Review by Ian Keogh
After the inconsistencies of the previous three Exiles graphic novels, it’s nice to see new writer Tony Bedard apply a steady hand from the start with stories that prioritise a plot rather than the Exiles at each other’s throats.
As it’s been established the team always requires six members, someone new is needed after A Blink in Time, and Bedard whimsically introduces a third woman with pointy ears, also coloured blue like Nocturne. Namorita, however, isn’t comedy relief, and wastes no time visiting Atlantis and is sitting on the throne when the Sub-Mariner returns. While it’s never explicitly stated, it seems as if the world on which the Exiles have arrived this time is the primary Marvel Earth, and it’s the primary Fantastic Four who become involved, along with Beak, well used in Grant Morrison’s X-Men run, but neglected since.
It’s one of several novel ideas Bedard brings to the established concepts of Exiles. On the face of it Beak’s basic ability to fly brings no obvious pluses as a team member, and his presence means the overall power levels are reduced, which adds a greater tension to events. Also interesting is the use of infallible blind precognitive Destiny, the first person to be aware the Exiles are due to visit a world before they actually arrive, and from the start Morph has resembled earlier Marvel shapeshifter the Impossible Man in ability and attitude. Instead of continuing to ignore this, Bedard includes a chapter where the Impossible Man controls the world. It’s the weakest story here as having introduced what’s a good idea, Bedard has no real thoughts about how to play it out. Much better is the final strip featuring the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, with Mimic given a meaty role, and leading to a surprise ending.
What distinguishes Earn Your Wings is the presence of Mizuki Sakakibara as artist on all but the Impossible Man story, which is the work of regular artist Jim Calafiore. Sakakibura brings a greater delicacy to the figures, is more likely to pull the viewpoint out further so the entire story isn’t told in close-up, and the result of that is a greater use of backgrounds to establish where the team are. Don’t get used to it as Calafiore draws most of the following Bump in the Night.
Earn Your Wings is a promising start from Bedard, who doesn’t get everything right, but is able to present the cast convincingly and remaining true to their established characters. The new mix of powers and temperament has potential. These stories are also available combined with the previous and next volumes as Exiles: The Ultimate Collection Book 3.