- Writer: Saladin Ahmed
- Art: Javier Rodriguez
- Cover: David Marquez
Dear creators: don’t screw this one up.
I’ve made no secret in the past that I’m finding mainstream superhero comics more and more tedious, an exercise in running on a metaphorical treadmill. If you stick with a superhero book long enough, it’s fight, crisis, die, rebirth, rinse, repeat, and everything resets on a five to ten year cycle. Maybe less.
Alternate universes in comics are a fun way of recycling the story in a way that’s both familiar and fresh. It’s like taking out an old garment that’s no longer cool, but maybe you alter or accessorize it differently, and suddenly it’s like a whole new outfit. The What If…? series of series at Marvel attempted this, and admittedly, there were some pretty memorable What Ifs…? out there. But even that got tedious, and frankly, What If…? changed both creators and stories on an issue-by-issue basis, so it wasn’t sustainable as an ongong title in the current market.
The original Exiles series found, in this writer’s opinion, the sweet spot where Marvel could hit alternate universes while still maintaining reader interest. Playing off the Sliders model, the team were a ragtag band of heroes who had to fix alternate realities in order to restore their own. The constant tended to be the “Age of Apocalypse” version of the X-Men’s Blink, a semi-beloved character who fit perfectly into the book’s conceit. Over 100 issues, the series had a high-stakes rotating cast: characters could and did die, but were readily replaced with intriguing variants of many well-known characters, along with some who became interesting in their own right.
So anyway, after a failed attempt to revive the book a few years ago, here we are again with a renewed effort at an Exiles book which bears moderate similarities to the original. It still uses Blink, but the cover clarifies that the rest of the team is all-new, though not averse to familiar alternate universe spins. We’re getting an uncorrupted version of Iron Lad and a variant of the MCU’s Valkyrie from Thor: Ragnarok. There’s a future take on Kamala Khan who is…very grumpy. And we’ll see what they do with Chibi Wolverine.
This…could work, to the extent that older readers like me need new, wacky spins on the Marvel Universe where imagination can run wild and consequences don’t affect, at least, the “real” world. And the concept should be flexible enough to allow for one, two, or multi-part stories (although this opening salvo is at least part one of the story, wherein we only meet half the cast).
Does it work? That remains to be seen. The character who organizes the team is a very unorthodox version of how we know him, and Saladin’s characterization of Blink is noticeably off from how she was handled in the original Exiles run. She’s a lot less certain and just a hint more goofball. Rodriguez’ art is a little darker than I’d prefer for a book like this–an open take on the Marvel Universe works better if the book uses someone with a little more of a house style, as Paul Petellier did on much of the previous run.
But what’s in here isn’t bad, and Lord knows, I need a book like this. I’m willing to give Exiles a continued try if it can keep the universe-hopping concept from becoming stale.
Rating: Three talluses out of five.