Inhumans: Judgment Day #1: A Beautiful Finale
Inhumans have had a rough go lately, from the cringe-worthy television adaptation to cancellations of both major Inhumans titles Secret Warriors and Royals. Royals #12 ended with plenty left to tell, and the one-shot Inhumans: Judgment Day finishes the story wonderfully with a mega-sized issue focused on the indispensable bond between Medusa and Black Bolt.
The Progenitors, creators of the universe, are headed to Earth to harvest Inhuman powers for world domination—as foretold by Maximus to his younger self. While hiding on the Moon, the Inhumans devise a plan to defeat the Progenitors. Knowing they can’t defeat the Gods physically, they send Medusa into the Astral Plane to battle them on a more level playing field.
Bad art detracts from the story, good art supports the story, and great art elevates the story. Inhumans: Judgment Day boasts great art from Kevin Libranda and Mike del Mundo. Libranda draws the Royal Family laying out their plans in the real world while Mike del Mundo illustrates Medusa’s mental manifestations. Interchanging artists is a gamble—it can be jarring for readers. However, here, the contrasting styles help immerse readers in a reality-bending tale.
Libranda illustrates with clarity—detailed characters, thick lines distinguishing people from the environment, and his signature Progenitor design—while colorist Jose Villarrubia’s work sets characters in vibrant splendor against the Moon’s dreary grays. When these two create a page, readers are fully engrossed in a clearly conceived reality.
Del Mundo delivers more surreal landscapes- less detailed features, blurred lines, hellish orange staining nearly every panel in stark contrast to Libranda’s reality. Sure, readers would know Medusa was in the Astral Plane had Libranda drawn the entire issue, but del Mundo’s more abstract depiction draws readers away from reality by providing a vivid sense of the Astral Plane where nothing is real but everything remains tangible.
I also have to mention Del Mundo’s four absolutely gorgeous non-Astral Plane pages. His back-to-back splash pages truly enliven writer Al Ewing’s succinct summaries of Royals with jaw-dropping recreations of their adventures.
Art Score: 9.25
Despite featuring the mute Black Bolt throughout, this issue is fairly chatty, but Ewing crafts natural, empathy-inducing dialogue that even makes the time travel elements easier to digest.
Royals concluded with Maximus communicating across time to his younger self to prevent a future that destroys the world. Wait—wouldn’t simply knowing the future change the future? And if contacting the past worked, would there be a future in need of contacting the past? Or what?
Fuck time paradoxes.
Ewing wonders about this too and pokes fun at the whole idea of time travel with Maximus saying, “Does that still happen? We’re already changing things. To observe the future is to alter the future… Don’t worry, I’m not mad. Not anymore. Really. Probably not.” Maximus’s vision of the future led him to drop “The Mad” moniker from his name, but Ewing points out that this new time paradox still makes Max question his sanity. As if Ewing is acknowledging the story’s intricacies and telling readers not to think too hard about it—it’ll drive them nuts.
Medusa does most of the talking, eloquent and poetic as ever. She laments on the Primagen she traveled across the galaxy for failing to cure her disease then pours her heart out to Black Bolt in the Astral Plane. Ewing never phones in this dialogue; Medusa never comes off as clichéd, instead her lines feel genuine, just natural thoughts verbalized. Ewing’s dialogue between Black Bolt and Medusa exemplifies the way the two depend on one another without resorting to trite “I love yous.”
Even the minor characters get sharp dialogue. Each conversation flows like a real conversation without feeling forced or unnatural.
Dialogue Score: 9
The Narrative (Minor Spoilers Ahead):
On the surface, Inhuman’s: Judgment Day is a simple “we’ll save the world and no one will know” story; however, deep down it’s about the unbreakable bond between Medusa and Black Bolt.
Medusa awakens in the Astral Plane to a decaying statue of Black Bolt coldly gazing down at her while the face of her recently deceased lover, Gorgon, remains turned away “broken and lost” in the sand. Abruptly, as otherworldly vines attempt to suffocate her, Black Bolt bursts from his own head to save her.
Because the Astral Plane reflects each visitor’s subconscious, I read this scene as an expression of Medusa’s guilt over her affair with Gorgon and his death. The vines are the physical manifestation of that guilt, something she cannot escape without Black Bolt’s forgiveness. Black Bolt erupting from his scornful gaze represents the importance Medusa places on his forgiveness—despite knowing how disdainful he will likely be, her subconscious knows their bond is too powerful to be broken by her guilt.
Although not truly in love anymore, they wander the Astral wasteland together, eventually rediscovering their mutual need for each other and the strength it brings. This strength is tested immediately as the Progenitors burst into the Astral Plane looking to rumble. Their attempts at combating the Gods are futile even with Primagen miraculously appearing in Medusa’s hand. Then Black Bolt is thrust into the line of fire. Medusa, overcome with fear seeing her husband in danger, miraculously regains her powers and expels the Progenitors from the Astral Plane and reality.
The reemergence of Medusa’s power demonstrates the powerful bond she shares with Black Bolt. Without Black Bolt’s manifestation in the Astral Plane, Medusa wouldn’t have found the strength to regain her powers and destroy the Progenitors. Her most powerful asset isn’t her Inhuman gift, it’s her bond with Black Bolt- without that bond humanity would’ve been doomed.
Maximus even acknowledges this when Medusa returns to reality, saying, “Let me guess—you broke through a mental block or two while you were in there?” Block one: coming to terms with her guilt over Gorgon. Block two: Her true power comes from her bond with Black Bolt.
Narrative Score: 9.25
Inhumans: Judgment Day could’ve been an action-focused narrative with towering Progenitors battling a ragtag group of Inhumans, but that would’ve been eerily similar to the final two issues of Royals. Instead, Ewing focuses on the Inhumans themselves, crafting a character-driven story that gives key insight into the king and queen of the Inhumans in beautiful fashion.
Final Score: 9.17