I know that you guys have been champing at the bit for the next part of our look at the saga of Malibu’s Exiles! Well, leave what is left of the bit and get on over here, as we are ready for another gander at the amazing world of The Ultraverse!
Before I get further into the last half of The Ultraverse’s most ill-fated team, I want to dedicate the rest of this look at Exiles to the late Steve Gerber, who was one of the most brilliant writers in comic book history. There are very few people who could bend comic books to their will in the way Gerber could, and it is truly an honor to be looking at his work here.
Exiles really changed the game, folks, and I think that it is one of the last major surprises in superhero comics. I find it to be quite an accomplishment in and of itself that they were able to keep the planned demise of The Exiles a secret. If this book had launched even a year later, it would have been nearly impossible. Thunderbolts almost accomplished a big reveal, but I think it was just barely ruined. Wizard, Stan Lee, and Marvel almost pulled a fast one on us in regards to The Sentry, but I think The Sentry had been on stands for .08 seconds before we all knew of their ruse. I asked Tom Mason about how retailers reacted, but you’ll have to wait for the interview for that information! Ain’t I a stinker?
I am not as big a stinker as that brat Timmy, who has gone and become a monster called Mastodon.
Of course, Timmy is not the only Mastodon of the 90’s, or did you forget about Big Van Vader?
Of course, Timmy would probably a bigger threat than Big Van Vader due to, you know, being a giant super strong monster and all. He confronts the Exiles in a manner that threatens them all, and it forces Ghoul to break with the plan to save Tinsel!
Also, the lady behind the Exiles get shot, which is as good a metaphor as any for how her world and plan is crumbling all around her.
Dr. Rachel Deming, though, thinks that for some reason having a giant pre-teen monster running all across town is a bad idea for whatever reason, so she breaks off the Exiles’ assault on Malcolm Kort’s office to chase down Timmy, who is a little jerk. You know who else was when he was Timmy’s age? No clue? Here’s a hint? DEAN COMPTON.
First though, she got shot, and since Mastodon’s powers so far are being really strong and having cool tusks that resemble an even cooler mustache, we can safely rule him out as the shooter. That most likely means that the shooter is one of Kort’s goons, and which goon has the most guns?
Why that would be Bloodbath, kind sir.
Tinsel and Ghoul have their own issues, though, because ever since Ghoul broke ranks to help out Tinsel, they have both pretty much been in peril from the moment Tinsel showed up with the Exiles. I love how Gerber keeps having the characters make the wrong decisions and showing us the consequences without being too obvious about their inexperience.
The temptation to give away their inexperience in thought balloons must have been heavy, but by avoiding that, Steve Gerber shows us the most dangerous form of ignorance; the Exiles are bad at being superheroes, and not only do they not know that, but they don’t even know that they don’t know that! That’s the kind of thing that gets people killed both in real life and in The Ultraverse.
Before either of them can be killed, though, Ghoul and Tinsel fall into the clutches of Malcolm Kort, who just wants everyone to know that he isn’t the problem here. Rather, it is all the fault of Dr. Deming, who has all the issues while he is pretty much super perfect in the same way your siblings seemed to be when you were a teenager and you had just missed curfew. They could do no wrong; you could do no right. Malcolm Kort thinks he does not have to worry about the former.
Not gonna lie, this page made me feel uncomfortable in conjunction with Tinsel’s ultimate fate. All of the Exiles die (although some get better), but only one gets threatened with sexual assault, sexually assaulted, and then brutally shot to death by around a dozen bullets. If you guessed that that member was Ghoul, I’d call you a sick freak, but I’d so so with a smile as to let you know that I appreciate your humor. If you guessed Tinsel, I’d say you are more than well aware of the tropes in comic books where these sorts of horrendous things happen to women.
To be fair, this doesn’t fall right into the trope due to the fact that this doesn’t happen to her so a man can feel something (although Ghoul has what appears to be at least a minor league crush on her, and after he survives the group, he is haunted by the demise of The Exiles, but it is ALL of them, not just Tinsel), but it still is disconcerting to me. I think that writers (primarily male ones) do not understand that rape and sexual assault are not just “another evil thing” that evil men (or women) can do, but it is instead very off-putting. I think we are coming around on that, and this isn’t just something that male writers do. I was able to interview Devin Grayson last year, and we discussed when she had written a scene where Dick Grayson got raped in Nightwing. She then described it as “non-consensual, but not rape,” which is sort of like saying that “we landed troops in their country and occupied it, but we did not invade their country.” Devin expressed regret over not only saying that, but she also was sorry she had included the scene at all because she did not understand just how traumatic victims of rape, sexual assault, or abuse can find scenes like this.
I do think this is a product of the times, and I don’t think Steve Gerber meant anything by it; it does not detract from the enjoyment of the story, but I also think the story would still be just as good without the sexual assault due to the fact that Tinsel gets brutally killed. Her death is the most brutal and in some ways the most tragic. Of course, I also have to give Steve Gerber the benefit of the doubt in that he could have just been going straight for the jugular, which is that the most evil of evil men and women would encounter neophytes such as Tinsel, and he is just showing us the logical and most extreme ramifications of superhero activity.
While all this is going on, Mastodon (TIMMY) is squaring off with the rest of The Exiles at the mall,. where some of the coolest balloons this side of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade are residing. I mean, you could look at The Exiles fighting Mastodon, but damn, there’s Freddy Krueger!
Deadeye does the sensible thing here and fills Mastodon full of tranquilizer darts; I also assume that he hit his target exactly where he wanted due to his awesome cybernetic eye. Yes, I am still hung up on that, and yes, I always will be. Of course, some might say that since the Exiles want to train him, attempting to talk him down is the sensible thing. I’d disagree, but I’m not Dr. Deming, so I am not running this team.
While all of this is happening, Amber Hunt is starting to get really antsy back at the Exiles’ base. I feel like antsy is sort of a trite way to put Amber’s feelings, since she is waiting on the doctor to come back so the doctor can keep her from dying of the Theta Virus. Facing death deserves more than just some dude saying, “Why are you so antsy? I mean, it’s just your life.” So her antsiness, which is not a word, by the by, is certainly well deserved.
I have anxiety. Really bad anxiety. Like anxiety so bad that I think whoever is reading this is angry that they did not get to read it sooner or because it isn’t as good as someone reading this thinks it should be. I’d like to apologize to those readers now, but that will just make me apologize a whole bunch. The point of this diatribe on anxiety is that I can only imagine how I would feel in regards to this situation, and I have NO REASON to fear as much as I do. Amber Hunt, on the other hand, is going to die. She needs this treatment, and she needs it soon. So her reaction to the situation is the only normal one; she calls a different lady a skank.
While Amber Hunt deals with being on the precipice of death, Ghoul is also dealing with being on the precipice of death. Or at least, he is dealing with being on more of a precipice of death than he usually is. Kort has tossed him into the garbage disposal, and he is rightfully none too happy about it.
Ghoul manages to stay alive because he is already sort of dead. I could look for hours at the random debris in that slime wave. The skull bothers me less than the bunny somehow, which I think makes me a bad person. I am sure that someone already found me to be a bad person, though, since I love 90’s comics so much.
Ghoul makes it through this, and even though I compared it to Nickelodeon Gak earlier, now I think it is more like ooze from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The secret of this ooze, though, is that has empty beer bottles floating in it.
Back where the rest of the Exiles are trying to capture Mastodon, Dr. Deming is learning the folly of attempting to talk out one’s problems in a superhero comic book.
The biggest reason why I wish the Exiles had lasted longer is due to the fact that they could have had an awesome crossover with Freddy Krueger who would have been seeking revenge over being senton splashed by Dr. Deming, whether it was her fault or not. I mean, she can’t talk the kid into calming down, so I see no way she could ever convince the King of Nightmares that this offense was not of her doing.
Also, I find it awesome to see her glasses falling off. I am a sucker for stuff like that. Mastodon gets away, but Deadeye’s tranqs start to kick in just in time for one of Kort’s robots to see him trying to get away.
The book starts to get very real from here on out, as Tinsel is now subjected to Bloodbath’s predilections, which are all nefarious, sick, twisted, and depraved. Tinsel seems like a wonderful woman, and I think my biggest regret is that we learn nothing about her before she is eradicated by one Bloodbath. Despite knowing little about her, she is fascinating, and so her death hits hard. Especially because of this build-up, where Tinsel spends the last few moments of her life being sexually assaulted and hunted down.
The next image basically represents the series. Despite Tinsel’s last great act of defiance, it was too late her for her, just as it is too late for all of The Exiles. The image is brutal, even for the 90’s, and I don’t have an issue with that. This is almost certainly the outcome when folks bite off more than they can chew in dangerous situations. When you constantly tempt death and don’t really have the training or skill to do so, you eventually die. It’s that simple.
I also think there is subtext here, in that we are shown this brutal scene in order to fully grasp the powers that The Exiles were grappling with and how ill-prepared they were for it. As we see Tinsel gunned down, we somehow know deep inside that while Bloodbath pulled the trigger, the real murderer is Dr. Deming, who stubbornly refused to see that her team was not ready for confrontations like this. You realize that life, even life in a superhero universe, just isn’t fair. Neither is death.
Brutal. That’s really all I can say. There’s no doubt that Tinsel is gone, just as her life and superhero career started. This time, the bad guys won. The bullets seem to take up the entire page, as they enter and exit her chest, head, and basically every body part except her knees and feet, and with how Bloodbath is, I am not sure he would not just go and shoot them up after the fact. A moment of silence for Tinsel, folks; she truly deserved better.
We’ll finish Exiles up in part 3 next week! Guess what? EVERYBODY DIES.