Waiting for the Trade: Exiles

Waiting for the Trade
 
New Exiles vol. 4:
Away We Go

By Chris Claremont,
Tim Seeley and Scott Clark

Collects New Exiles
16-18 and X-men Sword of the Braddocks

Why I Bought This: It
was $5 at BAM and had a real nice Psylocke cover

 

The Plot: In the
series finale the Exiles deal with a Shi’ar civil war and take down two of the
recurring villains from Claremont’s
run: an alternate Invisible Woman who serves as Madame Hydra and Slaymaster (a
Captain Britain villain similar to Bullseye).
 

For those who don’t know what Exiles is, it is about a team of mutants who visit alternate
reality earths (kind of like the TV show Sliders).
The original Exiles spun-off from “Age of Apocalypse”—a story I never read
but apparently everyone liked the character of Blink in AoA and since the main
Marvel Universe version of her was dead to find a way to keep her around the
writers decided she tried to teleport to safety when the AOA universe ended and
she ended up in alternate reality. She also took the AOA version of Sabretooth,
who is a hero and goes by Mr. Creed as well as Morph–another mutant who was
dead in the main Marvel Universe but was popular in AoA–with her. Throughout their
journeys through reality they picked up various other alternate reality
versions of the X-men for a series that went close to 100 issues that I for the
most part never read. I first picked up Exiles
in the discount bin for their two World Tour trades in which the team visited
alternate realities that had been stand alone books in the past like House of
M, the New Universe, 2099, Heroes Reborn and Squadron Supreme—and I’ll say that
it is a really fun story if you read some of those other universes originally and wanted to see
them revisited. Plus I immediately saw the appeal of Blink as a great
character: she is a strong team leader with interesting powers so it is no
wonder after AoA they found a way to keep her around.

New Exiles was (I
assume) a last ditch attempt to save the series by hiring Chris Claremont to
write it with a new #1 and bringing in both Psylocke and Sage from the main
Marvel Universe as members. Because Psylocke is my favorite X-man and I enjoyed
the two “World Tour” trades I picked up one of the Claremont trades when it hit the discount bin
too. But I missed one or two that occur before this final trade.

 

Anyway in this book the team lineup includes: Psylocke &
Sage, Morph & Mr. Creed from AoA (but not Blink); an alternate reality
Shadowcat who is identical to Claremont’s original interpretation of the
character; a male heroic version of Mystique (although considering the original
can imitate men as well as women I’m not sure that’s much of a difference
either); an alternate version of Rogue who can control her powers and touch
people if she wishes but personality wise seems otherwise the same, and a hero called
Gambit who is the son of Namor and Sue Storm and has inherited variations of
both their powers.

(spoilers below):

 

Chapter 1 – Evil Sue and not-so-alternate Kitty Pryde fight
in a battle of defensive powers being used aggressively. Evil Lilandra battles an
alternate version of Deathbird who has no powers and Morph. Alternate more
powerful Rogue disintegrates some chick who apparently killed Misty Knight last
trade and then kisses a purple alien. Kitty defeats Evil Sue by ripping out her
spine but dies in the effort. Rogue takes purple alien’s War Machine armor and
rejoins the battle.

Chapter 1.5 – Merlyn (an old Excalibur villain who either impersonates or is an evil alternate
reality version of the Arthurian mage) battles Sage in some other dimension,
and is about to kill her when some hologram chick that had been living in her
head emerges from her body to save her.

Chapter 2 – Psylocke and Slaymaster have a two page martial
arts fight until some other villain interferes. Slaymaster takes out his ally
because he wants to win a fair fight. Cut to Rogue who uses the War Machine
armor to take out three Shi’ar warriors. Psylocke wins the fight but when
Slaymaster begs for mercy she spares his life. And then in classic villain mode
when she goes to walk away he tries to stab her in the back but Mr. Creed makes
the save. Before Creed can get the kill Slaymaster teleports away. Evil
Lillandra surrenders.

Chapter 2.5 – Hologram chick beats the hell out Merlyn in
hand to hand combat. She returns to Sage who is dying so to save her they
remerge although this will erase both their original personalities into a new
one. Once they merge they disappear in a flash of light. Merlyn recovers and
lets out a primal scream.

Chapter 3 – The Exiles help the Earth the Shi’ar invaded
rebuild. Rogue makes out with purple alien dude (who has his War Machine armor
back). No-power Deathbird assumes control of the Shi’ar Empire and signs a
peace treaty with the President. Morph decides he is going to stay behind and
help Deathbird. Rogue also decides to stay behind because she loves purple
alien dude. The rest of the Exiles return to the Crystal Palace
(their homebase outside time where they can teleport to any reality) where Sage
is now a hologram bound to the castle. Sage assures Psylocke she is okay with
this setup even though it means never going home again. A teenage Valeria
Richards wants to join the team. We see highlights of various missions that
Claremont must of intended to write about but didn’t get to followed by Morph rejoining
the team because his relationship with no-power Deathbird didn’t work out. This
is followed by Gambit being called home because Namor died and he needs to
assume the Atlantean throne. Psylocke and Mr. Creed have sex. We end with
everyone watching the sunset as the series comes to an end.

Chapter 4 – In the Sword
of Braddocks one-shot
Slaymaster continues his alternate reality tour of
killing Psylockes. This time he kills one that was married to a version of
himself and to get to her he has to kill his analog upon which he absorbs him
becoming twice as powerful. We then get a flashback of how the main Marvel
Universe Slaymaster blinded Psylocke when she was Captain Britain (in his
solo title before she joined the X-men). Psylocke trains on the holodeck
fighting a false Slaymaster and she cannot defeat him. She gets a psychic flash
that the Slaymaster from this series intends to go to the main Marvel Universe
and kill her brother Captain Britain; and since their version of Slaymaster is
dead she does not think her brother will have a chance of avoiding the ambush
since he won’t remotely expect it (although considering how often people return
from the dead in the main Marvel Universe that is dubious logic). Psylocke
returns to her home universe and goes shopping. Slaymaster is there and attacks
her but she’s ready for it. The sounds of battle draw Brian to it and Betsy
takes a couple bullets for him. He’s ready to fight beside her but Psylocke
insists on taking on Slaymaster alone. She channels the memories of every
Psylocke he has killed and is able to anticipate his every move. This time when
Psylocke wins she kills him. She bids her brother goodbye and returns to the Crystal Palace where Sage heals her and then she
celebrates her victory with Mr. Creed.
Critical Thoughts:
This is sort of a rushed mess which I guess is what happens when a series gets
cancelled. Also because of the alternate reality gimmick this is sometimes a
hard series to be dropped in the middle of. I really don’t see in the last issue
why Morph quits and comes back. You’re cancelling the series let him live
happily ever after.  

Still I bought this book because it had a cool cover and I
like Psylocke and in that sense this is a perfectly serviceable Psylocke story.
Her vendetta with Slaymaster began in one of the earlier Claremont volumes I have, and plays off
history from both universes which is a nice touch. That two page martial arts
fight in chapter two is well done and even though it is rushed the escalation
between her being willing to spare him in the first fight and kill him in the
second comes off as a natural progression. She learned from the first fight he
is not going to respect mercy, and now he’s made it even more personal by going
after her brother so I believe that decision and I think it is consistent with
her character. Claremont
also writes the rapport between the Braddock siblings quite well, which is no
surprise as he’s been writing these two characters for decades. 

The Sue-Shadowcat fight is also fun in a fanboy sense as
we’re seeing perhaps the two most famous defensive powers in comics pitted
against each other and used in a very aggressive way as they fight to the
death.

Otherwise I don’t have strong opinions about anything else
that happens in this trade. The Meryln stuff is confusing and not very good—though
if you care his subplot is finished off in the mini-series/trade X-Men Die By The Sword in which the
Exiles and Excalibur team up to fight him but that book is truly terrible so I
wouldn’t recommend seeking it out.

 

Grade C. I
wouldn’t call this good even by the standards of a cult book like Exiles. In fact I would say of the four
or five Exiles trades I have read
this is the least of them. But it is far from terrible. There are no character
assassination moments. The art and writing are both perfectly acceptable if not
all that inspiring. That sounds like an average C-list comic to me, especially
one I grabbed on the cheap.

 

 

 

Waiting for the trade – X-men

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
X-Men Visionaries: Jim Less
by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee
Collects Uncanny X-men 248, 256-258, 268-269 and 273-277 and Classic X-men 39
Why I Bought This: So several months ago DC was hyping the hell out of the New 52 and the preview pages for Justice League by Jim Lee looked pretty damn amazing. Knowing I was going to wait for the trade on JLA meant I had six months before I could pick it up so I decided I wanted something by Jim Lee in the interim. The two most obvious choices were either X-Men or Fantastic Four Heroes Reborn, but having purchased the terrible Captain American Heroes Reborn trade in the wake of the awesomeness of last year’s movie, I decided to go with X-men. Plus the back cover did promise both a famous Cap story and a Savage Land story I had never read before as I dropped X-men in my original collecting days right around the time Jim Lee took over so most of this is actually new to me. Those preview pages must have been damn good because this is one of the rare trades I paid full price for from my local comic shop.

The Plot – As you can see in the issue list this collection is 11 non-sequential issues from two year period, taking what I guess the editors fee is the best of Lee’s art from his Uncanny before Marvel launched the second X-men title for him.
Issue 248 – The X-men are living in Australia (this was their status quo for much of the late 80s) when Nanny and Orphan Maker (a pair of minor villains who plagued the various X-books at this time and were terribly lame in every conceivable way) show up in hopes of regressing the X-men into children. They manage to do this to Havok, Dazzler and Psylocke before the other X-men stop them but as Havok is coming to his senses he fires a plasma bolt at Nanny’s UFO and accidentally kills Storm.
Issue 256 – 258. So in-between the last story and this one all of the X-men except Wolverine jumped into a magic crystal that would allow them to be reborn with new lives because they were afraid of another group of lame villains, this time the Reavers. Wolverine was later crucified by the Reavers and saved by new character Jubilee. In this story Wolverine and Jubilee are traveling to Madripoor, where by coincidence Psylocke is reborn as purple-haired Japanese ninja (she had previously been a pink-haired British chick). Psylocke is found by the Hand who sell her to the Mandarin and she becomes his bodyguard. This eventually leads to a battle with Wolverine and ultimately she regains her memories and frees herself from the Mandarin’s influence.
Issue 268 – In World War II Wolverine (pre-metal claws) and Captain America meet for the first time in Madripoor, where they thwart a Nazi/Hydra kidnapping of Black Widow back when she was a child.
Issue 269 – Rogue is reborn as both herself and Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers, whose memories and powers she had permanently absorbed when she was a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants) back in Australia where the Reavers have taken over the X-men’s a brief three-way battle ensues since Marvel holds a bit of grudge, until Rogue uses Gateway to teleport to the Savage Land. Once there Rogue loses her powers. Several weeks pass before Marvel tracks her down, and she is looking rather undead since there is not enough life-force between them to support two people. Ms. Marvel is about to win until Magneto intervenes and reintegrates them into one being with Rogue as the survivor.
Issue 273 – In the aftermath of the X-tinction Agenda crossover the leaders of the various X-teams are discussing which of them should take possession of the X-mansion, when Lila Cheney arrives and teleports the X-men to Shi’ar space to help Professor X, who hadn’t appeared since his death/space cloning/marriage in issue 200.
Issue 274 – Magneto and Rogue (still sans powers) are falling for each other. They team up with Kazar and SHIELD to try and prevent Zaldaline, who has stolen Polaris’ magnetic powers, from conquering the Savage Land.
Issue 275 – double sized issue sees a pair of big battles as the X-men battle Deathbird and the Imperial Guard as Deathbird has usurped the throne from Lilandra, wife of Professor X. Simultaneously back on Earth we see the conclusion of the Savage Land team-up with Magneto killing Zaldaline much to Rogue’s disappointment and renouncing his face-turn from five years earlier. In the cliffhanger The X-men defeat Deathbird but then in the party that follows Jubilee and Gambit witness Professor X being evil.
Issue 276 – 277. More space intrigue that ultimately ends with Professor X and few others revealed to be Skrulls before the X-men set things right and restore Lilandra to the throne.
Classic X-men 39 – In the early days of the second X-men team Storm inadvertently slights a homeless mutant with energy projection powers. He follows her to the X-mansion and stalemates her, Wolverine and Colossus forcing her to choose which of her friends he will kill. She picks Wolvie knowing his agility and healing factor will save him, but in the aftermath of victory Wolvie’s feelings are still hurt.
Critical Thoughts: The stories here are mixed bag, some are good but some terrible. None are truly great; although I should preface that by saying I’m not much of an X-man fan to begin with. The art however is as good as you’d expect a Jim Lee volume to be.
The Nanny store is terrible and I assume must be Lee’s first work on Uncanny since I can’t think of any other reason to include it and chronologically it’s a lot further apart than the others in the volume.
The Psylocke story is the last story in this volume I had read before in real time. Psylocke greatly benefits from this rebirth, becoming my favorite of all the X-men afterwards. Claremont’s writing is a lot wordier than what we see nowadays and this story with its brainwashing is heavy on internal monologue (the Nanny story has the same problem). I guess what I’m saying is the journey isn’t as good as the destination. The end result of purple-haired ninja Psylocke is a high point for the character (and how Lee draws her as a ninja is the epitome of 90’s comic cool) but how we get there isn’t as interesting to me. It probably doesn’t help that this is the third time I’ve read this story in 18 months as I have both an Essential X-men and an Exiles trade I bought last year that included this story as well. Also Psylocke is presented as this A-list fighter capable of taking down Wolverine in this story, and the description of her skills is the best part of the writing here, but then in future stories she’s never presented at the A-list elite Cap-Wolvie fighting level ever again.
The Cap story was an enjoyable one-shot and Jim Lee draws a damn fine Captain America. Other than the inexplicable aging that placing Black Widow in World War II causes, it’s not exactly treading new ground as I’ve seen dozens of Cap flashback missions in World War II and they’re all basically the same type of story, but I still liked it well enough.
The Rogue story is more overly-wordy psychobabble from Claremont, although the Magneto reveal at the end is another nice splash page by Lee. Of course why Magneto has a machine that can integrate two life-forces into one just lying around is never explained.
Issue 273 has no reason to be in this collection. It’s a talky epilogue to a crossover not in this collection. You could easily include the final page teleport or an issue note and go straight to 274.
The Savage Land story is mostly good and not in the way I expected. Usually the Savage Land setting is for fun stories of little consequence involving some hero fighting dinosaurs or some other monster like Terminus or Gog. This one is narrated by Magneto, and here Claremont’s emphasis on internal monologues is a benefit because Magneto is one of the most nuanced villains in all of comics. The moment where he walks away from Rogue and renounces Xavier’s path is the dramatic high point of this collect. Plus Lee’s art really shines throughout every panel of this story. If there is a downside it’s that Zaldaline doesn’t have the heft to be considered the villain that is going to trouble Magneto (and his allies) or allegedly conquer/destroy the world if this stand against her fails (which is the alleged rationale for why Nick Fury and SHIELD are down there helping out).
The space story is okay. I’m not all that interested the Shi’ar monarchy, but the story handles it plot twists well enough and newer X-men Jubilee and Gambit are given some nice moments to shine. Actually I would say Jubilee is a major highlight every time she appears. These are her earliest appearances and Claremont gives her dialogue a fun rhythm that differs from the rest of the cast. It’s easy to see why she became so popular around this time period (and make no mistake Jubilee was popular as she was prominently featured in the first X-men cartoon, the Marvel versus DC crossover and any other side project Marvel had in this era).
The Classic X-men story is average quality for a back-up. It is included because it is the first time Lee drew the X-men. There’s also a cover gallery of stories not reprinted some of which look quite nice.
One other note you can tell this is the 90s by the last two Uncanny stories because everyone has big guns. Rogue loses her powers? Give her an over-sized gun. Lila Cheney the rock star who doesn’t participate in missions? Give her some Shi’ar ordinance. Kazar, the primitive Tarzan-ish dinosaur fighter who in every other appearance since the 1960s uses a knife or a spear? Throw that man an automatic weapon that would make Rambo blush. I think you get the point.
Grade: If you are buying this for the artwork, it definitely delivers on that front and if that’s all you want give this an A and move on. For me even if I’m buying for the art I expect the story to deliver too—it’s why my flirtation with Image in the 90s lasted less than a year. Story wise you’re getting a good Magneto story, a decent Cap one-shot and a historically significant Psylocke story; plus a bunch of lesser material. Let’s call it a B- in deference to the fact that even the bad stories look good; but this took me months to read because in the early chapters I’d put it down and not be tempted to pick it back up for a month or more at a stretch, it really didn’t get rolling until the Savage Land story at the end.