'Marvel's Inhumans' is the worst superhero show I've ever seen

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large
Marvel’s Inhumans

I’d like to say that Marvel’s Inhumans is so spectacularly awful, it’s worth tuning in just to witness the superhero train-wreck. But alas, Inhumans does not even yield sarcastic pleasures — it’s just bad. Bad in a dull way, bad in an irritating way. Built around some second-, third-, and fourth-tier Marvel Comics heroes and antiheroes, the show features a central plot so lame, you start thinking, “Wait — there’s more to this than … this, right?” Its special effects reach their summit with a giant CGI dog named Lockjaw, the only character worth rooting for.

As the central figure Black Bolt, Anson Mount has left Hell on Wheels for hell on Earth: The king of the distant realm Attilan (rhymes with Ativan, and just as soporific), Bolt is in exile after a revolt led by Bolt’s brother, Maximus, played by Iwan Rheon — Ramsay Bolton from Game of Thrones. Maximus would also like to rule Earth, which he describes as “a glorious planet to live on — thrive on,” suggesting that the results of the last presidential election have not yet reached Attilan. Co-superstars include Serinda Swan as Medusa, whose undulating super-hair is so badly CGI’d, they wrote in a plot line so that she could cut it off; and Ken Leung — Miles on Lost — who plays Black Bolt’s cousin, Karnak. Really, Inhumans? Karnak, while there are still some of us around to remember the real one, spelled Carnac?

Inhumans combines the most tiresome clichés of the superhero genre with the most boring elements of historical costume dramas: portentous dialogue and everyone standing around taking dramatic pauses to stare meaningfully at each other. The exception to the bad-dialogue flaw is Black Bolt, because he’s mute — or rather, he can talk; it’s just that if he speaks, his voice destroys everything around him. Basically, his super-power is Awesomely Bad Breath. For Mount as an actor, this leaves him doing two things: sign language or glaring really hard at people, as though willing them to understand that he’s asking urgently, “Is there a restroom nearby?” As far as the sign language goes, Mount reportedly made up his own, Inhuman version of American Sign Language, compiling more than 50 pages of grammatical rules, in the hope than his constructed language would become pop-culture canon in the manner of Klingon or Dothraki, and be really cool when he’s still appearing at Comic-Cons 50 years from now. Give the man credit: His show sucks, but he’s preparing for retirement.

Inhumans is so tedious, you start noticing how bad incidental things like the music are — wimpy, synth-y covers of classic rock like the Stones’ “Paint It Black” and the Doors’ “Break on Through” make the proceedings even more painful. I’m trying to think of a worse super-power-themed show. Manimal? The Powers of Matthew Star? No — they had a certain campy charm. Marvel’s Inhumans is just inhumane.

Marvel’s Inhumans premieres Friday at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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