This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on April 5, 2016.
Here at Comics Bulletin we’ve had Chase Magnett read through and review the offerings of Marvel’s two biggest franchises The Avengers and The X-Men in week long series. While these two families may have the most history and largest collection of team-based titles at the publisher, there is a new arrival on the scene that isn’t far off. With the announcement of an Inhumans movie from Marvel Studios and the appearance of many Inhumans characters in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the comics branch of the entertainment titan has also begun to push for this third Kirby and Lee created group in their own lineup. This week Chase will be taking a look at all of the most recent Inhumans publications to figure out whether this synergy-oriented publication push is any good outside the boardrooms at Disney.
The Uncanny Inhumans #6
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Brandon Peterson
Colors by Java Tartaglia
Letters by Clayton Cowles
The Uncanny Inhumans #6 eschews some of the big set pieces and overt sci-fi and superhero influences of its opening arc in order to capture a very different tone in this issue. It’s a comic that is still clearly set in the Marvel Universe, but places that in the loosely noir-based setting of Black Bolt’s Quiet Room. It’s a story of well-dressed men and women pursuing mysteries and vendettas in a smoky parlor atmosphere that makes the entire issue a lot more fun. The execution of this setting leaves something to be desired, but the ideas behind it are enough to make for a satisfying read of a comic book.
Charles Soule’s script indulges lots of strange ideas that could only be made to work in the continuity-rich universes of Marvel and DC Comics. A doomsday duel of wits between two megalomaniacal geniuses over a poker table, a UFC matchup of two subterranean heavy weights gone awry, a whodunnit loaded with alien races and technology: any of these ideas could make a superhero comic pop, and they’re all loaded into this one. It’s how these concepts are presented that leads to varying degrees of success. A borderline house style of artwork and page layouts fails to emphasize the maniacal energy of any particular plot thread and the scripting and dialogue never pushes for more than an enjoyment of the quirkiness of the ideas themselves.
Underage Inhuman Treste’s excursion to the Quiet Room, a C-plot in Uncanny Inhumans #6, is a great example of how good ideas are failed by their execution in this comic. Treste is undercover attempting to pump information from investigator Reader. When she receives word that her guardian is coming to the club however, she chooses to simply remain there anyway dropping any chance to build tension or create a sense of dramatic irony when he arrives. It also plays on the fact that a 16 year old girl is flirting with a blind man, but this scenario is never plumbed for humor or a reveal.
Reader’s lack of awareness about their age difference due to his sight isn’t readily apparent to readers either. Brandon Peterson fails to portray Treste as being even close to her own age. Both she and her sister who is not attempting to dress as being older are depicted as fully developed women somewhere in their mid-twenties. It shows a lack of ability to show a variance of age, opting to sexualize 16 year olds in the same manner as the grown women in this issue. It not only fails to serve the story, but appears to serve a lecherous tendency all too prevalent in mainstream superhero comics.
Peterson’s design of the Quiet Room and its clientele is much more enjoyable. It is a high rollers Vegas-style venue where everyone still wears custom-fitted tuxedos and slinky dresses, but the bodies that fill those outfits are often much stranger. Seeing moloids and The Leader dressed up for a night out is a lot of fun, as are garnishments like an oversized version of Black Bolt’s head piece on the wall like a sculpture. It’s possible to imagine an entire series being set around the ongoings of this one locale, which speaks to the quality of the concept and the depth Peterson adds to it.
While Black Bolt’s tussling and the ongoing mystery also leave a lot to be desired beyond their core concept, the B-plot of a duel between The Mad Thinker and The Leader is made to be as much fun as it can be. Simply stepping into the scene between the two enhances the entire issue and the Quiet Room itself. This is treated as an everyday problem, heightening the atmosphere. The manner in which Iso solves the problem adds a great deal of humor to the situation and capitalizes on both her powers and the unique obstacles presented. Despite being secondary to the plot and resolved in the course of only a few pages, this event is the reason to read Uncanny Inhumans #6.
It also raises the question of how much better moments like this could still be. Peterson’s layouts and individual panel design are efficient, but never present a spark of ingenuity. Panels land with thuds across almost every page as events follow in a predictable fashion. Dialogue is allowed to explain anything that cannot be seen on the surface. While it functions well in a basic superhero comic, this level of presentation (along with the dialogue) fail to rise to the high concepts that makes Uncanny Inhumans #6 read like a comic with great potential.
Those big ideas are both what makes this issue enjoyable and what highlights the various flaws present throughout. Uncanny Inhumans #6 is a comic that reads like a rough draft in many ways. The storytelling from page layouts to plotting to dialogue all read like thumbnails and first drafts, elements developed with craft, but in need of refinement. It’s the case of a comic being good enough, rather than good.