Writer: Judd Winick
Artists: Jim Calafiore (p), Eric Cannon (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with Morph inviting Talia to join the rest of the team as they are throwing a little party to celebrate their latest successful mission, but Talia declines, stating she would prefer to be alone. We then see that her thoughts are on John who the Exiles were forced to leave behind after he was grievously injured during a battle with Galactus, and we see her look back on how she fell in love with the big guy. We see that on each of the missions Talia found herself warming to John, as she discovered that like most hulking brutes, his gruff demeanor was all an act, and that he was really a sensitive guy. She also learned that he had himself a sly sense of humor, and that he strongly reminded her of his brother, who Talia had a relationship with before becoming a member of the Exiles. After a couple of stumbling blocks that stem mostly from John's reluctance to believe that Talia could view him that way, we see the two fell in love. However, shortly after he learned that she was bearing his child, a seriously injured John was abandoned by the team, leaving Talia with a broken heart that she still hasn't recovered from.
This issue does a pretty solid job going back and expanding on a relationship that existed between two members of the Exiles, but I can't help but feel that this is an issue that should've been delivered immediately following the "death" issue, or that all of this information should've been incorporated into the issues before the character was knocked off. As it stands this issue feels like it's simply milking all the angst potential that it failed to do the first time out, and that Judd Winick suddenly noticed that he went & killed off a character without taking the time he needed to show the reader why they should be emotionally moved by this character's passing. Now I'm sure this issue will be a hit with fans of this series, and I understand why it will be, as it a very solid examination of how two members of the Exiles managed to find happiness together, and how this happiness was effectively shattered. In fact my only problem with this issue is that it's arrived six months after the fact, and now reads more like a response by Judd Winick to the idea that the readers weren't as emotionally invested in the material as he would've liked to see.
The one thing that this issue does do however is offer up some much needed panel time to Talia, as right from the first issue I wanted to know more about this character, but other than learn she was the child of Nightcrawler & the Scarlet Witch, the relationship/tragedy that is explored in more depth in this issue was the only real character moments that this character had undergone. Now this issue doesn't really add much to the big picture, but it does build upon what we already knew, and by the time the final page rolls around one understands why the character is going to be sullen & emotional detached in future issues. Judd Winick also deserves credit for making her relationship with Thunderbird feel genuine, as it doesn't shy away from examining the stumbling blocks, like the fact that John was a hulking cybernetic entity, and the idea that being part of the Exiles isn't exactly the most secure arena to be forming lasting emotional attachments. Now I do hope that Judd Winick doesn't make this tragedy the only element Talia possesses, as I'd like to see more of her father's devil may care attitude shine through, but right now I can see why she's not going to rival Morph as the team's comic relief.
I've been a fan of Jim Calafiore since his work on the last "Aquaman" series, and I love the idea that he's become the guest-artist that is called upon by the editorial duo of Mike & Mike, as while UDON Studios are likely going to keep him from pulling any work over on the new "Agent X" series, I can still look forward to his work over on "Black Panther" & on this title. His art is full of detail, with a fine grasp on the fundamentals like body language and its use of shadows & light. Also while this issue doesn't have much action to speak of, the art keeps the talking heads sequences from losing one's interest, as we get a wide variety of angles & he has the added bonus that the story itself moves from one location to the next at least half-a dozen times. The art also has a nice storytelling technique, as the material is easy to follow even without reading the dialogue, though I will concede that it's not quite as effective a read if one does this. The art also has some fun with Morph's shape-shifting ability during the opening pages, and while it's not quite on par with the work of Mike McKone, the art does a very solid job on the facial expressions.
One of the better issues of the series thus far that is somewhat undone by the fact that it's arrived on the scene in such a belated fashion. Judd Winick offers up a nice emotional issue, that creates a believable relationship between Talia & John, but as I was reading it I found myself a bit disappointed that all of this information wasn't offered up before the issue where John died, as now it feels like Judd Winick is engaging in patchwork plotting, as he establishes why this death should've made a bigger splash than it did initially. Then again this is a bit two-faced of me, as the issue is a well crafted bit of work, and my only real complaint stems from the fact that Judd Winick is using flashbacks to tell his story. Still, even though this issue is an enjoyable read, I was left with the sense that it would've made for a more effective story if Judd Winick had managed to get all this information to the reader a bit quicker than he did.
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