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. Continue reading

One Impressive Spread is an Issue in Microcosm in Exiles 4

by Spencer Irwin

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

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Exiles 4 is the series’ best issue yet, and not just because of the puns (although the “Juggernautical” joke alone certainly earned this issue a spot high in my rankings). Saladin Ahmed and Javier Rodriguez slow down just a bit, devoting the entire issue to one dimension and one story, allowing the world the Exiles visit to feel interesting and fleshed out and for a full, self-contained adventure to play out there in a way that previous issues haven’t always had room for — all while still advancing the overarcing Time-Eater plot. It’s impressive plotting, pulled off with aplomb by every member of the creative team, who never allow the issue’s density to choke out the detail, character work, or fun this series has come to be known for. It’s a killer combination, and there’s one perfect moment that epitomizes everything that’s great about this issue. Continue reading

Staying Focused on Character, No Matter Where and When You Go, in Exiles 3

by Spencer Irwin

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

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One thing you can’t accuse Exiles of is a lack of imagination — or of decompressed storytelling, I suppose. The title flies through new ideas and worlds almost faster than readers can keep up with them. Sometimes I honestly wish it would just slow down and spend some time actually exploring the worlds it takes us to for more than a few pages, and thankfully, Exiles 3 does exactly that, spending over half its story in one scenario (a WWII-era battle with Peggy Carter’s Captain America), and ending with a legitimately shocking cliffhanger, one that finally isn’t the Time-Eater showing up yet again. I feel like this book is really starting to find its footing.

More importantly, though, no matter what era it travels to or how quickly things change, creators Saladin Ahmed and Javier Rodriguez always keep Exiles focused on what matters most: its characters. Continue reading

Exiles 1: Discussion

by Mark Mitchell and Ryan Desaulniers

This article containers SPOILERS. If you have not read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Mark: The best teams are made up of strong, diverse personalities that bring out the best in each other. This is especially true in fiction. The individual members don’t need to always get along, conflict drives any story, but a certain baseline level of respect is necessary. One of the most impressive feats of team building in recent history has to be 2012’s The Avengers. Looking back with full knowledge of the incredible success Marvel Films has achieved almost unblemished since Iron Man ten years ago, it’s easy to take for granted the fact that The Avengers worked at all, but at the time it was incredibly risky. Going back and watching The Avengers now, the first two-thirds of the movie drag quite a bit as writer and director Joss Whedon works to establish the team dynamics, but that groundwork was necessary not just for the first movie, but for the Marvel Films team-ups to come. Again, we take for granted now that all of these characters can seamlessly interact with each other, but that’s only because the hard work was done by that essential first Avengers film. In Exiles 1, Saladin Ahmed, Javier Rodriguez, and Alvaro Lopez begin the work of building their own superhero team, and, like The Avengers, their patience in this premier issue sets them up for long term success. Continue reading

Reconciling with the Past in Black Bolt 12

By Drew Baumgartner

Black Bolt 12

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

The superhero genre is littered with emotionally scarred men. Whether it’s a murdered loved one or a superpower-generating freak accident, trauma of one kind or another is a ubiquitous motivator for superheroes. Indeed, for most characters, that tragic backstory is so central to who they are and why they fight that it’s all but impossible to truly confront it — remove the psychological pain, and you “solve” the character’s motivating problem, effectively ending their story. So most of these characters are doomed to never resolve their issues. But what if why they fight has little to do with their trauma? What if that emotional baggage isn’t their motivating force? What if a superhero could confront their problems without destroying the conflicts that make them a hero in the first place? These are questions posed by discerning fans for decades, but rarely have those questions been answered as effectively as they are in Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward’s Black Bolt 12. Continue reading

Shortcomings of the Lone Wolf in Black Bolt 11

By Patrick Ehlers

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

It might be sorta odd to cast one of the founding members of a famous superhero team as a loner. You’re always going to have your Raphaels, or your Wolverines, characters that bristle at the thought of getting too chummy with their teammates, but always end up affirming the value of teamwork before the issue is through. Black Bolt is a different animal entirely; separated from his people by the nobility of his birth and his inability to communicate, he may genuinely be more content to walk the world alone. Black Bolt 11 teases an origin for this misanthropic streak while also testing its strength. Continue reading

Snow as Setting and Tone in Black Bolt 10

By Patrick Ehlers

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

Not only is it cliche to say that setting of a story becomes its own character, it’s also inaccurate. I don’t care how much you think New York City is a character in [whatever movie you’re talking about], characters have wants, desires, arcs — characters can change and be changed by the story. A location cannot. A good setting can be incredibly additive, coloring in emotional information and setting an appropriate tone, but, y’know — isn’t a character. In Black Bolt 10, writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Christian Ward use the ancient Inhuman city of Orollan, nestled away in Greenland, to emphasize the cold lonely journey Black Bolt has been on since issue 1. Continue reading

Abbott 1: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Mark Mitchell

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

Patrick: I love the moment in every episode of X-Files or Buffy the Vampire Slayer where whatever otherworldly threat our heroes are facing reveals itself to be alarmingly similar to some current societal ill. Sometimes it comes late to the story, and it’s not until two episodes into a three-episode arc that you realize these demons are riffing on toxic masculinity. I suppose that’s been the M.O. for science- and genre-fiction forever: lure the reader in with the hook and then gradually reel them in to the message. Writer Saladin Ahmed and illustrator Sami Kivelä work that formula in reverse in Abbott 1. The setting, a racially divided Detroit in 1972, and the supernatural mystery are slowly collapsed into one cohesive experience. Continue reading

Best of 2017: Best Series

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We all love a good one-off or anthology, but it’s the thrill of a series that keeps us coming back to our comic shop week-in, week-out. Whether it’s a brand new creator-owned series or a staple of the big two, serialized storytelling allows for bigger casts, bigger worlds, and bigger adventures. That bigness was on full display this year, as series made grand statement after grand statement about what they were all about. These are our top 10 series of 2017.  Continue reading

The Inelegance of Grief in Black Bolt 9

By Patrick Ehlers

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

I just finished reading Who Killed My Daughter?, fiction writer Lois Duncan’s real life account of her daughter’s murder in 1989. It’s less a narrative, and more a collection of interviews with police, transcriptions from psychic readings, re-printed newspaper articles, and half-remembered conversations with loved ones. But the book opens and closes with the saddest, richest, most beautiful and heartbreaking mediations on love, loss and acceptance I’ve ever read. The explicitly stated point of the book was to bring tipsters out of hiding, to provoke someone who knew something to come forward, but for these moments, Duncan nakedly expresses her feelings. The truth is, the mess of primarily source documents that pad WKMD‘s page count add immeasurably to the expression of Duncan’s grief, because that’s what loss is — confusion, contradiction, a mess. Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward’s Black Bolt 9 embraces that same messiness to say farewell to Crusher Creel.  Continue reading