This article contains spoilers for Agents of SHIELD, Ms. Marvel, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
The Inhumans are one of the most popular and important groups within the Marvel continuity. It seemed like their presence within the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a surefire thing, considering the Mutants were unavailable to Marvel Studios in the early days. A favorite of head honcho Ike Perlmutter, an Inhumans movie was even announced; one of the few projects that the company would never make.
If you paid attention to the most recent San Diego Comic-Con, it would have been very apparent that the Inhumans were once again nowhere in sight. Although neither were the Mutants, who are widely considered to be replacements for the Kree-created characters moving forward. So, is there any kind of future for the royal family and the wider roster to show up once more on screen?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The first official appearance of the Inhumans came through Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the ABC Studios series with its fair share of diehard fans. The series broke the mold and genuinely pushed itself in the kind of comic book narratives it would run with. The Kree’s early appearance hinted toward their experiments finally showing up, but Daisy Johnson’s (Chloe Bennet) transformation sealed the deal.
The Inhumans would become major players in this superhero show, with multiple members of the team, like Yo-Yo Rodriguez (Natalia Córdova-Buckley), gaining powers in their own rights. It was pretty comic accurate too, with the espionage experts consumed within stone cocoons before they would emerge with their new gifts. The show managed to range from source material favorites like Lash (Blair Underwood), to original antagonists like Johnson’s own mother, Jiaying (Dichen Lachman).
The issue here is despite the fantastic work that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. did adapting some of these arcs, the actual status of the ABC show is still up in the air. Whether it remains within MCU Canon is anyone’s guess, as connections between other projects have been few and far between. The show might have featured other characters seen in the movies, but the big screen never returned the favor. This definitely leaves some of the best portrayals of the Inhumans in doubt.
The Inhumans Project
Kevin Feige once made a bold announcement: Inhumans would be a feature-length installment in Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But it was never to be. As the studio moved further and further away from the edicts of Marvel Entertainment itself and towards a different structure with Disney, the project completely lost its footing. Instead, it would be turned into a limited series from ABC Studios, with the first couple of episodes playing in IMAX.
It felt like a major event, a potential turning point in how Marvel would distribute their content moving forward. It was arguably even a precursor to how Disney+ would handle their streaming series in the future. But the quality simply wasn’t there. Inhumans flopped hard. A charismatic and excellently chosen cast was not enough to save boring set and costume design, misplaced writing, and characterizations that felt like a far cry from the source material.
Any hopes for the Inhumans were wiped out at this moment. There were definitely high points in the show, and with some reinvention ABC could have moved forward with the royal family, perhaps folding them into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which already had limited connections to its less successful spinoff. But the audience simply wasn’t there for it and with very few backing the development of further projects, this seemed like the end of the Inhumans for good.
Wiped from Continuity
The years since have been hard for the Inhumans. The show can actually be identified on Disney+, although it’s pretty hidden away among the other shows that sit in an odd space within continuity. The cancellation of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was the final nail in the coffin, perhaps a confirmation that the group’s time on screen was over.
Kevin Feige and the rest of the Marvel Studios team were pretty careful not to mention the status of the Inhumans since. The show was treated like such a separate project it might as well be in a different reality. Those who were still fans of the graphic novels saw their hopes slipping away as further Phases were announced; an Inhuman-shaped hole at the center of those plans. This was the darkest time for Black Bolt, Medusa, Lockjaw, and the rest of the group. But hope would come from a surprising place.
The Multiverse of Madness
Most viewers went into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness with an expectation that some surprising cameos would show up. There was a hint that there might be some deep cuts from both comic book and movie continuity, but certainly not anything that would call back to one of Marvel’s most controversial projects. We were all equal parts confused and delighted to see Anson Mount reprise his role as the Inhuman King, Black Bolt, as part of the Illuminati.
With a comic-accurate costume, Mount absolutely shone in the role that he should have been able to make his own all along. It confirmed that Inhumans was part of the Multiversal canon but certainly didn’t explain where the original series falls in the timeline. The potential of the character and his wider world is clearly limitless when he’s placed in the right hands. The Doctor Strange sequel proved as much, and notified audiences that Marvel hadn’t forgotten about the team.
Yet, the treatment of Black Bolt as the first to die from the Illuminati was also a slight indication of what Marvel might have thought of the original show. The Attilan leader was quite literally obliterated, but then so too were the rest of the characters in the unit. Was it a sign to expect no more from the Inhumans, or just the beginning of working them back into the canon?
Ms. Marvel’s Changing Origins
Heading into Ms. Marvel, especially off of the back of Black Bolt’s surprise appearance, there was a lot of excitement about how her origin story would be explored. The comics identified Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) as an Inhuman who gained her stretchy abilities through Terrigenesis. It would be pretty difficult to ignore the very thing that gave the character powers!
Well, the show never truly made its mind up as to whether Khan was actually an Inhuman. It flirted with the idea that she was gaining all her abilities from her magical armband, before that idea was thrust aside to reveal that the gifts came from within her. There was then a tease of a blue alien and potential imagery linked to Terrigenesis, hinting that the Kree really was a part of Ms. Marvel’s heritage.
This was glossed over once again for a shocking reveal towards the finale of the show. After best friend Bruno Carrelli (Matt Lintz) looked into Kamala’s DNA, he noted that he discovered a… mutation. While the classic X-Men animated series theme tune roused the audience, the MCU forever changed Ms. Marvel’s origins by making her the first confirmed Mutant. Or did it? There’s still no concrete evidence that Kamala does contain the X-gene within her. The writing was clearly carefully chosen so that if there was a need to ret-con the narrative twist, the mutation could still be linked to Inhuman DNA.
During the time period that saw FOX continue to hold on tight to the X-Men rights on the big screen, Marvel Comics began to push the Inhumans, almost as their replacement. Now that Mutants are in Disney’s sandbox, the opposite appears to be happening. Any sign of the Inhumans is instead being pushed out for more X-Men.
It’s obvious that there’s more money to be made with the students of Charles Xavier. The success of films like Logan, Deadpool, and X-Men: First Class demonstrates the wide-ranging narratives that can be told with these characters. The Inhumans just aren’t popular enough to achieve similar results. If Marvel Studios had to make a choice between these two human deviants, the Mutants and the Inhumans, the choice is abundantly clear. That spells disaster for those hoping to see a little more from Crystal and the rest of the gang.
That could continue if current rumors are to be believed. There have been numerous sources reporting that Daisy Johnson, Quake, will be making her official MCU debut in the near future, bringing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. back into the official continuity. Secret Invasion is the most likely project where her character could show up.
If that is to be the case, there have also been reports that her origins will be shifted slightly, so that she would no longer be an Inhuman. This would throw further doubt on how much of the ABC show should be considered in line with the rest of Marvel Studios’ releases, but it would also remove one of the best Inhuman characters from her identity. Multiple arcs were built around Quake’s struggles in understanding who she really is and how that impacted her family. Removing that would significantly change the character and be the final sign that Marvel is finished with this comic book group.
A Potential Future
So with such a complex history ranging from the earliest days of Marvel Studios up till now, is there actually a future for the Inhumans? The answer is really uncertain. There’s still room for the MCU to change direction and ret-con them into existence. Ms. Marvel could finally link to her comic book heritage and Black Bolt’s return might be the first sign of the show finally getting a proper chance.
On the other hand, the next few Phases of the MCU are absolutely packed. There’s very little room for major projects with far more potential, like the Midnight Sons, or Young Avengers. There are plenty more announcements to come, but none will probably focus on Inhumans. Looking at the comics, a similar thing is occurring. While the Inhumans once took center stage, it appears now that the Eternals are gaining more of a following. The X-Men vs. Avengers vs. Eternals crossover event is an indication of that; the Inhumans once held that very same spot.
The future might look pretty bleak for the Inhumans, but they still have their fair share of fans out there hoping for good news. Hope is never lost, and there are still telltale signs that Marvel won’t abandon the team completely. Quake’s return would be a small way to give audiences what they want, as long as they don’t ret-con her origin. The MCU might not need the Inhumans, since there’s enough going on as it is, but it would be fun to see the universe enriched further, and a new set of conflicts put into play that see the supers of Earth having to contend with Inhumans and Mutants alike suddenly changing the hierarchy of power forever.