Writer: Chuck Austen
Artists: Clayton Henry (p), Mark Morales (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens on an Earth where the world's heroes are a for profit business, and when Japan is threaten with attack we see the governing board of Heroes for Hire, Inc refuses to send in help, as the country can't pay its five billion dollar rescue fee. We then see the Exiles arrive in the devastated ruins of Japan, and faced with the enormity of the tragedy they are faced with the group finds itself thrown for a lop when the Tallus gives them their instructions about what their mission will be on this Earth, as it calls upon them to prevent anyone from coming to Japan's aid. We then see Sunfire is quick to reject this mission, as she refuses to play an active part in the death of others let alone the millions that will result if this world's heroes are prevented from coming to Japan's aid. While there is some debate over whether they should carry out the mission Tallus gave them, or if they should help these people, we see most of the group ends up falling on the latter side of the argument. However, one member of the Exiles decides to carry out the orders without the help of the others, and to this end when the heroes of this world do arrive, they are viciously attacked by this lone member. Meanwhile the rest of the team finds themselves up against the villain who has left Japan in ruin, the dreaded Moses Magnum.
On one hand I'm delighted to see this book break free of the typical Exiles arrive on a world caught in the grip of an overwhelming evil & they have to fight this controlling influence to free this world. I'll also give this issue credit for offering up a possible explanation for why the Exiles found themselves continually drawn to this type of plot scenario, as we learn the missions the Exiles were given were largely determined by the mental influence of the Exiles themselves, and it's easy to see why Blink would have steered the group toward scenarios where they had to free worlds from oppressive regimes, given she lived most of her life trying to free her world from the grip of Apocalypse. Now the new make up of the team has the group taking on missions that are decidedly darker in tone, and while Chuck Austen has most of the Exiles actively defying the instructions of the Tallus, this issue also give us a pretty good heads up as to whose mind is responsible for the morally questionable objectives the group has been asked to perform. Now I'm a bit concerned that Chuck Austen has gone too far, and in essence by making this character so clearly steeped in darker emotions, he has effectively stated that the character is only going to be around for a short while. Still, it is nice to see the team has broken free of its typical plot scenario.
On the other hand though, the main problem that I find I have with Chuck Austen's work is at its most overpowering in these pages, as it's almost like he doesn't trust the reader to recognize the moral dilemma of the plot when it's offered up to us, so he spells it out for us in the most overblown, melodramatic means possible. The Exiles have been asked to prevent the Avengers from getting involved in the action, in spite of the idea that millions of people will die as a result of this intervention. However, Chuck Austen doesn't trust the reader will be able to figure out that having the Exiles follow these instruction would have them wearing the black hats in this drama, so he has Mimic take a stance that a job is a job, and that these parallel worlds are simply stepping stones. This then affords Chuck Austen the opportunity to offer up his heartfelt pleas by Sunfire, who spells out again & again a point so patently obvious that Mimic's decision was pretty much written in stone right when Sunfire went off the recover the first body from the rubble. My only real solace is that at least one member of the Exiles has very little problem with perform the task of keeping the Avengers off the playing field, though the way that Chuck Austen has this character place themselves in a position to take on the Avengers is so obvious in what it's trying to accomplish, that the scene when this character's true intentions are revealed, it's hardly a surprise.
I'm a little gun-shy when it comes to new artists, as it does seem like far too many new artists are arriving at the big show unable to meet to demands of a monthly title. Now I have no proof that Clayton Henry isn't going to be up to the demands of this book, but since this series has shifted to the 18 issues a year format I suspect we'll be seeing guest art on this title. As for the art itself, it's pretty solid, as it delivers some pretty impressive big visuals, such as the page where the Exiles arrive on this world, to find themselves in the middle of a devastated city, and when the Avengers ship is blown out of the sky, I must say I was impressed by the sense of raw power on display. The art also does some nice work on the little moments like the panel where Sasquatch drops her human form, and one has to be impressed by the ruthless manner in which our evil member of the Exiles deals with the downed Scorpion. Now the art is a bit rough when it comes to its facial work, as it seems to be rather limited in its range of emotions, and certain scene aren't as powerful as they could've been (e.g. the scene where our evil Exile spots a familiar face in the Avengers cast). Still, overall the art left me rather impressed, and if he proves to be a reliable presence on this book, I can see Clayton Henry building himself a fairly solid fan base.
There's a couple moments where I wish Chuck Austen was able to exercise a little more restraint, with the scene where Sunfire makes her impassioned argument about the right thing to do is so overblown that it had absolutely no dramatic punch to it. I mean I realize it's an important scene, but when one side is so clearly defined as being the right thing to do, it's next to impossible to create any real sense of tension, as it's clear what path is going to be taken. Now I do like the decidedly darker edge that Chuck Austen does infuse a member of the Exiles with, and I rather hope the actions of this character are kept under the hat, because I rather like the idea of having a character within the ranks who is willing to journey into the darker corners, as the Exiles has become a book that is a little too comfortable in how it has its cast reacting to the various problems they are confronted with. I also like the idea that the book has broken free of the established plot pattern that it had been locked into for the better part of the past year.
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