For most people, the name Inhumans doesn’t mean much. It certainly doesn’t conjure the same level of recognition that The Avengers, Fantastic Four or X-men do. That doesn’t mean that there’s not interesting story attached to this Marvel franchise. The Inhumans were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in 1965 and made their first appearance in the Fantastic Four that year. Though the history of this group of superheroes is long, they never found the commercial success of the big Marvel names. This relative anonymity offered a great opportunity for a reboot, which is exactly what Marvel Knights did with the series back in 1998.
Marvel Knights Animation is a hybrid comic-animation series where the original comic art is enhanced and animated for video. The work is scored and voiced, but the end result isn’t quite the same as standard animated media. The drawback is that there is no full motion, but that’s counterbalanced with the quality of the original artwork. In the case of Inhumans, that art work is the work of the iconic Jae Lee. Individual episodes are available on iTunes digitally or as collection from Shout Factory on DVD.
The bonus feature on the Inhumans DVD release gives a lot of insight into how a lesser known group in the Marvel Universe ended up getting such an impressive reboot. The majority of the nearly half hour long segment is spent with Eisner Award-Winning Writer Paul Jenkins. Though the presentation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s classic work was often geared towards a younger audience, many of the themes were actually much more relevant. It was this aspect of the Inhumans’ story that appealed most to Jenkins. Even though he had almost no knowledge of their lore was able to pick up on the spirit of the classic characters and give them new life.
Jenkins’ version of the Inhumans is part Heroes, part Game of Thrones. The Inhumans are a race of genetic mutants that live on secluded island kingdom of Attilan, preferring not to mix with the outside world. What makes their plight even stranger is that their genetic mutations are self-inflicted. Each Inhuman, endures exposure to the Terrigan Mists in an adolescent rite of passage. It is a strange substance that imparts powers, some extraordinary, some monstrous. In this story, the kingdom of Attilan is under attack from both the outside and within. The Royal Family must repel the foreign invaders who blast at their outer defense and weather the internal threat of the king’s brother.
The Inhumans’ dark and compelling story is certainly worth watching though the lightly animated style isn’t for everyone. Listening to the credit roll music and sitting through those credits every ten minutes or so did start to wear on me about half way through, but the story is genuinely good enough to make up for it. For comic fans, there are a couple of Marvel superheroes with short appearances throughout the episodes. As with other Marvel Knights Animation DVDs, the release is pretty barebones. There is the one bonus feature and the audio is only in stereo English though the transfer is nice and bright. The total running time of the DVD is 132 minutes.