Spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., House of M, Infinity

Your subjects are powder kegs of genetic potential, primed to detonate upon exposure to the Terrigen mists. Each of them is truly unique – a subspecies of one. ” Inhumans #1: Sonic Youth

Luke Mitchell as Lincoln in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Luke Mitchell as Lincoln in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

A bunch of people are at a party when a strange mist appears. They breathe in the mist and collapse. They change, some gaining wings or claws. A woman bursts into flame while a man turns to stone. As they flee the party, one thought is in their minds, “What’s happening! What am I?!”

The Inhumans are an obscure species in the Marvel universe. They are similar to mutants except that they choose to gain powers. Because Marvel isn’t allowed to use mutants in the Marvel Cinematic Universe*, The Inhumans have replaced them to critical acclaim. So where did they come from? How do they gain their powers? And what exactly makes them ‘Inhuman’? Let’s find out.

Terrigenesis: The Inhuman’s Backstory

Skye: Where do you get this stuff? My father?

Raina: Partly. But my grandmother came from a long line of special people who believed in a story about the blue angels that fell from the heavens. The ancients called them the Kree.

Skye: And what do the Kree want?

Raina: Change. – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. …Ye Who Enter Here

The Inhumans were introduced in 1965 in the pages of Fantastic Four #45. They were the result of genetic experiments by an alien race called the Kree. The Kree had experimented on primitive humans, hoping to cure their genetic stagnation and create a race of super-powered warriors to fight their wars. The Kree learned of a genetic prophecy that claimed an anomaly would destroy them and fled.

The Inhumans withdrew into seclusion. Hiding in the city of Attilan**, the Inhumans discovered Terrigen crystals that, when broken, release Terrigen Mist. This mist causes Terrigenesis, the process by which Inhumans gain their powers. The Inhumans, perhaps in a case of nurture vs nature, began a rigid eugenics program so that only superior members would undergo terrigenesis.

Inhumanity: The Inhuman’s History

Help me, or stay out of my way. Any other path, and you are my enemy, and an enemy of New Attilan. My enemies have one thing in common, Lash, they fall.” Queen Medusa, Inhumans #3

The Fantastic Four encountered the Inhuman queen Medusa during one of their adventures. They soon met the rest of the Royal Family, led by King Black Bolt. The Royal Family assisted the Fantastic Four in a fight and were encouraged to end their seclusion. They eventually revealed themselves to humanity… after relocating Attilan to the moon. Trust issues much?

The Inhumans went on the warpath when Quicksilver (Evan Peters in X-Men and Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Avengers) stole a large amount Terrigen crystals. Quicksilver believed they could repower all the mutants that had lost their powers by the end of House of M, but it didn’t work. ***

During the Infinity event, the Royal Family discovered that there were other groups of Inhumans that had interbred with normal humans. They were forced to destroy Attilan to keep Thanos (Josh Brolin) from exterminating their race. The destruction of Attilan unleashed Terrigen Mist throughout the world, mutating anyone who had Inhuman ancestry.

Royal Family: Notable Inhumans

The most important Inhumans are the Royal Family.

Black Bolt is King of the Inhumans and the anomaly the Kree feared. He is as strong as Thor and can fly, but his greatest weapon is his voice. A mere whisper can destroy cities, and even gods fear what would happen if Black Bolt screamed. Black Bolt has undergone rigorous training to ensure he never accidentally makes noise. He even devised a sign language to communicate with the rest of the Royal Family.

Medusa is Queen of the Inhumans and responsible for them ending their self-imposed exile. She leads the Inhumans in battle. Her power comes from her prehensile hair.

Karnak the Shatterer is the strategist of the Inhumans. He never underwent Terrigenesis, but has proven many times that he doesn’t need it. Much like Batman, he has pushed his body and mind to their absolute limits. He has even learned to identify the weakness or flaw in anything, which some think is his mutation.

Other noteworthy Inhumans are Lockjaw, the Royal Family pet who can teleport anywhere, Daisy Johnson/Quake (Chloe Bennet in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Lash (Matt Willig), and Kamala Kahn/Ms. Marvel (Kathreen Khavari in Avengers Assemble).

The Inhumans in Media

The Inhumans television debut was in the 1978 animated Fantastic Four. They were portrayed as evil instead of neutral. A more accurate version appeared in the 1994 remake. They have also appeared in several other Marvel cartoons.

The Inhumans were introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The third season ended with Terrigen spreading throughout the world. The show uses the Inhumans as a stand-in for the X-men mutants due to rights issues.

An Inhumans movie entered development in 2011, but has been trapped in development hell since. ABC has announced an Inhumans television show focusing on the Royal Family for 2017. While the movie hasn’t been canceled, it’s unlikely to come out anytime soon.

Didya Get All That?

A subset of humanity that get superpowers from vaping.

* Fox bought the X-Men’s film rights in 1994. Marvel is legally forbidden from adding X-Men characters and mutants to the MCU. There are some exceptions, like Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch

** A high tech Kree city that can fly.

*** Long story short, the Scarlet Witch had gone insane and altered reality to make mutants the dominant race. In the end, she used her powers to remove almost every mutant’s powers.