Currently running through New Mutants (which desperately needs something interesting to happen in it) and Journey Into Mystery (which is desperately interesting), this crossover kicked off last week and continues now. Written by Kieron Gillen, Andy Lanning and Dan Abnett, the story has the tremendous benefit of being drawn by one of the best artists working today: Carmine Di Giandomenico. With a daring sense of storytelling which creates some unexpected page layouts, Di Giandomenico goes for broke on every page here, and creates an interesting tone of his own for the storyline. He’s helped by the work of Andy Troy, the colourist, and especially by the lettering of Clayton Cowles – who has to find space for dialogue in some extremely difficult circumstances.
The book pays off a short-lived subplot in New Mutants, in which the team move into a house, try to be normal people, and find their neighbour is somebody with a secret. At the same time, Kid Loki gets pulled into the storyline – bringing the rest of Asgard with him – and suddenly a spell is spoken. Paff! The Asgardians vanish. What happened? That’s the storyline.
Exiled feels like an event which was plotted by Abnett & Lanning, but scripted by Gillen. The general premise plays out nicely, but also leaves the story open for some extremely fun dialogue – which is Gillen’s forte. There’s a feeling in this crossover story that Gillen wanted to hit five or six ideas, and Abnett/Lanning created a plot specially to allow him to do that. And so we get to see Gillen’s Disir characters return, alongside Mephisto and cute puppies (from Hell). There’s also that talking raven still knocking around. These are all very Gillen-esque ideas, and enabled nicely by the storyline, slightly stretched though it is.
Gillen’s influence finally gives the writers of New Mutants something to latch onto, and they finally write their characters as though they’re meant to be interesting, after months of poor characterisation, dull plotting, and irritating dialogue tics. Doug Ramsey remains awful, while Warlock is poorly served once more. Sunspot, however, is finally settling into character once more, while Magma and Dani Moonstar have a purpose again. The idea of mutants settling in a house, living together, and bickering…. is stolen from X-Factor. But at least it shows Abnett and Lanning trying something with their cast, which is long overdue.
It certainly hurt New Mutants that two of the stronger characters – Karma and Cannonball – were jettisoned in favour of white-streaked dead wood X-Man and the irritating-beyond-belief Blink. Throwing some interesting characters into the mix certainly helps things, although the Journey Into Mystery sections still massively overshadow everything else. The series has long been in contention as one of Marvel’s finest, with a deft, funny sense of storytelling stringing each issue together into a smart, layered whole. Gillen gets the idea of mythology and plays with it whilst giving it a layer of respectability. Abnett and Lanning are still struggling to find a tone for New Mutants. Push the two books together, and it’s a relief to see that JIM pulls up New Mutants, instead of being dragged down by it.