Or – “It’s Ron Mysterio All Over Again…”

exann7.jpgreviewbubble.jpgAhh, the annual! Used to be, every summer, we’d be inundated with these things, most of which were either out of continuity or written by people so divorced from the core book that they might as well have been writing different characters. Why, back in the day, you could count on a big issue, with one story that kinda mattered but wasn’t very good, filled out with reprints you neither wanted nor cared about, as well as pinups probably drawn in half an hour to fill the page count. Meeeeemorieeeeees… Then came Avengers Annual #10, ruining it all. #10 is famous for being the first appearance of Rogue, but it’s also widely considered one of the best issues of the ’80’s by many fans, including a chunk of the powers-that-be at Marvel. And, being as how they’re into nostalgia, the concept of the annual is back… But has it returned to it’s roots as a meaningless thick issue that you really couldn’t care less about?

exann1.jpgWell, if this issue is any indication? Yep. Oh, don’t get me wrong, stuff happens here, but it’s a big dance that ends up right back where we started. Not only that, we get to watch the “original” Exiles act like idiots, and are shown implicitly how much superior the new team is. Yeah, I know, I’m probably reading more into it than is really there, but I was a big fan of Exiles from the beginning, and the last couple of years of changes (to bring the book closer into the X-Men family, presumably) haven’t been as endearing or charming to me as the original concepts.

We start this issue on Earth #33629, with New York being menaced by The Wrecking Crew, four big strong guys who might as well be generic villains for all they’ve ever accomplished. The Crew breaks things (which is pretty much all they EVER do) until they’re confronted by Exiles leader Blink. When the Wrecker laughs about a little girl like her stopping the Crew alone, Blink (and every single reader above the age of 18) asks “What makes you think that I’m alone?”


Due to illness, the part of Blink will be played by Vanna White… And is Nocturne’s burlap bikini the UGLIEST costume of all time? It’s certainly in my top five. Mind you, this is not the current lineup of Exiles, but the team that was in place in issue #1 & 2 (and only there, as Magnus croaked during the story). The events on this Earth are played on screens in the Panoptichron, home base of the Exiles (the ones we’ve been reading about) and causes our heroes to muse upon their origins, expositioning how they were all taken from their broken timelines by the mysterious Timebroker and set adrift to fix broken universes.


I show you this panel to give you a clear idea of where the art lost me. I don’t expect every artist to do intense detail and tiny perfect figures like George Perez, but the bloopiness of the art started to bug me right here in this panel. The Exiles, thinking something is afoot, decide to visit this Earth. Here’s another concept that’s less appealing to me. When the series started, the Exiles were bounced from Earth to Earth, knowing only what their mission is. Now, they have a headquarters filled with technology and screens, and choose where they want to go. It’s a small difference, but one that informs the entire premise of the series. Winick’s Exiles operated on an intuitive level, with a mysterious (but still human-esque and emotional) man-behind-the-scenes. Bedard’s Exiles operate on a more scientific level, pulling their own strings, but losing a bit of the series’ charm by giving them a place to call their own, and making a more conventional superhero book out of it all.

Anyway, ruminations aside, the Exiles find their doubles, and meet (again?) The Timebroker. The teams fight and “our” Exiles come out on the losing end. The ‘Broker keeps babbling about his “wager,” and when the intruders are locked up, he contacts his mysterious benefactor…


Well, the only thing more anticlimactic would have been Thanos, so they at least went with the SECOND most obvious character in the Marvel Universe. Anyway, there’s some Blah Blah Blah, and TB’s Exiles set about hunting down Longshot (whose luck powers allowed him to get away, and are the biggest deux ex machina ever as used in this book). He escapes, but the native Exiles start to wonder, if their counterparts are as dangerous as Timebroker claims, why did Longshot make so certain that none of them got hurt? Back in the cell, Zarda (Power Princess) explains to her teammates who the stringy blue guy up there is…


I once read a comic book (I think it was an issue of “Northguard”) where someone mocks a comic fan, saying “You want to fly, like Batman!” The character replies “Batman doesn’t fly!” and thus proves that he’s a useless idiot geek. Why they felt the need to have this discussion in a book presumably read by geeks, I dunno, but at the risk of being that guy, I have to point out… The Squadron Supreme there is pretty much the JLA, which makes the man in the black and blue cape Nighthawk, the analogue of Batman, who DOESN’T FLY! Arrgh! Once again, the art annoys me, with Zarda looking like a teenage girl most of the time, rather than a six foot Amazon warrior woman. The Exiles of this reality have freed the regular ‘Xiles and both team confront the cosmic gambler and the unmasked Timebroker.


Okay, here’s the first plot point that surprised me. The Timebroker is ANOTHER Grandmaster! It does make the guessing game of who he really is essentially moot, and it’s a little bit of a cheat, but at least it’s kinda cool. Turns out the Grandmaster posing as The Timebroker is the one from the universe where the Exiles first mission took place. Their actions caused him to lose a bet, so he traveled the universes looking for a way to get revenge. He found a world where the six core Exiles, or reasonable facsimiles thereof existed simultaneously, and set himself up as pseudo-Timebroker. It seems unlikely that ANY world would have the conditions necessary for that, so we’ll presume that he found a world where variations close enough existed and handled the cosmetics himself. (F’rinstance, Magnus is a full-grown son of Magneto and Rogue, Nocturne the daughter of Nightcrawler, but several years younger then Magnus, while The Mimic was around for the early days of the X-Men, and thus would have been at least in his late teens when Magneto took on his first missions, blah blah blah.) Spider-Man 2099 has his first important dialogue of the issue, but, sadly, has turned into a hydrocephalic teenage girl…


The Grandmaster’s response? He KILLS THEM ALL.

No, really.

He kills them all, regular Exile and psudo-Exile alike. Dead, dead, dead. But in so doing, he breaks his deal with himself, and the native Grandmaster and his brethren arrive to punish him. The native GM resurrects the Exiles and allows them to punish his doppelganger by beating him to death. Well, maybe not to death, as a dialogue balloon indicates that he’s still alive, but the end of the book leaves our regular Exiles back where they were, with no real effect save a team of Exiles on an alternate Earth who now fight crime. Big book, with marginal story quality, and no effect on the home book. The annuals are back, baby!

I suppose I should explain, before we go, about “Ron Mysterio.” The problem that I mentioned earlier, the comparison of current Exiles to classic Exiles (with the originals looking worse for wear) reminds me of a concept in wrestling called “the punk-out.” The Rock was a master of this, but it’s something you see repeatedly in the industry: undercutting another wrestler’s popularity by making it seem like he’s beneath your notice. Chris Jericho was a master of this as WCW Cruiserweight Champion, going so far as to pretend that he didn’t even remember his opponents names, thus called Rey Mysterio, “Ron Mysterio.” It may be all in my head, but I kept feeling like we were supposed to look at the old Exiles team and the Timebroker and think “Wow, the book sure is better now! I’m glad they’re not in those ugly costumes being thrown around the firmament by a bartender!”

Problem is, I’m not. And this issue left me really cold, with nothing accomplished in terms of story, art that felt rushed, and the main characters as cyphers. I said in my last review that I should cover a book that I didn’t love, and this was it. Not much to see here, and worse, it reminds me how the Exiles title used to be better than it is. Probably the exact opposite of what was intended, and the combined effect only nets this book one star.


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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