Exiles Vol. 2 collects the second half of Blink and her team of Exiles’ trip around the multiverse. Old characters return and new are introduced as the Exiles jump between twisted versions of the old American west, medieval Baghdad, and back home again. Is this a volume worth grabbing no matter what universe you’re in?
Reading this volume is a bit painful because it meant saying goodbye to one of my favorite casts of characters, if not my favorite superhero team ever. Throughout the whole series, the Exiles team has delighted with the fun spins they’ve taken on Marvel characters and settings. The Mutant Brotherhood and T’Challa introduced in the old west are particular favorites of mine, but the Arabian Nights-meets-Marvel which writer Saladin Ahmed created is a ton of fun as well and leads to some excellent character designs. Having cyclopses with blue fur and visors straight out of Scott Summers’ wardrobe is the kind of joke that makes me laugh out loud. The constrained nature of the team being limited to twelve issues continues to make me wish more time could’ve been spent in each universe. In fact, I would’ve been happy to read a whole arc in each setting. Luckily, Ahmed makes each trip the Tallus takes the team on enough of a treat that no setting felt wasted.
As with any character Ahmed writes, it’s the team’s voices which capture my heart and make parting with them such sweet sorrow by the volume’s end. Forget my earlier wish for an arc in each universe, give me a solo series for each character on this team, especially the duo of the Tessa Thompson inspired Valkyrie and Becky Barnes. It is so refreshing seeing these queer characters thrive in a diverse cast written with respect and grounded humanity in spite of the outrageous settings. The idea of the Exiles supporting each other as a found family is narratively born out of being stranded from their home-dimensions, but thematically resonated with me as a queer reader and someone for whom found family is deeply important. From Wolvie’s hilarious naivete to Nate Richards’ kind heart never failing to emerge out of his self-doubt and anxiety, this is a team I will always return to when I need a pick-me up or a shortlist of characters I want brought back into future titles.
Where do I even begin with this volume’s artwork? How about with the assertion that Javier Rodríguez is one of the best layout artists working in comics? His work in the last four issues in the volume never fail to expertly guide the eye across the page with very readable action that’s only elevated by Joe Caramagna’s lettering. I won’t spoil what he does with the layouts in the last issue, but I’m still trying to collect my jaw from the floor. We’re talking back to back pages of a feat that I think definitively proves my earlier assertion. I never saw a weird face or off-model character rendering and Álvaro López’s inking makes everything pop while keeping the lines very clean. Muntsa Vicente colors strike a great balance between flat colors that convey the Saturday-morning cartoon feeling with just enough detail and depth to elevate the pencils and inks.
The other two issues in this volume feature a number of other artists on pencils, inks, and colors. Exiles is the perfect series to have other artists hop in whenever the team jumps to a new universe, and the art teams do an excellent job maintaining the style and designs of the series while highlighting their own strengths. Rod Reis covers the artwork for most of issue 7 in the old west and I wanted to shout him out in particular for his expressive work with lines that look less clean, but in a way that’s thoughtful and evocative. Issue 8 has the most artists credited to it and it shows a bit in the occasional panel or moment that feels a little less consistently rendered that the rest of the series. However, I never felt completely thrown off or distracted while reading the issue.
Overall, this volume concludes a series that will hold a special place in my heart for all its ideas and earnestness. I went into the series a fan of Ahmed’s work and now I have several other creators whom I’ll be following now that Exiles has come to a close. This isn’t a volume I’d recommend for readers who haven’t read the first half of the series, so go ahead and buy both if you haven’t read either. This is a volume and a series for readers looking for fun, multiverse hopping adventures with an endlessly charming cast of characters. Don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel history? Me neither! Nonetheless, even if a reference didn’t resonate with me in recognition, the Exiles team is full of such strong storytellers, every idea present is executed to the fullest and the volume never loses its sense of fun even if I don’t really know who characters like Mephisto are.
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