dialogue/monologue, by today’s standard of storytelling, but fantastic story up to this point, nonetheless.

One of the coolest team to come out of Marvel “Space” is the Inhumans. Some of the characters had made appearances on their own in comics, but Fantastic Four # 45 in 1965 is where they made their first appearance as a group. Black Bolt, Medusa, Crystal, Gorgon, Triton, Maximus the Mad, Karnak and Lockjaw (their “dog”) comprise the Inhuman Royal Family and rulers of Attilan, the technologically advanced Inhuman city. The original story goes something like this: Millions of years ago, at the start of the Kree-Skrull war, the Kree set up shop on the planet of Uranus, which was strategically located somewhere between the Kree and Skrull empires. While in our solar system, they discovered on earth sentient life embued with genetic markers attributed to Celestials, an ancient race of space giants (think Galactus, but he wasn’t a Celestial) who originate around same time as the birth of the universe and are sometimes attributed with created life, death and the multiverse. The Kree Uncanny Inhumans #1cstarted to experiment on primitive homo-sapiens, not only to bolster their forces with a mutant race possessing extraordinary powers against the shapeshifting Skrull, but also to create a genetically enhanced and advanced inhuman race with the goal to curb their own stagnating evolution. The project, though successful, what eventually abandoned because of a prophecy that would lead to the destruction of the Kree Supreme Intelligence. Easy come, easy go. The Inhumans, left alone, formed their own society in Attilan, creating new advanced technologies and refining the process in which the mutagenic terrigen mist gives them their powers.

The Inhumans comics have traditionally followed the adventures of the royal family and this book is no different. In Uncanny Inhumans #1, we find Black Bolt, king of the Inhumans, standing with Triton and Reader on earth, some thirteen thousand years in the past, looking at the original city of Attilan. They only get a moment to take in this wondrous sight before they are enveloped in a bubble of energy and transported to the Movaya Zemlya Archipelago of the arctic circle in October of 1961. Flying overhead is a “Soviet TU-95V. It holds the Tsar Bomba, the largest hydrogen bomb ever built” and it’s about to drop where they are standing.  Above them is the face of Kang the Conqueror, Master of Time, and he is terribly upset at Black Bolt for going back on his sovereign word. In a time when it seemed the world was ending, Black Bolt begged Kang to take his son in time and protect him from the catastrophe to come. We’re not told the exact price Blackbolt had to pay for Kang’s help, but I’m assuming it was something along the lines of “no time traveling allowed” or “your son now belongs to me”, but Black Bolt wants his son back and will do anything to achieve that goal. Kang’s power is using time itself as a weapon and he throws dinosaurs and some bayonetted british soldiers at them. Things go sideways, messing up their mission to retrieve Blackbolt’s son, but they manage to make it back to Reader’s portal allowing them to return to the present day.

While all of this was going on, Medusa, Black Bolt’s wife is fending off New York (always New York) from some Chitauri Warriors (as seen in the Avengers movie). When asked by reporters why she and her team of young Inhumans would put themselves in harm’s way to save regular old humans, she essentially says that all life is sacred and the Inhumans will always fight to protect the earth. Returning to New Attilan, Medusa then meets up with Hank “the Beast” McCoy, formally of the X-Men. He is there to work out some sort of Uncanny Inhumans #1dcrisis involving Mutants (which I believe are dying off somehow). The relationship between Mutants and Inhumans have always been quite tense, which is weird. Even though their superpowers are obtained in different ways, you’d think they’d get along. Overall, they’ve been able to maintain a working relationship over the years which have included the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.

After the meeting with Hank, Medusa entertains the official liaison between the Inhumans of New Attilan and New York City who happens to be Johnny “the Human Torch” Storm of the FF. I’m assuming the minutes of this meeting aren’t on record because, enveloped by her prehensile hair, he leans way in for a very passionate kiss. Black Bolt, having just arrived from his tussle in the past with Kang , is not impressed. Medusa turns to him and says: “It is not my intention to cause you pain Black Bolt, but this. It is exactly what it looks like.” Daaamn! Black Bolt is biting down on his lip so hard right now.

I’m not sure what to expect from this book. It was a good read and there is a back-up story featuring Gorgon, now in a wheelchair, as a preview of stories to come. I quite enjoyed Kang the Conqueror. He always has grand schemes and is really great at messing with the Avengers, so I can only hope that the same can be said about what he’s going to do to Black Bolt for breaking “the bargain” they had going.

Karnak #1a

Karnak #1 – Marvel Comics

Writer/ Warren Ellis  Artist/Gerardo Zaffino Colours/ Dan Brown

As a side note, I wanted to quickly look at the Karnak #1 book out this week because he didn’t show up in Uncanny Inhumans #1 at all. Crystal made a quick appearance in the Gorgon back-up, though.

So Karnak, of all the weirdo Inhumans, has always been even more odd to me. He’s hyper intelligent, but very serious. Serious to the point of being a jerk. He was also a martial arts master. I seem to remember him always leaping Karnak #1baround, karate chopping enemies one minute and in a science lab the next. His appeal to me when I was a kid wasn’t high as he was dressed in a dark green and white “hero” suit, but had a Gazoo like helmet that made his head big and tall. I always wondered if the helmet was that size because he had a giant head under there. Looks like I finally get to find out.

In Karnak #1, Karnak is in the Tower of Wisdom meditating. Where is this place located, who knows? His quiet time is disturbed by an urgent call from Agents Simmons and Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. looking for some assisstance. They need Karnak to infiltrate a splinter group faction of A.I.M. who have kidnapped a kid going through terrigenesis, a direct result of the recent release of Terrigen Mist on the general population of Earth.

Karnak, “sees the flaw in all things” and exploits their weakness. He used to be the Advisor to the Throne of New Attilan, but now serves as the Magister of the Tower of Wisdom, teacher to those who will learn. He’s totally still an asshole, but in the last scene of the book, Karnak is at the kidnappers’ garage and he’s Karnak #1cchopping some dude’s head off with his hand, punching another through the chest and kicking a gun in half. His head is a normal, human-sized head, so his old helmet was just weirdly big.

Written by Warren Ellis (Stormwatch and Authority, mentioned above) and drawn by who I thought was Jorge Zaffino, looking at the art style, but finding that it’s actually drawn by his son Gerardo. Like father, like son, they both kick ass. It also dawns on me that Gerardo has been drawing on Winter World, a remake of his old man’s Winter World from 1998, co-created with Chuck Dixon. I’m saddened to have just found out Jorge Zaffino passed away back in 2002, but his art on the Punisher: Assassin’s Guild OGN will forever stay with me. He perfectly captured the crazed-look eyes and gritted teeth while firing a heavy machine gun demeanor of the Punisher. That was an intense story. Rest easy Jorge, Gerardo’s got your back.

Karnak #1d (1)Uncanny Inhumans #1 and Karnak #1 both out this week in your local shops. – RENE


(Rene LeClair is an avid comic book reader and works at Comic Hunter in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, spreading the word to all who love comics as well.  He is also a fantastic musician who currently plays with a great band called FEAR AGENT.  Rene has been at his music for years, including stints with Longtimers, Four Frames, and the amazing Dead City Rebels.  At the Comic Hunter (Moncton/Charlottetown) they easily have the biggest selection in the Maritimes for all your nerdy needs. They specialize in comic books w/ over 250k back issues, an immense library of graphic novels as well as a seemingly endless selection of board/card games. Whether you find yourself that side of Quebec or not, they’ll ship anywhere. Visit their website and contact them HERE.)