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Exiles #9 Review

by Charles Martin on October 10, 2018

Exiles #9 Review
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Penciller: Javier Rodríguez
Inker: Álvaro López
Colourist: Muntsa Vicente
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Buckle up, kids! The Exiles' latest adventure dumps them into a vibrant Marvel-ised version of the 1,001 Nights, and the return of original artist Javier Rodríguez guarantees the delivery of a huge load of novel sights and ideas.

Our heroes have been blasted apart into smaller groups by the machinations of the Tallus, so this issue mainly concerns their wild struggles to reunite. Several of the heroes find themselves squished into the roles of top-billed protagonists from the Nights.

Blink as Aladdin! Valkyrie as Ali Baba! King as Sinbad! With Iron Lad, Becky Barnes, Wolvie, and Peggy Carter Cap as various hangers-on in their stories!

The world around them also has its fair share of Marvel connections. The sorcerer that sends "Aladdin" on a lamp quest? Hakeem Strange. The leader of the thieves assaulting "Ali Baba?" Black Cat. The cruel caliph reporting for nemesis duty at the end? Noooo, I'm not gonna spoil that one!

The sheer volume of novel mash-up content threatens to overwhelm the reader. It's all organized into gorgeous tableaux by Mr. Rodríguez's wild layouts. This issue is spoiled for single and double-spread pages that knock your eyes out with their beauty. 

This is another comic that overrides my desire to address the material rather than the creators. These visuals are so distinctively the work of Javier Rodríguez that I find it impossible to talk about them on their own. I used a generic credit block up above this review, but on the title page, Mr. Rodríguez gets a full storyteller credit. That seems particularly appropriate for a book that is so thoroughly his.

Rodríguez's style is mostly a boon to the comic and us readers, but there are weaknesses. So many pages and spreads are treated as holistic pieces of art that the actual panel-to-panel flow of the story gets dicey. In some instances, the dialogue scrambles along behind the art to fill in developments and keep the story from falling into total confusion. This is a problem that chilled my feet when I reviewed Exiles #2; to see it resurface here is a minor disappointment.

I don't want to imply that the visuals are broken or unenjoyable. The effort invested in turning so many pages into unified artistic pieces is definitely not wasted. There's a lot of gorgeous design work to go along with the imaginative layouts; this comic is amply supplied with beautiful stuff to goggle at, and goggle we shall! 

The colours are impressive as well. The sheer breadth of the palette would seem to invite confusion, but instead, it's turned into a triumph. Not just the book as a whole but many individual pages make use of a full spectrum of colours. This effect combines with the brilliant layouts to further emphasize single pages and double-spreads as complete works of art.

The script doesn't lag behind the visuals when it comes to depth and complexity. Breaking the team up so thoroughly and reuniting it within a single issue makes the pace breathless. Most of the issue's characterization work goes to developing the relationship between Valkyrie and Becky Barnes. This includes a brilliant, wholesome scene of Peggy feeling out Valkyrie's romantic intentions. Even though I know very little about the characters, the sincerity of the emotions impresses me.

This issue also supplies plenty of material to consider from a literary standpoint. While the Exiles are taking a rather shallow pass through the 1,001 Nights in terms of plot, that's an understandable choice. It keeps the story accessible and ensures that the maximum number of readers catch the references.

And there's no shortage of depth in other realms. Exiles #9 says and implies some fascinating things about gender. Blink and Valkyrie are forced into masculine hero roles from the Nights - what does that say about the stories that percolate to the top of our social consciousness and stay there, generation after generation? 

There's another layer of gender discourse added by the presence of Peggy and Becky, distaff counterparts to classic Marvel characters. The icing on the cake is that those two 40s women end up doing all the heavy lifting in recognizing the 1,001 Nights stories - their teammates don't have the necessary cultural context.  

Exiles #9 tells an ambitious story with a breathless, potentially-overwhelming flood of new sights and new ideas. The storytelling road is rather bumpy, but the imaginative treasures on display make it well worth your time to negotiate the tricky terrain. Not the easiest of reads, but definitely a rewarding one.
 

Our Score:

8/10

A Look Inside

Comments

Charles Martin's picture
When I hit Hakeem Strange I knew I was gonna enjoy this comic.

Also, I always love a Nakayama cover. Make sure you hit the fullscreen version above! Yes, those are X-Man sigils woven into Blink's flying carpet.