In recent months, a lot has said about Marvel’s big push of the Inhumans and how this will affect Mutants. Many are worried that Marvel is replacing Mutants, but I don’t think that’s possible. You can’t replace Mutants with Inhumans because they are fundamentally different concepts. Both Mutants and Inhumans explore the concept of “the other” but they do it in different ways and they don’t line up perfectly. Mutants explore “the domestic other”, the other that can emerge from any family, completely at random, and that people irrationally fear will replace them. Inhumans explore “the foreign other”, the foreign power that people don’t understand and irrationally fear will destroy them. It’s basically – and I realize that this is a gross simplification that ignores so many nuances– the difference between people under the queer umbrella and the Islamic world at large.
(Before I go any further though I really should establish some background info. I am not gay, disabled, Muslim, or anything like that. I am as white, cis, and hetero as it gets so anything I say on the subject of minority politics should be taken with a grain of salt the size of a turkey. If I at all offend you, I am sorry and would like to take any opportunity to improve myself and be more socially aware.)
Much like how queer people can come from any family, Mutants can come from any family – Mutant or not. A Mutant doesn’t need to be born from Mutant parents, in fact most Mutants are born from human parents. It is the same way with queer children, the majority of them are born to heterosexual, cisgender couples. Despite what Rick Remender would have you believe, Mutants culture is a thing that definitely exists. Shared terms, Mutant districts, shared ideals: the culture is there. Much like how queer culture isn’t something you are born into but rather something you join based on shared experiences, Mutant culture is a community based around how they are hated and feared by humanity. The parallels don’t end there; the fact that Mutant abilities often manifest in puberty, the Legacy Virus, and the fact Mutandkind can often “pass” as human help cement the metaphor of Mutants as queer persons.
Inhumans are a different sort of other. Unlike Mutants there is no “Inhuman gene” that manifests in puberty (well, I mean, there is an Inhuman gene but you know what I mean). Being an Inhuman is something you are born into. It’s not a culture based on circumstance but a culture based on blood. Also unlike Mutants, it’s not a random process; your parents have Inhuman blood, therefore you also have Inhuman blood. Back before the T-Bomb, Inhumans were depicted as a dangerous and misunderstood foreign power that the Western world didn’t and couldn’t trust, kind of like Russia back in the Cold War. Nowadays they are more like the various Islamic peoples of the world; the Inhumans are still very powerful, they’re still misunderstood, and the Western governments still don’t trust them. Only now, there’s so much more of them. You could imagine the current crop of Nuhumans as being like Muslims in America post-9/11; they were always there, they’re just more noticeable now.
There is room in the Marvel universe for more than one discrimination metaphor, and frankly there needs to be. Mutants make for a quick and dirty metaphor for the other, but it’s a vague and general metaphor. Mutants have been everything from race, to religion, to ability, to sexuality, and everything in between. But I believe this dilutes the message. The more specific a metaphor is the stronger it is. We can all agree that prejudice is bad but without specific, strong, and concise examples about the problems with prejudice and fear and discrimination, we get generations of people who think “colourblindness” is the solution to racism and think white people can be victims of racism. So lets have Mutants and Inhumans roaming the Earth. Mutants can cover fears of replacement while Inhumans can cover fears of destruction. Simple.