Priest & Noto Zero in on Inhuman History with Once & Future Kings #1

Story by
Art by
Phil Noto
Colors by
Phil Noto
Letters by
VC's Joe Sabino
Cover by
Marvel Comics

As you've already noticed, the genetically engineered race of superpowered individuals known as the Inhumans have seen a renewed focus across multiple Marvel platforms. The group will even star in its own ABC television series, where viewers will see Black Bolt, Medusa, Maximus and more brought to life on the small screen. While fans get to follow the Inhuman Royal Family in the present day, many of their adventures prior to adulthood remain a mystery.

Marvel highlights one of these lost tales in Inhumans: Once & Future Kings #1 from Christopher Priest, Phil Noto and Joe Sabino (with a backup story from Ryan North and Gustavo Duarte starring the larger-than-life Lockjaw). The five-issue miniseries marks Priest’s return to Marvel Comics after a lengthy absence, and he doesn’t miss a beat as he perfectly picks up the voices of the Inhuman King and his subjects. Each character speaks with an air of elegance that could run the risk of sounding pompous if handled incorrectly, but Priest makes every voice sound natural to the individual. We even get to hear Black Bolt speak at one point early in the issue, when he and his brother Maximus are attacked alongside their King. Thankfully, a verbose Black Bolt only lasts for a couple of pages. What makes the future king unique is his ability to get his point across while literally saying nothing, relying on body language to do the work for him.


Speaking of body language, Noto’s art is definitely the highlight of this first issue. His work captivates with its warm, soothing colors; whether it’s a quiet moment at a fiery vigil for fallen members of the Alpha Primitives (humans transformed into mindless slaves) or a hotheaded Medusa behaving like anything but a future queen, Noto brings a unique visual unlike many others. For an example of what Noto is capable of bringing to a comic, we can feast our eyes on two separate splash pages. The first features a mountain being sculpted in the likeness of the Inhumans' king, which we find is a splitting image of how he looks mounted on his horse, donning golden armor. The second splash page is technically two panels, but the primary one is a close-up of an intense Black Bolt unleashing the power of his vocal chords.


Priest weaves a political thread throughout the story by having the King’s life threatened, which in turn makes him suspect treason by Black Bolt, Maximus, and Medusa. There is a mystery figure introduced named Elisha, and his role in the overall story warrants monitoring, especially given how out of place he looks -- he wears a baseball cap, earbuds, and clothing one would find on the streets of New York City. Is he an Alpha Primitive who maintained his previous intellect? He speaks as if he knows how events will transpire in the future, so there’s another potential clue. Another possibility in Inhumans: Once & Future Kings is retelling the origin of how Black Bolt and Medusa overthrew the corrupt King and turned him into the Unspoken, thereby giving the miniseries greater importance.


Before we end, we can’t forget about the Lockjaw backup story. Though it’s only two pages long, it contains the recognizable humor of North’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl with similar art from Duarte and Sabino. Upon further inspection, it’s reminiscent of a Sunday newspaper comic strip, as The Thing declares “It’s fetching time!” with a teleporting Lockjaw.

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