Animated Brain Trust Supplement: INHUMANS

Yesterday saw the release of Marvel Knights Animation Presents INHUMANS, an animated adaptation of the already classic Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee maxiseries. I’m assuming that this won’t be on the radar for a full podcast, so I figured I’d do my best one man written version of our typical talks about the latest in the world of comic book animated films.


jack+kirby.+the+inhumans.+page.+001The Inhumans were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and debuted in the pages of Fantastic Four #45 in 1965. They are a race of humans modified millenia ago by the Kree and then abandoned to form their own society. When an inhuman comes of age, they are exposed to the Terrigen Mist, which unlocks their unique genetic code and makes them “a subspecies of one.” Jenkins comments on the obvious metaphor of puberty, but also the less obvious metaphor of the American melting pot, which is something I hadn’t considered before but does make sense. The inhumans are ruled by genocracy (a term I love) where I assume those with the best genes are in charge, a role currently filled by Blackagar Boltagon, also known as Black Bolt. Black Bolt is one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe, a single whisper from him could level a mountain, thus he rules in silence. He is aided by his wife Medusa, her sister Crystal, and the rest of the royal family Karnak, Gorgon, and Triton. The Inhumans all live in the city of Atillan, a ‘utopian’ place under an impenetrable dome, because the pollution in the atmosphere would kill them were they exposed to it. I say ‘utopian’ because like other literary utopias such a Brave New World, the Inhuman society functions on the back of genetically inferior Alpha Primitives, who live under the city and spend their entire existence working to keep the necessary machinery of Atillan running.

The plot of the Jenkin’s and Lee book is what happens when humanity discovers Atillan, and starts immediately trying to blow it up. Black Bolt seems to have a plan, but even his closest advisors begin to fill with doubt as Inhuman defeat seems more and more imminent  I won’t say more than that to keep everything spoiler free.

The Nuts And Bolts

The movie is broken up into 12 nearly 12-minute segments. Each segment seems to track nearly 1-to-1 with an issue of the original series. There is also a half hour of bonus content featuring interviews with Joe Quesada, Paul Jenkins, and one of the women involved in converting Jae Lee’s art to animation. The interview is pretty interesting because of how revolutionary Marvel Knights was at the time but now feels more mainstream than anything else. It covers the beginnings of the collaboration between Jae Lee and Paul Jenkins, as well as Jenkin’s philosophy for writing ‘superhero’ comics, and how the collaboration almost fell apart due to how unexpectedly successful the book became. The interview is much more about the book than the movie, with both Quesada and Jenkins basically shrugging and saying, “Hope it looks good when it’s done!” Which is fine because it’s such a direct adaptation I can’t imagine much in the way of commentary adding anything substantive. So how about the actual feature?

The Movie

marvel animation inhumansAs you could probably tell by this point I’ve been dancing around the fact that this is basically a motion comic, in the same vein as Spider-Woman or Iron Man: Extremis. The animators have taken Jae Lee’s art and made it move around, added some effects and recorded some audio. I’m not sure Jae Lee’s art is the kind of art best suited for this treatment, but even as someone who feels lackluster towards motion comics I thought this worked pretty well. The only time it really fell apart were the scenes set in the human word outside Atillan, but under the dome it fits with the weirdness of Inhuman society.  The disjointed, sometimes flat, and jerky movements could just be how that particular inhuman moves. The sometimes awkward camera pans could just be the odd proportions of that character. And all the tech, which is supposed to look weird, does. Check out the trailer here and see for yourself. I think the times when the animation really helped the story were in animating Queen Medusa’s hair, which is static by default when just drawn on the page.

And I have to point out that the stand out character for me was Karnak. If you don’t know, Karnak’s ability is to see the flaw in everything, which is a very subtle yet incredibly powerful ability and plays a critical role throughout the narrative. It would be easy to play him like Spock, cold and emotionless, but the film does a really good job of showing the warmth he has for his family, his city, and his king.

I haven’t read the book in awhile, but I can remember at least a few sequences in the book that didn’t make it to the movie, but I think other sequences also should have been chopped or at least adapted. For better or worse, keeping as close as they did to the source material left things feeling a bit dated. Having Texan good ole boys run roughshod over U.N. diplomacy seemed like a commentary on a different time in American politics. Reed Richards talking to Bill Maher and Jay Leno telling Inhumans jokes were just… weird, and I think could have been handled with a bit more elegance and updating.

The other quirk I noticed was how abrupt each episode was. The cuts are all very fast, scenes end on a note that could use a moment to breathe but instead race on to the next plot point. This was especially noticeable at the end of each  episode, which usually finished with a reveal or cliffhanger of some kind but cut so quickly to credits that there was simply no time as a viewer to process what had just happened. I will admit getting a bit bored about midway through, but then the climax starts to build and I really wanted to finish it, having not remembered how the book ended.

So those are my thoughts on Marvel Knights Animation Presents INHUMANS. I would say it’s nonessential, but if you really liked the book this is an interesting reinterpretation of the source material, and the bonus material provides some nice extra insight into the history and philosophy behind the story.

Anybody else in the iFanbase pick this up and care to share their thoughts? Let us know in the comments!


Ryan Haupt wrote about Black Bolt once before but couldn’t find a place to insert it into the above article. Hear him insert knowledge into your ears on the podcast Science… sort of!


  1. I love this Inhuman Series. I love animations (most of em). But for some reason I just can’t stand motion comics. Is it just me or does DC produce all the best animations while Marvel seems to stick to motion comics?

    • It’s not just you. Marvel seems to have abandoned their forays into proper animation. They weren’t doing too bad with their Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Planet Hulk, Hulk VS. Thor/Wolverine direct to DVD’s, but it seems they have lost interest in producing anything.

      Personally I would LOVE more kid friendly direct to DVD offerings in the vein of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes that I could share with kids and nephews. But I guess that’s what Ultimate Spider-Man and the upcoming Avengers and HUlk series are for.