Everybody Has Their Role to Play in Exiles 5

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

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Since the very first issue of Exiles the Tallus, an interdimensional, time-traveling gauntlet, has been calling the shots, pulling our heroes from reality to reality with its own agenda in mind. In many ways, it’s the true mastermind behind the defeat of the Time Eater, having charted a path towards victory and collecting heroes and allies all with vital and specific roles to play in its plan. Early on in the series this sometimes felt like it robbed the characters of their agency, but as we reach the finale of Saladin Ahmed and Javier Rodriguez’s story in Exiles 5 that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s interesting to see the role each Exile has to play, but far more interesting to see them all embrace their roles enthusiastically and of their own volition.

While many of the minor characters’ (Sabretooth, Ben Grimm’s pirates, the alternate reality Blinks) roles are simply to provide guidance or support, each main character has a vital role to play, and embracing those roles not only helps save the entire multiverse, but provides them all with some much needed growth as well. Nick Fury quickly picks up on the Tallus’ plans for him and is willing to follow it to his death; he’s last seen with the Unseen, his heroic death sparing him the fate of his Earth-616 counterpart. Khan likewise willingly sacrifices herself to protect the Tallus; by doing so she not only finds some peace, but rejects the hatred she’s been carrying in her heart for so long, choosing to protect others rather than pursue her grudge against Sabretooth. It’s Iron Lad who discovers how to restore the lost universes, but only because he accepts that he can be a hero and stops beating himself up over his connection to Kang the Conqueror.

By the end of the issue the entire team has embraced their role as inter-dimensional exiles, no longer ruled by the Tallus but by their own sense of duty; this is a bigger leap for Wolvie than anyone else. Introduced mainly as comic relief and useless in a fight, his true capabilities have been unveiled slowly and casually by Ahmed and Rodriguez. Exiles 5 debuts perhaps his most impressive power (he’s indestructible), but what’s more impressive is that Wolvie finally decides to use them.

I don’t think this means that we’re suddenly going to see a violent Wolvie, but it does mean that he’ll be taking a more active part in missions rather than helping out almost inadvertently, and that should be an interesting change to witness.

The fact that there’s so many important roles to be played in the Time Eater’s defeat also highlights his greatest weakness: he’s all alone (which Wolvie incisively points out early in the issue). He may quite literally contain the power of the entire multiverse, but he’s still only one man; even when he eventually calls for help he just enlists copies of himself, and silent, subservient copies at that. The Exiles, meanwhile, have as many allies with as many skills as possible, all willing to put any and all concerns aside to save everything that’s ever mattered. That kind of loyalty, bravery, work ethic, and diversity of skill and experience are truly the key to any victory.

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The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

4 comments on “Everybody Has Their Role to Play in Exiles 5

  1. I’m pretty sure Rodriguez has made it onto our Best Of lists before, but I’ll fight tooth and nail to get him onto this year’s, because he is KILLING IT on this book. I love his character design for the Time Eater: he’s consumed so much power that it’s literally eaten a hole in his body and is leaking out of him. He’s so big that he almost never fits into a panel; Rodriguez is always cutting part of him off, or showing him entering a panel from outside, or splitting his movements between two panels. It’s super effective at conveying his sheer size and power.

    Also Wolvie in a propeller beanie is the cutest thing ever

    • Rodriguez is easily one of my favorite artists in all of comicdom. I still remember the first book I saw him doing pencils on — he was filling in on Daredevil (where he had been the regular colorist), and drew this double page spread that is still stuck in my mind as one of the best expressions of Daredevil’s abilities I’ve ever seen. I’d be disappointed that he’s always on peripheral titles (Spider-Woman, Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme), but they’re such a good fit for his style — he kind of needs things to be a little weird to really flex his storytelling chops. This series is a perfect match, and has already shown off more than enough to earn Rodriguez a spot on my 2018 ballot. He’s so good.

  2. I agree on Rodriguez. I agree on almost all of this.

    Except that the main character was an inanimate object. Everyone was dragged along by the unspoken plan of the Tallus. I just never got past that. I liked the book, loved the art, I’d recommend it in a heartbeat and because of this comic I read Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon (outstanding), but I just never felt like the characters were in charge because the Tallus always put them in the right direction., most of the time to the characters surprise.

    (Also, I really didn’t care for the dialogue between Blink and the Tallus. “Stupid Tallus, what are you doing now???” brought me really close to that pretty bad Dr. Fate comic a couple years back.)

    Also, and this may be just me,Tallus is a stupid word that makes me sound like I’m trying to set up “that’s what she said” jokes whenever I say it out loud.

    “Don’t worry, my tallus will point me in the right direction!”
    “My tallus gets me into trouble and then gets me out of trouble”
    “I thought I was going to the bank, but my tallus brought me here today”

  3. Yeah, this was a good climax. I love how, despite the Tallus’ frustration at the start, everything gets rooted in character and everyone gets a climax. Really makes this a great ensemble. And, as always, thre are little touches that always show that Ahmed wants these characters to be more than their archetypes. Like how Khan still as some of Kamala’s goodness and optimism even as she has turned into a mostly cynical version of herself

    And yeah, the art really is among the best (though did Wolvie look really off this issue? He did to me). What really makes it work is the versatility, how it so easily shifts between genres.

    I remember Film Crit Hulk praising Edgar Wright and Dan Harmon’s ability to naturally shift genre, not merely adjusting their tones but the genre signifiers themselves as the story shifts. ANd Rodriguez does this amazingly, creating an issue that feels like is is constantly changing in the biggest ways possible without ever feeling like those changes aren’t rooted in the story itself. The memorial for Khan at the end really is the best example of this, and it works so, so well

    And GE Scott, glad you loved Throne of the Crescent Moon as I recently purchased it myself as part of a massive pile of books. DOn’t know when I will get round to reading it, but can’t wait (previously, I have also purchased Geneivive Valentine’s books after her sensational work on Catwoman. Really great, especially Girls at the Kingfisher Club)

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