Marvel Just Reinvented the Exiles - But Does the New Team Really Work?

The new series does a few really smart things. Rodriguez's new design for Blink is excellent, and Ahmed gives her a voice more in line with fresh, young characters than the more standard superhero dialogue we've seen from her before. The shift can be jarring at first for readers familiar with the character, but it's absolutely the right move. Introducing a version of the immensely popular Kamala Khan but making her the battle-hardened veteran is also really fun to see. Both in terms of characterization and art, there's a lot more energy here than in 2001's Exiles.

But on a story level, this first issue gives us a lot less to work with than the original. In Winick and McKone's debut issue, we met the entire team (or at least its first iteration), learned how these missions would work, and even got a glimpse of the world of the Exiles' first mission. Here, we got Fury moaning on the moon, the introduction of a couple team members from barely-defined worlds, and the revelation of a multiversal threat. What's weird is there isn't less exposition in the new Exiles #1 than there was in the old.

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The concept, too, is weaker in the new version. Sure, a version of Galactus who can eat all of time and space is a massive threat, but there are plenty of massive threats in the Marvel Universe -- Annihilus comes immediately to mind, I'm sure we can all name others. But the concept of the original Exiles was so great precisely because it lacked a central threat; it was a monster-of-the-week series, chock full of the worst possible realities, where any mission might lead to death or salvation. The characters grew weary because their war seemed endless, and yet they had no choice but to press on. Failure meant not only the destruction of an entire timeline, but the heroes' own demise back in their home universe.

And that's what's missing so far in the current series -- those personal stakes. Fighting to save all of existence is great and all, but the threat of personal loss is more urgent, carries so much more dramatic weight. From a narrative standpoint, you care less about the Exiles saving a world where Captain America is still a werewolf (as they did in the original series) than saving Morph from reverting to a puddle of goo (the consequence should he fail). Think locally, act globally.

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Ahmed is an extraordinarily talented writer, as attested by Black Bolt and his novel Throne of the Crescent Moon, which were both nominated for the Hugo Award. And Rodriguez and company's stellar art is a perfect fit for this book. They very well could turn Exiles into something really special, and there are few pieces in this first issue pointing in that direction already. But this issue is a halting start, and the sooner Ahmed and Rodriguez gather the team and get down to the business of making us care about them, the better.

The devourer of universes can wait.

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