The Marvel universe is getting a radical makeover in December, and it’s all because of the Inhumans. A race of superpowered beings created eons ago by extraterrestrial experimentation, the Inhumans have been part of the Marvel Universe since the Lee/Kirby days. Inhuman mythology is fascinating and rife with weird metaphor and outré affectations. They have a royal family, headed up by Black Bolt, whose voice carries a supersonic force so devastating that he can never speak. And a key aspect of Inhuman life is exposure to the Terrigen Mist, a mysterious vapor that activates Inhuman biology and grants superpowers. As Marvel Comics Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso puts it, “In a world filled with musclebound characters in spandex, the Inhumans were weirder. They were hippies!”

And in “Inhumanity,” the Inhumans — and everything they represent — will move to the forefront. In the wake of this Fall’s “Infinity” crossover event, the Terrigen Mists are released throughout the world — which results in millions of Inhuman descendants around the world suddenly witnessing the activation of their dormant Inhuman cells. (Basically, if your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents were Inhumans, you could have superpowers.) “The effect on the Marvel Universe will be seismic,” says Alonso. The Terrigen Mists affects all Inhumans differently, granting powers that typically reflect one’s personality, like a hyper-specific Sorting Hat. So “Inhumanity” opens the possibility for a fascinating array of new characters. “You might learn that your new self is fantastic, beautiful, filled with immense power,” says Alonso. “By the same token, you could turn around and find out that you’re nothing. You’re a blob. You have no powers. You can create a little flame out of your pinkie.”

The centerpiece of “Inhumanity” will be a new regular comic book, Inhuman, written by Marvel ace Matt Fraction (Hawkeye.) “Our focus characters are drawn into the palace intrigue of this shattered Inhumans Royal family,” says Fraction. “It becomes a superhero story and a mythical story, all revolving around turning the world into a world full of superheroes.” Fraction stresses that the event will appeal to casual readers who might not know their Karnak from their Lockjaw. “It’s giving us a chance to get back to a classic Marvel metaphor of alienation,” he explains. “We’re telling science-fiction stories, but really it’s about race, gender, sexual equality. It’s a very relevant, pertinent metaphor.” (It’s also a metaphor with an intriguing political subtext; says, Alonso, “I look at Attilan, the Inhuman kingdom, as something akin to Israel. Only it moves, constantly uprooting and moving to new places. They’re a nomadic people.”)

The ramifications of “Inhumanity” will spread across the globe — and beyond — as Inhuman society grows and splinters into factions. “The ashes of this royal family smolder,” says Fraction. “You see who lives, who dies, who’s left, and how they begin to try and rebuild. Once this city falls, all kinds of bigger things start happening.” Alonso compares the event to Game of Thrones, and promises to explore the Inhumans’ “long, torturous history.” The ripple effects of “Inhumanity” will last awhile, with far-reaching implications for the whole universe. But for Fraction, it’s all about the simple gut-punch appeal: “There is a secret superhero kingdom, and you might belong there. What do you do? And what does Iron Man do? We’re turning the entire Marvel universe into a potential battlefield. And regular people are in the middle.”

Check back at EW tomorrow for more about “Inhumanity.” In the meantime, feast your eyes on this groovy exclusive image drawn by Steve McNiven, which shows some of the characters who will feature prominently in the post-“Inhumanity” status quo. “The Marvel universe has always been the world outside your window,” says Fraction. “Now, there’s no difference between the inside and the outside.”