Take A Trip To The Mind Palace: Reviewing ‘Sabretooth And The Exiles’ #3
by Scott Redmond
‘Sabretooth And The Exiles’ loses none of its bite with a very trippy visual style of story that moves the characters and the storyline forward in a massive way, ramping things up towards the second act endgame. Spot-on and powerful visuals complement the grand ideas that this string of miniseries is trying to broach.
There are many things that can be said about the series of minis featuring Sabretooth as the title character alongside a diverse group of mutants, but “predictable” or “cut from the cloth of previous comics” are not some of those things. Every single issue is visually and narratively distinct from not only one another, but from most other comics that are on the stands — especially from places like Marvel and DC Comics.
That’s not to take a swipe at Marvel or DC fully, because I read and love tons from both and review titles from each, but the truth is that comics like Sabretooth And The Exiles are not being made enough by various parties; where truly terrible elements of our real world that focus on how societies — especially our own — have maligned people from marginalized groups are approached and tackled within the context of a superhero adjacent comic. Sure, comics have never shied away from politics or cultural moments, but most of the time it’s handled by those from the more privileged groups that can’t fully speak to the pain that these moments have caused.
Within these two minis so far, Victor LaValle has tackled things from the harsh truths of incarceration and systems that employ it as a weapon, the skewed power dynamics within societies, and even how societies that are formed by marginalized groups can leave their own out to suffer for some of the same reasons the oppressors used against them. We see that here within this current series with the various mutants that were captured by Orchis to be experimented upon; Krakoa left them out and not bothered to organize a rescue. While gates were put all over to bring mutants in, it’s not hard to see that Krakoa, much like various eras of the X-Men themselves, is predominantly populated by the “pretty” mutants who can pass. Those with physical mutations, outside those that are part of the in-crowd, were left to their own devices making them easy prey for Orchis.
Since day one it’s been clear that Krakoa is rotten as a so-called utopia or paradise, and LaValle is the one who came along and finally began to explore and poke at those cracks. Showing the ugly side of this society, which was born from mostly privileged and passing men who, despite their protests, internalized much of the societal ways they fought against. Repeating the same patterns as their former oppressors, turning those tools against their own that they’ve decided to ostracize.
Data pages are a curious thing in this line since they debuted with the Jonathan Hickman-led relaunch of X-Men. Some books use them to drop lots of lore or explanation that would take up multiple panels or pages to get out or to drop fun nuggets or something else. Some are more effective than others. The ones here have been quite effective as they highlight relevant moments in history (either outright or in a letter from someone) where society did much like Orchis is doing towards marginalized groups. In this case, it points to the regularity of medical personnel being able to experiment on Indigenous populations for far too long.
Naturally, as this is a comic book, the powerful moments that speak to the real issues and give new life to the metaphor X-Men is known for are very much visual as well as textual. Leonard Kirk and Rain Beredo have been doing some truly top-notch work in these series, and it continues here. Throughout all of its existence, the Astral Plane is a space that gives creators pretty much carte blanche in how to approach it and what to do with it since it’s a space of the mind and of limitless possibilities. Orchis is everywhere and we find out right away that they are within this space too, draining it and polluting something that was a refuge to many because they want to control everything.
We could have gotten any sort of imagery with that but, instead, the picture that Kirk brings here is an actual representation of an oil rig draining resources from the inhabitants. It is some spot-on imagery. That right-on-the-nose type of thing works on various levels because it’s clear imagery to understand and says so much. This is the case where subtle is not the key because this series is not trying to be subtle. It’s trying to speak loud and clear about these issues and the failures of society, both in the real world and the fictional one we’re reading about.
Every one of issue of Sabertooth packs in so much and Kirk makes it all flow and fit and work on the page. Capturing every bit of emotion or power, allowing the character and the moment to saturate the pages and sit with us even as we move from panel to panel in order to take the whole story in. There is a bit of the old-school classic Marvel feeling to the chosen appearance for the Astral Plane that is tapped into, which fits with what we’ve seen of the character Third Eye so far. A very practical and classic approach to the realm, where the characters are very much themselves (with a few enhancements) possibly because their minds are not focused on the vast realm of possibilities before them.
Color-wise, Beredo plays into that classic feeling with some really appropriate out-there color palette choices while maintaining that sort of toned-down darker tone that permeates the book. It again bridges the two realms together, light and dark, in a way that makes sure that both are equally presented and allowed space to breathe. There is a bit more darkness in play at some points because of the venue, such as the darker interiors of the Orchis rig, whereas others lean more to the light but in the end, they both are represented so well. Orchis and the evil it embodies drains so much light and hope from places, and these exiles in their own broken way bring some of that with them which colors the spaces they are within.
Actually, that fits the prisoners even more. Despite what has happened to them they feel hope right now — a misguided one, sadly — as they believe that Krakoa has come to save them at last. Their pages feel more vibrant and bright compared to other pages that are not the Astral Plane proper panels themselves.
There are a ton of elements for Cory Petit to play with in an issue like this to bring the lettering to life. Much of it fits the standard ideas of such things, but others are more playful as they change colors or fonts to convey what a character is going through or how they are saying something in that moment. The caption boxes on the spread of the Orchis rig have that sort of classic feeling to them, even though they are visually the same as other lettering elements on the page. Just some slight energy to them causes the way they are taken in to change and give off that Silver Age sort of feeling.
Sabretooth And The Exiles #3 is now available from Marvel Comics.