Everything was going wrong for The Exiles when last we saw them in Issue #3. Tinsel had just been brutally murdered, Ghoul had been captured, and the rest of the team was unable to either convince Mastodon to come with them or to subjugate him. Also, Amber Hunt is going to die unless the team gets back in time to administer the cure for her Theta Virus. She refuses to die filthy, however.
That pun is ridiculously wonderful; I have a soft spot for puns, as does my girlfriend and co-contributor to this blog, Emily Scott, and so that was terrific in my eyes! I also understand where Amber is coming from. As I have noted numerous times throughout this look at Exiles, Dr. Rachel has the best of intentions but all the execution of a car without an engine. The way she is going about this just is not going to work, and she has no clue. She has treated everyone shabbily thus far, and in many cases, she has treated everyone except Deadeye like they are mindless idiots. That too, though, will change in this issue.
This title, and of course this was sort of the point, makes one wonder what would have become of The X-Men or Doom Patrol had Professor X or The Chief not been so good at shepherding the young and the powerful. I get the feeling that this team could have been something special in The Ultraverse had Rachel Deming just been a better leader. Unfortunately, we will not get to see that. We will get to see Amber Hunt badmouth the only clothing she finds in the way only a snobby teen ever could.
Amber Hunt goes from worrying about dying to worrying about fashion more quickly than a opossum can scoot under a house!
We also get to see another side-effect of putting together a bunch of strangers with powers who happen to also be young. That side-effect would be attraction and unwanted attraction. Again, not to just keep on making comparison with the X-Men, but that’s an issue that almost always seems to work itself out with them, unless you are Jean Grey, in which case you get involved in a love square so thorny that one could walk through 872010 rose bushes and come out with fewer scratches than her heart got from Wolverine, Cyclops, and White Queen.
This ain’t the X-Men, and so things here go less smoothly, which makes tons of sense. I used to go to APPLE Project, which was an Upward Bound program. It’s a terrific program that helps impoverished youth find ways to get to college, and one of those ways is by hosting a summer session in which kids get to go stay on a college campus, take college courses, and live in the dorms. This was lots of fun, but when you put that many teenagers in one spot, the emotions and hormones become a juggernaut even more daunting than Cain Marko himself, and that situation can lead to awkward misinterpretations, such as the small moment we see here:
That’s explosive, and no one even tossed any dynamite or old-timey bombs with long fuses like they use on Spy vs. Spy! The chemistry element gets more play here in one page than it gets in years and years with some team books.
Sadly, though, Ghoul isn’t there to laugh at this interaction, as he has stumbled upon Tinsel’s body. Ghoul’s power to talk to the recently departed is neat, but the sorrow it must bring comes to the forefront as he talks about Tinsel’s last moments…with Tinsel.
Things aren’t going much better for the rest of The Exiles, as in addition to not being able to nab Mastodon, they are now under siege from basically every cop between San Diego and Los Angeles. The field mission is not going especially well for The Exiles, and I have to believe that part of it is that Dr. Rachel Deming just isn’t qualified to be a field commander. She commands Mustang to take out some cop choppers without hurting the cops, and when that isn’t working as well as it could have, Deadeye takes aim.
The only person up until now immune to the condescension of Dr. Rachel Deming, Deadeye, is now subjected to the same treatment all of his teammates have been getting. The only difference is this time, Deming instantly knows she has gone too far, as Deadeye isn’t like the other Exiles. This is not only his first rodeo, but based on his demeanor and confidence, it is entirely possible that he invented rodeos.
I feel like this points out why The Exiles never could have worked as a team. It wasn’t because Tinsel, Ghoul, Mustang, Catapult, and Deadeye were awful, but it was because Dr. Deming never thought of them as people. At least, she never thought of them as people outside of the Theta Virus and the abilities said virus would and did grant them. Leadership is more than just hiring (or in Deming’s case, quasi-kidnapping) folks, telling them what you want, and then manipulating them into doing her bidding as she looks down on them the entire time.
I am pretty sure that most of you reading have a job, so you understand the concept that I am talking about. We have all had a boss like this, who just does not get the fact that you’re a person. They don’t get the fact that you can’t just morph into some sort of atomic-powered robot that can get three things done at once in the EVER SO PERFECT way that they can get it done. Dr. Deming is totally that boss. The way she said that Deadeye was in charge of the mission and then undermined him the very first time he did something that detracted from her greater calling of gathering up the Theta Virus carriers speaks volumes about her personality and her “leadership” paradigm. You’re wrong, she’s right, and here’s 78 snide comments to remind you of such.
Of course, her arrogance costs the team everything. I think that her shabby treatment of Amber Hunt really caused Amber to act so impulsively. I also have to laugh at the fact that the girl who eschewed her science class just a day or two earlier is now entirely dependent upon a super-futuristic science lab to save her life. Of course, she was complaining about high school biology, so perhaps had they taught “super virus removal science” at her school, she would have been more interested. I think all kids would be more interested in science in high school if they taught that course, and if they did teach it, then maybe she would have been able to use this machine properly.
I sort of do not blame her for going ahead and trying to do this herself; I mean, she is going to die one way or another, so she may as well give it a try, especially if Deming is so callous to her needs as to go on a mission that Deming really isn’t needed on while Amber Hunt wonders if she’d die before Deming’s return.
I also have to commend Hunt on using “the big chiclet” as her preferred way to describe death, as I am very sure that most of the ancient religions of the world have described death as being “odd-flavored gum that colors one’s tongue green.” I hope that is what death is like, but it is probably a lot more like the movie The Frighteners.
Amber’s mistakes will cost The Exiles, well, um, themselves, but for some Exiles, like Tinsel, all is lost already. Her life was snuffed by Bloodbath in the previous issue, which does not bode well for Bloodbath now that Ghoul is on his trail. His trail is easy to find, though, seeing as how he was blinded in Tinsel’s last great act of defiance. Ghoul is slightly more indestructible than Tinsel, however, and despite being what seems to be The Ultraverse’s greatest blind marksman, Bloodbath stands as much chance against Ghoul as your favorite ice cream treat stands against August.
Those two pages are very cold-blooded, but also hilarious. That’s a hell of a combination, but Gerber handles it not just with aplomb, but like it was as natural as something one does all the time, like pouring cereal or slacking off at work. The same way you wake up and rue the paltry amount of dough you have in the bank, Gerber marries two seemingly impossibly disparate feelings.
None of this will matter as much as Ghoul would like it to, as Amber Hunt’s attempt to avoid biting the metaphorical chiclet that is death is wreaking havoc on the island, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it. Deming isn’t there, and the entire lover’s spat that occurred earlier prevented those crazy kids from keeping Hunt from doing something stupid, like use technology she cannot understand on herself.
All of their effort turns out for naught, however, and Deadeye, who is just adept at telling you like it is, sums up exactly why these Exiles cannot save themselves.
And that fact there, uttered by Deadeye in the midst of a mad dash home, sums up Exiles perfectly. In some ways, it sums up humanity, sadly enough. Sometimes it seems that no matter what our gifts and abilities are, we remain capable of so much less than our potential due to impudence and shortsightedness. The Exiles sort of exemplify these aspects of humanity.
Then, of course, we are introduced to futility, as regardless of the efforts we make, on occasion, they just do not matter. I know that we have all interviewed for a job where we had a KNOCKOUT interview, but we did not get the job b/c it was already decided who would. Of course, that was just our livelihood. When those with super powers encounter futility, the ramifications are much more devastating. The Exiles are destroyed.
The Exiles are finished. Their hubris and inexperience combined to destroy them, despite their powers and valiant natures. Ghoul got his revenge on Malcolm Kort, and he got to dress like Panama Jack’s cousin, Rambo Jack, as he did it, which is an image to leave you with since this series is a downer.
I don’t mean that pejoratively. I am a huge fan of sad music, to the point where almost every song I enjoy can be described as “really sad, but really good.” Many movies we enjoy that resonate with us on a deep level are sad, such as The Ice Storm, which is seemingly designed to nothing but drive the happy to the suicidal and the suicidal off bridges. I love that movie. So to say that this makes one feel awful to see play out makes sense, but that was sort of the point. The real world isn’t always sunshine and roses, unless it is blooming time on a rose farm. Then, I am pretty sure it is all sunshine and roses. Otherwise, life is tough, and we often have to pay very hard for the actions we take that do not work out, and it seems like the more spectacular of an action we take, the higher the price we have to pay if it fails. Actions do not come much more spectacular than those of Deming and The Exiles. Steve Gerber sort of explains in an afterword for The Exiles.
Steve did a great job in that essay telling us what happened and why.
Amber Hunt will go on to be in The “All-New Exiles,” and she is basically the jumpstart for the Ultraverse crossover “Break-Thru.” Ghoul will go on to be in Ultraforce, but The Exiles were never forgotten, and now, they are no longer Unspoken! Thanks for reading, and stay tuned the rest of March for “Madness Month”! Emily will bring us Skrull Kill Krew, I will be doing Ghost Rider vs. Madcap, and Paul O’Connor of Longbox Graveyard and I will be chatting about the merits or lack thereof of 90’s comics in a podcast! Stay Tuned, folks!
Now as promised, Ghoul as Rambo Jack, with just a touch of Road Warrior Hawk tossed in!