Inhumanity: The Awakening Review
The major 2014 event of Marvel comics is well underway with Inhumanity but since I prefer to save a review until I've gotten the whole story, let's focus in on a short tangent story line about some of the fallout of the new world order in the Marvel Universe.
At the end of the last major event a Terrigen bomb was detonated by Black Bolt and his brother Maximus. The bomb not only destroyed the Inhuman city of Attilan but spread the mutagenic Terrigen mists across Earth's atmosphere. This in turn led to a startling revelation, there have been Inhumans living amongst Earth's human population for centuries. Almost all of these individuals had no idea that they weren't wholly human and so seemingly random families that have been exposed to the Terrigen are having their genetic anomalies awakened and developing powers.
Awakenings is a two issue story that bridges a bit of the gap, and like so many comics have to do now, give the kid groups something to do while the big boys wait their turn to do something significant in the main story line. Featuring members of both Avengers Academy and students from the Jean Grey School. Actually the story only really deals with two members from each team so let's jump into it.
We start with the clean up and social media eruption in the wake of Infinity. All super heroes are on deck doing what I love to see heroes do. They aren't out fighting crime in the punch out of the week, but helping people put their lives back together. Aiding in rescue and rebuilding to bring some normality back into the world. It's a side that often gets overlooked for the sake of big explosions and I've always enjoyed it. During this time Pixie is paying particular attention to a Twitter feed as a young girl charts not only her exposure to the Terrigen cloud but her subsequent transformation. How she is treated by her mother, brother and the people around her.
Fearing she's about to commit suicide Pixie teleports herself, Quire, Finesse and Striker just in time to catch her fall. We see how after her exposure she develops feathers instead of hair along with lines of them on her forearms. Her mother tries to be supportive but is rather bad at hiding her fear, her brother is as all little brothers in comics a pissant and she's concerned about going outside. That is until she realizes she can grow wings out of her forearms and fly. Elation however turns to tragedy as after she lands a couple of school bullies beat her up, tearing out many of her feathers. All of this is shown across social media and we see the various comments and reactions to it.
This bit of the comic could have been rather brilliant actually. Few could say that social media has had a negligible effect on the world. Everything we do in the modern developed nations has changed because of social media. Major corporations hire people to make and maintain social media groups for their products and the way human beings interact with one another has changed dramatically. Making use of this in comics is a very good idea because it allows the reader a better look into the world. The X-Men comics of the 90's just had anti-mutant braying mobs and that was what we saw of the rest of the world besides our heroes. The fact of the matter is, our reality is far more colourful than that and providing access to larger groups within the comic world makes them feel more real.
At least it would if it was handled well. Instead we end up with what is a secondary and distracting story line as two people comment back and forth through blue text boxes revealing waaaay more personal information on an open forum than could be considered appropriate. It's a good concept to showcase this girl's new powers and how her world changes, it falls apart when it continues longer than it should.
The second issue tackles how the young girl's younger brother reacts when his mutation takes effect. Essentially a smaller and weaker version of the Hulk he charges right to the building where the bullies who drove his sister to her suicide attempt. While he doesn't kill anyone he shows them what for but the lesson seems a bit lost. Loads of talking about inclusiveness and being okay with yourself and the normal blah, blah, blah that these stories usually go into leaves some otherwise interesting young members of both X-Men and Avengers out in the rain without an umbrella.
The biggest complaints come in the form of breaking and ret-conning the established lore. Firstly, Inhumans don't go through a chrysalis stage when they are exposed to Terrigen. Secondly, terrigen is supposed to be harmful to regular humans.
The more damming in my opinion is that they set an age limit to these exposure mutations. With terrigen all over the atmosphere we should be seeing mutations occurring across the age strata and we are not getting this. Instead everything we have seen is little different from natural mutation during puberty. If the terrigen is activating the mutations of long ancestral lines of Inhumans we should be seeing whole families transform and that's not what we're getting.
Overall the comics do accomplish a few things. We get to see how average people are reacting to suddenly finding out that they aren't entirely human and it works with the lore established in Inhumans. That once their mutation manifests, they find their true selves and a measure of happiness being what they were meant to be. It's the societal reaction to these mutations that is causing the problems that can only be solved via pep talk. Hearing about widespread mutation and people losing control of their powers is one thing, seeing and interacting with these people is another.
Secondly we get to see some more interesting fallout from this. With such a sudden rash of new mutated abilities the world is once again brimming with the super powered and many of them are young children. In response to this there are several schools for the superhuman that have flung their doors wide open to these new people. The Jean Grey School and Avengers Academy of course but we also have others in the form of schools in Wakanda, India, The Braddock school in England and my favourite, Latveria.
Of course, depending on how the event goes we may not get to keep these newly developed potential heroes and villains but as with Spider Island it's fun to see them kicking around while they are here.