There’s Just Us: Reviewing ‘Sabretooth And The Exiles’ #1
by Scott Redmond
‘Sabretooth And The Exiles’ kicks off the second chapter of this series that continues to pull apart Krakoa and the Marvel Universe and speak to the injustices there reflected from our own unbalanced reality. A series that pulls no punches when diving deep into systems and those they harm/leave behind while also providing fantastic character depth and development for some of the forgotten or left-behind mutants of Marvel.
Comic books fit into a variety of realms. They can be action-packed, deeply character-focused, full of heroes or villains, high fantasy, or out there science-fiction, terrifying horror, or truly just something that explores what it means to be human. At the end of the day, they have a message, something to say, whether that message is small or a huge powerful resonating one.
Sabretooth And The Exiles is a comic with a lot to say.
This, of course, is no surprise since the previous series Sabretooth, from the same creative team, was a comic that had a ton to say. While that was focused on the systems of incarceration both in the fictional Krakoa and also as a whole in real life as well as issues with exclusion. This sequel takes that further because Sabretooth and the cast of characters that he tormented in the pit are all free from Krakoa, outside of the “paradise”, giving a lot of meaning to the word Exiles in this title.
Not only are they exiled from Krakoa, but the series is pointing at and focusing upon what happens to those that are allowed to slip by the wayside and not be brought into society. Who fights for those that are the exiles, the forgotten, especially since their exclusion leaves them at the mercy of systems that are meant to exploit and harm those that are cast aside by society. Within this story and this world, mutants that aren’t on Krakoa or Aarakko, are at the cruel awful mercy of Orchis, who has now captured the escaped Sabretooth.
There are a number of signs that show how effective and connective any sort of writing group is as a whole, and within the X-Office it’s that nothing — no matter how small or how long ago — is out of the realm of return. In this case the big bad of our story, and bad is not even an accurate word for how truly awful this person is shown to be, is one Doctor Barrington; who used to be part of the U-Men back in the fantastic short-lived Children of the Atom series from 2021. As truly awful people do, she has moved up in the world and is now doing her horrendous “science” for Orchis while focusing on the former Commander Kruger, who was there alongside Barrington when the children of that title and the X-Men took the U-Men down.
Here Victor LaValle uses her as the new figure that is not only oppressing mutants, much as how Xavier and Magneto were filling that role somewhat in the first series with their incarceration policies, but is straight out butchering them and dumping their corpses on a constructed island.
One of the criticisms lobbied against the X-Men as a whole is that in the vast array of mutations, the main members of the team (and adjacent teams) are generally CW-esque pretty people with no or very easily brushed-off visible mutations. Beast and Nightcrawler are exceptions, but both for the longest time found ways to blend in via image inducers or the like (Beast having an easier time with the Avengers cred). Also, generally most of the main top-tier characters tend to be white.
Thus it’s noticeable that the main cast of this series, and its predecessor, are overwhelmingly not white or have visible mutations or things that make them stand out. Third-Eye and Oya are the two characters that are the most so-called ‘normal’ in the sense of human traditional appearance. Nekra is Black but with chalk white skin, Nanny and Orphan Maker are sealed up in their armors, Toad is hunched and meant to look grotesque in many cases, Melter has lost his more ‘normal’ appearance to take on a silver fiery being, and Madison has fully embraced change and is the ship they are traveling on in all aspects. Then there is Creed with his feral vicious looking self rounding out this group.
It’s not just them though. The mutant that Barrington butchered to start the issue is amphibious and many of the bodies we see are mutants with clear physical mutations. As were the mutants that we saw surrounding Creed at the end of the last series that seemed to be a flash forward to later in this series. It’s a very intentional, powerful choice because even with Krakoa supposedly being a paradise, the people that have been left behind to fend for themselves are those who are different; those who don’t fit the human-appearing mold that the X-Men and most of the major mutants groups.
Even with all this big messaging around the lost and forgotten, and continuing to point to the holes in the X-Men’s mutant metaphor as well as the situation on Krakoa, once more LaValle makes sure to take the space to showcase these characters and their voices. We get little snippets, mostly, but its enough to once again make sure you know just who each character is and what their situation or overall feelings are about the world and themselves.
Approaching a story that has a bright, shiny, outward appearance besieged by the inherent darkness of the world needs the right art team, just like Leonard Kirk and Rain Beredo. As in the last series, they are able to tackle detailed, emotional, heart-wrenching, dark, and bright moments across the pages. Kirk brings these characters to life so wonderfully, making sure that they are all distinct and accurate to their situation — making the world around them detailed and rich to gaze upon. With the brutal moments mentioned, Kirk is able to perfectly balance the line of making them horrifying and bloody without descending into an overly gory or off-putting level; hitting with just the right amount of impact necessary.
As it should, the artwork does a lot of the ‘talking’ as we move along as facial expressions and little details or aspects of certain spaces show and tell us things so that we do not always need a caption or dialogue to fill in those gaps. In many of the shots, if we’re at a distance the characters and world take on a little less detail just like they would if you were looking at things from far away. Like how the reveal of the island and the bodies is drawn in that way with the green areas more in focus than the pit of bodies, giving us an idea of what it was without it being explicit.
Beredo’s colors have just enough colorful bursts to them while being heavily shadowed in many areas or are dulled down to a more muted sort of palette depending on the content or moment in play. On this island of death, the foliage is vibrant in its green and brows as they move through it, thriving, providing the opposite to the massive pile of colorful but less vibrant bodies to be found there. That’s one of the areas where Beredo pulls back all the color as if it’s draining away following our protagonists coming across such a horrific scene.
I loved that Madison’s boat and mech form had the same shiny coloring (a mix of blue, pink, and white) that he had when he reached out from the pit and formed out of microplastics. Visually, everything to do with him as he’s choosing to leave his human-gendered form behind for something that can be anything and more is intriguing.
Cory Petit is once more bringing the words to life within this series, doing stellar work to match the energy and tone of the issue. There are great differences in various characters’ dialogue including bubble styles and shapes, making sure that their voices are distinct from one another and letting their personalities slip through. I’ve mentioned in reviews before that I’m a fan of the use of sentence case in comics because it really sets a good standard for normal speech and fits how we’re used to seeing words. That allows the caps and bigger lettering to have even more impact as it brings yelling or loud moments to life.
Sabretooth And The Exiles #1 is now available from Marvel Comics.