I’ve dipped into various incarnations of the “Exiles” comic over the past eight years, and Jeff Parker’s version is by far the best that I’ve encountered. Perhaps I didn’t give Winick’s team or Claremont’s squad the attention that they may have deserved, but in my small sampling of their runs I found little to enjoy beyond the premise of a band of dimension-hoppers in the Marvel Universe. The execution always seemed too caught up in soap opera pseudo-complexity for my tastes.
Since I’m not all that familiar with what has come before, I don’t know how much Parker has changed for this new series. I do know that issue #1 was a great jumping-on point, because that’s where I jumped on, and I thought that the first issue was quite good. Doug Zawisza reviewed it for CBR, and I would have given it an even more glowing review. It felt surprisingly fresh for a series that was going into its third volume in less than ten years.
Issue #2 starts off just as strong as the first issue ended. Instead of a text-heavy recap page, we get Morph-the-Timebroker filling us in on the plot thus far, and his enthusiastic retelling of events works as a far better intro than any bland narration might. Plus, he gets to end his description with a statement about the amusing and/or terrifying premise of this first story arc: “their first mission is to help Wolverine overthrow Magneto, and Wolverine is sort of…um…a head on a stick.”
That’s quite a hook, and Parker follows it up with plenty of humor in the panels that follow such as when a befuddled Black Panther chimes in: “I don’t think Wolverine is going to be much help…unless we’re supposed to throw his head at Magneto really hard.”
The charm of this team is that they are likable bumblers facing impossible odds, and besides the too-wide-eyed-and-innocent Black Panther (whose “origin” we learn more about in this issue), Parker gives us an oafish and modest Beast, a more conservative (Scarlet) Witch, a slightly whimsical Polaris, a less-tortured Forge, and a Blink who might as well be like every other version of Blink because I don’t really know much about her. But other than Blink, the other characters seem to be refreshing takes on classic Marvel characters. They have enough overlap with their 616 counterparts to be recognizable, but their alternate reality personalities are just a little bit off to make them interesting. And in issue #2 we get to see them interact with a world that has Magneto as king and a Polaris and Scarlet Witch as bickering princesses, so our more humble protagonists get to play off of those characters as well.
Since Jeff Parker is at his best with wit and characterization, this is a comic that allows him to play to his strengths.
Salva Espin’s art is nice too. It’s not flashy, but it’s the right visual tone for Parker’s slightly off-kilter sense of humor. It’s far more appropriate for this series that Dave Bullock’s odd Kewpie-doll-meet-Top-Cow covers. Bullock has done some great work in animation, but his “Exiles” covers are some of the worst things he’s ever done, unfortunately, and they don’t successfully convey the look or feel of the stories on the inside.
Issue #2 doesn’t end as strongly as it begins. The humor starts to give way to the kind of soap opera melodrama that I found so tedious in prior incarnations of “Exiles,” but Parker and Espin do manage to include a fight scene involving Forge’s metal arm vs. Polaris times two, so all is not lost.
This is a good comic by a very good creative team, and if you’re like me and you haven’t given “Exiles” much of a chance before, I think this might be the series for you.