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Exiles #25

Posted: Sunday, April 20, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Judd Winick
Artists: Kev Walker (p), Simon Coleby (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
The book opens with Black Bolt weighing his options as he's come to the conclusion that it's only a matter of time before the G-Barrier that stands as his city's last defense is taken down, and Iron Man's army will overpower his people. We then see he's taken to the study of historical texts about how other besieged races in the past dealt with their oppressors and he comes across one that he takes a liking to, even though the mere mention of it has his wife expressing her abject horror that he's even considering it as a model for his own plan. We then look in on the members of Weapon X who we see have agreed to lead Iron Man's army into battle against the Inhumans, and as the two sides collide on the battle field we see the battle becomes a race to get the G-Barrier down. However, while Weapon X are able to take the force field down what they discover within is downright horrific, and we see the mere discovery of what played out within the city is enough to send Weapon X heading off to their next assignment on another Earth. Meanwhile, Black Bolt has decided to play his final hand, as Iron Man's army is wiped off the map with a single yell from the Inhuman king. As the issue ends Iron Man discovers there's a price to be paid for his actions against the Inhumans.

Comments:
This issue offers up what I expect was supposed to be a powerful finish, but the simple fact of the matter is Judd Winick didn't do enough work to convince me that this was the only opinion available to the Inhumans. In fact the story itself offers up two scenes that show the reader the Inhumans had at least two other opinions available that didn't call for such a momentous sacrifice on their behalf. First up is Black Bolt's devastating attack on the forces of Iron Man, as one has to wonder why he didn't simply carry out this attack right from the start, while the rest of the Inhumans remained safely behind the protection that the G-Barrier. Then there's the sequence in the final pages where we see an attack is carried out on Iron Man that serves to show how unprotected he truly was, and while I guess he might've had something set up that he let fall to the wayside when he felt the Inhumans were not longer an active threat, this ending did serve to further undermine the idea that the Inhumans had to take such a drastic action. There's also the simple fact that story never took the time to really develop the Inhumans as characters, so when the book delivers its big shocker it wasn't able to deliver the emotional punch that it was probably hoping to make.

The other big hurdle that this story had to overcome that it never quite managed to make it over was to convince the reader that the Weapon X cast were strong enough to carry this arc. However in spite of a lineup that includes several of my favorites, Weapon X's role in this arc has basically been to provide the means to fill pages, as they participate in the big fights that eat up the pages, such as this issue's six page throw down. However, if the entire Weapon X lineup had been killed off I don't think I would've really been all that upset, as Judd Winick has essentially defined this cast by their ability to fight the good fight, and the other thing that makes this cast unique is that they are willing to get their hands dirty to secure their trip to the next world. So basically we have a cast who pretty much represents all the worst qualities of the 1990s, as Judd Winick seems to be hoping that if he gives these character enough of an edge the reader will be so impressed that they won't notice how little work was done when it comes to developing these characters beyond the kewl surface details. I realize that these characters are only temporary plug ins for the regular cast, but this doesn't mean they are excused from character development.

Kev Walker, I do believe is lined up to be the new artist for the "Legion of Super-Heroes", to replace Olivier Coipel, and based on this final issue I'm not entirely sure if this was all that great a tradeoff. I mean the art on this issue does manage to deliver some fairly impressive big visuals such as the one page shot of Iron Man's army speeding toward the city, and when Black Bolt unleashes his attack the impact of the visual is a sight to behold. I'll also give the art credit for capturing the sense of impending doom as Black Bolt makes his rather momentous decision, and the one page sequence where Black Bolt decides his course of action manages to pack some serious emotional punch. However where the art drops the ball is during its action scenes, as in addition to adopting a rather rigid panel design of narrow vertical panels that act to limit the kind of action the art can deliver, I also have to say that the big impact shots (e.g. Karnak's attack on the Vision), are lacking any real sense of excitement. The decision to have Black Bolt hulk out before he delivers his big attack was also a serious creative miscue, as it's completely at odds with the previous material that presents Black Bolt as a highly restrained leader who has come to a rather difficult crossroads.

Final Word:
I'll give the book credit for trying to deliver a big finish to what had been a rather run-of-the-mill affair, but the simple fact of the matter is that the book needed to make more of an effort to show us that this was the only option open to the Inhumans, and it didn't help its case by provide two plot elements that effectively presented two plans that show us the Inhumans never needed to take the drastic action that they did. There's also something inherently unsatisfying about a story that would even bother to suggest that a leader would consider such action a viable opinion, as instead of being a heroic choice this ending presents the Inhumans with a cult mentality, rather than as an advanced culture who would be able to think their way out of a crisis. The historical example that is used also doesn't hold up all that well, as the story clearly shows us the Inhumans had not been backed into the corner that they needed to be in to justify the choice that they make. It also didn't help that the book never really developed Weapon X, Iron Man, or the Inhumans themselves beyond simple surface characterizations.



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