The Inhumans are a secret race of superhumans within the Marvel Universe. Although they started out as just background characters for the Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four, they've since become involved with other characters and have even starred in their own series occasionally. Originally a single Inhuman, Medusa, was introduced as a villain in Fantastic Four #36 (March, 1965). Then her cousin Gorgon turned up in #44 (November, 1965), and the rest of the family in #45 (December, 1965).
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Inhumans were once primitive humans, though experiments performed on them long ago by the extraterrestrial Kree race (the same race that Captain Mar-Vell belongs to) gave them advanced intelligence. With time, The Kree forgot about their creations and they were left alone to form their own civilization, located on Attilan aka "The Great Refuge", a walled city on an island in the Atlantic sea. Eventually, they discovered a substance called "terrigen" that either gave people superpowers, a bizarre appearance, or both. They ended up basing their very culture on its use (and Genetic Engineering in general.)
However, the Inhumans are very xenophobic, and went as far as moving their entire city (with help from The Eternals, another hidden race) to the Himalayas to avoid being discovered by humans. They were found there by the Fantastic Four, and convinced to reveal themselves publicly, though their history of relations with the rest of the world is spotty. Later the city was moved to the "Blue Area of the Moon" (also created by the Kree) which has a breathable atmosphere.
The Inhumans are a monarchy whose Royal Family tends to be among their most powerful members; they also go out and kick butt when necessary. Their king is Black Bolt, who besides being a Flying Brick with electrical powers also has a voice that can literally destroy cities; he is thus forced to remain silent, communicating only by sign language (his wife, Medusa, often translates for him). Bolt's brother, Maximus, hates him out of envy and has tried to usurp the crown many times. At one point their cousin Crystal had a romantic relationship with Johnny Storm (the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four) and has even been a member of that group and of The Avengers. However she ended up marrying the mutant hero Quicksilver instead. They had a daughter, Luna, who has often been a target of villainous plans, what with being related not just to the Royal Inhumans but also to the X-Men's foe Magneto.
Other Royal family members include Karnak, a martial artist; Triton, a fish-man; and the satyr-like Gorgon, who can stomp really, really hard. They also have Lockjaw, a bulldog the size of a bull who has teleportation powers and who may or may not be of human intelligence.
After the events of the Secret Invasion, the Inhumans renewed their ties with a weakened Kree Empire and lead the Kree Empire forces against the Shi'ar Empire in the War of Kings miniseries. After the events of that series they have become a dominant power within the galaxy.
Some time after the events of The Thanos Imperative, a group called the Universal Inhumans was discovered based on four other races: Kymellians, Dire Wraiths, Centaurians and Badoons. They too were products of Kree experiments with their people but were brought together under the prophecy that Black Bolt would lead them. Black Bolt would eventually led his Inhumans to assimilate with this new faction and leave the Kree empire and its people in Kree control, although bad blood still exists between the Inhumans and Kree.
During the Infinity Crisis Crossover, it is revealed that hidden tribes of Inhumans have lived around the world for a number of years, and mated with the general population. It is discovered that a number of seemingly-normal humans across the globe actually have dormant Inhuman genes, which can be activated by Terrigen Mists and as a result of destruction of the Inhuman capital in the event, clouds of Terrigen Mists began spreading across the globe doing so. This becomes the central plot of the Inhumanity crossover, producing new super human characters throughout the Marvel Universe and a new ongoing series titled Inhuman about the surviving Inhumans and newly discovered ones dealing with the fallout. Originally intended to be written by Matt Fraction, creative difference led Fraction to leave, prompting to Marvel replace him with Charles Soule. He's currently the incumbent architect of the flagship Inhuman titles.
With the launch of All-New, All-Different Marvel, the Inhumans brand expanded again. Inhumanity was replaced with two new ongoing series: Uncanny Inhumans, following Medusa and Black Bolt, along with several of their allies including Johnny Storm and Beast; All-New Inhumans saw Crystal and a team of old and new Inhumans investigating mysterious power-boosting towers appearing around the world. In addition to this, Inferno and new Inhuman Psynapse joined the Uncanny Avengers, Karnak received his own ongoing, and Devil Dinosaur teamed with eleven year-old NuHuman genius Lunella Lafayette in Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.
After Inhumans Vs. X-Men, the Inhumans split up again, with Medusa relinquishing the throne and setting off into space to try and find a way to replenish the Inhumans' Terrigenesis stock, in Royals. Meanwhile, Black Bolt got his own ongoing series. Both were eventually cancelled, and everything was streamlined into a single Inhuman miniseries, Death of the Inhumans, which launched as part of the Marvel: A Fresh Start initiative.
In 2014, an Inhumans movie (featuring the royal family) was announced for Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it was eventually taken off the release schedule for unknown reasons (with a prominent rumor being that it was only included on the slate at the request of Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter as a quid-pro-quo to let Kevin Feige develop a Captain Marvel movie; once Feige no longer had to answer directly to Perlmutter thanks to corporate restructuring, the project was shelved). In 2016, it was confirmed that the Inhumans would be getting a television series instead, produced by ABC Studios and IMAX, with the latter screening its first two episodes in theaters ahead of the television debut.
Outside of the royal family, Inhumans have been showing up in the MCU on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with protagonist Daisy Johnson undergoing Terrigenesis in the second mid-season finale. They will show up again in the Ms. Marvel series for Disney+, but there are no further details such as the cast or if the team will be rebooted or not.
They've also become video game characters in Marvel: Avengers Alliance, with Black Bolt, Medusa, Crystal, Gorgon, and Karnak all as playable characters and Maximus as a villain.
The Inhumans provides examples of:
- Amplifier Artifact: Skyspears, obelisk like structures that have begun appearing in or around populated areas in the "All-New All-Different" era stories will, per Word of God, play an integral role in Inhuman stories to come. Grid and Iso comment that their powers seemed to grow stronger in its proximity, and Crystal will be leading a team that in part will be investigating these strange artifacts.
- Animal Superheroes: Lockjaw, who even leads the Pet Avengers (in their own series!)
- Aristocrat Team: The race is a monarchy whose most powerful members are its royal family and are usually seen working together to fight a common treat.
- Armed with Canon: The debate over whether Lockjaw is an inhuman or a mutated dog.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Black Bolt is incredibly, near uncontrollably, powerful and the king of Attilan. This is a trend for most of the inhuman monarchs given focus. Randac discovered terrigenesis and happened to develop vast pyschic powers that helped his people fight of the Kree. The Unspoken's power is literally choosing any power he wants to have as long as he has a steady supply of terrigen crystals.
- Badass Normal: Karnak never underwent the Terrigenesis process. After those in charge saw how drastic his brother Triton's mutation was, they didn't want to risk it a second time. Instead, he was trained in Inhuman martial arts and uses his high intellect to find the weak points in people and objects. Many people who don't know better assume this is a superpower from the Mists. Althought it should be noted that Karnak is still an Inhuman and has natural abilities such as being slightly stronger than humans (the average Inhuman has agility, reflexes, strength and stamina on a par with peak-human Captain America), so he could be considered a borderline case.
- Because Destiny Says So: Part of the reason the Inhumans and the Universal Inhumans developed the way they did is because the Supreme Intelligence believe an anomaly (Blackbolt's birth) in their genetics program would lead to its destruction.
- Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: One Abominable Snowman (among several found in the Marvel Universe) turned out to be an Inhuman named Yeti. Originally just a cameo character in an early Fantastic Four issue, Marvel: The Lost Generation later established that he was once a member of the pre-Fantastic Four superhero team the First Line — and was, in fact, one of the only members to survive that team's climactic final battle with a Skrull invasion fleet.
- Big Friendly Dog: Lockjaw
- Big "NO!": Black Bolt lets out one during "War of the Kings". The results were not pretty.
- Blessed with Suck: Black Bolt (only about his voice powers, however). Depending on the Writer, Lockjaw can be a more straight-up example, being an Inhuman that emerged from Terrigenesis with teleportation powers, but who looks like a giant dog and is of somewhat vaguely-defined intelligence. (More often, however, he looks like a dog and has limited intelligence because he's a dog. See Armed with Canon.)
- Body Horror: One of the risks of Terrigenesis. While some Inhumans emerge from it with few, or no deformities, others are not so lucky. This is a core reason why Eugenics became such a major aspect of their society after early, overly-enthusiastic use of the Terrigen Mists produced a large number of badly deformed Inhumans.
- Breakout Character: With Marvel's attempts to expand the line in The New '10s, Kamala Khan has become the most successful Inhuman comic book.
- C-List Fodder: Most of the characters killed off in Death of the Inhumans fit this, with the majority of the deaths being characters like the Universal Inhumans from Jonathan Hickman's Fantastic Four run and the recent Nuhumans from Charles Soule's work. The only actual deaths among the royal family were Maximus and Triton, and even the latter has historically been considered the least popular member of the core Inhumans. The end result makes it seem like the purpose of the story was to get rid of the extraneous Nuhumans who'd failed to catch on more than anything.
- Call-Back: Inhumans: Prime ends with Noh-Varr introducing himself the same way he did to the Young Avengers in Gillen's run.
- Charles Atlas Superpower: Karnak, is able to find the "weaknesses" in nearly all objects or organisms not because of any Inhuman terrigen mist mutation power but just because of dedication to a discipline he learned being raised at an Inhuman seminary.
- City in a Bottle: The Inhuman capital Attilan at one point.
- Cool Starship: The Inhuman capital Attilan as of the end of the Secret Invasion.
- Culture Clash: A one point, an exchange program was set up for Inhuman students to attend a US college. This ends as can be expected given the situation.
- Cultural Posturing: Inhumans are passively derisive of human society as primitive because they had highly advanced technology when the rest were hunter-gatherers. This only increased when they discovered terrigenesis and the human world became more polluted and warlike. This was subtly deconstructed as there was more than one internal conflict and strife over their caste system, eugenic government and enslavement of the Alpha Primitives.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance:
- On occasion, the fact that the Inhumans have been locked up in their isolated citadel for centuries is intentionally used to show how different they think.
- A flashback in Royals issue 3 has Black Bolt and Maximus' parents talking about that sister in-law of theirs, and her weird belief in treating the Alpha Primitives like... well, living beings. And then conversation turns to concerns with experimenting on their children in utero. The father doesn't get the problem.Rynda: Mander's always been strange. Anyway, she thinks we shouldn't be experimenting on our children at all.Agon: ... well, whose children should we experiment on?
- The fact that they had a slave caste at all is more than enough reason to give many outsiders pause. When a visit from Black Panther and Storm led to the discovery that Gorgon and Karnak had once again enslaved the Alpha Primitives against Black Bolt's wishes, Gorgon didn't seem to get what the big deal was.
- Devolution Device: The Slave Engine, a secret weapon that was designed to transform humans into a more Neanderthal-like state should they become too much of a problem.
- Disposable Superhero Maker: The Kree who came up with the uplifting program were murdered on the Supreme Intelligence's orders, once it realised their ideas were a threat. Of course, by that point they'd already seeded several planets.
- Dogs Are Dumb: Lockjaw has acted both intelligent or just like a normal dog at different times, Depending on the Writer.
- Elemental Powers: Crystal has the four main ones.
- Fantastic Caste System: Inhuman society has this, with the Genetics Council that oversees their Super Breeding Program deciding the individual social status of particular Inhumans, including whether or not they should breed. There are also the Alpha Primitives, a cloned Servant Race.
- Fantastic Racism: Multi-directional. The Kree created Inhumans to be a Supersoldier race, and obviously did not regard them as social equals. The Inhumans themselves were a technologically-advanced and super-powered race throughout most of human history, maintaining cordial relations only with the Eternals, a race of genetically-enhanced Physical Gods. In modern times ordinary humans and Inhumans have not had very good relations either, with the Inhumans even keeping the Slave Engine in their back pockets as an option in case they felt the need to subjugate humanity.
- Fiery Redhead: Medusa, who has Prehensile Hair.
- Foil: The Inhumans serve as this to Mutants as a whole. Both species are a super-powered minority of humans, but mutants are forced out of mainstream society by humanity, whilst the Inhumans choose to sequester themselves away from humans out of a mixture of xenophobia and arrogance. Both species have random powers that can potentially leave them hideously deformed, but the Inhumans deliberately trigger their powers through exposure to the Terrigenesis process whilst mutants have their powers develop unconsciously and spontaneously. Mutants are generally seen as a lesser race, struggling to survive in the face of human aggression, whilst the Inhumans live in contented isolation and, Depending on the Writer, may actually have the ability to just annihilate humanity if they ever decided they were sick of living in the middle of nowhere. In short, if mutants are like homosexuals, or African-Americans during the 1960s, then Inhumans are like the 1%ers
- Also, whilst the Mutants are a natural (if unstable) evolution of humanity, the Inhumans are an aberration, being the result of ancient experimentation on humans by Kree scientists.
- From Bad to Worse: Could describe the Inhumans and their situation going back a long while. First they had to hide from humans for centuries, then modern-day pollution got so bad they had to move to the Moon. Then, after M-Day Quicksilver stole their Terrigenesis crystals, which were then stolen by the U.S. government, who refused to give them back. The Inhuman reaction just caused America to declare war on the Inhumans, with none of their super-hero friends willing or able to help out, which led to Maximus finally taking charge of Attilan. Then the Skrulls came after them, at which point the Inhumans decided they were fed up of being everyone's punching bags and decided to make everyone their punching bag when deemed necessary.
- Full-Circle Revolution: Maximus repeatedly induces these on purpose as his favorite go-to tactic for wresting the throne from Black Bolt. He finds some disaffected group in Attilan society and feeds them with fake revolutionary idealism until they form a rebellion with him as their worshipped leader. Then once they've ousted the Royals and put him on the throne he Rewards the Rebels as a Traitor Deserves and proceeds to be a far worse ruler than his brother until Black Bolt gets his crown back somehow.
- Goo Goo Godlike: Black Bolt's cries destroyed half his city when he was born.
- Guinea Pig Family: The late King Agon and his wife Rynda exposed their children Blackagar (in utero) and Maximus (as an infant) to the Terrigen Mists in an attempt to give them greatly enhanced powers by exposing them as early as possible. While this was an extreme example, parents exposing children to the Mists without their consent is something that happens in Inhuman society.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Luna, being half Inhuman and half Mutant. Curiously, the result was a normal human. Until the Son of M mini, where exposure to the terrigen mist turn her to an empath.
- Hannibal Lecture: Maximus is this or a Cloudcuckoolander, or both, it really depends on his mood today.
- HeelFace Revolving Door: Maximus, though he seems to have been on the Face side of the door for the most part since Secret Invasion.
- Until post-Inhumanity where he abducts Black Bolt, mind-controls him using super-technote and goes walkabout with him.
- He Who Must Not Be Heard: Black Bolt's voice is so powerful he forces himself to be this out of necessity.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: Part of the reason for the "Silent War" between the Earth Inhumans and the US government was that the US confiscated the terrigen mist crystals that were stolen in Son of M, refused to return them and attempted to use them to make weapons.
- Intelligible Unintelligible: Bolt, thanks to Medusa.
- Interspecies Romance: Crystal and Johnny, then Crystal and Quicksilver, then Crystal and Ronan. More strangely in the Crystal/Quicksilver example, they have a mundane child (non-mutant, non-Inhuman).
- Kissing Cousins: Bolt and Medusa are cousins. Though they may just be using the older form, which just meant "distant family member", since most Inhumans address each other as "cousin".
- Lamarck Was Right: It's possible for inhumans to pass on their mutated traits to their children, creating a subspecies of sorts. The bird people of Aeris are a race of such people, as are Atlanteans depending on the writer. There's a family of centaurs in the Attilan royal guard.
- Make Me Wanna Shout: Black Bolt's power. His scream isn't destructive just because of simple sound waves, but because it releases particles that break down matter on the sub-atomic level. This is because the part of his brain that controls speech also controls his matter-manipulating powers.
- Mr. Exposition: All of the Inhumans (besides Black Bolt, of course). They just love to talk. This probably arose because for a long time, the early Fantastic Four issues would cut back to the Inhumans trapped in their city for a brief update, and there had to be a dialogue recap for new readers... and the idea that redundant exposition is the Inhumans' hat just stuck.
- Muggle Born of Mages: Luna, though she later was given powers with Terrigenesis against her will.
- Neutral No Longer: After Secret Invasion, the Inhumans got fed up with everyone attacking them for the hell of it, and went on the offensive. Their first strike nearly wiped out the entire Skrull race. For an encore, they took over the Kree Empire, and managed to successfully rule it for a good few years.
- Never Mess with Granny: In one comic, the Avengers are aged so that they will be no threat to their enemy. Unfortunately for the villain, Crystal is an Inhuman, and her powers actually intensify as a result of age.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: In the process of taking over the Kree, the Inhumans caught the attention of the Shi'ar, who were being ruled by Emperor Vulcan at the time. He took this as all the excuse he needed to attack the Kree, kick-starting The War of Kings, and everything that followed from that.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Lockjaw... maybe.
- Person of Mass Destruction: Black Bolt
- Plot Armor: Despite Death of the Inhumans revolving around the Kree setting out massacre the Inhuman race, the most popular new Inhumans like Ms. Marvel and Moon Girl conveniently don't appear.
- Power Incontinence: Black Bolt's whispers could easily destroy a city. He has gone through severe mental training so he never utters a word without choosing to do so, even in his sleep.
- Many of the hybrid Inhumans introduced in Infinity initially find themselves unable to control their newfound abilities. For example, a Sizeshifter named Alice accidentally grows her husband to a gigantic size, and then shrinks herself (and two of her neighbors) down to subatomic proportions.
- Prehensile Hair: Medusa.
- The Purge:
- The original Kree program fell victim to one, when the Supreme Intelligence got spooked. It ordered the Accusers to destroy all the evidence, including the species that had been experimented on. Only the fact the scientists hadn't given it all the information saved the Universal Inhumans.
- The Kree decided to do this again in Death of the Inhumans. The end result saw the Nuhumans being mostly eradicated.
- Red Shirt: Played fairly straight in "Avengers" vol. 1 #334 (July, 1991), which features a fight between a quartet of Inhumans and a group of new villains, the Brethen. The Inhumans are represented by veteran Avenger Quicksilver, Royal Family member Karnak, "evil Inhuman" (Maximus loyalist) Timberius, and Alpha Primitive servant "the Alphan". The first three were fairly prominent characters with decades-worth of appearances by this point, while the Alphan was a new character introduced in this issue. The three established characters are defeated and captured alive, while the Alphan gets killed in order to prove how dangerous the Brethen are.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Zigzagged with the Dire Wraith and Badoon Inhumans. Typically, the two species are the trope played very straight, but their Inhuman versions are no better or worse than the rest of their kin.
- Retcon: Up until the mid-00s, the Terrigenesis came from Randac, an Inhuman scientist from many centuries after the Kree experiments, which had originally just given the early humans a boost in intelligence and strength. Come Jonathan Hickman's run of Fantastic Four, it's claimed Terrigenesis was actually a Kree creation seeded in their minds.
- Secret Legacy: The big Reveal in Infinity is that as a result of early Inhuman tribes mating with outsiders, thousands of humans across the planet secretly possess dormant Inhuman abilities.
- Servant Race: The Alpha Primitives
- The Shangri-La: Atillan, the home city of the Inhumans, invokes this trope, being located in the Himalayas.
- Shockwave Stomp: Gorgon's chief ability
- Shout-Out: The Dire Wraiths of the Universal Inhumans gain superpowers via inhaling some kind of spice. Jonathan Hickman is a big fan of Dune.
- The Silent Bob: Black Bolt for safety reasons.
- Species Title: A ancient kingdom made up of ultraterrestrials who are mutated and empowered by mysterious mist. Also a Family Title, as all of them are closely familially related not just by being members of the same species, and they also isolated themselves to "Attilan" a.k.a "The Great Refuge", a walled city on an island in the Atlantic sea.
- Super Breeding Program: An embedded aspect of Inhuman culture going all the way back to when the Kree originally created them. The Genetics Council weighs the merits (and possible detriments) of allowing particular Inhumans to breed or undergo Terrigenesis. Useful powers and a lack of physical defects are obviously prized above unstable powers and outward deformities.
- Super Empowering
- "Terrigenesis" via the mutagenic Terrigen Mists, derived from the Terrigen Crystals.
- Other Inhumans use differing methods; Badoon's Amphogenesis injection, Centaurian's Isogenesis injection, Kymellian's Antigenesis consumption and Dire Wraiths Exogenesis spice inhalation. It was revealed at some point that Secret Warriors captain Daisy Johnson had hers activated due to the combination of her father's genetic manipulations on himself and her mother's Inhuman genes.
- Supersoldier: What the Kree originally created Inhumans to be.
- Superheroes in Space: Once they left Earth, they stayed either on the Moon or in Kree space.
- Superpower Lottery: The driving motivation that causes the Inhumans to risk Terrigenesis. Lottery winners such as Black Bolt (if you disregard the whole can't speak problem) and the Unspoken serve as examples that inspire other Inhumans to play.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: A number of people (including Chris Claremont) have pointed out that the concept of the hybrid Inhumans from Infinity seems very similar to the existing concept of Mutants. It has been speculated that this is being done for the sake of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which can't use mutants since the X-Men's film rights are owned by Fox.
- This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Triton will sometimes get a mission or so that involves his swimming. Including his part during the Secret Invasion mini. During the War of Kings, he and other aquatic Inhumans played the role of shock troopers in battle since their lifetime of undersea combat training was useful in zero-g environments. Crystal speculates at the time that perhaps the Terrigen crystals predicted the need.
- Ultraterrestrials: This was the original hat of the Inhumans, being a genetically-engineered subrace of humanity that, after being created and then abandoned by aliens, created a hidden bastion to live in so they could exist separately to their non-modified human nature. This was later downplayed with, among other things, the reveal of Inhuman populations on other planets and the Earth Inhumans leaving Earth for space at various points.
- An Inhuman tradition is that if someone commits a bad enough crime, the Inhumans kick them out, refuse to acknowledge them and destroy any and all trace of their existence. The Unspoken, a former king whose name was stricken from all Inhuman records due to his "crime" of deciding that the Slave Engine was too terrible to be kept in his people's hands. He would later try to "redeem" himself by unleashing it on China.
- An accidental instance happens with Black Bolt during Royals. See, Medusa thought she had inflicted this fate on Maximus, only he'd switched places with his brother... and since the punishment meant they would never be able to find Maximus again...
- Veganopia: Nahrees first learns that humans eat meat when she attends a human university.
- What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: The Inhumans prize unique appearances and abilities. When one girl gets nothing but a slightly lengthened right hand, she disappoints her family and is ostracized by her friends. Another Inhuman who wound up with the power to change people's skin color was ostracized by his parents and ended up living in Attilan's poor Darkward district. In his case, it is somewhat subverted, as he becomes a sought-after tattoo artist, since his tattoos are painless and he's quite skilled at designing them.