Exiled #1 – Review
The Review: I confess that I’m not at all a New Mutants reader and, as such, wasn’t particularly thrilled at the announcement of this crossover. However, as a huge Journey into Mystery fan, I’m happy to say that a lot of the charm of that series remains in this issue. In fact, you could argue that this is more a JIM storyline than a New Mutants one, as Thor and the Asgardians run amok, the Disir are the baddies, and Hela arrives on Earth. Really, it actually made the New Mutants more palatable to me. They felt somewhat disoriented and confused, suddenly thrown into a high fantasy, Journey into Mystery story, having to play outside their usual realm/genre. Their presence is so dissonant, that it actually ends up being kind of cool.
As he had throughout JIM, Loki continues to light up every page on which he appears. Even in this issue, which has much less Loki than your average issue of JIM, Gillen’s wit nonetheless crackles. Loki’s playing a telephone game of sorts in relaying the bad news regarding the Disir was entertainingly scripted and Gillen continues to amuse with Loki’s eager adoption of contemporary slang. The chemistry between the New Mutants also shines through, with the “buddy” atmosphere being a comfortable one and also serving as a kind of anchor for the characters to latch onto as their tossed into a high fantasy story. Warlock’s adoption of a Hel puppy, unbeknownst to his friends, was also a perfect creative choice for the character, who is adorable enough already.
Sadly, however, this issue is entirely set-up. While I’m sure much of what’s confusing will be expanded upon and clarified, several plot elements, as of this issue, don’t serve as tantalizing mysteries. Rather, they’re just confusing.
It appears that this crossover is anchored around a long lost hero of Bor’s age. However, despite significant time spent with the character, we’ve little reason to invest in him. Moreover, his exact nature is confusing; is he just an Asgardian hero in disguise? Or is his human personality entirely separate, a la Donald Blake? There’s also a frustrating scene in which him putting on his armour serves as a catalyst of sorts for the Disir’s escape, but this is completely ambiguous and confusing, with the Disir yammering about “final portions” and suddenly, seemingly teleporting away. The complete lack of explanation for any of this is a bit befuddling. It didn’t act as a mystery that led me to want to know “why.” Instead, it feels like something central that should’ve been explained from the get-go. Then there’s the final page, which I suppose is meant to be a cliffhanger, but is instead completely unintelligible. I’ve no idea who the characters were or what the significance of the scene was.
I also confess to not being a big fan of Carmine di Giandomenico. As is often the case, his work here is muddy and ill-defined and at times too claustrophobic. A good colorist could help, but instead, Andy Troy only makes things worse by going with an equally muddy palette. Furthermore, between the two of them, characters’ faces are often weirdly shadowed/lit.
Conclusion: Strong characters carry an issue held back by middling artwork and excessive ambiguity. Still, this is clearly a set-up issue, so I expect it to be all uphill from here.