REVIEW: MARVEL UNIVERSE INHUMANS 3-PACK
No one can deny the impact that Jack Kirby has had on the comics industry. Along with Stan Lee, he essentially created the Marvel Universe as we know it, bringing to life within the pages of Marvel Comics such luminaries as the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, the Avengers, the Uncanny X-Men, and more. For DC, Jack Kirby brought his Fourth World and its New Gods such as Orion, Metron, and Darkseid into the mix.
One of Kirby's most unusual creations has finally been brought into the Marvel Universe line of action figures -- at least some of them have. A recent three-pack set of Marvel Universe figures focuses on three members of a very distinctive group. Groups and teams are certainly nothing new for the Marvel Universe, and they tend to be highly popular. You've got the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the X-Men -- but this set of figures focuses on -- the INHUMANS!
Although I've personally not followed their adventures as closely as I have some groups, I've always gotten a kick out of them, and enjoyed them whenever they've turned up. I never really expected to see action figures of them in the Marvel Universe line, but credit to Hasbro, they seem more and more willing to turn out figures of less-than-prominent characters. This, as far as I'm concerned, is a good thing.
The Inhumans set does not seem to be an easy one to find. It seems to be shipped in an assortment that includes a three-pack of Avengers, and another three-pack featuring the West Coast Avengers. Given how popular the name "Avengers" is these days, you can guess which set is likely to get short-packed. So far, I've seen it all of once, and that was the set that I bought.
The set features three prominent members of the Inhumans' Royal Family -- their leader BLACK BOLT, his wife MEDUSA, and their associate KARNAK. Certainly Black Bolt and Medusa make sense for this set, and Karnak does for reasons that I'll get into later. For now, let's consider an overview of the Inhumans, and then have a look at these individuals and their respective action figures.
The Inhumans are a race of superhumans, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The Inhumans first appeared in Fantastic Four #45 (December 1965), though members Medusa and Gorgon appeared in earlier issues of that series (#36 and #44, respectively). Their home, the city of Attilan, was first mentioned years earlier, in a Tuk the Caveboy story written and drawn by Jack Kirby that appeared in Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941). The city was described as the home of a race that was evolutionarily advanced when human beings were still in the Stone Age.
The Inhumans first featured in their own series from October 1975-August 1977 (12 issues). A second volume of Inhumans ran from November 1998-October 1999 (12 issues) and a third ran for four issues in 2000. The fourth volume (2003-2004, 12 issues) concentrated largely on new characters within the Inhumans' society.
In 2007, the Inhumans were featured in a limited series by writer David Hine, and artist Frazer Irving. Following events in the Secret Invasion, the Inhumans are one side of the War of Kings storyline, with Black Bolt being made king of the Kree, facing off against Vulcan, who is leading the Shi'ar. Editor Bill Rosemann said: "War of Kings is two freight trains locked on a collision course. On one side you have Vulcan, the third Summers brother who is swiftly and viciously expanding the Shi'ar Empire. On the other you have Black Bolt, who — as you'll see in Secret Invasion: Inhumans — is mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore. In issue #2 of SI: Inhumans, you saw the seeds planted for an Inhuman/Kree alliance — and that's going to quickly blossom into a force to be reckoned with."
At the beginning of the Kree-Skrull War, millions of years ago in Earth time, the alien Kree established a station on the planet Uranus, a strategic position between the Kree and Skrull empires. Through their work at this station, they discovered that sentient life on nearby Earth had genetic potential invested in it by the alien Celestials. Intrigued, the Kree began to experiment on Earth's then-primitive Homo sapiens to produce the genetically advanced Inhuman race. Their goal was apparently twofold—to investigate possible ways of circumventing their own evolutionary stagnation, and to create a powerful mutant race of soldiers for use against the Skrulls. However, although their experiments were successful in creating a strain of humanity with extraordinary abilities, the Kree abandoned their experiment because a genetic prophecy had predicted that the experiments would eventually lead to an anomaly who would destroy the Kree Supreme Intelligence.
Their test subjects, the Inhumans, went on to form a society of their own, which thrived in seclusion from the rest of humanity and developed advanced technology. Experiments with the mutagenic Terrigen Mist (a process known as Terrigenesis) gave them various powers, but also caused lasting genetic damage and deformities. This led to a long-term selective breeding program to try to mitigate the effects of these mutations.
Attilan's society and culture are predicated on a conformist belief system which permits individuality as it applies to genetic development and physical and mental ability, but demands rigid conformity in that each member of society is assigned a place within that society according to those abilities following exposure to the Terrigen Mist. Once assigned, no Inhuman, no matter how great or powerful, can change their place within this rigid caste system. The Inhumans' culture also strictly prohibits miscegenation between Inhumans and other races. Although a member of the Royal Family, the Inhuman Crystal ignored this prohibition to wed the mutant Quicksilver.
The Inhumans are led by their king, Black Bolt, and his Royal Family, consisting of Medusa, Karnak, Gorgon, Triton, Crystal, Maximus the Mad, and the canine Lockjaw. Both Crystal and Medusa have been members of the Fantastic Four; Crystal has also been a member of the Avengers.
Black Bolt has guided the Inhumans through some of the most turbulent times in their history, including several attempts by Maximus to usurp the throne, revolts by the worker class (with their eventual emancipation), attacks by human renegades, the kidnapping of Medusa, the destruction and rebuilding of Attilan, and the revelation of the Inhumans' existence to humanity.
His role as king of the Inhumans has been tumultuous. The first major crisis occurred when he and Medusa conceived a child. Medusa bore the child in defiance of the Genetic Council, who felt that Black Bolt's bloodline was too dangerous to pass on. The Council nonetheless took the child to examine, and forbade parental contact. Black Bolt was torn between his love of family and his duty to respect the Genetic Council, and it was only when the Council was revealed to be using his son in a plot against him that he finally turned against the Council.
The once-secret existence of the race has come to light among the general public as the Inhumans interact more often with many of Earth's superheroes — including the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and the X-Men — whom they have aided against threats such as Doctor Doom, Galactus, Ultron 7, Magneto, and Apocalypse.
Inhuman society changed radically when Ronan the Accuser sought to use the Inhumans as an army to disrupt the Shi'ar control of the Kree after their defeat in the Kree-Shi'ar War. Appearing over the city of Attilan, Ronan seized control in a surprise attack and forced the Inhumans and their king, Black Bolt, to obey, or he would destroy their only home and everyone in it. During their time in forced servitude, Ronan revealed that the Inhumans had always been intended as weapons in service to the Kree. To this end, much of the genetic attributes that were encoded in them during the original experiments were meant to give them the abilities and appearances of various alien races, the idea being that these Inhuman slaves could be used to infiltrate alien worlds and races to conduct espionage or assassinations to weaken potential conquests. Ronan used the Inhumans in just this manner, disrupting treaties being negotiated by the Shi'ar, and launching attacks on ships and bases.
Eventually, Black Bolt sought to free his people by challenging Ronan to a personal battle. If Ronan won, the Inhumans would continue to serve him. If the king won, the Inhumans would go free. After a terrible battle, Black Bolt won and Ronan, demonstrating that the Kree still had honor, kept his word and left the Inhumans.
Throughout history, their city Attilan has frequently been relocated and, as of the 2008 War of Kings story arc, has taken off from the oxygen-bearing Blue Area of the Moon into space.
Even without using the Terrigen Mist, the Kree modifications, combined with centuries of selective breeding, have given all Inhumans certain advantages. Their average lifespan is 150 years and an Inhuman in good physical condition possesses strength, reaction time, speed, and endurance greater than the finest of human athletes. Karnak and other normal Inhumans who are in excellent physical shape can lift one ton and are physically slightly superior to the peak of normal human physical achievement. Exposure to the Terrigen Mist can both enhance and in some cases reduce these physical capabilities. However, most Inhumans are used to living in a pollution-free, germ-free environment and have difficulty tolerating Earth's current level of air and water pollution for any length of time.
Now, let's consider the individuals in this set, starting with the Inhumans' king and leader, BLACK BOLT:
Black Bolt (Blackagar Boltagon) is the ruler of the Inhumans. His most prominent offensive weapon is his voice, as his electron-harnessing ability is linked to the speech center of his brain. Speaking triggers a massive disturbance capable of leveling a city. Due to the extreme danger posed by this power, he has undergone rigorous mental training to prevent himself from uttering a sound, even in sleep.
The character first appeared in Fantastic Four #45 (Dec. 1965) and was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. As part of the Marvel NOW! event, Black Bolt will become a member of the third incarnation of the New Avengers.
The title "Thor" featured a back-up feature called "Tales of the Inhumans", which recounts the character's origin story. The son of two preeminent Inhumans, Black Bolt is exposed to the mutagenic Terrigen Mist while still an embryo and eventually demonstrates the ability to manipulate electrons. To protect the Inhuman community from his devastating voice, Black Bolt is placed inside a sound-proof chamber and is tutored in the use of his powers. Reentering Inhuman society as a young man — having vowed never to speak — the character is attacked by his younger brother Maximus, who attempts, unsuccessfully, to goad him into speaking. Black Bolt proved popular, and decides to leave Attilan to explore the outside world. The character reappears in a story focusing on his cousin Medusa, drives off the Hulk after the monster defeats the entire Inhuman Royal Family, and with the Fantastic Four battles his brother Maximus and his own group of rogue Inhumans.
After being forced to intercede in the budding romance between the Fantastic Four's Johnny Storm and his cousin Crystal, Black Bolt and the Inhumans feature in the title Amazing Adventures, and battle master villains such as the Mandarin and Magneto. A story told in flashback in the title The Avengers reveals how Black Bolt came to be ruler of the Inhumans and Maximus was driven mad. Black Bolt discovers his brother has secretly allied himself with the alien Kree — the race whose genetic experiments first created the Inhumans — and in trying to stop an escaping Kree vessel overextends his sonic powers and causes the vessel to crash. Several members of the Council of Genetics — including his parents — are killed, with Maximus driven insane by his proximity to Black Bolt's use of his voice. Black Bolt assumes the title of King, but is haunted by the consequences of his actions.
The character settles a quarrel between Johnny Storm and the mutant Quicksilver for the affections of Crystal and frees the slave caste of Inhuman society, the Alpha Primitives. Black Bolt and the Royal Family aid the hero Spider-Man against the time-traveling villain Kang the Conqueror, is forced to again battle the Hulk, teams with the Fantastic Four and the Avengers against the threat of the robot Ultron, and again allies with the Fantastic Four against the fifth-dimensional villain Xemu. Black Bolt later encounters the immortal villain the Sphinx — who has defeated the Fantastic Four and the Royal Family — blasts him over a light-year into deep space, aids Captain Marvel in preventing a war between the Kree and Skrulls on Earth, joins with Fantastic Four member the Thing to defeat the mutated villain Graviton, and more.
Eventually, Black Bolt is instrumental in moving the Inhumans' city of Atillan from the earth to the moon, as he uses his voice to shatter the foundation underneath the city so that it can escape the Earth.
After further adventures, Black Bolt is featured — again with the Royal Family — in a third self-titled limited series that has major developments for the Inhumans. Ronan the Accuser leads the Kree in a surprise attack, capturing Attilan and forcing the Royal Family into service against Kree enemies the Shi'ar. Karnak, Gorgon, and Triton covertly join the Shi'ar Imperial Guard while Black Bolt and Medusa must attempt the assassination of the Shi'ar ruler Lilandra at a ceremony ratifying an alliance between the Shi'ar and the Spartoi. Although the attempt fails and Black Bolt manages to defeat Ronan in personal combat, the Inhuman people choose to leave with the Kree and pursue a new future. This leaves Black Bolt and the Royal Family alone to fend for themselves.
Black Bolt also rejects the Superhuman Registration Act and refuses to become involved in the ensuing Civil War. Courtesy of the hero Sentry, Black Bolt monitors the situation. In the limited series Silent War, the US military attacks the Inhumans to prevent them from retrieving the crystals. Believing the stolen crystals should be returned to Attilan, Black Bolt issues a warning to the United States concerning further acts of aggression, and eventually launches an offensive against the nation. Gorgon and other Inhumans are captured during the attack, which prompts Black Bolt to personally head a team to rescue his subjects and retrieve the crystals. While the mission is successful, Maximus takes advantage of the situation and overthrows and temporarily incarcerates Black Bolt.
Later, Black Bolt, angered by the repercussions caused by the Skrull invasion, changes tactics and embarks on an aggressive campaign against all former persecutors of the Inhumans in the War of Kings limited series. At his command the Inhumans attack the Kree and overthrow Ronan the Accuser, with Black Bolt declaring himself supreme ruler of the Kree Empire. This is followed by a preemptive strike against the Shi'ar empire, now controlled by the usurper Vulcan. Black Bolt intended to release the Terrigen Mist across the galaxy and end the war when, courtesy of the subsequent mutations, all are rendered equal, but the plan was interrupted by Vulcan, the two clashing as the bomb charged up. Although Vulcan was nearly killed by Black Bolt's voice, Black Bolt prepared to abandon his plan when Crystal pointed out that the powers produced by the explosion would only inspire more harm rather than good. However, an enraged Vulcan retained enough strength to stop Black Bolt from teleporting away with Crystal and Lockjaw, which resulted in Black Bolt and Vulcan apparently dying in the subsequent explosion of the Terrigen bomb, as Crystal only negated the Terrigen Mists within the bomb without shutting down its ability to explode.
He in fact survived the explosion. It was revealed that Black Bolt likely represents the anomaly of the Kree Inhuman genetics program that had been predicted hundreds of thousands of years ago. The genetic prophecy was that this anomaly would bring about the end of the Supreme Intelligence. To prevent this outcome, the Kree Supreme Intelligence had ordered the destruction of all the worlds where the genetic experiments took place. Only five colonies escaped, including Earth's. After the Kree fled in defeat, the Inhumans followed in pursuit.
As to his powers and abilities, Black Bolt's Terrigen-mutated physique surpasses the superhuman physique of typical Inhumans: his strength, stamina, durability and reflexes are all well above typical Inhuman or human levels. His speed and agility are also highly enhanced. An organic mechanism in his brain's speech center produces an unknown particle that interacts with ambient electrons, enabling him to produce certain mentally controlled phenomena. The most devastating of the effects is Black Bolt's quasi-sonic scream. Because his electron-harnessing ability is linked to the speech center of his brain, any attempt to use his vocal cords triggers an uncontrollable disturbance of the particle/electron interaction field. Because of this limitation, Black Bolt must be constantly vigilant of even the softest of utterances lest he destroy anything or anyone in its path. At full strength, his voice generates a shockwave equivalent to that of a nuclear weapon, while a whisper can rock a battleship.
The fork-like antenna worn upon his forehead helps Black Bolt control his powers. He can channel his powers inward to increase his strength and speed, and can focus it through his arms as concussive blasts. By concentrating his electrons into anti-electrons, he can fly at speeds up to 500 mph for a period of 6 hours, protected by an anti-graviton field. Black Bolt can create a nearly impenetrable force field by focusing his energy around himself, and can use his electron abilities as extrasensory probes, highly sensitive to electromagnetic phenomena, and he can also jam certain electromagnetic mechanisms. Though exhausting, he can create particle/electron interaction fields solid enough to be traversed upon.
Black Bolt also is at least partially resistant against telepathy and shares a semi-telepathic bond with those of his blood (such as the Inhuman royal family and certain others), as was evident when he was able to resist the mental abilities of his telepathically powerful brother, Maximus, and on different occasions, use his own abilities to overpower and take control of Maximus' mind. One of Black Bolt's main uses for his telepathic ability is to communicate his wishes to his wife, Medusa the Queen, who then acts as his mouthpiece to the rest of his subjects. He can also use this limited telepathy to communicate his destination wishes to the royal family's teleporting dog, Lockjaw.
So, how's the figure? Most impressive. No great surprise, the figure largely uses established body molds. I don't object to this practice as long as it fits, which in this case it does. Black Bolt has a fairly typical muscular super-heroic sort of physique, and those are the molds that were selected for use on the figure.
Well in keeping with his name, Black Bolt's uniform is mostly black. There is some silver trim on it, traditional for the character, and certainly very Kirby-esque in design. There is a little fork-shaped antenna on the forehead of his cowl, and thick, jagged, diagonal lines running down either side of his front and back, ending at a straight belt, which on the figure actually splits across the waist articulation, and has a diamond shaped "buckle" on the front. The hips and tops of the gloves are also trimmed with silver lines.
Black Bolt's face is human enough. His eyes are surprisingly neatly painted for such a small figure, and his expression is deadly serious. Although generally regarded as one of the good guys, Black Bolt takes his position as king and protector of the Inhumans very seriously, and he's not somebody you want to have mad at you.
There are some additional accouterments on the figure, as part of the costume. Black Bolt's gloves have rather flared cuffs, so he's wearing these wristbands that give his gloves this appearance. They're separately molded pieces that were attached during assembly.
Then there's Black Bolt's wings. Black Bolt has these silver glider wings under his arms, very sharp and angular in design, and again, looking very Kirby-like in design.
Here's a bit of trivia I came up with while researching the character. It seems that Gene Simmons, member of the music group KISS, modeled his facial make-up after Black Bolt's wings. That doesn't surprise me. Simmons is a serious comics buff.
Anyway, to get the wings on the figure, they also had to be molded separately, and attached to the figure via these armbands that secure the wings to the figure above the bicep. Now, arm wings on an action figure can be a tricky business, but these, I would have to say, work better than most. They're not so overwhelming that they have an otherwise detrimental look to the figure, nor are they too great a hindrance to the articulation. The armbands allow the wings to be moved around so that Black Bolt can just about pose his arms down at his sides, and yet he can also raise his arms and look cool with the wings on display.
Overall paint work on the figure is excellent, especially the silver trim on the uniform. I'll discuss articulation of the figures as a group, once I've reviewed the other two. With that in mind, let's have a look at -- MEDUSA!
Medusa was born on the island of Attilan to nutritionists Quelin and Ambur, who were both Inhumans. Quelin was the brother of Rynda, wife of King Agon. Because of that family connection, Medusa was considered a member of Attilan's Royal Family. Her parents chose to expose her to the Terrigen Mists when she was a child, though currently the Inhumans' tradition dictates that exposure to the Mists must wait until puberty.
During her adolescent years Medusa would often visit her distant cousin Black Bolt during his confinement, and she learned to communicate with him through body language. During the course of these visits, the two fell in love and became engaged. She attended Black Bolt's release from his isolation cell at the age of eighteen, and witnessed the first confrontation between Black Bolt and his insane brother Maximus the Mad. Maximus also claims to be in love with Medusa, and has made frequent attempts to usurp both the throne of Attilan as well as his brother's bride-to-be. It was in Maximus' first successful attempt to take the throne that Medusa was knocked off a sky-sled by the Trikon and afflicted with amnesia. She left Attilan, and wandered Europe as a thief.
Medusa made her first appearance in Fantastic Four #36 as Madame Medusa. At that time, she suffered from amnesia as a result from a plane crash. While wandering through Europe, she comes to the attention of The Wizard, who is seeking a worthy female to become the fourth member of his new quartet, the Frightful Four, an enemy group of the Fantastic Four. Wizard's partners, Sandman and Paste-Pot Pete, ask him how he could come up with a suitable female. Wizard says that he knows of a female and that she'd be perfect. A few weeks later Wizard meets again with his comrades. Pete asks him if he found someone with a "power great enough to match that of Susan Storm". Wizard announces that "the female that he has been considering may be even more powerful". When they see Medusa, they are most impressed. The red-haired villainess performs superbly in the Frightful Four's first battle with the Fantastic Four. Madame Medusa seizes Sue Storm with her scarlet tresses, so tightly that the girl can't move. The Wizard then wishes the helpless Miss Storm pleasant dreams, as he knocks Sue out with a can of sleep spray.
The next battle of the quartets takes place in Fantastic Four #38, "Defeated by the Frightful Four". Paste-Pot Pete now calls himself The Trapster. For a second straight time, Madame Medusa succeeds in her task of beating the Invisible Girl. She lays a trap for Sue Storm, who walks blindly into it. She lures Sue to a fashion show and pretends to be a designer who will show her wedding outfits. Medusa then captures Sue with her invincible hair, while the Trapster snares the girl with his sticky paste. Medusa, along with Wizard and Trapster, then abduct their helpless captive into the sky. They take her to an isolated Pacific atoll. They go underground and Wizard tells Trapster to place the girl on the floor near the detonation mechanism of his atomic Q-bomb. The Frightful Four then lure the rest of the Fantastic Four to the island, using Sue as the bait. A battle soon erupts, but as the Q-bomb is about to explode, the Frightful Four escape in their ship, leaving Susan Storm still underground near the deadly Q-bomb. Ben hears Sue's cries and Reed, Johnny and him rush to the semi-conscious Invisible Girl. The Fantastic Four's lives are just barely saved, thanks to Reed's idea of having Sue use her force field. However, all four of them have lost their powers.
Medusa and her comrades again battle the Fantastic Four in issues #41-43. Wizard brainwashes the Thing in issue #41 and he joins the Frightful Four. The Frightful Four then easily defeat Sue, Johnny and Reed. Medusa grabs Sue with her hair and tells the Invisible Girl that it was foolish of her not to flee for her life, because now it is too late. She even captures the Torch in Fantastic Four #43 by soaking her hair with water and then drenching his flame. All in all, Medusa fared quite well while a member of the Frightful Four.
She was then pursued by Gorgon on behalf of Maximus. Eventually Medusa regained her senses and joined forces with the Fantastic Four. She was reunited with Black Bolt, who had been searching for her, and returned to Attilan. The Fantastic Four became friends and allies and aided the Inhumans on several occasions, such as during the frequent power struggles between Black Bolt and the deranged Maximus.
Medusa has been known to join the Fantastic Four as a team member for brief periods of time. She became a temporary replacement for Susan Richards when she was on leave caring for her comatose son Franklin Richards. Through her relations with the Fantastic Four, Medusa and Black Bolt have sought to achieve an understanding and peace between the races of Earth and Attilan.
Medusa oversaw the moving of Attilan to the Blue Area of the Moon. Alongside the Inhuman Royal Family, she battled the Avengers under Maximus's mind control. Medusa and Black Bolt were then married and Medusa was made queen, becoming both royal consort and royal interpreter. When Medusa became pregnant, Attilan's Genetics Council argued that the pregnancy should be terminated due to the possibility of the child inheriting Maximus' insanity coupled with Black Bolt's immense and destructive power. Medusa defied the Council and fled to Earth to avoid the compulsory abortion and live anonymously in the desert until the child was born, a son named Ahura. Black Bolt reconciled with Medusa and the pair returned to Attilan.
Medusa's primary role among the Inhumans is as interpreter for her liege and husband, the silent but commanding Black Bolt. As such she is an experienced state figure within the quasi-feudal system of the Inhumans' government, and is used to speaking with awareness of regal issues of protocol and comportment. This imperial attitude is usually tempered by her strong sense of morality and fairness. For the protection of all Inhumans (her first priority) and to aid her allies (such as the Fantastic Four), she is a fierce warrior.
The events of Silent War series reveals a growing rift between Medusa and Black Bolt as the two disagree on his decision to declare war against the United States for failing to relinquish the Terrigen Crystals. Medusa finds herself no longer able to interpret her husband's wishes as she used to. While Medusa is issuing Black Bolt's war declarations to the Inhumans council he becomes frustrated and snaps his fingers to silence her, indicating that she wasn't relating what he intended. Medusa later confides to Black Bolt that he had never treated her that way before, and Black Bolt responds apologetically.
It was revealed in New Avengers: Illuminati that Black Bolt had been replaced by a Skrull impostor for an unknown amount of time. The impostor revealed himself to the Illuminati and was killed. Both the sudden rift between Medusa and Black Bolt apparent in Silent War and Black Bolt's later defeat at the hands of Hulk in World War Hulk could be attributed to this development, for it is uncertain just when Black Bolt might have been replaced by his Skrull duplicate.
During the War of Kings storyline, Medusa was with the Inhumans when the went into space and forged an alliance with the Kree. As part of the Marvel NOW! event, Medusa becomes a member of the Future Foundation when the Fantastic Four take a time-traveling trip.
As to her powers and abilities, Medusa possesses a long, thick head of red hair; thanks to her exposure to the mutagenic Terrigen Mist, every strand of her hair has greater tensile strength, modulus of elasticity, and shear resistance than an iron wire of the same thickness (average hair diameter: .045 inches). She possesses the psychokinetic ability to animate her hair for a number of feats, including elongating it to almost twice its normal length (Medusa's hair is approximately 6 feet (1.8 m) in length when relaxed), and using her hair to lift and move heavy weights (up to 1.6 tons); a portion of her hair must be used to anchor the rest at these greater weights, so that more than her scalp/skull is used as a brace
Medusa can control the movement of her hair as if it were countless thin appendages growing from her head. A psionic field permeates her mutagenically altered hair-cells, causing mutual attraction across the gaps between strands. These relatively small forces operate in conjunction to develop larger forces. Through concentration, she can psionically move her hair in any manner imaginable. She can snap the length of it through the air like a whip (the tip of which moves faster than the speed of sound), or rotate it in a fan-like manner. She can bind persons or objects with it as if it were rope, or use it to lift objects which weigh more than she could lift with her arms. Her scalp, skull, and neck do not support the weight of an object that she lifts: It is held aloft by the psionic force coursing through the hair. Medusa can also perform delicate manipulations with her hair such as lock picking or threading a needle, and such complex acts of coordination as typing or shuffling a deck of cards. Although she has no nerve endings in her hair, she can "feel" sensations on all parts of her hair by a form of mental feedback from her psionic field.
Medusa is also able to retain some degree of control over her hair after it has been cut or otherwise severed from her scalp. She presumably has the typical enhanced physical abilities granted by the genetically superior Inhuman physiology. She is also highly skilled at interpreting the gestures and body language of Black Bolt, and has a fluency in a special sign language used to communicate with Black Bolt.
Like all Inhumans, Medusa's immune system is weaker than that of an average human. However, due to her frequent ventures into the outside world, Medusa's immune system has been strengthened so much that it is no longer as weak as that of her fellow Inhumans. As such she has attained a resistance to the pollutants of the outside world.
So, how's the figure? Very impressive, indeed. As with Black Bolt. Medusa uses an established set of body molds, one obviously used for female characters, but with a distinctive head and costume.
Although Medusa has had a number of different costumes over the years, the most common factors have tended to be a mask, and the color purple. One might wonder why any of the Inhumans would be masked. There was a speculation on this put forth in a mini-series titled "Fantastic Four: The End", in which it was claimed that those Inhumans who tend to look "too human", whatever abilities they might otherwise have, wear masks, since the Inhuman population isn't all that fond of humans, and this is their way of -- apologizing, or whatever. (The fact that most of the Royal Family looks pretty human is a rather odd counterpoint to this.)
Medusa does have a dark purple mask over her face, although most of her face is still visible, and her eyes show through the mask. Her eyes are reasonably neatly painted, although given the addition of eyelashes, one is a little off from the other. It's not too bad, and I find it hard to find too much fault here. These are very small figures with very fine details in a mass-production environment. And quality control from any toy company isn't what it used to be. And in the case of Medusa, I've seen much, much worse.
Medusa is wearing a purple costume that looks pretty much like a one-piece swimsuit with a high collar, with bare arms and legs. There is a black belt across the middle, with a section in the center that looks like a stylized "M". It's really a very impressive design.
Medusa also has gloves and boots, that are more of a pink-magenta in color, with black trim. The gloves and boots have actually been given a metallic finish. Nice touch, really.
Of course, there is the matter of Medusa's hair. Needless to say, this is a distinctive sculpt. Usually, when I think of intricately detailed hair, I think of the Four Horsemen sculptors. But they're contracted to Mattel, so they couldn't have had anything to do with this. So whomever sculpted Medusa's tresses certainly knocked themselves out on the job, and knocked the job right out of the park. It's a superbly designed piece, with an astounding amount of detail. Some incredibly carefully placed painted detail seems to give it extra depth.
But this does lead to another matter. Marvel Universe figures, by their size, are rather lightweight. And as I have learned, even larger figures can have their sense of balance thrown off by an overly large cape or something of that nature. I suspected that Medusa's hair might have been problematic as such.
Hasbro obviously anticipated this. Medusa's hair literally hits the ground. You stand the figure by basically making a tripod of her legs and her hair. It works superbly well, and Medusa stands just fine. Nice job!
Finally, let's consider the third member of this set -- KARNAK!
Karnak is the cousin of Black Bolt. Karnak has the ability to find the weak point in any person, plan, or object. Thus, he is usually used as planner by the Inhumans. He also serves as a priest and philosopher to the Inhumans.
He is the brother of Triton, who endured Terrigenesis before he did. However, Triton's Terrigenesis was so extreme that his parents, Mander and Azur, begged that Karnak not have to endure the procedure. Instead, he was sent to a monastery, where he learned martial arts.
He is usually attended by his relatives, Gorgon and Triton. He has taken part in most of the Inhumans' adventures, such as the Kree-Skrull War, and the many moves of the Inhuman city of Attilan.
Karnak first appeared as a member of the Inhumans when he attempted to retrieve his cousin and queen, Medusa from the outside world and take her back to Attilan. This led him into conflict with the Fantastic Four, the first humans he met, who were harboring Medusa after rescuing her from the villainous Frightful Four. Accordingly, Karnak is indirectly responsible for revealing the existence of Attilan to the outside world. Karnak battled Maximus alongside the Inhuman Royal Family, and became trapped in Maximus' "negative zone" barrier around the Great Refuge. He was freed from the "negative zone" barrier along with the rest of the Inhumans, and left the Great Refuge with the Royal Family to visit the outside world. He teamed with the Thing, Human Torch, and Black Panther against the Psycho-Man. He aided the Inhuman Royal Family in defeating Maximus' next attempt to overthrow the Great Refuge.
He later assisted Gorgon in freeing Maximus. He journeyed to America to search for the missing Black Bolt. Karnak later battled Blastaar and the Kree Kaptroids. He traveled to New York City, where he battled Kree agent Shatterstar. Karnak aided in the defeat of Maximus and the Evil Inhumans.
Karnak then left Earth with the Inhuman Royal Family to prevent the Kree subjugation of the Inhumans, and battled various aliens. He continued to battle Kree agents, and then returned to Earth. Karnak later accompanied the Inhuman exodus when Attilan was relocated to the Blue Area of Earth's Moon, and in fact was partly responsible for separating the foundation of the city from the Himalayan mountain where it had been concealed, a procedure completed by Gorgon and Black Bolt.
Karnak later battled the Avengers while under Maximus' mind control. He then battled the High Evolutionary's forces during the Evolutionary War. He accompanied Medusa to Earth when she fled Attilan while pregnant.
He was later sent to Earth with Gorgon in an attempt to find Black Bolt's missing son with Daredevil's help. There he and his companions fought against Ultron-13 in which Karnak's power allowed him to discover the weak spot in Ultron's neck. Later they became entangled in Mephisto's plot against Daredevil, and were transported to a netherworld where they were personally attacked by the supernatural entity known as Blackheart. Karnak's animosity towards Gorgon was fanned into a rage, causing actual physical violence. Blackheart was soon defeated and the group went their intended ways.
Karnak later aided the New Warriors against the third Star-Thief. Alongside X-Factor, he then battled Apocalypse. Alongside the Avengers, he then battled Thane Ector.
During the Secret Invasion, Karnak encounters a Skrull. Karnak engages it and learns that it can copy his powers. Karnak manages to defeat the Skrull by sending it out the window where it was impaled on a fence.
Karnak has enhanced strength, stamina, durability, agility, and reflexes as a result of his genetically superior Inhuman physiology. Unlike most Inhumans, he does not have superhuman powers as a result of exposure to the mutagenic Terrigen Mist, as he was never exposed to the Mist. Instead, Karnak has the extrasensory ability (achieved through meditation and intensive training) to perceive stress points, fracture planes, or weaknesses in objects or persons. He has complete voluntary control of most of his autonomic bodily functions. All striking surfaces of his body are extremely toughened. He is capable of shattering substances up to and including mild steel and rendering superhuman opponents unconscious by striking them.
Like all Inhumans, Karnak's immune system is weaker than that of an average human. Karnak has received his fighting skills as a result of Inhuman royal militia training. He is also a graduate of the religious seminary, at the Tower of Wisdom in Attilan.
So, how's the figure? Very nice, but I have a question right off -- if Karnak was never exposed to the Terragin mists, then where'd that huge cranium come from? Or is that just a helmet and he's storing candy in there or something?
Whatever the case, it's an excellent rendition of the character. Karnak has never had the same sort of really muscular build that one typically expects from super-heroes, so the figure uses a more slender set of body molds that I've seen turn up on figures of characters who don't rely on brute strength to the same degree that others do. Although that and the enlarged skull make Karnak a little taller than he typically appears, on the whole for him as an individual figure, it works well.
Karnak does have an unusually large head. One might assume he needs the extra brain power to sense those stress points and fracture plains, and then use his martial arts ability to calculate the precise spot he wants to hit. His head is mostly masked, under a metallic green helmet-cowl, but his lower face us evident, and he has a little black mustache, very neatly painted.
Karnak's costume has a dark green torso with a black belt, and lengths of green fabric -- molded plastic -- that drape down the front and back, not quite to knee level. On the figure, this is a separately molded piece that was attached during assembly. Karnak also has metallic green wristbands, with painted ridges, and green boots.
The rest of his costume is white, although his hands are gloveless, but he does have metal bands painted around his knuckles. Gives his martial arts blows a little extra punch. His costume also has a wide black collar. Frankly, of the three figures in the set that I purchased, Karnak seems to have the tidiest paint job, although they're all well done.
Let's discuss the articulation of all three. All three figures are fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid-torsos, legs, knees, and ankles. Black Bolt and Karnak, by virtue of the molds used, have an upper arm swivel and upper leg swivel. Black Bolt is also poseable at the waist. Medusa has an elbow swivel, and she and Black Bolt have a lower leg swivel.
Karnak's left hand and both of Medusa's hands are notable for having open fingers. This can't be easy molding, and it impresses me when I encounter it.
My one and only criticism about the articulation is that all three figures use some older body molds that have what I regard as over-engineered hip joints, that try to combine a back and forth movement with a lower swivel. It just doesn't work that well. Most more recent Marvel Universe figures use a ball-and-socket joint that's more reminiscent of G.I. Joe, and works a lot better. I suppose there are reasons why these older molds are still used, but I rather wish they weren't. It does make posing the figure difficult, and sometimes getting them to stand properly can be a challenge.
Before I conclude, I would like to address the rest of the Royal Family of the Inhumans. Technically, Hasbro could get another set out of this group. Crystal would be easy enough to do, but the real challenges, and the reason I think Karnak was chosen for this set, is the fact that the other three members of the Royal Family would all require much more extensive mold work. Gorgon has hoof-like lower legs. Triton, a personal favorite of mine, has scaly green skin, as he is aquatic in nature. And Lockjaw isn't even humanoid. He basically resembles an overgrown bulldog.
Every one of them would require much more extensive mold work than these three. This set required three new heads, Black Bolt's wings, Karnak's waist tunic, and Medusa's hair -- which I'm sure was most of the "new mold" budget for this set. Everything else was existing molds. I'm not saying that's being cheap. That's just basic economics. Unfortunately, I doubt that the Inhumans are quite popular enough to warrant the more extensive work that would be required to do the rest of them.
So, what's my final word? I'm very pleased to have this set. I'm also pleased that the Marvel Universe line has reached the point where it's more than willing to do less-prominent characters such as this. I tend to be rather selective with my action figures these days, and I am hardly a completist with Marvel Universe, but when I saw this Inhumans set, I knew that I wanted to add them to my collection, and I'm very pleased that I did. This is a well-made line, and these are an excellent addition to it.
The MARVEL UNIVERSE three-pack of THE INHUMANS, featuring BLACK BOLT, MEDUSA, and KARNAK definitely has my highest recommendation!