In Attilan, no one can, or should, hear Black Bolt scream.
The Marvel Knights: Inhumans movie has been released. It is an adaptation of the 12 issue Marvel Knights comic written by Paul Jenkins with art by Jae Lee. Come ponder with me the reasoning of the king of the Inhumans, Black Bolt, as he navigates the politics of humans and near gods.
This Shout! Factory release is a motion comic. I can’t say that I was entirely pleased by that prospect. A lot of motion comics take away from the internal experience of reading comics. And the limited motion does no favors to the animation genre. For a long time, the motion comic did nothing for me. Then the Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D., Iron Man: Extremis, and the Astonishing X-Men: Gifted series were released and changed my opinion of this new medium to a more positive outlook. That is when I figured out subtlety is the key to a good motion comic execution.
How does the Inhumans movie measure up in this bold new genre? Have a look below the jump to find out.
The Inhumans story begins with their main city of Attilan under global scrutiny by human governments. The humans want whatever technology or science they can scrounge from the Inhuman society. The Inhumans don’t really care about human wants or needs. They just want to be left alone. Maximus the Mad, brother of the Inhuman King Black Bolt, has his own plans. Maximus wants out of his Attilan prison to do whatever insane relatives feel they need to do.
That’s the stage. Human geopolitical machinations and ruminations on the Inhuman Royal Family.
Having a lead character that doesn’t speak is troublesome. You end up using voice-over narration or having the other characters in define your motivations. The Inhumans movie utilizes both tricks. Black Bolt cannot speak. His slightest whisper can destroy mountains. You can imagine what his voice can do to any people around him. We learn his motivations via his extended royal family, his subjects and the human antagonists. On the initial viewing this made Black Bolt a tough guy to figure out. I became critical of his tactics just as his royal siblings and Inhuman subjects did. But on the second viewing there is a strategy to be learned and appreciated. A strategy that I suspect played out best in the Marvel Knights 12-issue series where you would have almost all the time in the world to play this kind of gambit.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me drop off a few more likes before I fall into the dislikes. What I liked most about this adaptation was the smaller stories, the (in)human character pieces, that defined select citizens of Attilan. Tonaja and her teenage group taking their rite of passage of terrigenesis. Rexel Toiven, a “nobody” in inhuman culture who decides to take up arms against the humans for his king. The internal conflict of Karnak the Shatterer who’s ability is to see the weak point of structures, living beings or plans of attack. In the bonus features Jenkins admits Karnak is one of his favorite characters. It definitely shows. Karnak is one of the few Inhumans that I could really get a lock on who he was and what he was up to. As for the voice work, the entire cast did a splendid job but it was Brian Drummond‘s take on Maximus the Mad that stood out most. You can hear the shear joy Drummond was having chewing on Maximus’ lines.
Now on to the dislikes. The main story was lacking. As strong as the individual pieces were, the overarching plot was weak. I can only speak for this motion comic adaptation but it feels like the main story point was crushed under the weight of how important it felt it needed to be. Cameos by Namor playing his usual role as king of the undersea douchebags and Reed Richards appearing on the Bill Maher show did little to enhance the severity of the situation. In the end they came off as forced cameos.
Another annoying bit was that each chapter kept repeating information we already knew. It’s not as if this was a monthly comic and we needed the ‘previously on’ exposition in order to grab new readers and catch up old readers. This is a movie that you’re, hopefully, watching in one go. They’re constantly rebuilding tension that was already established episodes before. Thus miring down the plot and halting any story momentum they managed to build.
Jae Lee’s art did not survive being turned into a motion comic. Lee’s art is highly stylistic and already gives the illusion of motion in each page of his work. Chopping up his characters and turning them into Photoshopped string puppets gutted much of Lee’s beautiful work. It took me years to appreciate Lee’s style and all the dark-edged nuance he brought to his pages. It took the Inhumans movie 132 minutes to trivialize years of artist maturation. If this were a true animated feature steps would have been taken to adapt Lee’s style to animation. A good example of this is how DC adapted Frank Quitely’s art in All Star Superman into a true animated feature.
There is only one bonus feature on this disc and it centers on an interview with the Marvel Knights Inhumans comics series writer Paul Jenkins. Joe Quesada is interviewed as well but he’s more of the standard press release setup for the movie. Jenkins interview started off as a standard fare as well but as he went on I found myself wrapped up in how he approached the comic series. I’m a sucker for listening to good professional writers describe their progress.
It took two viewings in order to really get the master plan that was being spun in this Inhumans DVD outing. The strength of Paul Jenkins words is what makes me look on this motion comic with a certain fondness. But what was done to Jae Lee’s art is unforgivable. I have a hope that one day Marvel will take a cue from DC and release true animated features of their most popular trade paperbacks. But it seems these quick and dirty motion comic excursions are all we’re going to get from the House of Ideas in the near future.
On a scale of buy, rent, or pass, I place the Marvel Knights: Inhumans DVD at “rent.” It’ll be on Netflix one day and you’ll be bored and needing to kill 132 minutes. Now you know what movie to queue up.