Karnak (comics)

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Karnak sih 02.png
Karnak fighting a Skrull as seen in Secret Invasion: Inhumans #2
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance Fantastic Four #45 (December 1965)
Created by Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
In-story information
Species Inhumans
Place of origin Attilan
Team affiliations Inhuman Royal Family
Notable aliases The Shatterer
Abilities Ability to sense weak points
Enhanced physical attributes
Master martial artist
Experienced hand-to-hand combatant

Karnak is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. He was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and debuted in Fantastic Four (vol. 1) #45 (1965) along with other members of the Inhuman Royal Family.[1]

The character was never exposed to the Terrigen Mists, so never developed additional powers like other Inhumans, but he is a martial artist who can find the weakness in anything and then use his training and strength to exploit it. Although the Jack Kirby Collector described him as "a philosophical karate expert with nominal personality" in 2004,[2] subsequent writers have made use of his skill for puzzle-solving[3] and strategic-planning[4] in Inhumans' stories, leading to him being given his first solo series in 2015.[5]

Publication history[edit]

Karnak first appeared in Fantastic Four (vol. 1) #45, and was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, as part of their run on the title that helped lay the foundations for the Marvel Universe.[1]

As a core member of the Inhumans, he has appeared in the group's own series over the years, including the 1998 Inhumans twelve-issue limited series by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee, the Silent War mini-series by David Hine and Frazer Irving in 2007, and Secret Invasion: Inhumans in the following year.

Karnak is the narrator of Inhumanity #1 (February 2014)[6] because his abilities gave writer Matt Fraction a way to frame the story:

I needed somebody who could put puzzles together. He sees the flaws in things. I needed the rest of the cast to put together what the hell Black Bolt and Maximus were up to. It's a way for everyone to puzzle it out with Karnak as he's putting it together. It's a way we can get into the story that's informative but sort of backwards.[4]

Although he commits suicide at the end of that issue, he appears in the cliffhanger of Inhuman #13 (May 2015) saying he had found a weakness in the afterlife. This allowed writer Charles Soule to bring the character back, and he explained Karnak's importance:

Karnak is just such a unique, weird (in a good way) character. His power is the ability to see weakness and stress points in anything around him, which he then exploits either physically through his amazing kung fu-esque fighting skills, or mentally/strategically in his role as one of Queen Medusa's chief counselors. He tends to have a fascinating perspective on events, and adding his voice back into the mix of the "Inhuman" cast will open up some great new possibilities.[3]

Karnak will get his first eponymous series as part of the All-New, All-Different Marvel line emerging from 2015's "Secret Wars" storyline[7] and the first issue of his series will feature a monster variant cover of Rommbu from Tales to Astonish #19 drawn by Eric Powell.[8] Karnak is part of a wider push the Inhumans are getting across Marvel's media output - on television (in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), in film (with the upcoming Inhumans) and in print (with the A-N,A-DM relaunch including the team books All-New Inhumans and Uncanny Inhumans, alongside the other solo titles Ms. Marvel (vol. 4) and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur).[9] Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso has said that the specific series came about because "Nick Lowe was looking to build the Inhumans line with a solo book or two and suggested Karnak as a character to spotlight. I didn't need to be sold on Karnak, who's far and away my favorite Inhuman."[10] They picked Warren Ellis to write the title because of his earlier stints at Marvel reworking their characters.[11] Ellis, who is joined by Gerardo Zaffino on art duties, described what drew him to the character:

he’s not an Inhuman. He never took the mutagenic Terrigen mists like the other Inhumans. He’s a dementedly intense philosopher who can see the flaw in anything — objects, systems, ideas, people — and strike that flaw in order to destroy it.


His parents refused to allow him to become an Inhuman, and instead he studied at the Tower Of Wisdom until his natural powers of perception became so phenomenally strong that he could annihilate anything by touching it. He is the Inhuman who made himself inhuman by sheer force of will. He extends the work of the Tower Of Wisdom by both teaching and extending aid to people damaged (as he sees it) by the Terrigen mists that cause Inhumanity. It was all right there. In this new Marvel Universe situation, where all kinds of people have been mutated by Terrigen, there’s an endless number of plot launches there.[5]

With regard to the inspiration behind Karnak's new form, Ellis states,

I am still writing KARNAK, and am therefore immersed in the viewpoint of various strains of speculative realism, tending towards the nihilistic frames of Peter Sjostedt-H and Eugene Thacker...[12]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Karnak is a member of the Inhuman race, one of those who form the Inhuman Royal Family, born on the island of Attilan. Cousin of Black Bolt, king of the Inhumans, Karnak has the ability to find the weak point in any person, plan, or object. Thus, he is usually used as planner by the Inhumans. He also serves as a priest and philosopher to the Inhumans.

He is the brother of Triton, who endured Terrigenesis before he did. However, Triton's Terrigenesis was so extreme that his parents, Mander and Azur, begged that Karnak not have to endure the procedure. Instead, he was sent to a monastery, where he learned martial arts.

He is usually attended by his relatives, Gorgon and Triton. He has taken part in most of the Inhumans' adventures, such as the Kree-Skrull War, and the many moves of the Inhuman city of Attilan.

Karnak and the Royal Family encounter Maximus' creation, the Trikon, and are driven from Attilan's Great Refuge in exile.[13]

Karnak first appeared as a member of the Inhumans when he attempted to retrieve his cousin and queen, Medusa from the outside world and take her back to Attilan. This led him into conflict with the Fantastic Four, the first humans he met, who were harboring Medusa after rescuing her from the villainous Frightful Four. Accordingly, Karnak is indirectly responsible for revealing the existence of Attilan to the outside world. Karnak battled Maximus alongside the Inhuman Royal Family, and became trapped in Maximus' "negative zone" barrier around the Great Refuge.[14] He was freed from the "negative zone" barrier along with the rest of the Inhumans,[by whom?][clarification needed] and left the Great Refuge with the Royal Family to visit the outside world.[15] He teamed with the Thing, Human Torch, and Black Panther against the Psycho-Man.[16] He aided the Inhuman Royal Family in defeating Maximus' next attempt to overthrow the Great Refuge.[17]

He later assisted Gorgon in freeing Maximus.[18] He journeyed to America to search for the missing Black Bolt.[19] Gorgon battled Magneto and his mutated minions.[20]

Karnak later battled Blastaar and the Kree Kaptroids.[21] He traveled to New York City, where he battled Kree agent Shatterstar.[21] Karnak was imprisoned by Maximus.[22] He aided in the defeat of Maximus and the Evil Inhumans.[23] Karnak then left Earth with the Inhuman Royal Family to prevent the Kree subjugation of the Inhumans, and battled various aliens.[24] He continued to battle Kree agents, and then returned to Earth.[25] Karnak later accompanied the Inhuman exodus when Attilan was relocated to the Blue Area of Earth's Moon.[26]

Karnak later battled the Avengers while under Maximus' mind control.[27] He then battled the High Evolutionary's forces during the Evolutionary War.[28] He accompanied Medusa to Earth when she fled Attilan to avoid a compulsory abortion.[29]

He was later sent to Earth with Gorgon in an attempt to find Black Bolt's missing son with Daredevil's help.[30] There he and his companions fought against Ultron-13 in which Karnak's power allowed him to discover the weak spot in Ultron's neck. Later they became entangled in Mephisto's plot against Daredevil, and were transported to a netherworld where they were personally attacked by the supernatural entity known as Blackheart. Karnak's animosity towards Gorgon was fanned into a rage, causing actual physical violence. Blackheart was soon defeated and the group went their intended ways.[31]

Karnak later aided the New Warriors against the third Star-Thief.[32] Alongside X-Factor, he then battled Apocalypse.[33] Alongside the Avengers, he then battled Thane Ector.[34]

Later, during a conflict with several Earth countries, Karnak fought with a new costume, designed with the powers of one of the older Inhumans.[volume & issue needed]

Karnak, along with Gorgon, has been uncovered as violating Inhuman law. After a conflict with the Black Panther, Black Bolt uncovers evidence that the two have been using "Alpha Primitives," a long-freed slave caste as slaves again. They do not feel that Inhumans should be doing regular chores.[volume & issue needed]

Karnak joins an Inhuman strike team to help take down the confused super-powered Sentry.[35]

During the Secret Invasion, Karnak encounters a Skrull in the form of Toros.[36] Karnak engages it and learns that it can copy his powers. Karnak manages to defeat the Toros-Skrull by sending it out the window where it was impaled on a fence.[37]

Following Attilan's destruction during the Infinity storyline, Karnak goes on a rampage in New York at the start of the Inhumanity storyline. He is stopped and imprisoned by the Avengers. After warning Medusa to forget what she knows in order to prepare for a coming cataclysm, Karnak commits suicide by leaping out of one of the windows in Avengers Tower.[38]

Months pass by, and the Terrigen Mists that spread throughout the world during Inhumanity have revealed Inhuman hybrids living among humans, dubbed the NuHumans. Medusa reveals their existence to the general public, and NuHumans become integrated into New Attilan society. One NuHuman named Lineage joins Medusa's council, taking Karnak's place. Lineage's power is having the knowledge of all his ancestors. Lineage plans to use the Inhuman genome to destroy humanity and rule the Inhumans. Meanwhile, Karnak has wound up in a strange afterlife that he believes to be hell. He and an ally he meets here plans to escape this place, and they successfully find a door out while holding off strange creatures. He uses his ability to see the weakness in things to open the door, and finds himself bursting out of Lineage's chest in the real world, killing Lineage in the process. He realizes that what he thought was hell was inside Lineage, as Karnak is one of his ancestors. He tells Medusa he knows that she has been an outstanding queen in his absence, and rejoins her council.[39]

Powers and abilities[edit]

Karnak has enhanced strength, stamina, durability, agility, and reflexes as a result of his genetically superior Inhuman physiology. Unlike most Inhumans, he does not have superhuman powers as a result of exposure to the mutagenic Terrigen Mist, as he was never exposed to the Mist. Instead, Karnak has the extrasensory ability (achieved through meditation and intensive training) to perceive stress points, fracture planes, or weaknesses in objects or persons. He has complete voluntary control of most of his autonomic bodily functions. All striking surfaces of his body are extremely toughened. He is capable of shattering substances up to and including mild steel and rendering superhuman opponents unconscious by striking them.

Like all Inhumans, Karnak's immune system is weaker than that of an average human.

Karnak has received his fighting skills as a result of Inhuman royal militia training. He is also a graduate of the religious seminary, at the Tower of Wisdom in Attilan.

He uses a hover-platform for transportation designed by Inhuman technicians.

Other versions[edit]

Amalgam Comics[edit]

In Amalgam Comics, Triserinak - a combination of DC's Serifan and Marvel's Triton and Karnak - is a member of the superhero group Un-People in Amalgam Comics universe.[40]

Earth X[edit]

In the alternate future of Earth X, Karnak has undergone a further mutation. His cranium has greatly increased and his features are now more sunken. During an investigative mission to Earth, he attempts to act as a calming influence among the members of the Royal Family. He has altered his uniform in order to expose his powerful limbs.[volume & issue needed]

In the sequel Paradise X, he is shown as having exiled himself from his own people, seeing the marriage of Medusa and the King of Brittan as a betrayal of Black Bolt's memory and the superiority of the Inhumans.[volume & issue needed]


In issues #23 and #25 of Exiles, Karnak appears as one of the many heroes overtaken by a mutated version of the techno-organic Phalanx.[volume & issue needed]

Heroes Reborn[edit]

In the Heroes Reborn continuity, Karnak lives with the other Inhumans, hidden on Earth. His society pays reverence to Galactus and his many heralds via statues. Karnak dresses in a more stylized version of his 616 uniform.[41]

Marvel Zombies[edit]

In the Marvel Zombies continuity, Karnak is seen as one of the many zombies trying to bring down the Silver Surfer.[42] He turns up again in a sequel to the story, visiting the "clone pens" of a zombified Kingpin. He is shredded by a chainsaw when he battles Earth-616's Machine Man.[43] Another version, from Earth Z, is seen assisting in eating the Warbound.[44] In a flashback series, Karnak is one of the many heroes fighting a last-ditch effort to evacuate as many un-infected humans to an alternate reality.[45]

Mutant X[edit]

In Mutant X, Karnak joins with his fellow Inhumans and a team of Eternals to confront the murderous duo of the Beyonder and Dracula. Inhumans and Eternals alike are all killed and Dracula drains them.[46]

Ultimate Marvel[edit]

In the Ultimate Marvel continuity, the Ultimate version of Karnak was introduced in Ultimate Fantastic Four Annual #1. Here, he is a member of the Inhuman royal family, a cousin of Crystal, Medusa and Gorgon, and presumably a brother of Triton. There are differences in the character: firstly, his features are Asian and white-haired; secondly, he has superpowers. His power is the ability to sense and control energy, for example, he sensed the stress-points in Sue Storm's invisible force-field, and attacked it with a bolt of electricity.[47]

Other media[edit]


Video games[edit]


  • Karnak appears as one of the 12 unique Heroclix figures included in the Marvel Supernova set. His collectors number is #088. He is appropriately equipped with many clicks of exploit weakness and has powerful attack and damage numbers.


  1. ^ a b Buxton, Marc (September 5, 2015). "How Lee & Kirby's "Fantastic Four" Birthed the Marvel Universe, Part 2". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2015. For nearly a year, Lee and Kirby teased and slowly built up to this, the first appearance of the Inhumans. ... Black Bolt, Karnak, Lockjaw and more premiered right here in one creative burst of energy, along with concepts like the city of Attilan and the Terrigen Mists. 
  2. ^ Cooke, Joe C. (19 Feb 2004). "An Inhuman Act". In Morrow, John. Collected Jack Kirby Collector, Volume 1. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 209. ISBN 9781893905009. 
  3. ^ a b Richards, Dave (April 1, 2015). "Soule Finds a Weakness in the Afterlife, Discusses Surprise "Inhuman" Return". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Siegel, Lucas (September 20, 2013). "Oh, the INHUMANITY - Fraction & Lowe Break Down Marvel's New Status Quo". Newsarama. Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Towers, Andrea (August 24, 2015). "Warren Ellis talks writing Karnak: 'How can you not take a crack at that?'". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved September 9, 2015. 
  6. ^ Wheeler, Andrew (December 6, 2013). "‘Inhumanity’ #1: Previously, In Comics [Review]". Comics Alliance. Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2015. it’s also a rather thin story in itself. It’s essentially two lectures — how the Inhumans split, and why the terrigenesis bomb was used — delivered by Karnak the Shatterer, the Inhuman martial artist philosopher-monk who can see the fault in all things. These lectures are delivered in a framing device drawn by Olivier Coipel, and Fraction wisely uses Hawkeye as our initial point-of-view inquisitor. 
  7. ^ Whitbrook, James (June 30, 2015). "Marvel Just Revealed Its Entire "All-New, All-Different" Comic Universe". io9. Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved September 9, 2015. 
  8. ^ "SIMONSON, THOR & FIN FANG FOOM Lead Flurry Of More Marvel MONSTER Variants". Newsarama. September 9, 2015. Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2015. 
  9. ^ Ching, Albert (August 21, 2015). "Axel-In-Charge: Inside "All-New Inhumans," Expanding "Amazing Spider-Man"". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2015. [Albert Ching:] This week, with "All-New Inhumans" recently announced, Alonso talks about the increase of Inhumans-based books on the horizon in the "All-New, All-Different Marvel" era: the new series from Charles Soule, James Asmus and Stefano Caselli, plus "Uncanny Inhumans," "Ms. Marvel," "Karnak" and "Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur." Marvel has prepped fans for a while now that Inhumans would become a much bigger deal, and now that's coming to fruition, with Alonso sharing some insight into the perspective behind the scenes.
    Axel Alonso: We're playing the long game with the Inhumans. They have been the subject of countless discussions over several years of editorial meeting and retreats. We are not only sculpting their future, but their history -- much of which has not been revealed. The Inhumans are a unique and important species in the Marvel Universe and they the fact that they are major facets of our three creative platforms -- publishing, TV and movies -- proves that.
  10. ^ Ching, Albert (July 3, 2015). "Axel-In-Charge: In-Depth with Alonso on Marvel's "All-New, All-Different" Lineup". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2015. [Albert Ching:] Warren Ellis is clearly very selective about the work-for-hire comics projects he takes on, and here we see him on "Karnak" with Gerardo Zaffino. This one wasn't expected, as there hasn't been a Karnak solo series before -- what made this the right match for Ellis?
    Alonso: [Senior Editor] Nick Lowe was looking to build the Inhumans line with a solo book or two and suggested Karnak as a character to spotlight. I didn't need to be sold on Karnak, who's far and away my favorite Inhuman -- did I mention I'm a Kung-Fu movie junkie? Apparently, Warren Ellis felt the same way when Nick talked to him: A kung-fu mad monk hit him where he lives. And it shows in the two scripts he's already turned in.
  11. ^ Ching, Albert (August 28, 2015). "Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2015. Warren is very selective about the projects that he does. [Editor] Nick Lowe had a hunch that Karnak and the crawlspace of the Inhumans universe would be something that might appeal to Warren, and he was right -- Warren really dug in. And we've all seen what he can do with solo character series when he digs in, from "Iron Man: Extremis" to "Moon Knight": Redefine a character so they're just, well, more interesting. 
  12. ^ Orbital Operations, 18-10-2015
  13. ^ Revealed in Inhumans Special #1
  14. ^ Fantastic Four #45-48
  15. ^ Fantastic Four #59-61
  16. ^ Fantastic Four Annual #5
  17. ^ Fantastic Four #82-83
  18. ^ Amazing Adventures #5
  19. ^ Amazing Adventures #7
  20. ^ Amazing Adventures #9-10
  21. ^ a b Inhumans #3-4
  22. ^ Inhumans #5
  23. ^ Inhumans #6
  24. ^ Inhumans #7-8
  25. ^ Inhumans #10
  26. ^ Fantastic Four #240
  27. ^ Avengers Annual #12
  28. ^ Fantastic Four Annual #21
  29. ^ Inhumans Graphic Novel
  30. ^ Daredevil #274
  31. ^ Daredevil #278-282
  32. ^ New Warriors #6
  33. ^ X-Factor #67-68
  34. ^ Avengers #334-335
  35. ^ New Avengers #9
  36. ^ Secret Invasion: Inhumans #1
  37. ^ Secret Invasion: Inhumans #2
  38. ^ Inhumanity #1
  39. ^ Inhuman Annual #1
  40. ^ Challengers of the Fantastic #1 (1997)
  41. ^ Fantastic Four Vol. 2 #3 (1996)
  42. ^ Marvel Zombies #1 - 8 (2003)
  43. ^ Marvel Zombies 3 #2-3 (2009)
  44. ^ Marvel Zombies Return: Hulk (September 2009)
  45. ^ Marvel Zombies: Dead Days (July, 2007)
  46. ^ Mutant X #32 (June 1, 2001)
  47. ^ Ultimate Fantastic Four Annual #1 (2005)

External links[edit]