Exiles #2 Review

by Charles Martin on April 25, 2018

Exiles #2 Review
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Penciller: Javier Rodríguez
Inker: Álvaro López
Colourist: Chris O'Halloran
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

If you stopped by CTG last month to find out about Marvel's new Exiles series, I delivered several hundred worshipful words playing up how wonderful its creators are and heartily endorsing the debut issue.

Well, my face is red today.

Exiles #2 is not that good. It's a slightly disappointing read on its own, a much bigger letdown when compared to the previous issue, and potentially, an ill omen of things to come.

The Tallus whisks the Exiles through two more AUs to pick up two more team members. We get a Valkyrie assembled by slapping Tessa Thompson's looks onto MCU Thor's personality (Avengers Thor or possibly, hopefully, Ragnarok Thor) and then we get Wolvie.

There's nothing wrong with Wolvie himself. He's adorable and the X-Babies detour he pulls the team through is hilarious. It's the heart of this issue and it works in a wonderfully charming way.

Wolvie is also a wrecking ball that knocks huge chunks out of this title's foundations. How? By mirroring the simplicity, i.e. lack of development, lurking in the other lead characters. 

Wolvie clears the "This is so stupid. Stupid awesome!" bar that comics with ambitiously absurd premises have to leap. After we come down from Wolvie's intro and the other characters move into the spotlight, the "awesome" part of that declaration goes AWOL. ("Awesome" was in terribly short supply during the big AU Asgard fight, too.)

In brief: Khan becomes way too much of an irony-free Cable knockoff, Iron Lad is a Mark 1 "lonely nerd who just needs somebody to give him a chance" right out of a John Hughes movie, and Blink is stranded between "tough veteran team-leader with Apocalypse and Exiles cred" and "generic plucky 2010s female protagonist" - two characterizations that play poorly together here. And see above for Valkyrie: So far, she's a jolly but pond-shallow amalgam of MCU Asgardians.

Wolvie works despite (or even because of) his simplicity. But the other characters, suddenly turning to cardboard before our eyes, do not. Exiles finds itself in desperate need of a character tune-up after only two issues.

Any good news? Well, the plot is still speeding along at a tremendous pace. The new twists roaring down on the Exiles' heads like a bad news avalanche are not just challenging to these characters, they're pretty fascinating in themselves. This issue also makes it clear that the Unseen is going to be an integral part of the story for the foreseeable future, and that's a very welcome development. 

I hope that the Unseen may turn into the surprise heart of this book, similar to the way Saladin Ahmed used Crusher Creel in Black Bolt. But where Mr. Ahmed showed Black Bolt as a fascinatingly complex character in his own right, so far the new Exiles team is looking dishearteningly two-dimensional. Endearing them to their readers may be a bigger job than Nick Fury's ghost can handle, particularly when he's restricted to a few pages an issue.

The visuals remain pretty solid. Javier Rodriguez's pencil occasionally runs ahead of the already-breakneck story, resulting in a few panels that are more confusing than they need to be. The imaginative layouts are still working well and the character depictions are strong. I might not like what this issue teaches us about Valkyrie and Khan, but they look great while we're learning.

(The sight of Khan embiggening her ear to improve her hearing is going to haunt my nightmares, though!)

Chris O'Halloran's palette is quite diverse (Wolvie's world gets gloriously bright Hanna-Barbera colours, for example), but he's perhaps following last issue's precedents a little too slavishly. We see more examples of the Time-Eater doing its thing, and Mr. O'Halloran delivers the same "golden-white oblivion" treatment for each one. It leaves behind the (inaccurate) impression that this issue's colours are washed out.

In six months' time, we'll look back on this issue as either the misstep where a great series nearly left the rails or the jump-the-shark moment that led to a quick (and rightful) cancellation. I have faith in the creators' talents. I see the potential of the premise. I like the plot so far. I'm pulling hard for the first option. Considering Exiles #2 on its own, though, I can't deny the disappointment delivered by its cardboard characterization.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
Just to reiterate a positive: Wolvie and Li'l Magneto are adorable.