When another expansion of the Marvel TV universe premieres on Sept. 29, Marvel's Inhumans will introduce Maximus the Mad. And fans of the comics may be confused, because on the Inhumans TV series, Maximus doesn't have superpowers... and may not even be a villain - yet. So why the change to Maximus' mythology?
Well, in this incarnation of the character, he never had powers in the first place. The Inhumans are an offshoot of humanity that lives longer and have other advantages over normal humans but can also gain unique powers through a process called Terrigenesis. Terrigenesis, or exposure to the Terrigen Mists, activate the Inhumans' genes granting unique powers to each individual. So while many of the people he lives among have some kind of extraordinary ability, in this television version of Inhumans, Maximus’ unique power is... nothing.
Marvel’s Inhumans showrunner Scott Buck told IGN that producers made the change to create less of a good-versus-evil vibe, and promote more of an unsure middle ground. Buck even said that Maximus may not even be a villain in the strict sense of the word. "Maximus, he wants to help the people," he said. "He's actually genuinely out to help people in a system he believes is wrong and unjust. What's great about this show is it has sort of gray areas in terms of what is a villain, what isn't. It's not black and white.”
That’s certainly a more interesting take on the superhero genre than the inevitable good triumphing over evil trope. But, the actor cast as Maximus, Iwan Rheon, isn’t known for his sympathetic characters. In Game of Thrones, his character Ramsay Bolton was a character fans loved to hate.
Rheon doesn't like to look for comparisons between Bolton and Maximus. While Bolton is clearly the villain in his story, the actor doesn't think that about Maximus, at least not so far. In an interview with Comic Book Resources, Rheon spelled out the differences. He said:
"Ramsay is a very dark, twisted individual who got pleasure from inflicting pain on people. He didn’t have any real political ideas. Maximus is very considered. He’s a politician; he thinks. He doesn’t do his own dirty work, he manipulates people to do things for him. So I guess there are fundamental differences. [Maximus is] not evil. He doesn’t want bad things to happen to people. He’s a young, passionate man."
When it was confirmed that Rheon would be playing Maximus, Head of Marvel Television and executive producer on Marvel’s Inhumans Jeph Loeb was glowing in his description of the actor. “Iwan’s ability to be charming, roguish, and still completely, unexpectedly, dangerous were all the different sides we needed to bring the character to life," he said. And it's important to note here that Loeb refers to Maximus as "unexpectedly, dangerous." In a world where there are superhuman people, a character with no superpowers is sure to be underestimated. That is where Maximus' power lies. While he may not have superhuman abilities, he does have his intellect, and his ability to manipulate others.
Maximus hasn’t always been powerless though, in fact, quite the opposite. In the comic book series, Maximus isn’t human, Just like the rest of the Inhumans and royal family: Medusa, Black Bolt, Crystal, and Lockjaw, he’s an Inhuman with special powers. Unlike his other family members though, in the comics, his powers are less visually dynamic.
Instead of tentacle hair, a super-powered destructive voice, or powers over the elements, his powers are mental. His mind’s powers begin with a superior intellect and progress to include degrees of mind control to the ability to invent weaponry like the Hypno and Atmo guns, as well as other devices. In fact, that ability is highlighted in the trailer for the new Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 game set to release in November of this year. It shows the character piloting a mechanical monster, albeit a cute one because of the nature of Lego.
Typically, a superhero’s name reveals a lot about the character. Spiderman gets his name not only because he got his powers through a spider’s bite, but also because his supernatural abilities are like those of a spider: wall-crawling, heightened strength and athleticism, and his webbing. But, of course, names aren’t just for superheroes. Villains have them too. Maximus, in Latin, means “greatest,” so will Iwan Rheon’s Maximus be the “greatest” thing about Marvel’s Inhumans? That remains to be seen. But without his powers it's clear that if he wants to achieve his goals he'll have to be cunning and intelligent enough to challenge those who have them.