It’s the best part of the reading experience to run across a story with a new voice. Warren Ellis, of The Authority and Transmetropolitan fame, has assumed various voices, but I love his newest one: the narrative perspective of Marvel’s Karnak the Shatterer, a character associated with the Inhumans.
The Inhumans, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, have been around since The Fantastic Four was in double-digits. Some of you may recall that Karnak is the one with the big head and the super-effective karate chops because his special talent is finding the structural flaws in things.
(Although, to be accurate, Karnak isn’t technically an Inhuman because was never exposed to the Terrigen mists — bring that up at a dinner party for a No-Prize!)
Over the years, Karnak’s powers and perceptions have expanded to include seeing the flaws in arguments, concepts, and people. His greatest achievement is finding the flaw in death, thereby returning from the dead.
It may sound a bit blithe to say it that way, but Karnak’s philosophical viewpoint has been strengthened over the years and bears some thematic resemblances to people like Iron Fist’s warriors of K’un-Lun or the Ancient One (of Dr. Strange fame).
The Inhumans of course, have been increasing in their importance in the Marvel Universe. I’ve seen internet theories that Marvel is downplaying the X-Men while up-playing the Inhumans, because Marvel doesn’t hold the X-Men movie rights.
The Marvel and DC reboots seem to happen quicker and quicker. Every 2-3 years, the big two stop production of many lines and then re-origin or rework a bunch of characters and teams. On one hand, I get it.
A #1 issue sells better than a #5 or a #25. Also, some characters or storylines get long in the tooth and a refresh isn’t bad. And often, this is a place to sneak in (or boldly proclaim) new diversity to appeal to a broader range of fans. On the other hand, some consumers, myself included, like our continuity and the idea of collecting all the issues and knowing that what I bought five years ago is still cannon.
But I’ve got to say that the quality of the reboots is winning me over. There is so little pure continuity left that the emotional cost of a reboot for me is lower and lower.
For example, in 2012, Marvel launched the NOW! branding of their line. A bunch of new #1 issues came out and many were kicking serious ass (Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Magneto, etc). In 2015, Marvel destroyed the Marvel Universe (surprise!) to make Secret Wars.
As a personal aside, hearing that they were redoing Secret Wars had me a little anxious. I’m old enough that I bought the first Secret Wars series over twelve months in corner stores. I thought a redo would be crappy. However, Marvel made this one much, much bigger in scope, and included most of the current characters in the MU.