Monday, August 17, 2009

Exiles #5

Blink’s back in action, which should please fans of the classic Age of Apocalypse storyline, and she’s leading her own crew of multidimensional outcasts in Exiles. Constantly traipsing from one parallel reality to the next, the gang has surfaced on an isolated landscape, a world that was conquered and smothered long ago by rebellious machines. But, lest you imagine something in-line with the portrait painted by the Terminator quadrilogy, don’t forget that the Marvel universe has more than its share of fully synthetic heroes and villains, too. Rather than Skynet, with its T-100s, the A.I. conqueror of this land goes by the name of Cerebro, commander of an army of Ultrons.

Although the title’s impending cancellation may have rushed this issue’s pacing, the majority of Jeff Parker’s plot is still easy to follow and infectiously energetic. Blink and company are always ready to push the action, which serves to drive both the storyline and its characterization. The Exiles have become accustomed to constantly playing the part of the strangers in a strange land, and that’s made them a bit too eager to react without thinking. They mean well, but they’re also prone to making mistakes, which in turn makes them much more human and sympathetic.

Although Parker does tread a bit too deeply into the realm of unstable molecules and Pym particles for my taste, over explaining the pseudo-science of the robots’ master plans, (and those of the resistance) he gets it over and done with very quickly and it’s not entirely unexpected nor unimaginative. In fact, most of the Exiles themselves seem to space out during the jargon-heavy technical bits of that conversation, which has grave results a moment later, when Cerebro’s henchmen launch a surprise attack. It’s a smart way to emphasize the important points of the story for the casual audience without dumbing things down, and a perfect example of just how clever Jeff Parker’s writing can be in the right predicament.

Sadly, I have a less glowing review to write for this issue’s artist, Casey Jones. With one or two exceptions late in the book, Jones turns in work that’s mostly flavorless and unfocused. While I can understand the need for a lighter, friendlier style to match the generally happy-go-lucky personality of the team itself, that doesn’t mean it needs to look like a part of the Marvel Adventures family. This issue seems unfinished and under-detailed, devoid of personality and flair. In other words, the opposite of the smart, rich writing it’s here to accompany.

Don’t let the bright, cheery visuals of this issue throw you off, because at its heart is an intelligent, intriguing adventure. The team is wonderfully fleshed out, a surprisingly tight-knit group with more than its share of depth, shortcomings and surprises. In emptying out all the twists and turns he had in store for this series before its sudden conclusion next month, Jeff Parker is proving just how fantastic it could have been over the course of a long, sustained run. The only thing holding it back now is the generic artwork. Borrow it and mourn what’s about to come to an end.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7.5

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