Malibu Comics was a short-lived imprint in the 1990s that acted as a sort of comic book Drain Trap — a stagnant place you could dump your worst ideas to keep them from rising up and poisoning the rest of the industry. If Marvel was the appealing picture of the Whopper on the Burger King menu, Malibu was the soggy slab of gray meatpoison you actually got. And Exiles was the caustic grease at the bottom of the bag that ruins your pants.
That’s seriously the cover of their very first issue. That’s the first impression they were comfortable with for the whole series. I promise I didn’t photoshop that mouth — that’s really something Malibu drew on purpose, looked at, somehow did not destroy out of reflexive shame, and then actually had the gall to put up for sale. Here’s the very first page:
We’re not one full page into, again, the very first issue of a brand new series, and we have multiple redirect arrows. Redirect arrows are how normal comic book artists apologize for coming to work drunk. In Japanese comics, they’re widely regarded as an acceptable suicide note. This is a worse first impression than going on a blind date in blackface and then explaining that it’s not what it looks like — you just have “Jungle Fever” and you jerked off to a mirror earlier.
In keeping with the theme so far, the very first character we’re introduced to, Amber Hunt, is immediately established as a vapid dipshit that we should all hate. Sure hope the whole book doesn’t hinge on this horribly sexist caricature doing or saying literally anything els–
Amber Hunt is our protagonist.
So Malibu comics wants us to know three things right from the jump: Our heroine is stupid, our heroine is self-centered, and they’re sorry for being repetitive when they could have just said “she’s a woman in a Malibu comic.”
That grocery store toy aisle “Iron Guy” up there is Supreme Soviet and those are his Cybernoids. “Supreme Soviet and the Cybernoids” is a kickass name for a Russian Daft Punk cover band, but they’re terrible names for comic book characters. They sound like Honorable Mentions pulled from a Dr. Who name-the-villain contest, but don’t worry — those aren’t your main villains.
Do worry, your main villains are stupider. Like Bloodbath:
Who’s a ripoff of every single Wolverine ripoff, and looks like Dr. Frankenstein tried to build Dave Bautista out of Rob Liefield parts. He looks like somebody tried to break the Character Creation screen. He has a fishhook tattooed on his face though he’s in no way nautically themed, and he couldn’t decide between skullwings and Pippi Longstocking braids so he told his barber both and hung strong through the laughter. He’s trying to pull the old Reality Show “I’m not here to make friends” gambit, but it’s definitely coming across as “I wore sweatpants to the prom because I knew nobody wanted to dance with me anyway.”
Hey, meet the only character in this entire series that I like:
Her name is Hot Rox. Have you guessed her power? It’s elocution.
Our heroes are no better!
Everyone in the Exiles sucks so hard it’s difficult to overstate. I’ll try: They suck so hard, if they were an album they’d be Imagine Dragons ironically covering NWA songs. They suck so hard, if they were a car they’d be a brown Nissan Juke. It’s not enough! They’d be a Nissan Juke with one of those family stickers in the window, only every member would be a Calvin peeing on a smaller Calvin until the final Calvin, who has to pee on himself. They suck so hard, if they were a sex scandal they’d be Martin Shkreli caught masturbating in a Foot Locker. Fuck! Nothing is landing. You’ll just have to meet them.
This is Tinsel. That’s seriously her comic book name, and this is seriously her comic book power.
Malibu ripped off Jubilee and Dazzler, two characters nobody wanted, and found a way to make the combination of them worse. That’s like pairing hot pickles and warm oatmilk, only you put the warm oatmilk inside the pickle like a briny gusher so it can ejaculate into your mouth when you bite it. You were wrong from the start, and every step you took afterward made it exponentially worse.
The rest of your crew are:
Shitty Gambit got to design his own superhero persona and the toughest thing he could think of was to wear boxing safety headgear and name himself after a powerful horse.
Ghoul is the zombified corpse of that art teacher who constantly jokes about smoking weed. It’s strange how all of his most talented students are young women who look like they can keep a secret. It’s even stranger that his “after hours intensive portfolio review” always takes place in his Volkswagen Jetta.
Catapult is our Michaelangelo character, three years after we as a culture accepted that not everything had to have Michaelangelo character. He has none of the charm or self-awareness of Michaelangelo and twice the quips, but the writer was not legally allowed to be around actual teenagers, knew no actual ‘hip’ slang himself, and was also quite unwilling to look any up.
This is Deadeye:
Deadeye is, without question, the most useful member of Team Exile. Deadeye’s superpower is that he has a gun and can aim it.
Aaaand we saved the worst for last. That is Trax, who pulled his superhero name from an orthopedic hiking insole. Here’s Trax after taking a glancing blow from Super Soviet:
Later in the comic, it’s revealed that Super Soviet actually had no superpowers of his own. That was Trax after taking one medium human punch.
Trax’s only superpower seems to be smelling women from a greater distance than normally possible, or advisable:
To the surprise of nobody, he’s a sex pest:
That reprimand almost seems progressive, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, this is a Malibu comic. Female brains just take extra time to understand good jokes, math, and complimentary groping. That woman has time to think about it later and realizes she was wrong:
But hey, speaking of good jokes — where’s that choice Malibu “your friend that can’t quite do a Chandler impression” humor?
The wall of his classroom just exploded, so that kid turned around to ask nobody if they thought the flames would be on the test, which you might almost recognize as a joke before your female brain took that extra time and realized you were horribly mistaken. It’s kind of like following a strange adult you think is your mom only to look up half a block away and realize it’s a circus clown. That moment of dull, confused horror is the closest thing to a laugh a Malibu comic has ever gotten.
Now that we’ve met the colorful cast, let’s jump into the plot: Amber Hunt has latent superpowers, and is drawn reluctantly to the Exiles Team. Just in time, too, since a sinister corporation might be making their own superpowered army! The heroes go in to investigate, but find they’ve stumbled into an ambush.
That’s a pretty generic setup, but maybe they go somewhere interesting with it?
Oh wait, that’s actually the ending.
The Exiles scout out Evil Headquarters and Ghoul has all the bad guys cornered… then decides to fucking 180 noscope some fuel tanks, killing everybody:
Meanwhile back at the Exile base, it also explodes, killing… everybody else?
This has been an accurate synopsis of the entire Exiles series.
What, did you expect something more?
The writers knew you would!
So they put in one last panel just verifying that you were an idiot for expecting that.
Exiles lasts four issues, does nothing interesting, and then they all die abruptly. That’s the worst ending you could possi-
Oh wait, I’m sorry, I didn’t turn the page. That’s not the end! There’s an epilogue… in the form of a written apology from the Exiles team.
In which they explain why they wrote a bunch of characters who exist solely to suck and then die. The answer is: Some people just suck and then die.
They wrap it up by further acknowledging that you, the reader, probably won’t like this story, but that’s only because they don’t know what they’re doing.
Although I gotta say, “Drunken Magician” is a killer euphemism for “incompetent fuckwit.” I’m going to change all of my business cards.