The product of Marvel titans Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, as mentioned in the book's introduction, the title characters came about when Marvel was looking to expand their roster of super-heroes. In Marvel Masterworks Vol 1 we are introduced to the origins of the "Inhumans" - a group of characters who, due to alien experimentation and something called the "Terrigen Mist" have enhanced abilities and specific super powers.
What's most appealing about this story are the events surrounding the title characters, and in some cases proved to be more interesting than the characters themselves.
A visiting alien race called the Kree, arriving on Earth back during the dawn of mankind, experiment with a small number of early humans by speeding up evolution on their human subjects only to abandon their project when other more important intergalactic issues call them away. (any who have read the Marvel epic the Kree/Skrull War or other stories involving the two warring alien races, know exactly what sort of issues those might be) Left behind is a mechanized sentry, who is put in charge of making any observations from the experiments and under orders to report the results to its superiors when called on...(sounds good - I like it)
However the main theme for the title characters from this point on in this first volume is: over the course of the many centuries that follow, future generations of Inhumans are first, naturally curious in learning more about their inferior humans that they co-inhabit the planet with - they then soon find when they venture out into the human world, they are treated as outcasts and now our Inhumans primary mission is switched to finding a way to keep themselves hidden and protected from the humans - this seemed rather disappointing considering that the potential was there to take this in a more dramatic direction (and why do they fear the humans so much if they possess more powers? - fear of the unknown I guess)- to this reader its seems only like a weak spin-off of the X-Men - who face the same problem but choose to work at blending in rather than secluding themselves.
Nevertheless there are moments in this volume where you see the fascination with these unique characters, mostly involving their powers - the most interesting being the Inhumans leader - Black Bolt who possesses abilities such as forming force fields, projecting powerful sonic blasts, the power of flight but most unique of all - the power to render seismic-level destruction and shatter mountains and entire cities with the mere utterance of his voice. This obviously brings about a special set of problems for the Inhumans monarch - interesting is the "evil brother" Maximus the Mad (with a name like that he had to be evil...right?) is the benevolent brother's ultimate sibling rival - much along the same lines as the relationship between Thor and Loki - Maximus, in this volume anyway, sole purpose is to take the throne from Black Bolt. The best part of this book was one of the later chapters when we see the early-on makings of what brought about the rivalry and what haunts both brothers - this I would have preferred to have been explored more fully. The other Inhumans, who are trusted subjects of Black Bolt are Medusa, Gorgon, Karnak and Triton, each with their own respected powers but nothing really spectacular.
Most of the chapters are both written and drawn by Jack Kirby and set outside the Inhumans sanctuary city known as Attilan and later the Great Refuge - they encounter not only the humans who baffle them with their violent ways and narrow-minded dislike but also capture the attention of the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and villains such as Magneto and the Mandarin.
The adventure with the Fantastic Four is much too brief - the story involving the Avengers is one of the better ones yet the cross-over section, in which the Avengers are in the middle of the Kree/Skrull saga seems very confusing and out of place even to one who is familiar with that epic story.
Personally, I enjoyed most the early chapters, explaining the origins and then the later chapters drawn by Neal Adams - Mr. Adams panels never fail to impress me - and as usual, are awesome.
Though it suffers some from lack of overall flow and some confusing twists - The Inhumans Vol 1 is entertaining and a good addition to any Marvel collector's shelf.