I have said many times that I do not enjoy the X-Men movies currently being produced by Fox Studios. The films are focused mostly on special effects, noir themes, and have too little hopefulness in them. The characters – aside from Wolverine and a fortunate few others – receive very scattered, haphazard treatments which do not help them grow and which do not exercise their individuality to the full. I am continually bewildered by reviewers who proclaim that the latest X-Man film is a hit. The X-Men franchise is barely treading water compared to the Avengers’ franchise, from the numbers I remember having seen.
What does this have to do with the Avengers Assemble episode “Inhumans Among Us”? In this show, Blackbolt and the Inhuman royal family of Attilan descend on a town which has been doused in contaminated Terrigen Mist. This results in a human from the town, who has Inhuman heritage, undergoing Terrigenisis – the process by which Inhumans gain their superpowers.
For those who do not know about the X-Men or the Inhumans, the two have their similarities and their differences. Marvel’s X-Men are a superhero team composed of mutants. In the Marvel Universe(s), mutants are humans born with an advanced X-gene. This gene usually activates in the mutant’s teen years, giving them access to superpowers built into their DNA. This occasionally leads to their transforming in appearance physically to resemble an animal or to appear non-human in some other manner. Some mutants can use their powers or look different from birth, but most discover their abilities when they become teenagers.
Inhumans are only slightly different. Descended from humans who were experimented on by the alien Kree millennia in the past, Inhumans are also born with superpowers programmed into their DNA due to Kree meddling all those years ago. Which type of superpowers they will have is unknown to Inhumans initially. Also, it does not seem that a certain power, such as hydrokinesis or super strength, is passed down from Inhuman to Inhuman through direct inheritance. For instance, an Inhuman man who is a telepath can marry an Inhuman woman who is an empath, but their child will somehow end up with superhuman strength instead of either of his parents’ powers.
Inhumans can live normal lives without their powers. They will have above average strength, immunity, and longevity, but they will not manifest superpowers. Their powers will be activated only through exposure to the Terrigen Mists, a gaseous cloud released by Terrigen Crystals taken from the Kree.
Terrigen Mist will not hurt normal humans. But if a normal human so much as brushes up against a Terrigen Crystal without some sort of protection, it has an immediate and deadly effect on them. The Terrigen Mist permeating the town in “Inhumans Among Us” thus does not harm Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Falcon, or the Hulk. Admittedly, only Falcon and Cap would have had to worry. Hulk is protected by his Gamma radiation, Tony by his armor, and Thor is Asgardian. Thus the Prince of Thunder is immune to so much as the common Earth cold. Terrigen Crystals would be among the least likely things to harm him.
This episode serves as the Avengers’ first meeting with the Inhumans in Assemble. Prior to this, only the Hulk had had contact with the Inhumans in the episode “Inhuman Nature,” a show from his own two season series Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. Thor may have known of the Inhumans prior to this Avengers episode. But if that is so he had not met them more than once or twice. And in those cases he may have been on diplomatic missions to Attilan, or they might have been visiting Asgard for political reasons.
When the Avengers and the royal family discover a strange cocoon in the town library, the team fears the thing may be the result of a deadly virus capable of wiping out innumerable people. But when the Inhumans recognize it and try to politely force the team out of the conversation – as well as the library – the Avengers realize that whatever the cocoon is, the royal family knows it is not dangerous. And, what is more, they certainly do not want the Avengers finding out what it is.
But when Tony tells Blackbolt – rather politely, all things considered – that the Avengers are not going anywhere without answers, the alliance the two factions formed at the beginning of the episode disintegrates. Gorgon responds to Tony’s statement by throwing him through the walls, across the street, and into the next building. Then the rest of the royal family attacks the bewildered Avengers in order to “protect” the cocoon.
“Inhumans Among Us” was a very disheartening episode for me. Why? The Avengers went out of their way to be friendly and helpful to the Inhuman royal family. They had no intention of hurting them, and once they knew that the cocoon was for a newly awakened Inhuman, they were ready to help Blackbolt and the others calm him down. In contrast, the Inhumans looked xenophobic and intolerant, displaying violently the prejudices which they claimed the Avengers were demonstrating.
This is my key disappointment not only with the episode, but with the general trend in all things X-Men, Inhuman, and now most of Marvel. The writers are devoting too much energy trying to make everyone in every demographic feel included. The problem with this is that when you try to please everyone, you please no one. Stressing differences between people instead of similarities fractures the very unity which you are trying to build.
In the comics written from the turn of the century to 2015, all the X-Men did was whine about the fact that normal humans would never accept them. They became so fixated on this that the team split in half; then one half went to war with the Avengers. The royal family in “Inhumans Among Us” showed the same blasted tendency, leaping to the conclusion that since the Avengers had no idea what the cocoon was and feared it might be an infection, they would react with extreme intolerance against it.
Instead of doing the sensible thing, which was to explain what the cocoon was, the Inhumans went berserk and wrecked half a town attacking the Avengers – all without provocation. It was suspicion and fear which motivated the Inhumans. The Avengers were left trying to pierce that fog with clear reasoning; but reason makes no headway against deeply entrenched unreason. Hence the destruction of half of a small town within the episode.
The Inhumans also assumed that since the person inside the cocoon was an Inhuman by inheritance, they alone would automatically be able to calm him down and get him to see sense. They forgot that they had voluntarily cut themselves off from humans for so long that most people in the Marvel Universe(s) have no idea who or what they are. What if the new Inhuman came out and, added to his confusion over his new powers, was confronted with people he had no idea he could trust? What if, due to his confusion and fear of his unknown “rescuers,” he attacked them – his supposed “kind” – maybe even killing one or two of them in the process?
Even though they do not seek it, the Avengers are world famous. They are easily recognized by anyone who has not been living without a television, radio, or the Internet. Even the denizens of small towns know of and instantly recognize them.
In such a situation as exhibited in “Inhumans Among Us,” this would make the Avengers invaluable in helping to calm down a new Inhuman who had never known he was anything but human. If the royal family had been thinking, not reacting, they might have realized the team would be an asset in this circumstance and not a threat or a hindrance.
But the writers ignored that possibility completely. Why? Why would they have the Inhumans jump to the conclusion of discrimination and fear? Why would they write a story where the Avengers could be construed as aggressors instead of as calm, reasonable people? (Interestingly, the episode portrayed them in this positive light instead of the intended negative view.)
The Avengers have accepted mutants, humans, Inhumans, aliens, androids, and at least one synthetic being as members throughout their history. They do not care about a teammate’s skin color, gender, or what-have-you; they care about the person who wants to use their skills to help defend the world. This is a proven track record that goes back to the time when Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, Gypsies and former enemies of the X-Men, were given membership on the team. It goes back to Black Panther’s acceptance by the team. Falcon’s membership in the team was accepted with facility as well, despite the government’s interference in the matter. The Avengers are not a passel of small-minded bigots. They never have been.
Yet recently there is a documentable effort to push them into this position. While the team has never been anything short of hospitable to every proven hero, reformed convict, or good android, the Avengers keep getting thrown into conflict with people who claim they are not what they have shown themselves to be time and time again. And these people, often allies of the Avengers, should know better than to claim this insanity.
In recent comics, the X-Men are the guiltiest party. Accustomed to being discriminated against, they had previously battled the Avengers several times, until someone calmed down enough to listen to the Avengers explain why they showed up. This once led to reconciliation after reconciliation between the teams, something which was tossed out after the Avengers vs. X-Men event. In an attempt to heal that mess, Cap started the Unity Squad, a team which was composed of Avengers and X-Men. He hoped to bring the two factions together through this new team.
But his plan was in many respects an unmitigated disaster, as the X-Men refused to see eye-to-eye with their new teammates, particularly the Scarlet Witch. Yeah, yeah, yeah, she wiped out most mutants’ powers earlier in the decade after going nuts and getting mad at Magneto. How many times have members of the X-Men – not to mention mutants in general – wanted to be rid of their powers? Besides which, by the end of A vs. X, the mutant population had been restored. There was no reason to keep picking on Wanda – no reason except to spite her, Cap, and their Unity Squad teammates from the Avengers. Who wants to put up with all of that negativity? Not me, thank you.
Once upon a time, the X-Men were allowed to make friends with non-mutants in a TV series. The 1990s series saw the team become friends with Senator – later President – Kelly. A mutant-hating politician who came to recognize the humanity of mutants through the aid of the X-Men, he became one of their best supporters and friends. Beast made friends with a human scientist in X-Men: Evolution, the same series where Nightcrawler had a normal human as a girlfriend. And the number of normal humans the X-Men befriended in the comics is so long I would have to look it up to make a comprehensive list!
But by the time Wolverine and the X-Men TV series aired, this arrangement had largely been flushed down the toilet. The episodes that came closest to making the point that humans and mutants were different in terms of genetics only were the introductory shows and “Code of Conduct.” In that episode, Wolverine had to fight the Silver Samurai, who was married to his old flame Mariko Yashida, a normal human woman from Japan. The rest of the series focused on the war brewing between mutants and humans because of the latter’s’ hatred for the former. And the X-Men were bent on avoiding a blasted apocalyptic future where all but a few humans and mutants had been killed by the Sentinels.
Did the writers ever consider that by befriending normal humans the X-Men could make greater headway in circumventing this future? No, they did not. It was all X-Men vs. Brotherhood, X-Men vs. the MRD, or X-Men vs. Magneto and his Acolytes. Let’s just lie down and die already, huh?
This different approach had started out in the comics, which began tearing the X-Men away from Professor X’s original dream of peaceful mutant/human coexistence. It is as though, having reached a post-mutant-hating era, the writers decided to tear down all their good work and reset the original status quo.
But how exactly is this a good thing? If you are so determined to build a platform of peaceful coexistence, why suddenly turn around and destroy it once it is built? What can you possibly gain by this?
I once suggested an answer: if everyone in the Marvel Universe became a mutant overnight, then the X-Men’s use as a team fighting for equality for mutants would go up in smoke. Likewise, if you wipe out all mutants (an impossible task even for the Scarlet Witch), their reason for existence also disappears. It seems that the Marvel writers, whether they realize it or not, are carrying out the second possibility – with unprecedented vigor.
In so doing they have neglected the third potential avenue for the team: could the X-Men not change their mission from peaceful coexistence to protecting the Earth, just as the Avengers do? They have powers, gifts above the norm. The achievement of one dream does not mean that you get to sit on your laurels or break off to follow your own pursuits. It certainly does not mean you get to destroy your hard work. It means you go out and get a new, better dream.
The imprisonment, death, or changed hearts of the X-Men’s old enemies does not mean they will never have new ones. If the bigots who hate mutants are reduced, as had been suggested in comics in the early 2000s, to a minority, then that frees the team to fight on a wider field and for an even higher cause: the protection of the two races from unsavory characters on Earth or in the galaxy.
The Inhumans have suffered in a similar way. Having existed as a race for millennia, they retreated from humanity to avoid persecution. Living in hidden cities, they created their own culture, form of writing, and technology. However, having made contact with humanity again, they continue to react intolerantly against normal humans first in an attempt to protect themselves.
How is this sensible? How is this a “more highly evolved” attitude than that of normal humans? If anything this reaction proves that you can build superhuman powers into humanity, but you cannot change human nature, no matter how hard you try.
Both of these teams have fallen into the bigoted tendencies that they either once fought against or retreated from facing. Once the receivers – or potential receivers – of these attitudes, they are not willing to give rational normal humans the benefit of the doubt. They instead react prejudicially toward them.
This is what saddens me the most about “Inhumans Among Us.” Marvel, just like most other media institutions and academia, cannot let go of these hatreds. Once seeking to fight against them, they have now become their biggest propagators. They claim they are still combating intolerance when in fact they have embraced it.
This is the main reason I lost interest in the X-Men and never had much interest in the Inhumans. If they are not willing to let go of past hurts and fears, then they will eventually become the new aggressors, the new bigots, the new haters. Their writers have already fallen prey to this mentality, all the while thinking that they are helping to eradicate it in others. They are not. They are further dividing their audience, having succumbed to their own preconceptions of what is tolerant and intolerant.
This is a hard truth to speak, readers. It is an even harder truth to hear. We all like to think we are good people. Only the most vile are exempt from this. Everyone else thinks that because they have good intentions they are in fact good people.
But good intentions accomplished through bad means end up being evil deeds. A lot of the people who supported the Nazi Party had good intentions. They wanted their country to be strong again, they wanted their currency to be worth something, and they wanted their national and cultural identity to be respected. But how many people – Jews, Catholics, Gypsies, and others – paid the price for those good things to “come about”? How many died because the Russians who supported the Soviet system envisioned by Lenin and implemented by Stalin “just” wanted to make the lives of their fellows better? And how many good-intentioned people ended up losing their heads under Madame Guillotine’s “gentle” administrations during the French Revolution?
The answer to these questions is: too many. Are we to repeat these well-intentioned people’s mistakes? Mistakes are to be learned from but, if you learn the wrong lesson, you end up with the same result. You just get there by a different path.
We learned the wrong lesson. And we are beginning to pay the price. If we do not stop and ask ourselves, honestly and without fear, what we are actually doing wrong…. then we will end up in the same place and in the same hellish circumstances. And it will have happened all for the sake of “good intentions.”
The truth is all we need seek when we ask these questions, for the truth and The Truth are all that will set us free. Everything else are traps and darkness, for the soul if not the body. One is more precious than the other and needs greater care because of that.
Look for the truth, readers, and do not stop until you find it. It is the only thing worth finding, the only thing worth living for…
And the only thing worth dying for.
The Mithril Guardian