I like the idea of different universes and different takes on comic characters. What would happen if the worlds were slightly or super different and just staying on long enough to try and fix them. Sort of Quantum Leap in the Marvel Universe. And Exiles is one of those series that I think a lot of people forgot about after it came out or have never heard of. It is something I loved though, attacking everything via the Marvel Unlimited books (though the Exiles page is wacked out and full of double issues and out of order books instead of just the normal issues using it) and then a torrent of the two issues it was missing because it was maddening and sometimes if I pay for the account and buy my weeklies I don’t feel guilty about torrenting if the Unlimited collection is missing an issue or two. This is a look back of the first 32 issues of Exiles.
So the first series was long – 100 episodes, and despite his negative reputation for recent DC stuff like the Catwoman roof sex, the start of his Exiles run is super promising. Sex positive? Sure! LGBT positive? Sure! Racially diverse? Yeah! Interesting female characters? Definitely! Gripping? Kind of!
One of the biggest detriments to the series I think is that the there are large periods where nothing seems to happen. I mean events happen but nothing sticks out in my memory – though I binged the series in a bit over a day.
The first two issues though do an excellent job of establishing the rules, the Timebroker, a mysterious creation of the team’s subconscious, pulls in the members from their respective universes to save a world by rescuing “The One Who Would Lead You. Find your greatest teacher.” Considering the team consists of members from mostly normal universes (normal meaning ones where the X-men were founded) they think this means Professor Xavier. They go to the super prison, save Xavier and woops! He turns out to be evil. Issue 2 they save Magneto who was good in this universe and stop Xavier but not until after he killed a lot of people and after they lose Magnus, alternate universe son of Rogue and Magneto. He had the Midas touch (but with steel instead of gold), accidentally killed his mom and never really got to develop because 2 episodes in he died, but he was willing to sacrifice himself and he was distant. And then after he died, we find out what this comic is going to be like – a slaughter house. A meat grinder. He dies and we get Sunfire. But since the team is around for a while, let’s talk team members.
Blink is the “team leader”, she’s given the Tallus which is the magic artifact that gives missions . She comes from the Age of Apocalypse, which probably helped to bring in fans, and she eventually gets into a relationship with Mimic on and off and she is the first character sent home for “saving” her world and has the powers to teleport, sort of like Nightcrawler. Speaking of Nightcrawler!
Nocturne, aka my strange addiction to Nightcrawler but female turned manifest, felt like more of the leader. She’s the daughter of Nightcrawler and Scarlet Witch so of course whenever she finds Nightcrawler it is weird – Oh he’s my dad but I can’t let him know who I am. She eventually stops caring though and when they visit the 616 her talking about her origins gets Nightcrawler interested in Scarlet Witch. Also she gets pregnant, was in a rock band and leaves the team pretty permanently. She has the ability to posses people and toss hexbolts.
Morph! The comic relief slash only generally happy character who gets a lot of shit thrown at him and keeps swinging. He actually gets the offer to return home and declines because he likes being the hero. He can transform into anything and actually saves Impossible Man and the world through his shenanigans. He also ends up getting possessed but that is a long story for later.
Thunderbird – the non-stereotypical Native American superhero! Former Horseman (War) of the Apocalypse who now looks goofy as hell. I mean he has a really 90’s design through the series and he got Nocturne pregnant and then she lost the baby and he ended up in a coma. There were some great moments though where he met his alternate self and it mattered.
Mimic – the Mutant recorder able to hold the powers of 5 five mutants at half strength at a time. Mimic serves as the love interest for Blink for part of the series and as an example of how one moment can change everything. His world was a paradise but that came about because he was willing to take up Professor X’s offer to join the X-men and be a hero – and that moment becomes huge when he actually meets his evil self who chose not to follow Xavier and that moment and that realization changes everything.
So Magnus ended up dying and was immediately replaced by Sunfire (alternate version of Mariko aka Lady Deathstrike), they got moments to mourn before the next mission. For the beginning of the series though and for quite a while til the swimsuit issue, you think Morph and Sunfire are going to mix up but she turns out to be gay but she still loves Morph as a friend and he never tries to be like “I could be a woman for you” because unlike Xavin in Runaways, his gender is part of who he is.
So the second arc starts with a rough moment from the stop because once again, most of the team comes from a 616-similar universe – the Trial of the Phoenix – except that have to kill Jean Gray. And Wolverine is there and he’d already have met some of them. And Nightcrawler is there. And it is killing Phoenix which ain’t easy but the team is ready.
And then you get to the first issue with the alternate Alpha Squad where Canada apparently rules. Mad Hulk has to be stopped and Thunderbird meets his alternate self and he comes to terms with who he is. But then you also get a loop – Weapon X appears – not the one from the Universe, another team with a Tallus and they aren’t super nice – and one of the members is Sabretooth from The Age of Apocalypse aka Blink’s surrogate father – but he only sees her for a moment.
And then the ‘Nuff Said issue and here was where I started to question the series because ‘Nuff Said was a month where none of the comics had words and it cemented that I liked it. The team gets a break at a hotel (they have stolen credit cards that always work) and it is dealing with dreams and hookups. The back of the issue had a few pages of the script that literally says “On Nocturne in the shower… Keep it clean!” and it is just a wacky line. The script is also less descriptive than I expected. Just something personal.
and then A World Apart comes along and it is like Skrulls rule the world on a forgotten outpost, the team is going in gladiator pits, will they have to kill each other? And then it’s like nope, we built it up but instead Galactus comes along, scares the Skrulls and so all of the slave heroes team up lead by the Exiles, Thunderbird goes crazy and they kill Galactus but Thunderbird ends up in a coma. And gets left behind AND replaced with Sasquatch. And it is devastating because Nocturne also lost the baby.
And so Winnick is like, this is the 2000’s, we need something nice for this – Flashback beach episode! So the rest of the team who are having sex are like Mariko, go and distract Morph so we can hang out at a nude beach without his shenanigans and she literally makes him go lingerie shopping and it is hella gratuitous (as are the nude scenes with the female team members, Mimic gets a shadowy nude scene) but they end up getting actual character moments, Sunfire comes out to Morph and they stay friends and then water balloon the rest of the team.
And then we get back and have new member Sasquatch, secretly Dr. Heather McDaniel Hudson – a laaaaady. And she’d had a relationship with Wolverine in her world and she was married and she’s the smart member of the group.
But the same time we drop her, we also get to see the full first team of Weapon X. Sabretooth from the Age of X Universe, Deadpool!, Peter Parker with Carnage (probably), Storm!, Mob Lawyer Jen Walters She-Hulk! and The Vision! (And Kane, Wolverine, Mesmero and Maverick who died before.) The teams have the same mission – Kill David Richards. The Exiles don’t want to do this, Sabretooth has issues and the teams end up fighting until they get fed up and Sabretooth makes a deal with the Timebroker to stay behind and raise David to prevent him from destroying the world magically.
The team is hurting after this – realizing the worlds they have to save, the person they work the Timebroker is something they don’t know. And so when they have to save Doctor Doom by stopping Namor the team has problems and Mimic has to go in and remember he comes from the world where the heroes are celebrities and are actual heroes. So when he has to brutally kill Namor it sinks into him and he starts questioning who he is. Who is he as a hero if he kills – and you know it isn’t going to be good.
And so what is Winnick going to do after this kick in the balls? How about a Nocturne focused issue on how she misses Thunderbird. And how she really wanted to have a baby with him and how he had unresolved love issues and a lot of self doubts. The saddest face imaginable.
But wait, Winnick has another one shot! How about we get something nice then? That will be fun right? Nope! Doc Connors turned other people into monsters so now a chunk of the country is walled off because the lizard people have a lot of babies. And they have to save the world by not blowing up the world. And they end up letting Doc Connors commit suicide. MY HEART!
And then they get hijacked. More specifically Morph and Nocturne get kidnapped by Mojo in the Mojoverse because Mojo wants Morph to be a TV star. It is horrible because Mojo blackmails Morph by threatening Nocturne so Morph is getting forced to just lie and make people laugh so the team goes to save Longshot as the only person who escaped Mojo only to find he got his mind wiped. Oh, and they finally get back together and Morph is ready to kill Mojo, sword over him ready to pay him back for everything he’s done and the Timebroker stops him because killing Mojo would destroy the universe. And it is another defeat because you’ve been laughing through the pain and worrying about the characters.
So how do you make this better? Legacy Virus universe? Nope – mutated Legacy Virus that turns people into Vi-Locks! But the big story here is for Sunfire. She gets to hook up with alternate universe Spider-woman Mary Jane. She gets someone to love. But bad things still happy, Blink gets infected, they have to seriously consider blowing up the universe and then they save the universe by finding a cure using the gods of Asgard’s blood – and hey, they fixed a universe of Blink – and she can’t stay. And she’s replaced with Magick. And now shit is going to get worse.
But first more X-force! The team, now consisting of Gambit, Angel, Colossus and older members Spider, Storm and Vision. They have to help Tony Stark to enslave the Inhumans. They will do anything. But Black Bolt has his own plan and the plans of the Timebroker are kept secretive. Black Bolt killed his own people to distract Stark. He murdered his own people so they’d be safer and then Sue Storm, Black Bolt’s wife in the universe, is able to kill Stark to save the world.
And here Chuck Austen shows up for the first time. Illyana/Magick just wants to go home and has no problems killing to get there. Even if it is her own brother so when she has to kill the Avengers of the world, she comes out swinging and the rest of the team isn’t happy. She’s run off to do this while the rest of the team is fighting the villains and while Mariko is trying to find herself in the universe – and she’s died in this universe but before they can register it, Illyana already finished the job.
Austen’s change is really apparent, though part of it comes from Illyana. She is incredibly aggressive and different than everyone expected and then he just adds some weird stuff and the characters feel different. Take the next arc which has weird mutant bears. And evil Havoks.
Apparently Havok is aware of the multiverse which is the reason for his hat thing – those arcs. I don’t know. But basically they have to save two kids from Havoc who is going to turn evil and they’ll only have a small amount of time and there is the 616 universe so Nightcrawler gets to talk to Nocturne and it just feels less developed than everything else. I think this took part during the time when Austen took over X-men and so almost none of these characters lasted long. But his arc ends and Winick comes back.
Vampire universe where the Avengers are vampires! The team has to stop them and Mariko gets bit. The team has to kill King of the Vampires Captain America with the help of Captain Britain – except when they kill Cap, it turns out Britain was the real vampire and as they leave, the team gets magically split up thanks to Britain’s dying breath.
And this is going longer than expected so I’ll pick this up tomorrow!