EXILES #5 / Writer: Saladin Ahmed / Pencils & Colors: Javier Rodriguez / Inks: Alvaro Lopez / Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna / Cover Art: David Marquez & Tamra Bonvillain / Publisher: Marvel / July 11, 2018
After months of jumping through time and space, gathering up a motley crew of heroes while evading inevitable universal collapse, writer Saladin Ahmed and the artistic team of Javier Rodriguez, Alvaro Lopez, and VC’s Joe Caramagna delivers a dense twisty turny conclusion to the first arc in their Exiles run. After last month’s rollicking fun pirate adventure, Exiles #5 struggles to connect in what ultimately proved to be an underwhelming and clunky conclusion to a fantastic arc.
This month the Exiles team faces down the villain responsible for the multiverse collapsing in on itself. In fact, the Exiles are all that stands between him and his dominating victory. It should be thrilling, a real nail biter. Parts of the story are just that, while other parts of the story require more mental gymnastics to keep up than I was willing to do.
Exiles #5 keeps the reader engaged on the strength of its characters. In the series to date, the “guest stars” are worth the price of admission alone. We’ve had PeggyCap, Hipster Namor, Nick Fury (watcher and young spy), Pirate Falcon and Misty Knight, as well as others. Exiles #5 keeps the goodness coming with more great cameos utilized for maximum impact.
Without giving away too much plot, I need to talk about how Wolvie has been a highlight of Exiles to date. His childlike nature balances out the older more cynical attitudes of others on the team. In some issues Wolvie has operated almost like a Where’s Waldo childrens book. A childlike Wolverine? One that shares his emotions and misses his friends? That’s not the Wolverine I know or keep in my imagination. Yet, this Wolvie is perfect just as he is. There’s a scene when the villain is explaining his motives for consuming literally everything. Where a traditional Wolverine would swear, call the baddie “Bub”, and then launch himself claws first into a fight, this Wolvie doesn’t do that. Instead Wolvie delivers a simplistic yet poignant statement about the villain being lonely if all the multivese was consumed.
I walked away from reading this issue more confused than when I started; it’s bound to happen in a time travel and multiverse story. A great story must have a great villain. This one does, in theory, but in execution, I struggled to connect emotionally or even logically. I was more engaged in the pirates, HYDRA, and other baddies in earlier issues. I’m worried I’m missing something here when it comes to the villain.
Longtime Marvel readers may find the villain reveal exciting as it’s a combination of two classic villains. I don’t have a lot of background on the two in question. I’ll own that. The same can be said for villains in earlier issues, but I had no trouble connecting to them. What didn’t work for me this month was the villain’s motivation. I dislike when a villain’s entire motive is to consume something so it’s gone. OK. Then what? Our villain said he didn’t want to rule the multiverse when he could “become the multiverse.” What does that even mean? I get things get a little crazy when dealing with the cosmic side of comics but an over the top I-must-destroy-everything-because-I-must-become-the-thing-I’m-destroying concept falls flat for me as a reader. I feel short changed. Our big bad guy just wants to watch the world(s) burn? So what?
The art works overtime to keep the reader engaged but in many spaces, there’s so much going on visually that the narration and the imagery exist almost in competition. I had to worker harder than I wanted to keep everything straight in my head. Perhaps this was purposeful, it is a chaotic time in the story for our Exiles team, but I felt exhausted after trying to read the issue.
That said, there are a few pages of utter beauty in Exiles #5. One is the climactic final battle between the team and their allies against the villain. It’s got the actual fight centered, fairly small, on the page. Surrounding the fight are a ton of tiny panels, each with a closed fist, representing the heroes fighting. It’s visually impactful, and leaves the reader feeling the energy and focus needed to even mount an attack on a villain hopped up on the energy from consuming entire universes. That’s a lot of power!
Exiles #5, despite this readers struggles to keep on top of things, caps off a really fine first arc in the Exiles series. I look forward to following our core team of characters as they develop and navigate new adventures and challenges. I always love the character cameos and fully expect those to stay top notch.
VERDICT: 3.5 of 5 stars
I’m a curious, creative, comic(al) woman. I am unapologetically Team Cap, but not HydraCap because there is a line in the moral sands of the universe and that whole thing is on the other side of it. I teach high school students all about the joys of mythology through comic books, graphic novels, and films. I wandered into the comic book world in 2015 and is a proud member of the #DoYouEvenComicBook gang.