Writer: Chuck Austen
Artists: Clayton Henry (p), Mark Morales (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with Wolverine, Husk & Morph surrounded by the werewolf creatures that attacked the X-Men previously, and this time out Logan looks to fair no better than he did the first time out, while Husk is too busy reliving her nightmarish previous encounter with these creatures to be of much help. We then jump to the school, where we find Mimic & Sasquatch are busy trying to keep the possessed Havok busy so the X-Men can get young Carter to safety, and seeing that her teammates are in tough, Nocturne joins the fight, while Nightcrawler & the Juggernaut attempt to get the injured Carter to the hospital. We then look in on Sunfire & Illyana who are busy trying to get Angel & his healing blood to return to the school, while he plans on rushing to help Husk, which leads to a bit of a conflict, thanks to Illyana's inability to accept no for an answer. We then look in on Nightcrawler's group as we see their speeding vehicle is ambushed by the werewolves, and while Nightcrawler teleports Annie & her son away from the scene, the Juggernaut is left behind to tackle the werewolves and the recently arrived Havok. Meanwhile back at the school the young wolf-boy shows up holding Morph's severed arm, while stating that Morph was ripped apart by the werewolves.
My biggest problem with Chuck Austenís writing is not his awkward use of characters, even or his driving need to offer up overly melodramatic plots. No my real problem is that he manufactures moments, then he only pays attention to the elements that would help his story. So we have Havok nearly disemboweled in the first chapter, and Annie the nurse is acting like he's too far gone to save, but faster than you can say evil consciousness taking over Alex's body, we have Havok running around treating this life ending injury like he cut himself shaving. Then there's the fact that it takes until this issue for one of the X-Men to finally comment on the fact that they are being visited by characters who are suppose to be dead, and even then the book runs away from the idea like all the readers need was for the book to acknowledge the idea. The same goes for the scene where Nocturne encounters her father, as Chuck Austen uses the scene to deliver a single funny line, before literally throwing her back into the battle. One also has to love how this book develops conflict, as Illyana looks to be Chuck Austen ever convenient means of creating tension, as the character has the uncanny mutant ability to make a simple request that Warren would've easily accepted into an intense standoff, that serves no other purpose that to be manufactured dramatics.
Now I don't want to end up sounding like I enter these issues looking for something to whine & moan about, as I'll freely admit that Chuck Austen is not a writer whose work I'm particularly fond of. However, I'm noticed this is a trend in most of my recent reviews of his work, as I seem to feel some need to justify my dislike of his work, as if I had a personal vendetta against him. I've never met the guy, but given Joe Quesada seems to be rather taken with him I imagine he's a great guy to hang with. Now his reaction to online criticism is a bit dismissive, but than again I find myself agreeing with many of his points, and I will give him credit for addressing the concerns that fans have expressed. However, I do believe I'm done making excuses for why I should be allowed to dislike his work, as the simple fact is that it's simply not very good. Now in the interests of keeping this little rant linked to the issue at hand, I'd like to point out how empty this book has felt since Chuck Austen took over, as the Exiles express no individual personality, except of course unless it serves the story to have one of their number acting like a deranged psychopath. One also has to love the sissy boy that Chuck Austen has inserted into the story in the place of Wolverine, as if Logan is terrified than surely these are some truly frightening villains, right?
Clayton Henry is an artist who can be quite impressive in some moments (e.g. the double page shot of the werewolves moving in to attack), but then there's also pages where one is left to wonder what happened to the talented artist whose work was so strong only moments before. I mean the scene where the car carrying Alex to safety is attacked is a very awkward looking sequence, as the not only does it look like that is no way one could fit the Juggernaut inside that vehicle, but the art also has to have picked one of the most visually unimpressive ways of showing the attack. The same holds true for pretty much every scene involving the werewolf villains, as while I realize that it's difficult to make these creatures look scary on a brightly lit summer day, the simple fact of the matter is that it's the art's job to make them look threatening, and Clayton Henry makes these creatures look like big teddy bears. Heck even the glowing red eyes, combined with the sharp teeth & claws fails to overcome the simple fact that these werewolves are unable to visually convey any real sense of danger. On the other hand the art does manage to make Havok look like he's a very real danger, as the art does some very nice work detailing the raw intensity of his power. The cover image is also pretty nice, as the two powers of the featured characters makes for a fun contrast.
Chuck Austen continues to use this book as a dumping ground for Uncanny X-Men plots, as the Exiles are given very little to do but stand around getting their heads handed to them by the various baddies that are running around in these pages. However, this book also has the annoying habit of cutting away after the villains are finished with their ranting & raving, so we're even cheated out of the simple enjoyment of seeing the fights, as most of the action plays out off panel. So instead of seeing how Wolverine was taken down, or how Morph was ripped apart, we're told this is what happened after the fact. There's also the awkward writing like when Illyana decides the best way to elicit Angel's help is to act like a complete lunatic. However, the biggest disappointment would have to be the flat, unimaginative villains, whose big plan is the murder of two children, which we all know is never going to happen. A very mediocre issue of the Uncanny X-Men pretending to be an issue of the Exiles.
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