COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Exiles #3 (The Cross Tallus Caper)

More dimension hopping highjinks and horseplay as the gang try to stay one step ahead of the Time Eater, with more than one surprising guest star.


Writer: Saladin Ahmed

Penciller: Javier Rodríguez
Inker: Alvaro López
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover: David Marquez & Justin Ponsor
Variant Covers: Javier Rodríguez & Mike McKone
Publisher: Marvel Comics

What You Need to Know:
In a bid to save the Multiverse from the Time Eater Blink is tasked with gathering a new team of Exiles to stop him. After traveling to various worlds and collecting her crew she arrives back on the moon to witness the judgment of the Watchers upon the Unseen for his meddling, but not before one of the Watchers inadvertently shoots the Tallus, throwing the Exiles into the time stream once more.

What You’ll Find Out:
The Unseen serves again as our compère as he witnesses the Exiles journey but notes the Watchers seem to have disappeared entirely. Our heroes awake in a forest to find the Tallus broken and, as Blink says “confused”. She worries that it may not get them home, before Kamala reminds her that she is the only one with a home to go to and Nate corrects her, still sure that their worlds can all be saved. The time-swept allies are then interrupted in their discussion by…


As Iron Lad points out the strangeness of the raiders, Wolvie hides and the others tackle the problem, but the Tallus has other ideas and they are taken away again just as the Time Eater arrives to (thankfully) destroy this world too. Iron Lad senses the Tallus is not just confused but the navigation is being interrupted by the Time Eater, who is not only eating realities but warping them too, which might explain the kooky goings on and the steady progression into more obscure worlds each time they flip. Case in point, the next world they arrive in is more outlandish than the last. Before they have time to take it in they get a brief visit from Nick Fury before he gives a cryptic welcome and is gone.


As they make their way towards the strange settlement Blink notes Iron Lad’s intelligence and he says where he comes from he is competitive about it, possibly due to his inability to believe he can be of any other use. Blink says that she thinks he is kind and that’s useful and when he doubts that’s possible Kamala chips in that tactically it can inspire loyalty. This is apparently not the meaning Blink was driving for and questions how Kamala got like that. Kamala doesn’t get what she means, somehow proving the point, but she goes on to explain it happened gradually but also after the death of her husband and child. Leaving that to sink in she breaks away to scout ahead and soon they arrive somewhere familiar to Kamala.


As he welcomes them to join the fun Kamala isn’t convinced and he calls her square, but Valkyrie is “down with it” as is Blink. But she is still worried about imminent death at the hands of the Time Eater. A voice from behind interrupts and she turns to give a decent retort and is suddenly thrown by the sight of a familiar face as we find Morph is there to meet the rest of the Exiles who haven’t shown up yet which Is worrying him. But just as things begin to look promising the Time Eater arrives again and Morph is taken, along with the Age Of Atlantis, as the Tallus sends the team on once more, much to the shock of Blink, who is grief-stricken and vows to save Morph. Arriving in the midst of World War II aircraft Kamala advises caution and no mention of time travel, just as an almost familiar looking Bucky arrives. As credentials are checked she concludes they can’t be Nazis with an admiring look at Valkyrie, before Peggy Carter arrives in the garb of Captain America, to inform ‘Becky’ that they must be the allies she is expecting.


As Nate asks for clarification on the sacrifice she mentions, Blink interrupts and agrees they are indeed the forces sent to help. Kamala plays along and quiets Wolvie before he can say something to prove otherwise and she asks Peggy for a re-brief. First noticing Elendil and stating how odd they look (note here, the flying horse is a problem for her but a cartoon boy in Wolverine pajamas isn’t) Peggy informs them that the Red Skull intends to drop an atom bomb on New York and says they are heading out to stop him.


As they join the soldiers on board the plane bound for confrontation, the Exiles go over the situation and agree they must help as best they can, without blowing their cover. They listen in as their allies discuss the battle ahead and Becky flirts with Valkyrie. They then arrive at Red Skulls flying fortress to put a spanner in the works, or more accurately, a shield, but he declares his ship to be an unstoppable suicide machine. In a bold countermove, Peggy reveals that her crew are also on a suicide mission and throws down a bunch of dynamite. Iron Lad points out to Blink that even that won’t stop the atom bomb. Unknown to the war veterans the fallout will still kill those they are trying to save and so Blink teleports them all out with the atom bomb, leaving Red Skull with the dynamite as it explodes.


As the crew all survey the city and Kamala congratulates Blink on saving everyone’s life she is then surprised to see it is Jersey City, the same one that was destroyed in her world. Just as it seems she is opening up she walks away remembering she needs to play the embittered soldier again. As the others settle in to celebrate Wolvie smells danger, just as the Tallus begins to flash ominously. Iron Lad notices the atom bomb has been damaged and is leaking, just in time for everything to go…


What Just Happened?
WRITING: The Unseen rehashes everything that’s gone before at the start on top of the ‘PREVIOUSLY’ page… yet again. Despite the poetic line “skipping like stones over the roiling sea of reality” I would question the need for him to do this. Wolvie finding the dinosaur raiders was not the opener I would have wanted to see either and Blinks response mirrored my own. Although I get that Saladin Ahmed is clearly having fun with the writing of this title, I think he is failing in one vital ingredient. There is no balance between the comedy aspect and the peril and drama. It’s all there but isn’t defined or measured well enough to be effective on either side. We meet one weird and wacky character after another with no thought as to how they fit in. The dinosaur whatever-they-are get introduced and then dropped out as soon as they are seen, as does Morph. There are attempts to introduce whimsical worlds and then…death, people wiped out in an offhand way. And though offhand is how villains like the time Eater and Red Skull treat life there is no counterbalance from the heroes. Blink offers one promise to save Morph and then she’s all fine again, no worries. Wolvie is accepted but Cap has a problem with the flying horse? And Kamala opens up and has a character-defining moment then reverts. This isn’t just the character hiding their true feelings after a sudden spark of personal insight, this is the writer being clumsy with the whole process. There is, however, a brief glimpse of characterization in the moment where they assess Iron Lad on the way to Atlantis, which sheds some light not only on him and his insecurity but also on Kamala and the reasons for the vast difference between her and the Ms. Marvel we all know. This is perhaps something readers may have been interested to know from the start, instead of just being shown the attitude all this time in an effort to make her seem forceful and interesting and not be able to humanize her or understand why she’s been so sour for the last two issues.


ART: Loved the cover homage to Uncanny X-Men #268, this was a great touch by David Marquez and Justin Ponsor there. The team of Javier Rodríguez, Álvaro López, and Chris O’Halloran once again hold their own and are the only saving grace, with little visual cues and expressive faces of the heroes in the victory against the Red Skull and his own horror at being left with the gift he gets from Cap before they port out. The writing gave a little more character insight than we’ve seen thus far, but what is left unsaid and shown visually is far more important here. If you watch the little things they show so much more about the team than the writing has done. Such as this little moment, which passed me by the first reading and I had to scan again to actually notice the little things Wolvie was doing, which balanced his annoying factor a little.


Elendil the winged horse is the one to watch, however, casually eating grass while they all suffer the effects of the Tallus transport and looking calmly at Captain America as she assesses him. Also…flying horse in a helicopter? This was by far funnier to me than the dino-raiders or hippy Namor. Although the “trying” typo was glaringly obvious here. Maybe that was the reason for Elindil’s deadpan expression.


CHARACTERS/STORY. Blink is less irritating this issue and is actually being seen as the leader, even by Khan and Valkyrie (we now know this is her name no other is needed apparently) is more interesting and chatty this issue and even shows herself to be fun and flirty with Becky. It seems wine and women are her thing, who knew? Wolvie seems to be taking the role of Jones the cat in Alien here, always sniffing out the trouble that drives the story and while I’m sure some may find him cute as a button I just want him gone. Especially after the brief return of Morph, only to have him cruelly snatched away and leave us still with the one character I don’t want.


And speaking of unwanted add-ins, the Peggy Carter Captain America seems to be just thrown in to advertise Marvel Puzzle Quest and again she wasn’t as welcome as Morph, which was the only bright spot this whole issue, aside from the art and the little visual of Wolvie giving flowers to Valkyrie. Once again Kamala is snarky and everything Blink says she seems to always have a comeback for. Which never fails to get an eye roll from me and despite the tiny glimpse of motivation for the attitude and a little softening where she congratulates Blink at the end, she then spoils it by clamming up again, reverting to the tried and tested loner attitude. She really is just another Wolverine wannabe for me I’m afraid and I’m fast getting bored with it. As for Iron Lad, yet again the resident scientist states the all too blatantly obvious, which is all I’ve seen him do so far, especially pointing out the fact they managed to get the atom bomb from Red Skull and various other non-mysteries that you could only miss if you were blind. I’m going to call him Captain Obvious from now on. The art alone is what gained an extra point from last issues score. We’re halfway there, let’s see some improvement soon.

Rating: 5/10

Final Thought: With the weird action and characters this issue I’m sensing someone is trying to channel Chris Claremont’s much loved Cross-Time Caper arc from Excalibur. This must stop, NOW!

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