There are those who complain about tropes; but not I. With that in mind, there’s a lot to like about Inhibit, a web comic by Eve Greenwood.
A trope is sort of a shortcut that helps you avoid getting tangled up in all the particulars. It lets you move forward quickly into the more important meat of the story; the parts the author started making the story for; the parts they’re most excited to share. Like all tools, tropes can often times be subject to excessive use and abuse. The judicious use of a trope can blow a world wide open. It can cut to the very bone of a character and grab the reader by the heartstrings, and play them like a virtuoso.
Inhibit has just the right amount of old and new. We start off in familiar territory. Some humans have, for some unknown or ambiguous reason, developed strange abilities. Things like cryo-manipulation, psychokinesis, and super strength. Eight variations of these supernatural powers exist, and each is under strict government control.
The aptly named Variants are collected and trained from a young age. Those who are able to master their abilities are then funneled into a service collecting and training future Variants; especially those who resent and resist. Those who are unable to master their abilities train to minimize and suppress them, until they are safe for the public. Or, in the worst case scenario, held captive until their variation becomes dormant. It is only then that they can be released into society without risk.
We meet our protagonist Victor, a rambunctious and goodhearted nine year old, as he eagerly enters the door of the well-reputed Urquhart Institute. When we next see him, he is a nervous, disheartened, disaffected eighteen year old. He is in and out of solitary confinement at the Earl Estate. This is a home for Variants who have proven unable to master their abilities. Even without seeing the intervening nine years, one look at Victor’s eye-bags and depression hoodie tells me everything I need to know about how soul-crushing the experience in these institutions must be.
I immediately fly to Victor’s side, ready to back him through the whole adventure waiting for him. Although, I would be remiss not to admit that I so readily empathized with him because I was looking ardently for a foothold in the story. It takes Inhibit some time to find its feet. But, once it does; once it gets through its foundational tropes, world-building, and splashes in a little intrigue—it’s off to the races.
The strongest part of Inhibit is its characters. It features a large cast full of all sorts of people, with all sorts of powers, from all walks of life. For anyone out there who have been disappointed by the dearth of disabled characters in superhero stories and comics, Inhibit is like a revelation of representation. And that’s not all! People of color and LGBTQ+ characters are also at the forefront of this story. Neither are just mere condescension and stereotype, nor a reliance on coding and vagaries.
Every one of these characters, and the genuine polyphony of voices on the page they speak with, breathes a little more life into the world. Until, all at once, the story seems like it’s breathing on its own. It’s clear that Greenwood has invested a lot of time, care, and skill in crafting the host of characters. There’s Julia, Victor’s best friend, with too much personality for her little frostbitten body. And there’s also Masha, the tallest and wittiest crush you can imagine. And we have Neil who’s—well—Neil.
Inhibit draws a lot on what came before it, but it does so to great effect. It takes beloved tropes and builds from them with distinctive artwork, inviting characters, and just a dash of mystery simmering under the surface and eager to boil up to the forefront. It’s smart, funny, and inviting. I’m eager to dive into the story and get to know these characters better over the ride.