Karnak of the Inhumans can see the flaw in all things, allowing him to topple buildings with his bare hands. Now, that power is going mainstream.
Warning: contains spoilers for Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade #2!
In a world of awesome powers, Marvel Comics‘ Karnak has perhaps the coolest and rarest of all. But since Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade #2 just revealed Karnak’s iconic ability is also possessed by a legendary villain, it seems like Marvel might be expanding the roster of characters who boast their coolest power, opening up its presence in future stories.
Despite being a member of the Inhuman Royal Family, Karnak was never exposed to the Terrigen Mist that gives his people their fantastic abilities. This was because Karnak’s brother, Triton, was transformed into an aquatic creature by the mist, and their parents didn’t want to risk a similar fate befalling Karnak. Instead, Karnak studied, developing the incredible ability to see the flaw in all things. Whether a structure, a person, an organization, or even a belief system, Karnak instinctively sees the vulnerabilities of everything he encounters, and knows exactly where to strike to ensure total destruction. Because of this, Karnak has sometimes been referred to as the Shatterer.
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Karnak’s abilities make him one of the most dangerous of the Inhumans, and Marvel’s attempted relaunch of the franchise saw him placed in a “Wolverine” role as the group’s unbeatable brawler. While some comics suggest that Karnak’s biology may have been altered by his family’s Terrigen mutations, it has remained official Marvel lore that he simply trained his mind and body to perfection. But despite this logic, no master martial artist like Shang-Chi or Iron Fist, or peak human like Captain America or Black Panther, has been able to replicate Karnak’s powers. With Marvel placing the Inhumans into pseudo-retirement with 2018’s Death of the Inhumans, it seemed that Karnak’s unique and fascinating abilities were lost. Happily, Simon Spurrier and Sergio Fernandez Davila’s Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade #2 reveals the Arthurian villain Mordred also possesses the power “to know the weakness in all things.”
While it’s possible the wording is coincidental, it seems unlikely. Karnak’s knowledge of “the flaw in all things,” is a phrase that’s long been connected to the character, and Mordred wears a headdress that mimics both Karnak’s green color scheme and the pattern of his classic forehead tattoos. Taken together, the implication is that this new Black Knight comic will flesh out Karnak’s ability as a wider discipline; one which any number of characters might later adopt. Effectively, a power that seemed to be on permanent hiatus along with the Inhumans now seems poised for a comeback.
The comic has yet to make explicit links to Karnak and the Inhumans, but the confirmation that the two are connected would only function as the cherry on the cake. Karnak’s power is so fascinating because of its wide applicability, giving the user the ability not just to topple buildings with a single blow, but also to break enemies psychologically and conceive of radical solutions to seemingly impossible problems. This ability also tends to be a huge burden for the user, preventing them from seeing the world like everyone else – in fact, 2013’s Inhumanity #1 saw Karnak kill himself after realizing the Inhuman race was being held back by his presence.
Karnak’s own series, from Warren Ellis, Roland Boschi, Antonio Fuso, and Gerardo Zaffino, imagined Karnak as a deeply cynical individual, unable to believe the small lies that make life bearable. Because of this, his power is even more appropriate for a villain like Mordred, especially since it renders one individual a huge threat to the status quo. In taking Karnak‘s power – whether directly or as inspiration – and making it something more characters are able to wield, Marvel just re-engaged with an ability that promises countless possibilities for future stories, especially in the context of the Black Knight’s recent discovery that he can grow stronger by tapping into his own flaws.
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