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Gracing comics all the way back in 1965, the Inhuman Royal Family are finally set to make their MCU debut in a few short months. Their arrival has left fans fascinated and curious; with the concept of the Inhumans used extensively in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., how will these two shows interact? There were some initial reports that we'd get an overt crossover of some sort, but these rumors appear to be unreliable. Instead, the truth seems to be far more complex — and much more intriguing...
Our Story Begins In Prehistory
If you're going to tie the threads together, then you have to begin with the ancient story of the Inhumans. As established in #AgentsOfSHIELD, the Kree visited our world millennia ago. The Kree were already locked in an ancient war against a rival empire, the Skrulls, and they sought to create super-powered foot soldiers. Using Kree DNA, they reshaped human beings, subtly manipulating the human genome so super-powers would develop upon exposure to the alien substance known as Terrigen. The Inhumans proved too powerful, though, and the Kree left. The Inhumans themselves banded together against their most powerful, dangerous figure, and banished Alveus to the distant world of Maveth.
Most of these ancient Inhumans settled in a distant corner of the world, removed from humanity, and they built a flourishing high-tech civilization that centered upon the gifts and ways of the Kree. Unfortunately, as the centuries passed, the human race expanded, and the Inhumans realized they were both outnumbered and threatened. Finally, the bulk of the world's Inhumans chose to separate themselves from humanity, taking refuge in what seems to have been a Kree outpost on the Dark Side of the Moon. As showrunner Scott Buck told CBR:
"They all originated on Earth centuries ago, before they went to the moon. You could simply say they are Earthlings who built a second home on the moon, and now they are returning."
An Inhuman Remnant Left Upon The Earth
Some Inhumans remained on Earth, and they did everything they could to preserve Inhuman culture, living in isolated cities such as Afterlife. The tales of Terrigenesis became almost religious, and the "Blue Angel" narrative became something of a mythology. Meanwhile, other Inhumans chose to live among humanity, and the Inhuman gene spread. Terrigen was a rare substance on Earth, so the odds of anyone with an Inhuman gene being exposed to the element were pretty slim. Terrigenesis tended to occur only among the isolated Inhuman groups, under carefully controlled conditions.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 led to S.H.I.E.L.D. discovering the Inhumans, and Terrigen was spread into the world's water supply. With the Inhuman gene now spread across the world, random men and women were exposed to trace amounts of Terrigen, which triggered their latent powers. The world learned that the Inhumans are somehow linked to aliens, and they were seen as forerunners of an alien invasion. Anti-Inhuman groups such as the Watchdogs are launched terrorist attacks against Inhumans, while S.H.I.E.L.D. briefly worked under the Sokovia Accords to police and control these new Inhumans.
Everything came to a head in Season 4. Agent Daisy Johnson (an Inhuman herself) decided to move all known Inhumans to new, secure locations. Given the strong political support for the Watchdogs, S.H.I.E.L.D. refused to reveal these new locations to the United Nations. Shortly after, though, the Life-Model Decoy Aida manipulated events to turn the world against S.H.I.E.L.D., and the organization seems to have been officially shut down. That leaves the Earth's Inhumans scattered over the surface of a paranoid world, without a voice to champion their cause, and with paramilitary groups such as the Watchdogs desperate to hunt them down. Meanwhile, new Inhumans are being born every day.
Back On The Moon
This is the context for Marvel's Inhumans series. As Scott Buck notes, there is a vast difference between the Inhumans of his show, and those of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
"We have seen ‘NuHumans’ on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but this is completely different. These are Inhumans who know exactly who they are and know the importance of their powers. They know the importance of their Terrigen ceremony which is the holiest, most ritual ceremony in their civilization. I think the ‘nuhumans’ who inhabit Earth have no idea what’s going on. They are distant relatives of our characters."
The Inhumans in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may have the Inhuman genome, but they don't have the Inhuman culture. Still, that doesn't mean the Inhumans of Attilan won't be concerned when they learn of random Terrigenesis. From the Inhumans footage we've seen so far, we can deduce that the Inhumans of Attilan are troubled by Earth's mass terrigenesis, and their leader, Black Bolt, is pondering how to respond. Should the Inhumans of Attilan remain silent, as their NuHuman "cousins" are hunted down? Or do they have a responsibility to act? With the human race coming ever closer to discovering Attilan, some, such as Maximus, believe they have a responsibility to return to Earth, and even claim the world for their own.
It doesn't seem as though we're going to see an explicit crossover anytime soon, but it's clear that this series exists in the context of everything we've seen established in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. #Marvel's flagship show has carefully built a fascinating mythology around the concept of the Inhumans, but now it's time for that to be taken to the next level. How will Inhumans transform the #MCU? And how will the heroes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. respond when they learn of this new race?
We're about to find out!