Or – “The Exiles Lives Will Never Be The Same. Again.”

exi9.jpgreviewbubble.jpgI’ve decided I want to work for Marvel. In the past few years, the powers-that-be at the House of Ideas have proven that they’ll publish virtually anything. Remember when someone decided that Thunderbolts would be best served by a complete change of cast, setting, scene, premise, art and story, and then seemed surprised that they barely got 6 months out of the resulting mishmash? Or recall how Grant Morrison was given free reign to initiate actual CHANGE in the X-titles, only to have it all retconned within moments of his leaving the title. There’s a real sense of “toss it at the wall, see if it sticks,” and nowhere is this more apparent than in the latest issue of Exiles, with wholesale change running rampant. But, does it all work?

I guess it all depends on how much you loved Excalibur, because there are some serious echoes of the “Cross-Time Caper” goin’ on here. This issue kept triggering two feelings in me. Primarily, I kept getting the feeling that the writer hadn’t read any of the previous issues and was working from a the “Cliff’s Notes” version of what went before. Secondly, I kept having this sneaking suspicion that I’d seen all of this before. The issue kicks off in a slightly confusing manner, with founding Exiles member Morph destroying the world and killing all his teammates.

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Wait, what?

Turns out it’s all just a simulation that Heather Hudson has run on the Crystal Palace computers, explaining just how incredibly dangerous the man called Proteus actually is. The team has a VERY long-winded discussion about how horrifyingly, incredibly, psychotically evil Proteus is, and how dangerous it is to take him into the field with the team. This would have been an excellent point SEVEN ISSUES AGO. Proteus/Morph has been in action with the team since issue 83, after Proteus carved a swath of death across a dozen worlds (including killing one of their own members), so if they’re only NOW figuring that the murderous energy being is dangerous, it makes the whole team look dumber than a bag of hammers.

A second problem with the Proteus reveal is one of those things I’m sure most people don’t worry about, but I can’t get it out of my head. I KNOW Claremont created Proteus, and this feels like he’s saying “Hey, my guy is tougher than that!” It feels a bit forced, on either level, especially with the reams and reams of dialogue the team is suddenly reeling off discussing Morph’s situation. Also of interest, was the final frames of the simulation, showing a woman watching with either sadness or anger (Pelletier’s facial expressions don’t really differentiate…)

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They rewind, but the image is no longer there. This would seem important, but the team just resumes talking. Talking and talking and talking… About Morph, about former member Nocturne, about Earth 616, about the unbearable weight of their inter-dimensional mission. Oh, and suddenly, Heather is referring to the Multiverse as Crosstime. That’s a minor thing, sure, but the way she says it implies that they should all know what she’s talking about, as though they’ve always said that, and it’s not the case. Worse than that is the weird flirty vibe between Sabretooth and Blink who have a long-standing Father/Daughter sort of relationship.

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There should not be a romantic component to interactions with your father, real or adoptive. Quoth the Buffy, “Raise your hand if EWWWW?” As they walk away, another image of the mysterious woman (we’ll call her “Roma,” for that is, indeed, her name) appears, frightening the cockroach who makes the coffee. So, what about the rest of the Exiles squad? If you’ve seen the cover, you know that Power Princess is no longer going to be on the team. How will they handle her exit?

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The only word for it is “abrupt.” Her decision comes out of left field, especially when previous issues only had her joining the Exiles out of a sense of duty. Apparently, that duty only stretches until she gets bored. Sabretooth and Blink, with no home to go back to, offer the others a chance to leave, but no one takes them up on it. Longshot is strangely dark and broody here, totally in contrast to his previous happy-go-lucky characterization, but with him it feels like something is going on, rather than “the writer didn’t read the previous storyarc.” Power Princess heads home, and literally AT THAT MOMENT, Sabretooth attacks the whole team. “We’ll miss you… RARR!”

While the team beats one another up for no reason, the main viewscreen comes to life, and Roma appears, unseen by the busily-slapfighting Exiles. She speaks cryptically about having to do horrible things to someone mysterious, and does something enigmatic that trips the Exiles security scanner. Heather finds that there’s an emergency, but she can’t tell where or what it is. (Which kinda begs the question, how they gonna get there?) Longshot wants to get Morph, and the team talks some more. It’s amazing how many word balloons are in this issue, even in a small panel that essentially just says “no.”

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Since Heather no longer has super-powers, she stays behind, and is suddenly shocked to see a strange mantis-creature in the Crystal Palace. It teleports away, leaving the entire bug-race that runs the Palace nearly catatonic. Heather freaks, then checks two monitors and decides to get pizza.

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No, really, that’s the sequence of events. “Dear, merciful god, no!” one panel, then sitting and eating pizza on the next page. The pacing of this issue is a little like riding with a driver who hasn’t quite figured out the clutch, jerking forward only to suddenly whiplash to a stop. Two more minor irritants arrive in that panel, by the way, as Heather has been with the team since issue #10, yet we’ve never referenced these odd eating habits before. And Heather doesn’t have a “mutant metabolism,” ’cause she’s not a mutant. She gained her Sasquatch powers from gamma radiation and a deal with evil furball Tanaraq. Minor issues, but noticable ones. Suddenly, the clutch slips again, and Sabretooth is back from the mission, beaten bloody, advising that the rest of the team was captured, and they need help to get them back. “You got any suggestions?” he asks of Heather. Cue the new girl!

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God, even the exclamation balloons are full of senseless expositionary dialogue. And Pelletier’s use of nipple shadows bug me, for some reason. The girl in purple is Psylocke of Earth-616, once again damaging the conceit that the Exiles patrol the whole universe. It’s easy to see why Power Princess had to leave, as Pelletier draws the two dark-haired women in purple virtually identically. Whatever Roma did seems to have sent Psylocke into this mysterious desert, but at least she won’t have a problem with overheating in her tiny little costume. As suddenly as she appears, Psylocke sees Sabretooth rushing at her across the dunes of the mysterious desert…

…so she guts him, and the issue ends. My head snapped back like Plastic Man out of the ladies locker room at that transition. I actually had to double check to see if I missed a page, that’s how awkward it was.

This issue wasn’t a bad comic book, by any means, it just wasn’t a good issue of Exiles. If you’d read the previous 89, you’d have no more clue than a complete neophyte about what the heck is going on. I wasn’t really all that fond of Tony Bedard’s run on the book, as each issue did more to tie the team to the Earth 616 universe and the X-Men titles. With all due respect to Chris Claremont, who writes good X-Men, I can only give this issue 1.5 stars. Half of that comes from the confusing transitions, changes in characterization, and general awkwardness of the issue, half comes from the apparent goal to make this into a standard issue X-title.

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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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