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Exiles #26 By Matt Martin
Marvel Comics – Chuck Austen (w); Clayton Henry (p); Mark Morales (i)
I’m a late convert to this book, coming on at the beginning of the series’ original writer Judd Winick’s final story arc. To be honest, I simply couldn’t see the purpose of the series when it debuted (apparently, that purpose was to be damned entertaining) and despite repeated recommendations from customers in my store, I avoided it until finally, during a slow business day, I randomly read the series’ third trade paperback. And loved it.
Now, as I said, Winick has finally abandoned the child that he ushered into the harsh business world of the Marvel Universe, jumping ship for the most stable shores of the AOL/Time Warner conglomerate. He leaves behind a successful run (both critically and financially) of twenty-five issues, placing the creative reins in the competent hands of Chuck Austen.
But if this is a sign of things to come, I fear for the Exiles future.
And I don’t mean that in a “ooh, how is the team gonna get out of THIS one?” kind of way. No, I mean the issue sucks.
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The Exiles, reality-hopping Quantum Leap-style superheroes (meaning they jaunt around their alternate versions of the Marvel Universe, working for the greater good through timely intervention), arrive in Japan on the eve of its destruction at the hands of Moses Magnum. The reality that they have popped into is one where the Heroes for Hire corporation, run by Danny Rand (Iron Fist), Luke Cage (Power Man), and Peter Rasputin (Colossus) employs nearly every superhero in the world and, as a result, is capable of withholding metahuman aid from the besieged Japanese government (which they do). Initially thinking that they have arrived to rescue the people of Japan, Mimic and his team learn that they are, in fact, in place to prevent the island nation from being saved. After a conflict of wills and much spouting of philosophy, the team decides to “define themselves as heroes” by going against their mission’s objectives. However, one member of the team does not feel so strongly about the sanctity of lives in a reality not her own and goes rogue, throwing a wrench in the well-laid works of Mimic and Sunfire.
It should. Judd Winick only told this story every other arc or so.
The difference though is that this arc lacks any of the charm of Winick’s run, reading like a Taiwanese bootleg of Exiles. Sure, the packaging looks authentic enough. And when you open it, there are your heroes, just like last month. But when you read it, you come to realize that Morph isn’t funny anymore, he’s just a horny guy in a funny hat. And the melodrama just doesn’t seem to resonate emotionally the way it used to. When the heroes make gut-wrenchingly personal choices about whether or not they can go against the grain and save the people of Japan, it just feel forced, shoehorned in to fill up pages and break up the monotony of people in goofy costumes punching each around a blasted cityscape. Because, like I said, they’ve done this multiple times before.
Anyway, Austen’s on the book for a six issue run, I believe. With any luck, Marvel will promptly replace him with someone more talented as soon as those six books have seen the light of day. But at this point, the seed of doubt has been planted in my mind and I’m not sure that anyone can truly take Winick’s place at the helm of the good ship Exiles.