Current Reviews


Exiles #28

Posted: Tuesday, June 17, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Chuck Austen
Artists: Clayton Henry (p), Mark Morales (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens with the Exiles arriving in limbo, where they have a sit-down meeting with the Timebroker, as he's apparently decided that the group's next mission is going to take a little explaining. We then learn that the Exiles will be paying a visit to the Marvel Universe proper, and that they are being sent to rescue two young students at Xavier Academy who are going to be killed by Havok. We also learn that Havok's visit to the Mutant X Earth has made him into a trouble spot in the fabric of the time stream, and that the evil personality that Havoc usurped when he visited the Mutant X universe is looking to take it's body back (thus explaining why Alex would kill these two young students). However, when the Exiles arrive at the X-Mansion with their story of how Havok is going to murder a couple students, the X-Men are hardly inclined to believe them. However, with Havok in the infirmary thanks to a rather serious injury he received from one of his future victims, we see that this moment of weakness affords the evil Havok the opportunity to take over Alex's body. What follows is a fairly conventional battle where the Exiles work along side the X-Men to protect these young students. However during this chaos, another group of villains decide to attack the X-Men, which leaves the Exile fighting a battle on two fronts.

When I first heard that the Exiles would be making a visit to the Marvel Universe proper, I must concede I was rather excited, as it meant we would be seeing a story in which the Exiles' mission could have real, lasting consequences. When I heard that this visit would be essentially a crossover with the Uncanny X-Men, I was disappointed as with a huge sandbox to play in, Chuck Austen essentially limited himself to a tiny little corner, that he already explores each and every month in the regular Uncanny X-Men title. I mean this is like a camping trip in the backyard, in that while it takes very little effort, and one has the luxury of the house within easy walking distance, the simple fact of the matter is that you haven't really gone anywhere. I realize there's very little danger of trotting on someone else's plot lines when you set the adventure within the confines of a book you already write, but this now ends up feeling like a plot of convenience. Plus it doesn't really help matters that I don't care all that much for the material we've been getting in the pages of Uncanny X-Men. What makes this story even worse though is that Chuck Austen seems to be of the mind that if one in reading this book, that obviously they are reading Uncanny X-Men, as he's simply plunked the Exiles into the middle of a plot, and doesn't bother to explain who any of the players are to readers who might not have read those issues.

Now let's see if I can piece this all together, and I'll apologize right now for not having read a single issue of "Mutant X", which I understand was probably for the best. Basically the premise of Mutant X had Havok's soul jumping from this world to a parallel decidedly nightmarish Earth, where it took up residence in the body of that world's counterpart, thus displacing the evil, wicked soul that had been residing in the body. We then returned Havok to the Marvel Universe, but this evil Havok soul was lurking on the astral plane, seeking an opportunity to presumably get its body back, and the first thing it plans on doing is killing two children. This in turn brings in the Exiles who need to rescue these children from the "evil" Havok. Of course this not being complex enough for Chuck Austen, he's also decided that this story would be the ideal platform to bring back the duller than dishwater villains from the Dominant Species arc, and as such we also have a subplot playing out that has absolutely no place whatsoever within the pages of this book. I'm sure that if Exiles readers wanted to read Uncanny X-Men plots they would be buying that monthly title, and simply because he's currently the writer of both titles does not give him the freedom to advance the plots from one title in the pages of the other. It's bad writing, and it's unfair to the readers of both titles.

First off the cover to this issue has to be one of the least intimidating shots of Wolverine that I've ever seen, and even his grimace of anger looks fake. Then again it's a proven fact that Wolverine sells comics so if one wants to grab the notice of the passing reader, even a phony looking shot of the character should be enough to catch one's attention. As for the interior art, Clayton Henry is a pretty solid artist, with a fairly solid grasp of the human form, and he also has a pretty nice array of facial expressions to convey the various emotions of the cast. Plus, with over fourteen characters running around in these pages I do have to give him credit for making the characters easy to tell apart, as Illyana & Paige don't look like twins, and thanks to the scar, and the different hairstyles, Mimic & Havok fairly simple to tell apart. Now the art doesn't convey the action in a terrible exciting manner, as Havok has always had one of the more impressive visual powers in the Marvel Universe, and the art utterly fails to capture the sense of raw power that Alex commands. On the other hand that scene where Logan, Paige & Morph are confronted by the werewolves is a pretty solid piece of art, and I'll even give the art credit for making the new costumes of the X-Men look somewhat tolerable. In fact without the silly headgear, Havok's outfit actually looks quite nice, though I still miss the simplicity of his old costume.

Final Word:
When a comic spends the first four pages detailing the mission the heroes are looking to accomplish, you just know you're in for a rough ride, and based on his past work I have very little confidence in Chuck Austen's ability to tell the most simple plot in a clear, enjoyable manner, so this mess of a plot is not exactly a welcome sight. Yes, this issue is a hodgepodge of ideas that were never all that enjoyable during their first trip round the track so getting a return visit is also enough to make me consider leaving the next two issues on the shelf, as I've come to believe nothing good can come from this. What makes it worse though is that it only took Chuck Austen three issues to transform this once enjoyable series into a hopeless scrape yard where ill-conceived plot threads I had hoped to never see again have taken roost. What's more these plot threads are so poorly injected into these pages, as Chuck Austen almost seems unwilling to concede that there are fans reading this title who are not regular readers of the Uncanny X-Men.

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