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Exiles #21

Posted: Tuesday, January 7, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Judd Winick
Artists: Jim Calafiore (p), Jon Holdredge with Eric Cannon (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
The book opens by revealing the identity of the character who controls the techno-organic race that has consumed most of the planet, and we see this entity is well aware of the Exiles’ arrival on his world. We then join the Exiles as they are making a plan to infiltrate the stronghold of the techno-organic menace, and get a hold of the original host body, as it will help develop a cure. While the Exiles are joined by about a dozen heroes & villains who have managed to escape the fate of their fellow counterparts, we see a small group allows themselves to being partially infected with the virus in order to allow them to move about inside the stronghold without being detected. Meanwhile a larger group makes their presence known outside the stronghold, where they will act as a distraction while the smaller group locates the original host body. However, this plan goes completely off the rails when a member of the Exiles is infected by the virus, which in turn allows the head villain in on the plan, and he destroys the original host body before it can be used against him. As the issue ends we see the heroes are forced to retreat, and Blink is told about a plan B that is far less pleasant.

Comments:
Unless Judd Winick changes things up next issue, then this issue provides us with a pretty good indicator of which Exile has been slated for death, and I have to say I'm truly impressed by this choice, as it's entirely unexpected, and it sends a very clear message that he's willing to make choices that would place him at odds with the readers. Frankly I'm rather glad to see a writer who looks to be willing to pick a course and stick with it regardless of fan expectations, as while it's always nice when it seems like a writer is delivering material designed to make me happy, the truly great moments in comics have largely come from writers doing the unexpected. The death of Gwen Stacy, Elektra's death at the hands of Bullseye, the removal of Wolverine's adamantium. All of these infamous moments were so effective because their respective writers decided to follow through on an idea that was sure to upset readers. Now this writing approach has produced some huge misfires, such as the clone saga, but truth be told I'd much rather see writers taking chances like the one Judd Winick looks to have made in this issue, than be safe in the knowledge that he would never step outside the lines for fear of upsetting his readers.

There is a sense that Judd Winick is simply going through the motions on this book, as this issue is the latest in a series of arcs where the Exiles are battling a threat that has taken over most of the world, and the battles between the possessed heroes, and the free ones are a bit unimaginative in how they play out. However, the revelation of which Marvel character is the leader of this invasion made for a fun surprise, and there's also a great little moment in this issue where the villain is actually allow to put a check in their victory column, as the clever plan the heroes came up with is blown out of the water with a single move. The cliffhanger statement made by Blink regarding the plan B Tallus offered up is also quite impressive in it's implications, and I have to say that I rather like the unexpected direction this story has taken. Now I'm sure this story will offer up the typical solution to this type of scenario, where the heroes come up with a third option that allows everyone to go home happy, but then again after seeing which member of the Exiles look to be slated for death I have to concede that Judd Winick has managed to convince me he might very well follow through on plan B.

I guess part of the blame for the rather unimpressive battle sequences lies at the feet of Jim Calafiore, as he certainly had all the elements for a visually explosive battle, but he never quite delivers on the promise. A large part of it I think is the lack of impact in the panels where the shots are being delivered & taken, as pained expressions simply aren't enough to convince the reader a serious blow has been made. The art could also be a bit more imaginative when it comes to its panel layouts, as it's almost too safe in how it places them on the page. Then again I have to give the art full marks when it comes to the big moment that is sure to get fans talking, as we see a member of the Exiles is infected with the virus, and the surprise factor of this scene is perfectly captured by the art. The art also does some nice work on the talking heads scenes, as when Mimic is venting his frustrations his look of anger is perfectly contrasted by Blink's look of dismay. The character designs for the newer characters that enter the battle alongside the Exiles are also pretty nice, though we never get to see Icegirl, or Power Fist's powers in action, though it's pretty easy to guess what they would look like.

Final Word:
I entered this issue a bit concerned that this book was stuck in a rut when it came to its plots, and while there is a worrisome degree on sameness to the basic plot of this arc, Judd Winick manages to deliver a very powerful climax to this issue, as I'm sure most readers will be completely thrown by the way things play out in the final pages of this issue. Now there is the potential of misdirection in the air, as there's a little scene involving Morph that caught my attention, and given the leader of the Vi-Locks is a mutant, I can see where Mimic's ability would come into play. However, at the moment Judd Winick deserves full marks for offering up an easy out for our heroes, and then completely smashing it apart. I also have to say that if Judd Winick has chosen this particular character to be the one who dies then I have to admire his willingness to do something that will leave the readers of this book utterly dismayed.



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