Born to an Inhuman priest and his ocean biologist wife, Karnak is one of very few Inhumans who weren't exposed to Terrigen Mist as an adolescent. After his brother, Triton, was left unable to live outside of water because of his Terrigenesis, Karnak's parents pleaded with the Genetic Council to prevent their other son from meeting a similar fate.
As such, he was sent to his father's monastery, where he became skilled in martial arts and developed an ability to sense the weakest point in any given object or person. According to the time-displaced Jean Grey, he's the most dangerous of all Inhumans.
In the following years, he'd become further immersed in the greater Marvel Universe, often in the context of the Fantastic Four. After Terrigen Mist was unleashed onto Earth by his cousin Black Bolt, Karnak killed himself by jumping off of Stark Tower, citing his realization of "the fault in all things" as the main reason. But since Death Is Cheap, he returned from the dead a few years later.
Following the Inhuman-Mutant War, Karnak (as well as his cousin, Ahura) elected to stay on Earth while the rest of the royal family returned to space. During this time, he was recruited to join Daisy Johnson's new Secret Warriors, working to protect Earth's Inhuman population from outside threats to their kind.
Karnak made his live-action debut on the ABC television series Inhumans, portrayed there by Ken Leung. This version of the character largely resembles his comic book counterpart, with the exception that he was actually put through Terrigenesis as a youth, instead of developing his abilities through rigorous training and meditation.
Not to be confused with Carnac the Magnificent.
Karnak has appeared in:
- Inhumans (various runs):
- vol. 1 (1975 — 1977)
- vol. 2 (1998 — 1999)
- vol. 3 (2000)
- vol. 4 (2003 — 2004)
- Silent War (2007)
- War of Kings (2009)
- Inhumanity (2014)
- Charles Soule's Inhumans (2014 — 2017):
- Inhuman (2015)
- Inhumans: Attilan Rising (2015)
- Uncanny Inhumans (2015 — 2017)
- Karnak (2015 — 2017)
- Inhumans vs. X-Men (2016 — 2017)
- Secret Warriors vol. 2 (2017 — 2018)
Karnak provides examples of the following tropes:
- Action Dad: Plenty badass and he's a dad apparently. He has a son named Leer. He gave Leer to Mr. Sinister to try and unlock his powers after the Terrigan Mists were destroyed.
- Awesomeness by Analysis: He can detect the flaws in everything. Buildings, people, philosophies, systems, life, if it exists, he knows its flaws and how to break it.
- Back from the Dead: Fought his way out of a Limbo Dimension within his relative Lineage.
- Badass Boast: "Satan was just a story. I am Karnak."
- Badass Normal: He was forbidden to undergo Terrigenesis due to how dangerous his powers would be, coupled with what happened to his brother. However, he still has superhuman strength that all unaltered Inhumans have. He also trained in martial arts and is mentally disciplined enough to perceive flaws and weak points in almost any complex system.
- Badass Preacher: Attended a seminary, eventually becomes Magister of a holy parliament.
- Badass Teacher: He teaches other Inhumans on how their powers work.
- Bare-Fisted Monk: He seldom ever relies on any form of weaponry, surprising given his background. Though considering he can eradicate military/spy agency people singlehanded and demolish buildings with one sharp blow shows he's more than capable on his own.
- Berserk Button: Do not tell him you see his flaw.
- Blasphemous Boast: See Badass Boast, but taken in the other direction.
- Blood Knight: Seems to have developed these tendencies after his new lease on life, showing a rather somber grin when Attacking an I.D.I.C. secret base by his lonesome.
- Break Them by Talking: If he isn't assailing weakness physically he does it verbally.
- Came Back Wrong: Played with, as Karnak was initially a soft spoken individual who really didn't care about social interaction (even amongst his own) let alone with other species. He was normally formal and courteous to others even while in combat usually refraining from killing even adversaries, but after his recent break from the hereafter its a possibility that he returned to life somewhat damaged at his core.
- Charles Atlas Superpower: He was forbidden to undergo Terrigenesis due to how dangerous his powers would be, coupled with what happened to his brother. However, he still has superhuman strength that all unaltered Inhumans have. He also trained in martial arts and is mentally disciplined enough to perceive flaws and weak points in almost any complex system.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: He explains to Ulysses that he employs torture as a tool often in the human world, even though he's aware that it's often not useful.Karnak: Mostly, I enjoy the feeling of power.
- Despair Event Horizon: Kills himself in Inhumanity. Gets better (sort of).
- Enlightenment Superpowers: One of the basis of his unique abilities beget through training, discipline and devotion. He has anatomical control over all of his physical extremities be they internal or external allowing him limited self-repair, heart rate control, etc.
- Finger Poke of Doom: He can use the below trope to rupture your liver or literally make a knee cap explode from your leg with a finger poke.
- Flaw Exploitation: The very premise of his non-Terrigen bestowed facilities. Shows him using this to a much more lethal, if not sinister, degree in his own ongoing series as of late.
- Glass Cannon: Having the ability to break stuff does not mean he can't be broken himself, and he is susceptible to the same weaknesses any fighter would have, like surprise and swarm tactics.
- Glowing Eyes: On and off with him, usually his eyes are featureless with only rare instances of his pupils or irises and that's usually without his mask, seems after his new lease on life that this has become the norm for him. Made all the more terrifying when he's fighting dozens of enemies at once, or when he's verbally deconstructing desperate people seeking help or feverish faith seekers who are enwrapped in false faith.
- Handwraps of Awesome: Started sporting them after returning taking up residence as caretaker of a monastery.
- The Hermit: Inverted; he is the teacher and faithsayer of the Inhuman Tower of Wisdom after all.
- Inferiority Superiority Complex: A Hannibal Lecture from Russoff the Painter in issue 5 of his solo series dismantles him and his worldview; His parents refusing him Terrigenesis as an infant because of what happened to Triton and sending him to the monastery has given him a complex. His Straw Nihilist attitude is because he wants to be special but has internalized from his parents' decision and the teachings of the monastery a desire to stay normal with the belief he's perfect the way he is but the cognitive dissonance makes him tears down others, whether they are actually special or believe themselves to be, because in fact what's special about him is taught and not unique. Essentially he's too afraid to decide for himself to undergo terrigenesis, rationalizes it to himself, and lashes out at everyone from the stress.The Painter: Magister, please, try to grasp this: Adam can only change people who want to change. And we all want to change. Because we all have flaws. Don't we? You have flaws. You hate people. You hate virtue. You hate ability. You hate anything extraordinary about anyone. Because you're not special.
- Like Father, Unlike Son: He has the ability to break anything and tear people down, making them feel weak and powerless through a regiment of training. His son Leer has the power to augment the capabilities of Inhumans (though he claims he could only do this once.)
- Logical Weakness: Karnak can analyse and determine an opponent's weakness, but this does require him being able to utilize this information. So knowing the weaknesses of a telepath isn't much help when they can just knock him out without lifting a finger. He also needs to see to evaluate a weakness.
- Love Is a Weakness: Definitely believes this to be true, due to being an enlightened hermit of faith. On the other hand, he has a son that he seems to show some care for (granted, that was by giving him to Mister Sinister to unlock his powers without Terrigenesis.)
- Not So Stoic: Despite always appearing calm and stoic, he does not like having his weaknesses pointed out. When Rustoff the Painter breaks him down verbally and then offers him some sort of hope, he loses his shit and breaks the guy so hard he explodes. He has to try and compose himself, lying the guy was a human bomb.
- Happens again when he meets the Inhuman behind the cult. He is infuriated as he sees him against everything his philosophy stood for and he starts lashing out.
- Not Too Dead to Save the Day: Discovered a weakness to death itself in order escape and inadvertently stop his wayward descendant.
- Person of Mass Destruction: Knowing the weaknesses of anything and everything comes with its perks.
- Razor-Sharp Hand: Naturally, as a killed martial artist.
- "Reason You Suck" Speech: He's able to tear down people apart because of his abilities. However, he then has it happen to him in his solo series in Issue 5 by a cultist. He points out all of Karnak's faults, his atttiude and someone who knocks everyone else down to try assert control over his own life who in the end is a cowardly child who plays with his stone blocks. He completely loses it.
- The Resenter: He's accused of basically being this in his solo run by the cult; beneath his stoicism and his philosophy, he's just a cowardly child who resents everyone around him who is special because he believes he isn't.
- Shatterpoint Tap: His main ability. He has damaged Ultron with a precision strike.
- Sherlock Scan: Is capable of picking up on his enemies' attack patterns and discerning their weaknesses in seconds.
- The Smart Guy: Is Black Bolt's primary tactician (though Black Bolt himself is no slouch in that department).
- Sour Outside, Sad Inside: The end of his mini-series implies this. After succeeding in his mission (albeit having done a bit extreme), he's given his payment in a photograph of the young man he was sent to save for his parents, being told their last conversation was how he could be anything he wanted. The fact he keeps it in front of the stone block he is meditating with a forlorn expression says alot. Given his storyline was a deconstruction on Karnak's own philosophy and revealing how much of a miserable bastard he is (as seen in Inferiority Superiority Complex and "Reason You Suck" Speech), we also see him lash out when he's asked what is it he wants. The fact he kept the photograph, it's implied what he wanted was the same sort of love and support that the young man's parents had for him, telling him he could be whatever he wanted.
- It's telling that when we find out that he has a son of his own, he didn't try forcing Leer down his path, but instead tried to unlock his powers (even if it was by trying to giving him to freaking Mister Sinister.)
- The Stoic: In Coulson's own words, Karnak was never one to socialize within or without his own kind, and that was even before his suicide. Of coruse, as noted above, once you get under his skin...
- Straw Nihilist: Having unlocked the fullest nature of his abilities just before his demise didn't improve his sunny outlook, to him a stone's place in life weighs more in value than people who he compares to objects. According to his teachings he believes Nihilism is too sugar coated.Karnak: Friends. I must again leave you for a while, to engage the human world and secure our own future. While I am gone: consider the stone cairns on the ground floor of our Tower. Consider the stones as a visible manifestation of Blind Time. The stones cannot perceive us in any way. In a hundred generations of human life, they only grow more perfect. The stones matter more to the universe than you do. Even to a stone, you are nothing.
- Took a Level in Badass: When you can literally find a weakness within the hellish afterlife and exploit it to return from the hereafter, you definitely qualify.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: A surprising (if not typical) twist stemming from his resurrection, is that he took to demoralizing a desperate family whose son had undergone Terrigenesis was abducted by another A.I.M offshot. All to simply teach that possessions are fleeting and using compassion as a cheap painkiller doesn't lessen the brutality of the world.
- Touch the Intangible: When fighting Karnak, the Vision turns intangible to avoid his attacks. In response, Karnak vibrates his hand to a frequency where he can strike and hurt the intangible Vision.