Much like the effects of the Terrigen Bomb, the "AXIS" inversion has touched every corner of the Marvel Universe and, with Medusa on the warpath, Attilan may never be the same. Meanwhile, Reader and Xiaoyi -- now called Iso -- learn the secrets of the Ennilux corporation the hard way. Following a very strong arc, Charles Soule and Ryan Stegman's "Inhuman" #9 flounders with a lack of focus and hit-or-miss figure work, although it manages to pack an emotional punch.
In every sense of the phrase, "Inhuman" #9 is all over the place; it struggles to rope in all of the characters it has seen since the series' launch: Dante and co., the Royal Family, Iso and Reader, and even Ms. Marvel in a very forced and rather perplexing cameo. Although this serves to orient readers who may have jumped on by virtue of its tie-in status, it does the book no favors and usurps space from the other, much more intriguing aspects of the issue.
Nevertheless, the issue still carries some emotional weight. Nothing stings more than Medusa's casual disposal of Vinatos, particularly under the hurt gaze of her people. Her climb towards the cliffhanger, however, builds logically and culminates in an exciting but alarming conclusion. Similarly, Reader and Iso's relationship escalates just as organically. Though the narrative skips over weeks of travel, Soule makes their bond feel both natural and honest, just like Reader's faith in the Ennilux system.
Likewise, Stegman's artwork veers from fantastic to questionable. It opens on a high note with Reader and Iso staring down a group of hunters, showcasing the characters while introducing a suspenseful tone with an invisible threat. He carries the action gracefully, executing fights gracefully and fluidly with open, cascading layouts. Where the script calls for creativity, he delivers, particularly in one spectacular full page spread that boasts a host of inventive Inhuman character design. His facial expressions are, at his best, on the nose or hilarious, like Gorgon's reaction to Medusa's newfound hostility.
However, where Stegman performs very well for the most of the issue, he does tend to over exaggerate the character's mouths as they speak; additionally, Inferno looks much younger than he has in previous issues. What's more, Medusa's outfit is hardly an improvement from its last incarnation; where colorist Richard Isanove winks cleverly at her inversion with an all-black costume and purple belt, she looks like something out of the Hellfire Club in a black leather kink suit. For all that her stiff and sneering body language aptly suits her new outlook, her Dominatrix outfit feels glaringly misplaced.
Charles Soule and Ryan Stegman's "Inhuman" #9 is a mixed bag that oscillates between poignant and schlocky. While a lot of elements are at play in this crowded book, it moves a lot of pieces into place for what looks to be a thrilling follow up issue, thanks in large part to the effective build up here.