The finale of Ms. Marvel gave fans more than they bargained for when it revealed Kamala Khan as the first mutant in the mainstream Marvel Cinematic Universe. For months, rumors, speculation and some spurious “leaks” all centered around Kamala being exposed to Terrigen Mist and learning of her Inhuman heritage during the finale. Instead, Marvel Studios chose to make Kamala a mutant, making her future in the MCU a complete unknown. It also seemed to spell the end of any hopes that the Inhumans would ever make their way into the stories of MCU’s Earth-616, but as it turns out, Kamala’s retcon isn’t quite the death knell for the Inhumans that it might first appear to be.
In the comics, Kamala is a NuHuman: a branch of Inhumans created en masse when Black Bolt detonated a Terrigen Bomb, causing thousands of humans of Inhuman lineage to undergo Terrigenesis and developing their Inhuman gifts. The event, which occurred in the pages of 2013’s Infinity #4, came at a time when Marvel Comics was making push to elevate the Inhumans’ popularity and, seemingly, diminish the X-Men’s. At that time, Fox still owned the live-action rights to the X-Men and Marvel Studios was hard at work building the foundation their shared cinematic universe, still years away from being the self-sustaining juggernaut it’s since become.
In hindsight, the NuHuman era was nothing short of a failure, with almost none of the characters created during that era now playing a major (or any) role within the Marvel Comics universe. In fact, the Inhumans have been rather absent from the comics in general for the past several years. Perhaps a little leave of absence will benefit the characters in the comics, allowing them to reenter the books at a later date and return to inhabit the very interesting niche they carved out after first appearing in the pages of Fantastic Four in 1965. And it’s this same niche that they could still find themselves inhabiting in the MCU, should Kevin Feige ever choose to introduce them to the 616-universe. And if that niche doesn’t quite work out, there’s another interesting option on the table as well.
The Royal Family and The Universal Inhumans
Should Feige and the Marvel Studios Parliament want to introduce the Inhumans to the MCU, the clearest path is to introduce them as the abandoned subject of Kree experimentation, as seen in the Marvel Comics. As the millena-long Kree-Skrull war raged on, the evolutionarily-stagnant Kree began experimenting on the native species of multiple plantes across the universe. In some cases, like on Earth, early life had already been experimented on by the Celestials and a latent gene that could spark the release of super powers was placed in their DNA. It’s this latent gene that eventually led to mutants on Earth and, after Kree experimentation, allowed for Terrigenesis to transform individuals. The Kree abandoned their projects across the universe following a prophecy that their experiments would produce a being that would end the Kree Empire, but not before successfully establishing metamorphic processes in place on 5 different planets: Earth, Centauri-IV, Lotlara, Kymellia and Wraithworld.
Over time, the experiments on Earth produced an advanced race whose superiority to early man saw them demonized. Over time, they went into hiding in a secret city, Attilan, and then the Blue Area of the Moon. This line of Inhumans produced what is known in the comics as the Royal Family, which is typically presented as Black Bolt, his wife Medusa, her sister Crystal, Black Bolt’s brother Maximus, Gorgon, Triton and Karnak. Of these, it was Black Bolt, the Midnight King of the Inhumans, that the Kree believed to be the being of prophecy. On the other planets, four queens who ruled over their own Inhuman populations were fated to join the Midnight King in ending the reign of the Kree.
It doesn’t take much to see that should Marvel Studios choose to pursue this path, there wouldn’t be much overlap with whatever Kamala Khan and the mutants get up to on Earth. Marvel Studios botched the Kree-Skrull War pretty badly in Captain Marvel and the history of early Earth pretty badly in Eternals. They could rectify both of those mistakes with an Inhumans D+ series that establishes a truer history of both and introduces the Inhuman Royal Family hidden away on the Moon. Rumors persist that the Universal Inhumans are set to make an appearance in The Marvels; if those rumors are true and Feige is introducing them to the MCU, the Royal Family should not be far behind. Make them as strange and Lee and Kirby intended them to be. Make them a hidden force in the universe. Make them what they once were before the NuHuman debacle. And should Marvel go this route, they could choose to adapt one of Marvel Comics’ best Cosmic events, War of Kings, down the road, making good on the prophecy.
The Inhumans of Earth-X
Marvel Comics has a long history of developing alternate universes where things are just a little different: let’s call this…the multiverse. One of the more dramatic reimaginings began in 1999 on Earth-9997, aka Earth X. Interestingly enough, the MCU has already dipped into Earth-X lore a bit for Eternals and they wouldn’t be wrong in wanting to further mine that territory for a different take on the Inhumans.
During the 12-issue arc, Black Bolt released Terrigen Mists on Earth, mutating almost all of Earth’s population into Inhumans. The events of Earth-9997 are set in the future of a dystopian timeline, so this won’t quite work if the 616 timeline is going to keep moving ahed. However, setting up the Inhumans as the villains of a future project and having someone, perhaps the Fantastic Four, have to stop their plan would be a great way to separate the characters from Earth’s mutants. It’s worth noting that the Inhumans of Earth X were given major redesigns by Alex Ross and, if the MCU isn’t going to go the 616 route with the characters, the Earth X designs are the only other acceptable option and would really work well if Feige wanted to introduce them as villains.
So while Ms. Marvel has all but put and end to any hopes that the NuHuman arc from the 2010s could ever work its way into the MCU, there’s still room for Black Bolt, Medusa and the rest to find a way there.