By Christopher Priest, Phil Noto, Gustavo Duarte, Ryan North, and Joe Sabino
Marvel wants to take you back, to a time before Black Bolt was a king and Maximus was mad, a time before the Inhumans as we know them now existed. Inhumans: Once and Future King #1 takes us on a journey back to Attilan and how our characters were shaped to be the ones we know and maybe even love. If you are not familiar with this strong cast of characters then, this is your chance now. The Inhumans are coming to our screen in the form of a live action TV show on ABC so, you bet Marvel wants fans invested and interested into these characters. Priest and Noto deliver a story centered around Maximus, Black Bolt, the then-King at the time, and a young and feisty Medusa. There is even an awesome bonus story at the end, a mini story centered around Lockjaw and The Thing from Duarte and North.
Black Bolt and Maximus have a great dynamic that has and continues to drive many plot points in the Inhumans arcs. They are brothers and they are enemies all at the same time. They care about one another yet, they are both driven to take one another down. Maximus, often called Maximus The Mad, is usually more willing to take extreme measures to best his brother, while Black Bolt often succumbs to mercy and gives leniency when dealing with Maximus. This book predates all the previous interactions, before brother overthrew brother for the crown, attempted stealing of his wife, and all the death and destruction that accompanies it. Priest has a good opportunity here to really explore that dynamic between the two brothers before the crown, which he does by setting them up as almost a tag team against the crazy short sighted then King, who really believes in some backward alpha prime versus alpha primitives relationship that strictly follows moral theory. In this time of the Inhumans, the alpha primitives are treated in a state that brings to mind Egyptian slaves. The costumes, the building of a ridiculous statue in the face of the king, and of course the rebellions. Seeing how Maximus and Black Bolt both individually respond to his backward thinking is telling, especially because Black Bolt’s communications are done through his brother due to his destructive voice.
The art in this book is handled by the The Infinite Horizon and Black Widow artist Phil Noto, and he beautifully handled the depiction of a younger Black Bolt, Maximus, Medusa, and Lockjaw (yes a puppy Lockjaw). The pages are beautifully drawn, with great details in facial expressions, use of color, and panel layouts. The whole book is gorgeous with intricate details and stunning colors that give every page a life like quality that is usually associated with Noto. The specific use of lighting in certain panels does give this story an ethereal vibe at times, particularly with the use of Medusa’s hair. Man oh man, Medusa’s hair is the real star of this issue both in terms of story and art. I suppose it is hard to downplay the queen herself, even if it is a younger non-queen version of Medusa. Her character begs for royal treatment and you’ll enjoy every line of dialogue from Priest and every panel from Noto.
We get a special treat at the end of the issue, a mini story about Lockjaw the dog who can play the ultimate game of catch with The Fantastic Four’s The Thing who is up for the challenge of wearing the pooch out. The story from North with art from Duarte is a fun little romp through a day in the life of Lockjaw, actually doing dog things with The Thing. The story does not add anything to the first story, just makes Lockjaw even more lovable and endearing to the hearts of comic fans across the world. Art from Duarte gives this story a very Sunday newspaper comic feel, lots of white backgrounds, very segments panels to conserve page space, and lots of bright colors. It is a super cute and fun little story to end the issue with. For new readers to the Inhumans, this will certainly get people excited for more Lockjaw.
Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #1 is a good issue to a new series. Marvel is putting a lot of investment into this franchise hoping to make the Inhumans a household name, and this issue does a lot to appeal to the casual comic reader with giving us brother struggles, strong willed female leads, and cute teleporting dogs. This issue is a strong start to a hopefully strong series that will give us more background and history to build to the Inhumans mythos.