Last week, Marvel fans received surprising news: ABC is launching The Inhumans as a live-action series in September 2017. What’s more, the series’ first two episodes will premiere in IMAX, making it the first TV show in history to get an IMAX release. While more Marvel content is never a bad thing, the news left some fans scratching their heads.
Previously, Marvel Studios had planned an Inhumans film as part of its Cinematic Universe. Yet, after Phase Three added Ant-Man and the Wasp and Spider-Man: Homecoming to its jam-packed slate, the Inhumans film got pulled from the release schedule. Now, it seems as though ABC’s The Inhumans has outright replaced the planned film.
What impact will The Inhumans have on the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Within the saga’s continuity, there doesn’t yet seem to be a content-driven need for a new TV series, especially since Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has consistently featured the Inhumans since its second season. Still, Marvel Studios is clearly committed to bringing the Inhumans to television. Let’s explore how The Inhumans might change the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
How Will The Inhumans Connect to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
For now, it seems as though The Inhumans will be a live-action miniseries, since its current length is eight episodes. The series will focus on Blackbolt (Blackagar Boltagon) and the rest of the Inhuman Royal Family, who have so far been absent from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yet, it’s not clear how these characters will fit into the saga’s pre-existing mythology for the Inhumans.
Up until now, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has told the MCU’s definitive origin of the Inhumans. Long ago, the Kree mutated human subjects into Inhumans, hoping to use them as soldiers. The first Inhuman was Hive, who served as the main villain of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season three. Over time, Inhuman descendants formed a secret community called Afterlife, which disintegrated after its leader, Jiaying, started a war with S.H.I.E.L.D. during the series’ second season.
How will Blackbolt and his family fit into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? In the comics, the Inhuman Royal Family stems from a branch of Inhumans who remained on the island of Atillan, so The Inhumans will likely honor those origins. Nevertheless, since Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has already developed the Inhumans’ cinematic history, The Inhumans needs to somehow fit its continuity into that of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Another important question is what the time frame of The Inhumans will be. With few exceptions, most films and TV series within the Marvel Cinematic Universe have occurred in real-time. Fans have been able to follow along because each product’s real-world release date corresponds with its time frame within Marvel’s continuity. Even though The Inhumans might serve as a prequel to the MCU, it otherwise needs to preserve Marvel’s tradition of telling present-day stories.
Do We Need The Inhumans?
With Marvel Comics planning an Inhumans vs. X-Men crossover for January 2017, now is a good time to examine the similarities between the Inhumans from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the X-Men from Fox’s own cinematic franchise. Marvel Studios tends to use the Inhumans as an analogue to the X-Men, who are owned by Fox and thus unavailable for use in the MCU. In their separate on-screen histories, the Inhumans and X-Men share narratives about persecution, public trust, and being a minority.
Because the X-Men have already told similar stories, it’s unclear whether the MCU has room to produce more content about the Inhumans. Yet, in some ways, Blackbolt and the Royal Family, who will serve as the focus of The Inhumans, are strikingly similar to the Amazons from the DC Universe. For much of their history, the Amazons remained secluded on their island of Themyscira, and the Inhumans did the same on Atillan. Both cultures largely stayed isolated from mainstream society until modern times, which became a compelling story of social acclimation.
Blackbolt and the Royal Family are certainly mainstays of the Marvel Universe within the comics. For that reason, perhaps it’s unfair to outright dismiss their inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I suppose we won’t know whether their stories are worth telling, until we actually see the impact of The Inhumans on a wider audience. Whatever the case, I’m hopeful that Marvel Studios will provide The Inhumans with the creative freedom that it needs to succeed.