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Karnak

The Marvels
by yo go re

*holds envelope to forehead* "What is the opposite of a trucknik?"

Through mental discipline, the Inhuman known as Karnak has mastered the ability to perceive the flaws and weak points in any person or object.

All he does is see flaws? So, what, he's making Star Wars videos on YouTube? Karnak is the younger brother of Triton, the "Creature from the Black Lagoon" Inhuman; because Triton's exposure to the Terrigen Mist turned him into such a helpless weirdo (nothing says "long, problem-free life" like needing to breathe water when you live on the moon), their parents declined to put Karnak through the process, and thus his powers are entirely natural, the result of study rather than huffing magic fumes. So technically he could still go through Terrigenesis now as an adult, right? It's not like there's an age limit on that, or there wouldn't have been such a big kerfuffle with the mutants when a cloud of it was released. So there ya go, writers: free story idea.

There's a commonly repeated story that Stan Lee's "script" for the initial Galactus story was basically just "the Fantastic Four fight god," and so everything else about it was a Jack Kirby creation. That may be a simplification, but Kirby was clearly on his own a lot by that point, so we can assume when the Inhuman appeared three months prior, they were mostly Jack's work. It's not hard to imagine him simply taking the idea of a guy karate-chopping wooden boards (1962's The Manchurian Candidate, released three years before the creation of this character, famously includes one of the first martial arts fights in a western film, with Frank Sinatra chopping straight through a desk) and blowing that up to the ability to karate-chop anything.

As for why a karate man from the moon Himalayas [although the Inhumans are most associated with the moon now, they didn't actually move there until the 1980s --ed.] would be named after a city in Egypt, well, we can blame another movie: 1963's Cleopatra was a sensation and kicked off a wave of Egyptomania, making it quite possible either Stan or Jack would have read a story about such a prominent location and held onto the name as something suitably exotic to use later. Eschewing the ornate, complex costumes so many Kirby characters are known for, Karnak wears a very simple green shirt and loincloth, with white for his arms and legs. Sometimes he doesn't even get separate boots, though this toy does. He has armbands that looked like simple wraps on the original design but are 3D now, and there are bands around the center of each hand. When Kirby initially drew Karnak, he simply wore a tight cowl, like the X-Men would; over time, that's been exaggerated to the point where he almost looks like The Leader wearing pinkface. There ya go, writers, another free story idea: a group of villains pose as the Inhumans.

Since he's a martial artist (Kirby called it "judo," but that was just the catch-all term in the '60s, the way "kung fu" was in the '70s or "karate" was in the '80s or "kickboxing" was in the '90s), Karnac uses the slender superarticulated body with the extra pectoral hinges. Whatever intern Hasbro got to digitally color the render for the packaging wasn't sure about the final colorscheme, because on the real toy the pec hinge parts are the same green as the shirt, but on the box they're white like the sleeves. Either looks fine, honestly. Karnak's only included pack-in (other than the Build-A-Figure part we'll get to in a second) are alternate hands: fists or chopping. They already had to be new molds, because of the raised band around the middle, so it would have been nice if they'd done ones similar to Shang-Chi's "palm strike" hands, with the knuckles curled. Fists are probably more reusable, though.

Hey! Did you know Karnak comes with a BAF piece? You should, we just said so; what are you, jumping around the review randomly? He gets Totally Awesome Hulk's right arm.

With this release, we now have three Marvel Legends Inhumans: Black Bolt (twice), Medusa (twice), and Karnak. That ties ML with Marvel Universe, who put all three in a single box set, but leaves us lagging behind the old ToyBiz 5" lines, which managed to also do Gorgon and Triton. Karnak doesn't have much to do with a Captain Marvel line, but his still more on-brand than Steve Rogers is, and he's not somebody you already have a dozen of.

-- 11/11/23


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