We all know about Marvel’s current urgency to make The Inhumans the centre of their universe. It is clear to see that with the upcoming rebranding of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver to Inhumans in The Avengers movies, as well as Agent Coulson sketching maps of The Inhumans main city Attilan in Agents of Shield (p.s. Sky is an Inhuman!). The question remains, just who or what are The Inhumans?
The Inhumans first appeared in Fantastic Four #45 (December 1965). The Inhumans appeared as a back-up feature in Thor #146 (Nov. 1967) to #152 (May 1968). They then fought the Silver Surfer in Silver Surfer #18 (September 1970) and starred in Amazing Adventures #1 (Aug. 1970) to #10 (Jan. 1972). The characters received their own self-titled series in October 1975. This ran for 12 issues and ended in August 1977. An Inhumans limited series by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee ran for 12 issues from November 1998-October 1999. A four-issue limited series by writers Carlos Pacheco and Rafael Marín and artist José Ladrönn was published in 2000. The fourth volume (2003-2004, 12 issues) concentrated largely on new characters within the Inhumans’ society. Following events in the Secret Invasion, the Inhumans appeared on one side of the War of Kings storyline, with Black Bolt being made king of the Kree, facing off against Vulcan, who is leading the Shi’ar.
So where did The Inhumans come from?
At the beginning of the Kree-Skrull War, millions of years ago in Earth time, the alien Kree established a station on the planet Uranus, a strategic position between the Kree and Skrull empires. Through their work at this station, they discovered that sentient life on nearby Earth had genetic potential invested in it by the alien Celestials. Intrigued, the Kree began to experiment on Earth’s then-primitive Homo sapiens to produce the genetically advanced Inhuman race. Their goal was apparently twofold—to investigate possible ways of circumventing their own evolutionary stagnation, and to create a powerful mutant race of soldiers for use against the Skrulls. Although their experiments were successful in creating a strain of humanity with extraordinary abilities, the Kree abandoned their experiment because a genetic prophecy had predicted that the experiments would eventually lead to an anomaly who would destroy the Kree Supreme Intelligence.
Their test subjects, the Inhumans, went on to form a society of their own, which thrived in seclusion from the rest of humanity and developed advanced technology. Experiments with the mutagenic Terrigen Mist (a process known as Terrigenesis) gave them various powers, but caused lasting genetic damage and deformities. This led to a long-term selective breeding program in an attempt to mitigate the effects of these mutations.
Attilan’s society and culture are predicated on a conformist belief system which permits individuality as it applies to genetic development and physical and mental ability, but demands rigid conformity in that each member of society is assigned a place within that society according to those abilities following exposure to the Terrigen Mist. Once assigned, no Inhuman, no matter how great or powerful, can change their place within this rigid caste system. Although a member of the Royal Family, Crystal married outside the Inhuman race to the mutant Quicksilver.
The Inhumans are led by their king, Black Bolt, and his Royal Family, consisting of Medusa, Karnak, Gorgon, Triton, Crystal, Maximus the Mad, and the canine Lockjaw. Both Crystal and Medusa have been members of the Fantastic Four; Crystal has been a member of the Avengers as well.
Black Bolt has guided the Inhumans through some of the most turbulent times in their history, including several attempts by Maximus to usurp the throne, revolts by the worker class (with their eventual emancipation), attacks by human renegades, the kidnapping of Medusa, the destruction and rebuilding of Attilan, and the revelation of the Inhumans’ existence to humanity.
His role as king of the Inhumans has been tumultuous. The first major crisis occurred when he and Medusa conceived a child. Medusa bore the child in defiance of the Genetic Council, who felt that Black Bolt’s bloodline was too dangerous to pass on. The Council nonetheless took the child to examine, and forbade parental contact. Black Bolt was torn between his love of family and his duty to respect the Genetic Council, and it was only when the Council was revealed to be using his son in a plot against him that he finally turned against the Council. With that, he gave up the crown as king of the Inhumans. For a while, they lived away from Attilan, but returned in times of need.
The once-secret existence of the race has come to light among the general public as the Inhumans interact more often with many of Earth’s superheroes — including the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and the X-Men — whom they have aided against threats such as Doctor Doom, Ultron 7, Magneto, and Apocalypse.
Inhuman society changed radically when Ronan the Accuser sought to use the Inhumans as an army to disrupt the Shi’ar control of the Kree after their defeat in the Kree-Shi’ar War. Appearing over the city of Attilan, Ronan seized control in a surprise attack and forced the Inhumans and their king, Black Bolt, to obey, or he would destroy their only home and everyone in it. During their time in forced servitude, Ronan revealed that the Inhumans had always been intended as weapons in service to the Kree. To this end, much of the genetic attributes that were encoded in them during the original experiments were meant to give them the abilities and appearances of various alien races, the idea being that these Inhuman slaves could be used to infiltrate alien worlds and races to conduct espionage or assassinations to weaken potential conquests. Ronan used the Inhumans in just this manner, disrupting treaties being negotiated by the Shi’ar, and launching attacks on ships and bases.
Eventually, Black Bolt sought to free his people by challenging Ronan to a personal battle. If Ronan won, the Inhumans would continue to serve him. If the king won, the Inhumans would go free. After a terrible battle, Black Bolt won and Ronan, demonstrating that the Kree still had honor, kept his word and left the Inhumans. All was not over, as the Inhumans were not willing to just follow Black Bolt back to Earth. Pressure had been building in the closed society of Attilan since open contact with the outside world had been made. During their enslavement by Ronan, the Inhumans had wished for their freedom, but had developed a sense of pride in their power and a belief in their own destiny. They no longer believed that Black Bolt or the Royal Family was fit to lead them in the new life they wanted, and they exiled the Royal Family from Attilan. The Royal Family returned to Earth to find their destiny. After suffering bigotry while living in Latveria, they returned to Attilan, which was located on the Blue Area of the Moon. The Inhumans began to foster better relations with Earth by sending students to a Wisconsin university.
Throughout history, their city Attilan has frequently been relocated and, as of the 2008 War of Kings story arc, has taken off from the oxygen-bearing Blue Area of the Moon into space.
Son of M
In the events of Son of M, Quicksilver stole the Terrigen Crystals in an attempt to regain his powers and cure the de-powered mutants from M-Day. The theft led to a conflict on Genosha between the re-powered mutants (whose powers came back as too powerful for their own good causing their eventual surrender), the Inhumans, and the U.S. Office of National Emergency. The conflict ended with the O.N.E. confiscating the Terrigen Crystals, an act that incited Black Bolt to verbally declare war on the United States.
In January 2007, the mini-series Silent War began, with Gorgon launching a first strike on New York. Although the Inhumans do manage to recover the crystals, the episode ends with Maximus again taking control of Attilan.
New Avengers: Illuminati
It has been revealed that Black Bolt has been replaced by a Skrull impostor, in a time frame after Silent War, but before World War Hulk. The impostor revealed himself to the Illuminati and was killed. Both the sudden rift between Medusa and Black Bolt apparent in Silent War and Black Bolt’s later defeat at the hands of Hulk in World War Hulk could be attributed to this development, for it is uncertain just when Black Bolt might have been replaced by his Skrull duplicate.
The Inhuman Royal Family confronts the Unspoken, a cousin of Black Bolt.
Secret Invasion: Inhumans
Written by Heroes writer Joe Pokaski, this story digs into how the Inhuman Royal Family deals with the news that the Black Bolt had been replaced by a Skrull imposter. The Skrulls attack Attilan while Black Bolt is revealed to be a prisoner of the Skrulls, who intend to use his voice as a weapon of mass destruction. The Inhuman Royal Family defeated several Skrulls soldiers and took a Skrull ship with the point of taking the war to the Skrulls and save Black Bolt. With some help from the Kree, they rescue Black Bolt and return to Attilan.
War of Kings
Finally deciding they will no longer be used and abused by other races, the Inhumans take drastic action to ensure their survival as a race. To that end, they activate a series of long dormant machines beneath the city of Attilan, transforming it into a gigantic starship, powered by Black Bolt’s voice. Breaking free from its resting place on the Moon, Attilan enters hyperspace and tracks down the remnants of the Skrull Armada, completely eradicating it. As Attilan enters Shi’ar space, it attracts the attention of three Shi’ar warships, who order them to depart or they will open fire. They too are destroyed without mercy.
Attilan reaches the planet Hala, destroying the protective shield that guards their weakened empire and enter the planet itself. The Royal Family confronts Ronan the Accuser, who is serving as king. He admitted he felt that he was just holding the spot of ruler for their true king, Black Bolt (like the Celestials, the Kree experimented on the humans to create the perfect weapons and the Inhumans were created, but Black Bolt declined the seat of king, then).
Realm of Kings
The T-Bomb has killed Black Bolt, leaving leadership to Queen Medusa. The Inhuman royal family struggles to maintain their grip on the Kree empire. The Alpha Primitives revolt, Maximus tries to take the throne, the Kree aristocracy revolts rise up, which erodes the Inhuman’s rule.
Back on Earth, the Fantastic Four encounter an interstellar group of Inhumans formed from the Centaurians, the Dire Wraiths, the Kymellians, and the Badoons. These new Inhumans reveal that the Kree experimented on other interstellar races, aside from humans, and used methods other than the Terrigen Mists. The resulting Universal Inhumans have banded together and travelled to Earth in search of Black Bolt, who they believe will lead their collective people in an eventual takeover of Earth. When Black Bolt returned, the Universal Inhumans arrive on Earth’s moon where a prophecy revolving around the four cities is revealed. Together they go to Earth to defeat the four Reeds from the Interdimensional Council.
Meanwhile, the resurrected Supreme Intelligence orders the Kree to launch an attack to destroy the Earth and the Inhumans in a bid to prevent the genetic prophecy from occurring. They are repelled with the Inhumans in pursuit.
During the events of Infinity, Thanos and his forces attack Attilan and offer to spare the city in exchange for a tribute: the deaths of all Inhumans between the ages of 16 and 22. Black Bolt surmises that the offering is a ruse to hide the fact that Thanos actually desires the death of Thane, a half-Inhuman youth he had fathered years earlier. The search for Thane eventually reveals that secret Inhuman tribes have existed on Earth for years and mated with its population, producing a number of seemingly-normal humans who possess dormant Inhuman genes. In response to Thanos’ threat, Black Bolt and Maximus evacuate Attilan before destroying it as a show of defiance The destruction of the city activates the Terrigenisis Bomb, a creation of Maximus, which spreads the Terrigen Mist across the globe and activates special abilities within numerous unsuspecting humans who were Inhuman descendants.
During the Inhumanity storyline, Karnak was left mentally scarred by said events and begun destroying the upper west side of Manhattan, babbling and sobbing uncontrollably. He was taken into custody by the Avengers. In Stark Tower, Karnak explained to the Avengers what happened during their fight with Thanos and what it meant for the Inhumans. When he was questioning himself for the reason for Black Bolt to spread the Terrigen Mists and what would happen next, Karnak had an epiphany in which he finally saw “the fault in all things.” He told Medusa who was present during his interrogation that she needed to forget everything she thought she knew, ignore the instincts, and forget the past. Otherwise, all would be lost. Following this revelation in which he stated it was too late for him to unlearn a lifetime of error, Karnak shattered the window from his containment cell and jumped out of the Stark Tower killing himself.
A recent Avengers A.I. adventure involved an elderly widow named Doris who turned to attorney Matt Murdock for help after her bank foreclosed on her home. After being exposed to the Terrigen Mist, she transformed into an octopus-like creature with masses of tentacles in place of arms. She attacked the Avengers A.I. before being persuaded to stop by Doombot. Doris then took off for parts unknown with Medusa.