Even in paradise there is death. The Royals succeed in their quest to obtain the Primagen, yet it comes at a terrible and deadly cost. From the creative team of Al Ewing, Javier Rodriguez, Alvaro Lopez, Kevin Libranda, Jordie Bellaire and José Villarrubia.
The team has traveled to the World Farm, the mysterious home of the equally mysterious Progenitors. These godlike beings appear to be equal parts organic and synthetic, their lifeblood the ultra-potent mutagen known as Primagen. It was through this Primagen that the savage prehistoric Kree were transformed and developed into an advanced space-faring race. The Kree used a derivative of the Primagen, Terrigen, to transform mankind on earth into subspecies known as the Inhumans.
And yet the Terrigen was lost. It’s aerosolized form proved deadly to The Inhuman’s cousin race, The Mutants, and the entirety of it had to be destroyed so to avoid the Mutant’s genocide. The future of The Inhumans was lost unless their former queen, Medusa, and her team of Royals might venture into the stars and discover a new source.
This quest has brought the Royals to the World Farm, an entire solar system condensed into a singular world… a kind of laboratory wherein the Progenitors use the Primagen to grow and cultivate new forms of life. Yet The Royals are unwelcome guests on this world. They are unaccounted for variables that threaten the precision of the Progenitors’ experiments; they are vermin that must be exterminated.
The Progenitors have seeded life in many corners of the universe. The created the Kree and in turn many different species of Inhumans on many different worlds. And they monitored the progress of these new forms of life by sending Sky Spears to collect data on this life and transmit the information back to the World Farm. It turns out that these Sky Spears are crystalline shafts of pure Primagen. Young Flint of The Royals had touched one of these spears on NovaHalla and it has unlocked in him enhanced power and awareness. An awareness that enables him to lead the others to the heart of the planet where they might obtain a purified sample of the Primagen; a sample that they might be able to refine into Terrigen so to bestow their people and way of life a future.
But they must hurry, fore an Exterminator and Destroyer Class Progenitor follow them in hot pursuit.
Before she can formulate a plan of action, Medusa is seized by a coughing fit. She has been slowly dying throughout this entire affair. She was the one who chose to destroy the Terrigen on earth and in some fashion the Terrigen has been taking its revenge. A mysterious illness has besieged Medusa, an affliction that Noh-Varr has only been able describe as ‘a poetic revenge’ in which the Terrigen is attempting to kill her in response to her killing it. Medusa has done her best to fight off this malady until her mission is complete, but the end appears to be drawing near.
The Exterminator and Destroyer Class Progenitors enter into he antechamber. They are enormous, fearsome beasts that dwarf the Royals. Hopelessly outmatched, The Royals fight on anyway.
The team’s pilot, Swain, has never been much of a combatant and is unsure what to do, how she might contribute. She dashes closer to the central Primagen structure. Drawing closer to giant crystal has the effect of greatly amplifying her Inhuman power. This power is the ability to read and manipulate emotion. At first she is swept up in the sheer intensity of her enhanced abilities. Her mind reaches out and somehow communes with her love back on earth.
Swain’s girlfriend on earth is a fellow Inhuman named Ash. Ash’s own Inhuman transformation has altered the way she experiences emotion. She no longer feels emotion in the traditional sense… rather she seems to experience it as matters of logic and consequence. At first, Ash’s apparent lack of emotion made her an ideal match for Swain. Swain lived in fear that she might not be able to fully control her powers, that she might inadvertently manipulate a partner into loving her as she loved them. Yet Ash was functionally immune to Swain’s powers and Swain could feel assured that their relationship was mutual and authentic.
The specific way in which Ash processes emotion enabled Swain to feel assured their relationship was legitimate, but it also left her feeling in some ways unfulfilled. While Ash cannot be emotionally manipulated, she also cannot relay feelings in a more conventional fashion. She cannot tell Swain that she loves her and not being able to hear these words has weighed heavily upon her. Indeed Swain had accepted this mission to venture off into the stars as a means of getting away from Ash, escaping the mounting sense of dread that not being told ‘I love you’ would ultimately lead to an ending to their relationship.
All these fears and doubts wash away as Swain is bathed in the elevated levels of her Inhuman powers. She is able to reach out to Ash, hear her and communicate with her unencumbered by the limitations of language. Words are simply placeholders, ways of communicating feelings in an approximated fashion. The different ways in which Swain and Ash experience emotion are neither better nor worse; they are simply different… and its essence, its source code is the same. Ash cannot say ‘I love you’ to Swain, but she can say, ‘you fascinate me,’ and in this moment of clarity Swain realizes that these two phrases are for all intents and purposes one and the same.
Swain is shaken free from it all when Noh-Varr’s body lands with a thump near her. He has been struck by one of the Progenitor’s rays, causing him to be engulfed in fire. He’s not dead, but dying and seeing her friend in such a condition fills Swain with rage. She stands up and reroutes her augmented powers against The Progenitors. She transmits the feelings of rage and contempt into the two Progenitors, causing the two beings to hate each other with the same fervor that Swain hates them. The Progenitors attack one another and quickly tear each other to pieces.
The threat has abated, but only for the moment. The others look outside the antechamber to see a variable army of Progenitors bearing down on them. Medusa recollects herself and formulates a plan. She orders Flint to form a crystalline shape around them, a de facto spaceship that he can use to send them home; Crystal will use her own powers to generate a breathable atmosphere within this ship; while Maximus is order to collect a grouping of the smaller Primagen shards. His hands were destroyed in a past battle with his brother and are now replaced by robotic prosthetics. The artificial hands allows him to handle the Priagen without it effecting him.
They all hurry to their duties; it’s a good plan, but they lack the time to fully execute it. The Progenitors are upon them and they will not be able to escapee unless someone stays behind to delay them. Gorgon volunteers.
Medusa objects. She cannot, will not leave a man behind and the prospect of Gorgon’s nobel sacrifice fills her with dread. Yet Gorgon will not be swayed. He has been the Royal guardian and viceroy since his youth and he feels it his duty and destiny to give his life in the service of his queen and family. Medusa realizes quickly that Gorgon will not be dissuaded from this course of action. She kisses him goodbye and turns away.
Flint creates the ersatz spaceship around the Royals as Gorgon faces his foes. He lays hands on a nearby structure of crystal primagen, its properties imbuing him with greatly intensified power. He them leaps forward to into the horde of Progenitors, proclaiming that he is ‘Gorgon of House Petragon’ and that his son, Petras, will know his name and know that he had fulfilled his promise.
Power coursing through him, Gorgon slams his cloven hooves into the ground below him. It generates a massive explosions that cracks the central planet of the World Farm in half as the Royals’ spaceship makes good its escape.
The issue ends with the others looking back, knowing with great solum that their freedom has come at the cost Gorgon’s sacrifice. A panel reads that the tale will continue with the next installment.
As has been the case with each issue off The Royals to date, this installment opens up with a prologue set some five thousand years in the future. There Noh-Varr The Accuser and Maximus The Last Inhuman have traveled the wastelands of a ruined earth to awaken the Moon King in order to meet the inevitable return of the vengeful Progenitors.
It remains to be seen how exactly these series of prologues will ultimately connect to the narrative unfolding in the main story. What does appear to be the case, however, is that this Moon King is the future version of Flint – his transformation into this giant crystalline creature the ultimate result of his touching the pure Primagen.
At the center of the Moon King’s translucent form is a human skeleton, mounted upside down, with one leg crossed and its arms out at the sides. The visage of this skeleton is evocative of the twelfth card of the Tarot de Marseille, The Hanged Man.
There are multiple meanings to the Hanged Man, the most common of which entail patience on the path toward spiritual growth, martyrdom, and sacrifice to the greater good. It makes for an interesting use of symbolism and foreshadowing. Flint may be the one whom must patiently grow toward actualization of his destiny, yet it is Gorgon who ended up sacrificing himself for the greater good.
The main crystal structure of Primagen that the Royals encounter at the hub of the World Farm is in the shape of a large tuning fork. The tuning fork glyph has been a constant and recurring symbol in the Inhuman mythos… appearing in their architecture, on the foreheads of Inhumans such as Mosaic and Lockjaw, and as a symbol on the royal garb of Black Bolt; it additionally shows up among the iconography of The Universal Inhumans. It would appear that this symbol represents something of a collective memory of all Inhuman peoples, a unifying tether connoting that they were all created and connected by way of the Primagen, the ‘prima materia.’
Way back in issue number three, it was revealed that Maximus went through Terrigenesis in utero, exposed to an ultra purified rendering of the Terrigen. Maximus’ parents were obsessed with understanding the Terrigen, uncovering its connection to the prima materia. Their experiments imbued Maximus with an enhanced awareness that has allowed him to see and understand the true mechanisms of Primagen. He could see that Flint was able to lead them to the hub by way of a pre-programed knowledge sewn into the fabric of his being (into the fabric of all Inhumans). Likewise, Maximus understood that proximity to the central Primagen crystal augmented Swain’s power. The others were shocked by Swain’s ability to fell the two Progenitors, but Maximus was not. He understands that the Primagen is the key to unlocking unlimited powers in Inhumans.
It is Medusa’s goal to provide the earthly Inhumans with a new source of Terrigen, yet it is unlikely that Maximus will be satisfied by such a relatively small accomplishment. Maximus feels it his destiny to bring far greater things to his people; he wants them to ascend to godliness, and it is likely that he sees the Primagen as the key to achieving such a thing.
Swain’s experience of having her powers bolstered via proximity to the Primagen offered a very interesting interlude in the action. Her quasi-communion with Ash and reconciliation over the nature of their relationship made for kind of a jarring intermission. Still, it proved a stirring and emotional scene as well as a compelling exploration of the nature of affect.
Because Ash does not experience or process emotion in the more mainstream conventional sense, it can be possible to arrive at the erroneous conclusion that she cannot feel or express love… that she is unable to reciprocate the affection that Swain gives her. Yet the difficulty here is not with Ash and her emotional functioning… rather the difficulty lies with Swain and the confines and limitations of ability to understand emotional in a multidimensional fashion. This is a common dilemma faced by many individuals identified as being on the further-left end of the so-called ‘Autistic Spectrum.’ Quite often these individuals are mistakenly viewed as being unable to feel or express emotion. This is incorrect. It’s not that they cannot feel or express emotion, but rather they do so in a fashion that is different then the predominant conventional norm. Emotion is far too complex and multifaceted to be confined to a narrow modality of expression. Accepting the possibilities of a multitude of different pathways for relaying and understanding affect helps to open a broader understanding of emotion as a whole.
The boost in her powers that Swain experiences provides her a crash course in multidimensional emotion. It allows her to better understand the different but equal ways in which Ash experiences affect as well as enabling her the ability to utilize this enhanced power to take out the attacking Progenitors.
very cool stuff!
Right from the onset of this series we were told that one of the cast members was destined to die. It was part of the hook that writer, Al Ewing, dangled out there to create dramatic tension and a sense of looming peril. Plenty of clues and red herrings were offered up regarding which member of the team was destined to perish. Medusa’s illness made her the first likely candidate, and she is still by no means safe. She continues to be bedeviled by this mysterious illness; yet if she is able to succeed in bringing Terrigen back to earth it stands to reason that her ailment will remit. Flint was the next potential candidate after it was revealed that his laying hands on the Sky Spear had initiated a significant change in his being. And he too is not exactly safe. He may not die, but it looks as though he is in the process of transforming into the mysterious Moon King, a creature destined to lay in doormat stasis for thousands of years.
Yet neither of these two ended up being the one to die. Rather it was Gorgon who valiantly sacrificed himself to allow the others to escape.
Gorgon was actually my earliest guess as to which character was going to perish. I’m certainly not happy about it, but can nonetheless understand the decision to have him be the one to die. Gorgon has changed and grown a great deal over the last few years. He has transformed from the impulsive and headstrong brawler into a more introspective and compassionate soul. The time in which Gorgon was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair forced him to reconsider and reevaluate his ways and his legacy. He let go off his violent and hedonistic ways and instead fully embraced his role as a teacher and parental figure. He owed up to his failings as a father to young Petras, making amends by taking under his wing lost souls in need of guidance such as Flint, Naja and Dante.
Gorgon was even able to finally express his love for Medusa, a forbidden love that he kept buried for years in fear that it was inappropriate and would prove unwanted. Seeing herself as dying and freed from the confines of her duty as Black Bolt’s queen, Medusa was able to reciprocate this love and Gorgon came to know a brief albeit fleeting happiness in Medusa’s arms.
That and Gorgon was granted the kind of death befitting what he had always aspired to be – a nobel warrior and guardian of his people.
A constant in the world of superhero comics is that death is not a constant. Mr. Ewing has stated that the Inhuman who dies in his story will remain dead as long as he is writing the book. And yet it appears quite possible that Mr. Ewing’s tenure stewarding The Inhumans may end with the conclusion of the upcoming event, Inhumans: Judgement Day. In short, it is possible that Gorgon may return some time in the future. It may not be for a long, long while, but in the world of comic book super heroes anything is possible. I’m normally not a fan of resurrecting characters who have died… I feel it undermines the emotional heft of a given story. In this case, however, I wouldn’t mind at all in that Gorgon is awesome and I already miss him.
Intense action, wild, way-out concepts, cool character development and fantastic art. It doesn’t get much better than this. Five out of five Lockjaws.