Royals is the first Inhumans series that I have enjoyed following since either the War of Kings or Jonathan Hickman’s run on the Fantastic Four. As a matter of fact, my favorite Inhuman stories were the kind that Hickman told, where the Inhumans were a mysterious race whose conflicts would boil out from their hidden bases and threaten the general world. In the Royals, Al Ewing and Kevin Libranda have flipped the formula and opened up an interesting tale.
I am going to admit that I haven’t been a fan of the way that Marvel has handled the Inhumans over the past several years. It seemed like they were going to just swap out mutants for Inhumans and call it all even. The problem I always had with that is the while they both represent the “other” that normal folks feared, Inhumans come with a lot of baggage that mutants didn’t have.
Anyone could be a mutant. It didn’t matter if you were gay, straight, black, hispanic, asian, rich or poor; if when you hit puberty you had the (un)lucky genetic mutation… BOOM mutant powers were yours.
The Inhumans on the other hand practiced eugenics. They cultivated family lines and decided who was worthy to have children. They also determined which among them was eugenically pure enough to be exposed to the terrigen mists and get super powers. They were slaveholders — breeding a subset of Alpha Primitives to serve the genetically pure. I get that Marvel has worked hard to get rid of these aspects: Alpha Primitives freed, Genetic Council disbanded, everyone gets a chance to be changed by the terrigen mists. But then it felt like the writers just acted like all the bad stuff never happened and the spoiled royal family was all cool again.
Ewing (2000 A.D., Rocket, U.S. Avengers) and Libranda (Captain America: Steve Rogers, Uncanny Avengers) are instead telling a story of how this race now threatened with extinction have set off into space to find a replacement for the now dissipated terrigen mists. With the mix of new and traditionals Inhumans as well as a Kree from another dimension, they are being forced to deal with the terrible aftermath of all their recent decisions. They have had to face the remnants of the Kree Empire, destroyed after being weakened by the Inhumans. Now they are facing their betrayal of the Galactic Inhumans.
And in the distant future, Maximus, the last Inhuman, must face the returning threat of the Progenitors — the race that created the Kree eons ago.
Libranda and Jose Villarrubia (Magnus, America) keep deft control of the art throughout the book as they set styles, visual cues and palettes to make each environment a separate and real place from the others that the books shift to. Even the environment on the spaceship has a distinct feel to it.
Ewing and Libranda have clearly done a great deal of research into the Inhumans’ history and they are using all of their various past adventures to play into this one that risks the very future of their race. They are laying the groundwork for a very big pay off as the series goes along. So far, the series is paying off each issue, lets hope all these issues lead to something different and unexpected for the Royals.
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Kevin Libranda
Colors: José Villarrubia
Cover Art: Sanford Greene