Review by Ian Keogh
Exiles revived the name of a long dormant title and maintained the same premise over all six Ultimate Collections. They’re a team of six mutants, each from a different version of Earth, combined for missions on other alternate Earths where they have to fix something that’s gone wrong in order to set that world back on the right course. It’s dangled in front of them that if enough is fixed they’ll be able to return to their homes. The concept is filched from TV’s Quantum Leap, but engagingly applied to superheroes by Judd Winick, who guides the team’s destiny over this collection.
Winick picks his team well, combining a good power set with interesting characters. Over his run three would predominate. Blink emerges as team leader, a teleporting mutant from a short lived series whose powers are inventively employed. Morph is a motor-mouthed shape changer, used by Winick as constant comic relief, but also useful on missions, and Mimic is an inspired choice. A mutant dead for decades in the main X-Men continuity, he’s able to copy the powers of any five mutants at a time for as long as he chooses to retain that power. Not everyone returns from every mission, but while there are deaths, that’s not always the cause of a new team member being rotated in. Fleshing the team out to begin with are Nightcrawler’s daughter Nocturne, a beefed up Thunderbird, and Magnus the child of Magneto and Rogue who turns people to metal with a single touch. Credit is due for what becomes by the end of this collection a predominantly female team.
Winick takes a little while to work his way into the cast and their personalities, but once he’s decided on their interaction, he barely puts a foot wrong. He’s imaginative enough to conceive a succession of alternate Earths with viable problems. We see an Earth overrun by Skrulls where Galactus comes calling, a world where the Hulk is Canada’s problem, Dr Doom and Sub-Mariner at war, and another team of familiar faces whose mission seems the same as the Exiles. Throughout Winick raises ethical questions and explores the characters of his team.
Mike McKone as starting artist is just fine, and he draws most of the book cleanly with an attention to personality. Jim Calafiore illustrates the remainder, at first approximating McKone’s viewpoints and layouts, but subsequently evolving his own style. This isn’t as satisfactory, with oddly twisted bodies, a reliance on close-ups and expressions that oversell any emotion. Not that McKone is perfect. His design for a massive genetically altered Thunderbird doesn’t sit well alongside the other cast members.
For some reason, this was retitled when reissued in 2018 as Exiles: The Complete Collection, but the content is the same. Alternatively, it’s easy enough to find used copies of the thinner paperbacks Vol. 1, A World Apart and Out of Time. In any format these are a collection of fun stories toying with Marvel’s long history that remain readable. Book 2 is next.