Who Are the Inhumans?
“[The Inhumans] are powder kegs of genetic potential. Primed to detonate upon exposure to the terrigen mists. Each of them is truly unique… a subspecies of one. Here, diversity is the rule of nature. Beings of pure energy mingle with shape changers and dragons. To emerge from the mists transformed into a coma is to conform.” - Paul Jenkins, The Inhumans
A rare flying Inhuman, Archaeopteryx represents both this naturally evolved and special state and, presumably, the Inhumans current generation of youth having a greater awareness and experience with the outside world. Unlike their parents’ and parents’ parents’ generations, she and her contemporaries tend to their original names more than their adult, post-terrigenesis names.
Tonaja ditched her best friend shortly after their terrigenesis, under the assumption that her visibly fantastic power made her superior, something that Attilan society supported.
born Blackagar Boltagon
Hereditary King of the Inhumans, and husband of Medusa, the wise and patient Black Bolt rules the Inhumans of Attilan (most of the time, being occasionally overthrown by his brother or ejected by the Genetics Council). While his powers are immense and varied, from the ability to subtly rearrange molecules and incredible physical strength to a voice that can flatten mountains, Black Bolt cannot control that vocal power, nor can he manage his other abilities or often his own sanity without the help of the fabulous antenna he wears on his forehead. As a youth, these powers caused the death of his parents, destroyed property, and permanently injured others, including his brother. Through superior antenna-building science and intense meditation, Black Bolt can restrain these inborn threats and most often does.
There’s something delicious in reading stories with Black Bolt where he holds back much more than he needs to, in terms of communication. He does use sign language, and written documents, but seems decided to not communicate most of the time, whether it frustrates those around him, or inspires them to saint him as if silence implies greater knowledge.
born Crystalia Amaquelin (later Maximoff)
A former Avenger, sometime member of the Fantastic Four, and ex-wife of the terrorist turned Avenger, Quicksilver, Crystal spends more time away from Attilan than any other Inhuman, it seems, with the possible exception of Triton, who swims way a lot, or the Inhumans who were spread throughout the world anyway, which nobody knew about. Gifted with control over “the elements,” Crystal can make water levitate, generate bursts of wind, and at least on one occasion she turned clothes into other clothes by will. (Sure, why not.) She dated Johnny Storm, then traded up for Quicksilver, who eventually bored her being a jerk and boring, but not before they had a lovely little girl, Luna.
Crystal’s awesome hairband was probably originally drawn as an artifact, an actual hairband she stuck in her hair because it looks cool. Somewhen along the line, it became a pattern in her hair, somehow sustained in place no matter how her hair grows. This is better.
The only Inhuman to be able to switch back and forth between two dramatically different forms, Devlor is a a skinny, obnoxious kid who can turn into a hulking monster of hair and muscle, and is ostracized for it. Ejected from Attilan, he bums around the Earth with Fantastic Force, a team founded during a time the Fantastic Four were thought dead, trying both to fit into the outside world and redeem himself into a new place in his homeland.
Devlor is the only Inhuman to have given birth to himself. This is impressive until you remember it’s the Marvel Universe and Spider-Man has also given birth to himself.
The hard-drinking loudmouthed Inhuman, Gorgon is a drill instructor for the Royal Guard and a deeply compassionate in spite of his apparent callousness. With his hooves, massive stature, and long face, he is quite identifiable, but wears a tiara just in case you forget it’s him. During the Silent War, he was re-exposed to terrigen and mutated further, but is essentially the same man. Extremely strong, Gorgon’s hooves can also cause seismic distress beyond what should be possible by simply stamping down on the ground.
If an Inhuman had a solo series (since Triton’s short-lived solo adventure), Gorgon would be the best choice.
An elderly, “useless,” and ugly Inhuman, Iridia pleaded with King Black Bolt to be introduced to the terrigen mists a second time, and while many present were concerned with this break in sacred protocol, her king conceded and she emerged from a second terrigenesis as a block of stone, only to later hatch, butterfly-winged and youthful.
The brother of Triton, Karnak is the generally one of the most restrained Inhumans, notable for his large head and his ability to perceive “the cracks,” the stress points in all things, be they physical objects, people’s psyches, plans or structures of any kind. Recently he committed suicide after having a self-condemning fit stemming from the dispersal of the Attilan population throughout the Earth.
Karnak is the classic example of metaphoric power range. He doesn’t have a superpower, nor does the set of powers he possesses have a particularly logical or causal explanation. He seems the weak spots in everything, because he “sees weak spots.”
Unlike all other Inhumans, Lockjaw is not descended from the ancestors of humankind, not genetic kin to the other Inhumans. He’s a dog, which they got from somewhere, and subjected to the terrigen mists. He’s happy-go-lucky, big, goofy-looking, and really likes Crystal and also the Fantastic Four’s Thing.
Mostly because he’s a big, silly dog, Lockjaw’s pretty much the only Inhuman you can point to who is always likable/agreeable.
The child of Crystal and Quicksilver, often sought after by villains or treated as a miracle, though she registered as a baseline normal human being, because she was thought to be the only offspring ever of a mutant and an Inhuman, she is in fact, the offspring of two Inhumans.
A lot of villains, and the world’s top geneticists probably all feel stupid now.
Marissa journeys to fabled Manhattan with Crystal, to live at the Avengers Mansion and take care of Luna. Also, she’s there to harass Jarvis, faithful Avenger butler, and to command a legion of kitchen staff she occasionally teleports over from Attilan. Outside of being goblinesque and ferocious, she never exhibits much in the way of superhuman powers, but she knows her work, and that’s probably what counts.
Marissa needs a comeback. She was fun.
born Maximus Boltagon
Maximus the Mad is the insane and insanely jealous brother of Black Bolt, the prince who didn’t get the crown. Except sometimes he steals it and the power that comes with. Maximus is the comic book villain that Mark Hamill voiced, that didn’t launch a dedicated fanbase, but that was that cartoon’s fault, not Hamill’s or a fault in Maximus, as a character. A telepath, tactical genius, inventor, and complete bastard, Maximus is aided and, inevitably, hobbled by being severely mentally ill. He could just go around controlling minds and getting what he wants, but too much of what he wants is for his people to willingly admit he’s the best ever, or to squirm and cry and wet themselves while he destroys what is precious to them.
Jack Kirby drew the best Maximus, with his wonky bowl cut and perpetual creepy-eyes, and Paul Jenkins, for my money, wrote him the finest, as a slimy, sadistic man who talks a good and noble game, but isn’t really building towards anything, he’s just piling dung onto dung hoping to make a kingdom.
born Mudusalith Amaquelin Boltagon
The sister of Crystal and wife of Black Bolt, Medusa is usually queen of the Inhumans of Attilan, a smart and patient woman who acts as her husband’s right hand, when she isn’t amnesiac and being a supervillain, which is a thing that happened. Medusa has the ability to move her hair like tendrils, whether it is attached to her head or not, using it to grasp, pull, tether or hit as she likes. She is direct, physical and communicative, and probably rules Attilan and its people more than her husband, in all but title.
The current Ms. Marvel is a teenage girl from New Jersey who had no idea she was an Inhuman until the recent silliness when a bunch of humans around the globe found out that somewhen along the line, an ancestor clearly hooked up with an Inhuman and somebody had a baby. She already felt like an outsider from her family and neighborhood, now she’s Inhuman and still wearing a costume. She doesn’t seem to be letting this get in her way, continuing as a superhero who can alter the size of her body parts and generally kick butt.
FYI, Ms. Marvel is one of the best-written Marvel books right now.
aka Pietro Maximoff
Once thought to be the child of the Whizzer and Miss America, then understood to be the son of Magneto, which now also isn't true, this brother of the Scarlet Witch will soon be seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The first non-Inhuman to knowingly marry an Inhuman, and a superfast, frustrated, and incredibly passionate man, it recently turns out Pietro was Inhuman all along. How the Genetics Council of Attilan, perhaps the most learned body of geneticists on Earth, as well as some of the finest experts on mutants, a couple super-advanced alien races, and the self-titled High Evolutionary, the greatest human geneticist to ever live, all missed this while he was in charge of the Attilan military forces, working as an agent of the US government, serving as an Avenger, or bouncing around in the early Magneto/Xavier terrorist action and response wars… who knows!
If it’s some benefit to logic, neither his sister or his daughter, Luna, were identified correctly, either, there in fact being an entire crossover dedicated to the special mutant/ Inhuman status of his daughter, who read, genetically, as a baseline human being.
Toro, the former kid sidekick of the original robot Human Torch and relative of the Torch’s designer, has been dragged into the present day, and then found out, he’s an Inhuman. Exciting! This is also called “too much backstory,” but some people find that exciting. Toro is rash, sometimes jealous, incredibly determined, and that’s why he spent most of World War Two flying into battle on fire with nothing but shorts on.
The brother of Karnak. Triton, the aquatic Inhuman, is both quite older than many of the other Inhumans we regularly read about, and one of the most widely-traveled of these normally reclusive people. Triton breathes water, usually through an apparatus. He is much stronger and faster than a normative human being, but was on one occasion exposed to high levels of gamma radiation, resulting in a Hulk-like, spined form. Like Prince Namor, the Submariner, with whom he usually has a good relationship, Triton is both weathered and impetuous, and like Namor, he knows how to politick and how to throw down.
He should probably be hulked out again, sometime. That was fun.
born Dewoz, deprived of an individual name when he appeared to be an Alpha Primitive
Poor Woz, the Inhuman who became, when receiving his terrigenesis, an Alpha Primitive. Is his brain slowing and his will to resist shame fading because he’s a bestial, ignorant slave, as Maximus assures him, or is there more going on? Well, come on, there’s obviously more going on.
Like Karnak, Woz’s (true) powers are best described ultimately in metaphor, as they encompass a range that is only thematically unified. Which, to me, is something magical that remains with the Inhumans while being rare in the rest of Marvel or DC, shared universes that increasingly have no room for metaphorically-linked or thematic powers.
The Crimson Cadre
An elite strike for, the Crimson Cadre are silly fun to read about, but deadly adversaries in battle. Lead by General Ator, their members include the wooden Inhuman who is not Timberius, called Rootar, Eelak the Agile, a man-hating egotist, Margoyle, and Glaboo, a big lump of sentient yellow goo.
A deliberately retro team, the Cadre were introduced in the mid-90s, but successfully feel like they’d already been around thirty years.
The Dark Riders
Apocalypse, tired of just ruining mutants' lives and commanding an army of genocidal supercharged Horseman who always lose their fights anyway, put together a crack team of Inhumans, including a guy with arm-blades called Foxbat, a tiny and psychic cousin of Crystal and Medusa, as well as a man with no hands who shoots stuff and a cyborg. They look really cool, they picked a fight with Cyclops once, and they've pretty much not been heard from since the 90s.
And they are very due a resurrection.
The Guys Who Always Join Maximus
They may be Royal Guards, they could be tattoo artists, cleaners, or cooks, but there are some in Attilan who will sign up with Maximus every single time he attempts a coup. Sometimes brainwashing is involved, but even when it’s just to alleviate boredom, Timberius, Leonus, Avius, and the like will sign up when Maximus will be king, be it of Attilan or some random island nation, like Costa Salvador, and then return to general Inhuman society under the rule of Black Bolt, as law-abiding, often in high-ranking or working-with-the-public positions.
And people wonder why Maximus keeps trying to take over, or makes fun of how his brother runs things.