In 2013’s “Infinity” event, the secret and ancient race of super powered beings known as the Inhumans exploded, literally, into the forefront of the Marvel Universe. The result of their former monarch Black Bolt detonating a bomb that destroyed their home city and unleashed a cloud of Terrigen Mist, citizens of the Marvel U with dormant, ancestral Inhuman DNA were transformed into what have come to be known as “Nuhumans.” Black Bolt’s estranged wife Medusa, the new Inhuman monarch, was forced to rebuild their nation and welcome the Nuhumans into it.
The recently concluded “Inhuman” series by writer Charles Soule chronicled Medusa’s struggles, but the Terrigen Cloud has continued to travel the globe and active an increasing number of Nuhumans. This December, the Inhuman nation will launch a diplomatic mission that travels the globe to locate, train, and protect these Nuhumans from harm. Soule will team with co-writer James Asmus and artist Stefano Caselli for the ongoing “All-New Inhumans”, a sister series to Soule’s upcoming “Uncanny Inhumans” that will focus on new Inhumans and their place in the larger world.
â€¨CBR News spoke with Asmus about his cast of characters which will include Crystal and Gorgon of the Inhuman Royal Family as well as established and newly created Nuhumans, the creative freedom of working on a book with new characters and a global setting, and the mysterious and monolithic skyspear phenomenon that plays a pivotal role in both “All-New Inhumans” and “Uncanny Inhumans.”
CBR News: James, “All-New Inhumans” marks your return to Marvel after a year-long absence, and your first time diving into the expanded world of the Inhumans. What made this an especially compelling assignment for you? Have you always wanted to get your hands on the Inhumans?
James Asmus: I really love how much it is a fresh batch of characters that is still growing. I love being able to not only create new stories, but work with characters who still have room for me to put them through their defining experiences.
â€¨As great as it is to write stories for Captain America or even Gambit, so often what will be considered defining stories for them will already be told by the time you get there. At the very least, a story you tell with them will kind of be a drop in the bucket. These are young characters though and these are new characters, or they’re characters who haven’t really had too many times where they were the definitive lead of a tale and we can really give them some emotionally transformative, poignant, and even horrifying moments.
Set the stage for us. I know there are certain things you can’t talk about yet, but in general, what is life like for the Inhumans and Nuhumans you’ll be focusing on when you pick things up eight months after “Secret Wars” in Issue #1?
Basically the Terrigen Cloud is moving across the world and transforming a small, but not insignificant percentage of humans into something else. What I love about this book it is it’s an opportunity to analyze and depict global culture by showing that there isn’t just one response. This book really does follow the Cloud as it moves through the world and the infinitely diverse responses that the world has to these transformations.
â€¨There will be people who want to be transformed chasing and praying for the Cloud. There will be societies that are desperate for a way to move their cultures forward. There will be sort of Third World places where this is seen as almost an asset or resource boom. There are places that will try to leverage this politically and even militarily. There are also places that will have surprising, complex, and ulterior motives for things our characters are going to get lured into. So it’s been interesting.
As you know, Dave, I’m sort of a politics and news junkie and it’s very interesting to think of Crystal on a mission that is not just super heroic, but sort of diplomatic. It carries a much greater complexity in her obligation. What’s good for her people might not be good for the world. That can take them to places where they aren’t always cut and dry heroes. I think maybe one of the closest comic comparisons are the moral choices Rick has to go through in “The Walking Dead.” People are going to live and die based on the judgement calls Crystal has to make about what is best for the future of the Inhuman race.
I imagine part of the reason Crystal is playing such a role is her history of navigating so many different corners of the Marvel Universe. She’s been tied to Mutants, she’s been an Avenger, and she even was part of the cosmic corner of the Marvel U when she was married to Ronan the Accuser.
Exactly. She’s run with the Fantastic Four. She has a foothold in the mutant world because of her long time relationship with Quicksilver, and like you said, she was even a cosmic diplomat. So she has relationships throughout the entire Marvel Universe, but so often she’s been kind of an element of the negotiation. In this book though she really has to be at the forefront making judgement calls in the trenches. She’s going from diplomat to almost a global general. She’s trying to negotiate piece and declare little wars all at the same time.
So she’s adopting a sort of “speak softly and carry a big stick” approach?
That’s exactly it! And we gave them a very big stick in their vessel which we call the R.I.V., the Royal Inhuman Vessel which they’re traveling around the world in. All throughout my notes is that exact phrase because that’s her intent. She wants the world to love and accept the Inhumans, but they’ve seen the way that mutants have gotten it wrong over the years. They’ve learned from that and are moving forward with very different tactics.
The other member of the Inhuman Royal Family who will be a key member of your cast is Gorgon. We’ve seen that one of Gorgon’s major roles in Inhuman society is training his kinsman in the use of their powers, so how important is the mission at the center of this series for Gorgon?
That is of the utmost importance since they’re going around the world picking up the people who just transformed or just got their powers. [Laughs]
He was paralyzed at the end of “Inhuman.” That’s going to give us a very big arc for his story, his character, and his sense of self. He still needs to be the trainer and the mentor. He’s just in the middle of deeply questioning his capability and willingness to do that.
â€¨I think it’s going to change his perspective on the role of the Inhumans. He doesn’t feel as invincible anymore. So I think that’s going to change his stance when they’re arguing about the best course of action.
So you’re not just telling a story about finding these Nuhumans — their training is part of the tale as well?
Yeah and unfortunately that will mostly be trial by fire. As much as they try to keep some of these kids out of harm’s way before they’re ready the truth is there are enough people angry at or trying to exploit the Inhumans, which means they’re a big target moving around the globe. So they’re going to be vulnerable to a lot of stuff and the kids need to be ready one way or another.
Sounds like your initial cast will grow and come to feature a number of all new characters as Nuhumans are found and trained.
By virtue of being a global story we kind of organically wound up with a really global cast, and we’re going to be adding to that because our characters will be darting around the world for their missions. We’re happy to be writing this book and a result of the story it’s going to have one of the most diverse casts imaginable, which is an exciting opportunity for me as a writer. Because, as a writer, I enjoy crafting characters whose perspectives are different from mine and trying to truly understand what that might be. So this book will feature a number of different characters like that. We’re looking at how characters with these different experiences understand and fail to understand each other.
So the vehicle they’re traveling in will eventually become quite crowded?
[Laughs] Yeah, it’s actually pretty packed to begin with. I think we’ll add several more characters before we lose any. We’ll also have sort of a rotation to a certain extent, but it’s going to be a pretty packed book, and as you said, a pretty packed ship. The danger of that is when you’re picking up all these people and granting them asylum there’s an anxiety that you don’t really know the intentions or nature of the people you’ve brought aboard. So there’s definitely some threats from within as well.
Rounding out your initial cast are three young Nuhumans who know what it’s like to suddenly be transformed into super powered beings: Naja and Flint, who made their debut in “Inhuman,” and Grid, who I believe made his debut in this year’s Free Comic Book Day Special.
Yes, Grid was introduced in the Free Comic Book Day Special, and in a lot of ways he is the most wet behind the ears of our characters. He gives us a lot of opportunity to introduce information about the Inhumans from a kind of square one perspective. Luckily there are so many characters new to this world that if you never read an Inhumans book you can learn right along side these guys exactly what’s going on. If you have been reading though you’ll see there’s a lot of new wrinkles as to how they operate in the new world and how they are planning to move forward.
So with these characters it goes back to what you said earlier about the appeal of them being relatively new, which gives you the chance to move them in some interesting directions?
Yeah. I feel like there’s so much more to unfold and discover in these characters. Then I think once we’ve really put them in the crucible and they’re forced to make a lot of tough, moral choices for themselves we’re going to see them land on some very different decisions. They were all kind of cadets a now that they’re out there in the trenches we’re going to start seeing them come into their world view and their roles.
Usually, you have a team of heroes going around the world fighting villains. This is not that. This is a team of nationalists and within that you’re going to find moral shades of gray and a lot of complex issues where there isn’t always a clear good guy and bad guy.
How long has your cast been together when issue #1 begins?
Issue #1 is half the group joining up with a mission that’s in progress. So some of these people have been out in the field for a while and some of them are coming in as fresh blood. In particular Grid is coming on to study the skyspears, which are these mysterious sort of inscrutable monoliths that crash down all around the world.
We start teasing out in the first issue of Charles and Steve McNiven’s “Uncanny Inhumans” and the first issue of ours and Stefano Casselli’s “All-New Inhumans,” different aspects of these things that suggest they have a tie to the Inhumans. There’s a lot of secrets we will be unfolding from it, and I don’t think it’s what people will be expecting. So in addition to their mission of gathering Inhumans and trying to create a peaceful, global environment for their race they’re also trying to study these skyspears around the world and get to the bottom of that mystery before it tips the scales toward people out and out targeting the Inhumans and worrying that they’re changing the world for the worse.
So in a way the skyspears are a mystery comparable to what was done in Jonathan Hickman’s “Avengers” and “New Avengers” in that you can read “All-New Inhumans” or “Uncanny Inhumans” and get a complete story, but if you read both you get a bigger picture of the skyspear phenomenon?
Absolutely. And we’ll certainly be converging the tales down the road. There will be elements of it popping up in each book, and we’re hoping not to repeat each other much. Charles and I are working to keep this whole Inhuman corner of the universe concise and organized. He has some grand designs for the individual characters, for the mythology, and for a big part of the way they’re going to be changing the Marvel landscape. It’s all super exciting stuff. So I’m happy that we can have such a tightly coordinated effort.
â€¨Then my job is to drill down into the character stuff and kind of unfold who these people really are and put them through some heartbreaking, joyous, surprising, and even silly experiences to really find out more about them. I think of my job as being kind of like early ’80s X-Men where it was just as much about the team and kind of uncovering the individual members as it was about any kind of villainy.
Going back to what you said earlier it sounds like the global setting is a real important and fun element of this book. It gives you the opportunity to be additive to the Marvel Universe as a whole.
Yeah, that’s a great way to say it. I feel like this book will be maybe 75 percent invention and 25 percent of drawing from the existing Marvel Universe. I was offered the chance to build up our characters, add new ones, and take them to whatever corners of the Marvel U I wanted. For me that usually means gravitating toward creating stuff.
We’ll certainly have faces, though, who are familiar to and loved by long-time Marvel readers, but it’s not our emphasis. This is a book that’s hopefully for everyone, [Laughs] but it’s also for fans of new characters, fresh voices in the Marvel Universe, and diverse perspectives. This is the place to find that. We’ll definitely pull in classic Marvel Universe elements when they illuminate what we’re doing in an exciting way.
If I remember correctly you were a pretty big fan of MI:13.
Yes, I’m a huge fan of MI:13. I didn’t throw them into our immediate plans for this book, but I do have a short list of elements that if they make sense I’m keeping in mind, and MI:13 is a big part of that.
There are a lot of great, rich, established places in the Marvel Universe and we’ll be drawing on some of them, but I also feel that having pulled MI:13 into “Gambit” a fair number of times I feel like there is other stuff that I as a long time Marvel fan have been dying to get my hands on. So I think there’s a few other places we’ll stop first.
In terms of tone, it sounds like “All-New Inhumans” will be a mash-up of science fiction, super hero adventure and geopolitical thrillers. Is that a fair assessment?
Absolutely, and probably month-to-month we’ll swap out which element is in the lead and which element is kind of playing rhythm.
Those same elements mean you also have quite a diverse cast of adversaries you can pit your characters against.
Yeah, I’ve been especially interested in changing up the big picture dynamic. Are they in a country that’s welcoming them and loving them? Are they in a country trying to use them? Do they have to deal with factions in politically unstable countries? Are there individuals coming for them?
â€¨Even their mission itself has a few aspects to it between the skyspears and a kind of humanitarian relief because effectively this cloud rolling through causes a bit of a disaster. Then there’s the kind of special ops nature of trying to recover and aid the Nuhumans.
There’s sort of no shortage of things we can be making allegories about in terms of someone being changed or outed in their culture and the ways in which they might be targeted, or reacted too negatively, or exploited. Unfortunately there’s a lot of ugly sides of real life that we can create valuable metaphors for in the book.
Right, it sounds like you’ll be examining things like identity in the same sort of classic way as the X-Men books.
I think identity is so much of any story you tell with young characters because that’s such a volatile era of your life from adolescence even through your early ’20s. It’s a time when you’re discovering your own identity and testing it. You’re making mistakes and dealing with the consequences of them. I think so much of establishing yourself is key to most stories about people that age.
â€¨We definitely are dealing with a raft of young characters. There are some older characters who are transforming as well, but it just kind of makes sense thematically with everyone changing to focus on some younger Nuhumans.
Artist Stefano Caselli will be drawing both these Nuhumans and your established characters. In my opinion international action and character acting and design are some of his biggest strengths. What else would you say he’s really bringing to the series?
Yeah, first off he’s brilliant all around. He can do design, action, emotion and energy. He can do comedy. He can do real genuine tension and agony. I’ve been a huge fan of his for ages; since “Hack/Slash.” I think he did incredibly rich work on books like “Amazing Spider-Man” and “Avengers: The Initiative.”
So he can do everything this book wants and elevate it even further than expected. Because I’m such a character-centered writer, my favorite thing with any artist I work with is someone who can really sell complexity of emotion and the performance of the characters. He has that in spades, so it’s a joy to have him on board.
Finally, can you leave us with some hints and teases about the action in the initial arc of “All-New Inhumans?”
We’ve got an atypical rhythm going so the bigger first arc kind of starts in the second issue. We’re doing a deep dive to an old school established Marvel villain from the earliest days of the Avengers and a country that claims that after the cloud rolled through no Nuhumans were created. Ultimately that puts our characters in a place where their agenda and the global agenda probably don’t match up. So right from the jump Crystal has to make some tough decisions that could potentially start a large scale war if she doesn’t play her cards right.
“All-New Inhumans” #1 is scheduled for release December 2, 2015 from Marvel Comics.
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