Tag Archives: Ghoul

Death is What Happens While You’re Making Other Plans-Exiles Pt. 3

Hello, Legions of the Unspoken!  Indie February is over, but just like the 90’s, we at The Unspoken Decade don’t give a damn about the rules because we are EXTREME!  Indie February bleeds over into March, with this final installment of our look at The Ultraverse’s Exiles, my interview with Tom Mason, and Emily’s forthcoming article on Neil Gaiman’s Mr. Hero, the Pneumatic Man!  The 90’s keep coming right at you here, folks, and it’s up to you keep up, get on, or get out of the way!

That sounds sort of hateful.  I suppose I should apologize, but hey, I keep cranking out the good stuff, and you keep reading, so I think I am entitled to a little arrogance.  Not as much arrogance as “The Model” Rick Martel used to have, but certainly enough to not worry about anyone stealing my girl!

Everything was going wrong for The Exiles when last we saw them in Issue #3.  Tinsel had just been brutally murdered, Ghoul had been captured, and the rest of the team was unable to either convince Mastodon to come with them or to subjugate him.  Also, Amber Hunt is going to die unless the team gets back in time to administer the cure for her Theta Virus.  She refuses to die filthy, however.

Actually, my mom would have called this filthy, so I guess that's subjective.
Actually, my mom would have called this filthy, so I guess that’s subjective.

That pun is ridiculously wonderful;  I have a soft spot for puns, as does my girlfriend and co-contributor to this blog, Emily Scott, and so that was terrific in my eyes!  I also understand where Amber is coming from.  As I have noted numerous times throughout this look at Exiles, Dr. Rachel has the best of intentions but all the execution of a car without an engine.  The way she is going about this just is not going to work, and she has no clue.  She has treated everyone shabbily thus far, and in many cases, she has treated everyone except Deadeye like they are mindless idiots.  That too, though, will change in this issue.

This title, and of course this was sort of the point, makes one wonder what would have become of The X-Men or Doom Patrol had Professor X or The Chief not been so good at shepherding the young and the powerful.  I get the feeling that this team could have been something special in The Ultraverse had Rachel Deming just been a better leader.  Unfortunately, we will not get to see that.  We will get to see Amber Hunt badmouth the only clothing she finds in the way only a snobby teen ever could.

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Scuzz is a word only the battle-hardened can use.

Amber Hunt goes from worrying about dying to worrying about fashion more quickly than a opossum can scoot under a house!

We also get to see another side-effect of putting together a bunch of strangers with powers who happen to also be young.  That side-effect would be attraction and unwanted attraction.  Again, not to just keep on making comparison with the X-Men, but that’s an issue that almost always seems to work itself out with them, unless you are Jean Grey, in which case you get involved in a love square so thorny that one could walk through 872010 rose bushes and come out with fewer scratches than her heart got from Wolverine, Cyclops, and White Queen.

This ain’t the X-Men, and so things here go less smoothly, which makes tons of sense.  I used to go to APPLE Project, which was an Upward Bound program.  It’s a terrific program that helps impoverished youth find ways to get to college, and one of those ways is by hosting a summer session in which kids get to go stay on a college campus, take college courses, and live in the dorms.  This was lots of fun, but when you put that many teenagers in one spot, the emotions and hormones become a juggernaut even more daunting than Cain Marko himself, and that situation can lead to awkward misinterpretations, such as the small moment we see here:

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Not just a crock, but a FLAMING CROCK.

That’s explosive, and no one even tossed any dynamite or old-timey bombs with long fuses like they use on Spy vs. Spy! The chemistry element gets more play here in one page than it gets in years and years with some team books.

Sadly, though, Ghoul isn’t there to laugh at this interaction, as he has stumbled upon Tinsel’s body.  Ghoul’s power to talk to the recently departed is neat, but the sorrow it must bring comes to the forefront as he talks about Tinsel’s last moments…with Tinsel.

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I wonder what it is she could do to help Ghoul that he refuses. Moisturize his skin?

 Things aren’t going much better for the rest of The Exiles, as in addition to not being able to nab Mastodon, they are now under siege from basically every cop between San Diego and Los Angeles.  The field mission is not going especially well for The Exiles, and I have to believe that part of it is that Dr. Rachel Deming just isn’t qualified to be a field commander.  She commands Mustang to take out some cop choppers without hurting the cops, and when that isn’t working as well as it could have, Deadeye takes aim.

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The crosshairs generated by Deadeye’s eye in panel two mean he cannot miss; see why I want one so badly?

The only person up until now immune to the condescension of Dr. Rachel Deming, Deadeye, is now subjected to the same treatment all of his teammates have been getting. The only difference is this time, Deming instantly knows she has gone too far, as Deadeye isn’t like the other Exiles.  This is not only his first rodeo, but based on his demeanor and confidence, it is entirely possible that he invented rodeos.

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The look on Deming’s face in the last panel is the “I have been called out on my bullshit” look.

I feel like this points out why The Exiles never could have worked as a team.  It wasn’t because Tinsel, Ghoul, Mustang, Catapult, and Deadeye were awful, but it was because Dr. Deming never thought of them as people.  At least, she never thought of them as people outside of the Theta Virus and the abilities said virus would and did grant them.  Leadership is more than just hiring (or in Deming’s case, quasi-kidnapping) folks, telling them what you want, and then manipulating them into doing her bidding as she looks down on them the entire time.

I am pretty sure that most of you reading have a job, so you understand the concept that I am talking about.  We have all had a boss like this, who just does not get the fact that you’re a person.  They don’t get the fact that you can’t just morph into some sort of atomic-powered robot that can get three things done at once in the EVER SO PERFECT way that they can get it done.  Dr. Deming is totally that boss.  The way she said that Deadeye was in charge of the mission and then undermined him the very first time he did something that detracted from her greater calling of gathering up the Theta Virus carriers speaks volumes about her personality and her “leadership” paradigm.  You’re wrong, she’s right, and here’s 78 snide comments to remind you of such.

Of course, her arrogance costs the team everything.  I think that her shabby treatment of Amber Hunt really caused Amber to act so impulsively.  I also have to laugh at the fact that the girl who eschewed her science class just a day or two earlier is now entirely dependent upon a super-futuristic science lab to save her life.  Of course, she was complaining about high school biology, so perhaps had they taught “super virus removal science” at her school, she would have been more interested.  I think all kids would be more interested in science in high school if they taught that course, and if they did teach it, then maybe she would have been able to use this machine properly.

Exiles #4 - Page 9
Most Janet Jackson videos do not have a rinse cycle.

I sort of do not blame her for going ahead and trying to do this herself; I mean, she is going to die one way or another, so she may as well give it a try, especially if Deming is so callous to her needs as to go on a mission that Deming really isn’t needed on while Amber Hunt wonders if she’d die before Deming’s return.

I also have to commend Hunt on using “the big chiclet” as her preferred way to describe death, as I am very sure that most of the ancient religions of the world have described death as being “odd-flavored gum that colors one’s tongue green.”  I hope that is what death is like, but it is probably a lot more like the movie The Frighteners.

Amber’s mistakes will cost The Exiles, well, um, themselves,  but for some Exiles, like Tinsel, all is lost already.  Her life was snuffed by Bloodbath in the previous issue, which does not bode well for Bloodbath now that Ghoul is on his trail.  His trail is easy to find, though, seeing as how he was blinded in Tinsel’s last great act of defiance.  Ghoul is slightly more indestructible than Tinsel, however, and despite being what seems to be The Ultraverse’s greatest blind marksman, Bloodbath stands as much chance against Ghoul as your favorite ice cream treat stands against August.

Exiles #4 - Page 12

Exiles #4 - Page 13

Those two pages are very cold-blooded, but also hilarious.  That’s a hell of a combination, but Gerber handles it not just with aplomb, but like it was as natural as something one does all the time, like pouring cereal or slacking off at work.  The same way you wake up and rue the paltry amount of dough you have in the bank, Gerber marries two seemingly impossibly disparate feelings.

None of this will matter as much as Ghoul would like it to, as Amber Hunt’s attempt to avoid biting the metaphorical chiclet that is death is wreaking havoc on the island, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.  Deming isn’t there, and the entire lover’s spat that occurred earlier prevented those crazy kids from keeping Hunt from doing something stupid, like use technology she cannot understand on herself.

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All of their effort turns out for naught, however, and Deadeye, who is just adept at telling you like it is, sums up exactly why these Exiles cannot save themselves.

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After the last panel, all I can hear is Metallica singing ‘SAD BUT TRUE!!!”

And that fact there, uttered by Deadeye in the midst of a mad dash home, sums up Exiles perfectly.  In some ways, it sums up humanity, sadly enough.  Sometimes it seems that no matter what our gifts and abilities are, we remain capable of so much less than our potential due to impudence and shortsightedness.  The Exiles sort of exemplify these aspects of humanity.

Then, of course, we are introduced to futility, as regardless of the efforts we make, on occasion, they just do not matter.  I know that we have all interviewed for a job where we had a KNOCKOUT interview, but we did not get the job b/c it was already decided who would.  Of course, that was just our livelihood.  When those with super powers encounter futility, the ramifications are much more devastating.  The Exiles are destroyed.

There's time for one last quip before I am atomized.
There’s time for one last quip before I am atomized.

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Exiles #4 - Page 26

The Exiles are finished.  Their hubris and inexperience combined to destroy them, despite their powers and valiant natures.  Ghoul got his revenge on Malcolm Kort, and he got to dress like Panama Jack’s cousin, Rambo Jack, as he did it, which is an image to leave you with since this series is a downer.

I don’t mean that pejoratively.  I am a huge fan of sad music, to the point where almost every song I enjoy can be described as “really sad, but really good.”  Many movies we enjoy that resonate with us on a deep level are sad, such as The Ice Storm, which is seemingly designed to nothing but drive the happy to the suicidal and the suicidal off bridges.  I love that movie.  So to say that this makes one feel awful to see play out makes sense, but that was sort of the point.  The real world isn’t always sunshine and roses, unless it is blooming time on a rose farm.  Then, I am pretty sure it is all sunshine and roses.  Otherwise, life is tough, and we often have to pay very hard for the actions we take that do not work out, and it seems like the more spectacular of an action we take, the higher the price we have to pay if it fails.  Actions do not come much more spectacular than those of Deming and The Exiles.  Steve Gerber sort of explains in an afterword for The Exiles.

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Steve did a great job in that essay telling us what happened and why, and Tom Mason did an interview with me that will be posted in the next day or two  that reveals even more behind-scenes info on The Exiles!

Amber Hunt will go on to be in The “All-New Exiles,” and she is basically the jumpstart for the Ultraverse crossover “Break-Thru.”  Ghoul will go on to be in Ultraforce, but The Exiles were never forgotten, and now, they are no longer Unspoken!  Thanks for reading, and stay tuned the rest of March for “Madness Month”!  Emily will bring us Skrull Kill Krew, I will be doing Ghost Rider vs. Madcap, and Paul O’Connor of Longbox Graveyard and I will be chatting about the merits or lack thereof of 90’s comics in a podcast!  Stay Tuned, folks!

Now as promised, Ghoul as Rambo Jack, with just a touch of Road Warrior Hawk tossed in!

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Death Is What Happens While You’re Making Other Plans-Exiles Part 2

Despite the fact that we have had two great articles from Emily Scott and Darry Weight, I know that you guys have been chomping at the bit for the next part of our look at the saga of Malibu’s Exiles!  Well, leave what is left of the bit and get on over here, Legions of the Unspoken, as we are ready for another gander at the amazing world of The Ultraverse!

Later this week I’ll be posting a terrific interview with Tom Mason that deals with the Exiles; I promise you, you can’t wait to look at  this one, kids!  Before I get further into the last half of The Ultraverse’s most ill-fated team, I want to dedicate the rest of this look at Exiles to the late Steve Gerber, who was one of the most brilliant writers in comic book history.  There are very few people who could bend comic books to their will in the way Gerber could, and it is truly an honor to be looking at his work here.

Exiles really changed the game, folks, and I think that it is one of the last major surprises in superhero comics.  I find it to be quite an accomplishment in and of itself that they were able to keep the planned demise of The Exiles a secret.  If this book had launched even a year later, it would have been nearly impossible. Thunderbolts almost accomplished a big reveal, but I think it was just barely ruined.  Wizard, Stan Lee, and Marvel almost pulled a fast one on us in regards to The Sentry, but I think The Sentry had been on stands for .08 seconds before we all knew of their ruse.  I asked Tom Mason about how retailers reacted, but you’ll have to wait for the interview for that information!  Ain’t I a stinker?

I am not as big a stinker as that brat Timmy, who has gone and become a monster called Mastodon.

Exiles #3 - Page 1
No big deal, just doing reps with this car.

Of course, Timmy is not the only Mastodon of the 90’s, or did you forget about Big Van Vader?

Now You Remember.
Now you remember.

Of course, Timmy would probably a bigger threat than Big Van Vader due to, you know, being a giant super strong monster and all.  He confronts the Exiles in a manner that threatens them all, and it forces Ghoul to break with the plan to save Tinsel!

Also, the lady behind the Exiles get shot, which is as good a metaphor as any for how her world and plan is crumbling all around her.

Exiles #3 - Page 4
The customization on Ghoul’s sky-cycle must have cost a fortune, and it must have been done by some guy that the folks on Pawn Stars brings in as an expert on custom sky-cycles.

 Dr. Rachel Deming, though, thinks that for some reason having a giant pre-teen monster running all across town is a bad idea for whatever reason, so she breaks off the Exiles’ assault on Malcolm Kort’s office to chase down Timmy, who is a little jerk.  You know who else was when he was Timmy’s age?  No clue?  Here’s a hint?  DEAN COMPTON.

First though, she got shot, and since Mastodon’s powers so far are being really strong and having cool tusks that resemble an even cooler mustache, we can safely rule him out as the shooter.  That most likely means that the shooter is one of Kort’s goons, and which goon has the most guns?

Why that would be Bloodbath, kind sir.

Exiles #3 - Page 5
Do you think Deadeye is envious of Ghoul’s customization on his sky-cycle? Deadeye’s looks sort of plain in comparison.

Tinsel and Ghoul have their own issues, though, because ever since Ghoul broke ranks to help out Tinsel, they have both pretty much been in peril from the moment Tinsel showed up with the Exiles.  I love how Gerber keeps having the characters make the wrong decisions and showing us the consequences without being too obvious about their inexperience.

The temptation to give away their inexperience in thought balloons must have been heavy, but by avoiding that, Steve Gerber shows us the most dangerous form of ignorance; the Exiles are bad at being superheroes, and not only do they not know that, but they don’t even know that they don’t know that!  That’s the kind of thing that gets people killed both in real life and in The Ultraverse.

Before either of them can be killed, though, Ghoul and Tinsel fall into the clutches of Malcolm Kort, who just wants everyone to know that he isn’t the problem here. Rather, it is all the fault of Dr. Deming, who has all the issues while he is pretty much super perfect in the same way your siblings seemed to be when you were a teenager and you had just missed curfew.  They could do no wrong; you could do no right.  Malcolm Kort thinks he does not have to worry about the former.

Exiles #3 - Page 9
Just to talk more about wrestling, based on his shoulder pads alone, Bloodbath could be a member of the Road Warriors; I mean, admit it, Road Warrior Bloodbath has a nice ring to it!
Exiles #3 - Page 10
The biological waste just sounds like a fancy way for Malcolm Kort to say toilet.

Not gonna lie, this page made me feel uncomfortable in conjunction with Tinsel’s ultimate fate.  All of the Exiles die (although some get better), but only one gets threatened with sexual assault, sexually assaulted, and then brutally shot to death by around a dozen bullets.  If you guessed that that member was Ghoul, I’d call you a sick freak, but I’d so so with a smile as to let you know that I appreciate your humor.  If you guessed Tinsel, I’d say you are more than well aware of the tropes in comic books where these  sorts of horrendous things happen to women.

To be fair, this doesn’t fall right into the trope due to the fact that this doesn’t happen to her so a man can feel something (although Ghoul has what appears to be at least a minor league crush on her, and after he survives the group, he is haunted by the demise of The Exiles, but it is ALL of them, not just Tinsel), but it still is disconcerting to me.  I think that writers (primarily male ones) do not understand that rape and sexual assault are not just “another evil thing” that evil men (or women) can do, but it is instead very off-putting.  I think we are coming around on that, and this isn’t just something that male writers do.  I was able to interview Devin Grayson last year, and  we discussed when she had written a scene where Dick Grayson got raped in Nightwing.  She then described it as “non-consensual, but not rape,” which is sort of like saying that “we landed troops in their country and occupied it, but we did not invade their country.”  Devin expressed regret over not only saying that, but she also was sorry she had included the scene at all because she did not understand just how traumatic victims of rape, sexual assault, or abuse can find scenes like this.

I do think this is a product of the times, and I don’t think Steve Gerber meant anything by it; it does not detract from the enjoyment of the story, but I also think the story would still be just as good without the sexual assault due to the fact that Tinsel gets brutally killed.  Her death is the most brutal and in some ways the most tragic.  Of course, I also have to give Steve Gerber the benefit of the doubt in that he could have just been going straight for the jugular, which is that the most evil of evil men and women would encounter neophytes such as Tinsel, and he is just showing us the logical and most extreme ramifications of superhero activity.

While all this is going on, Mastodon (TIMMY) is squaring off with the rest of The Exiles at the mall,. where some of the coolest balloons this side of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade are residing.  I mean, you could look at The Exiles fighting Mastodon, but damn, there’s Freddy Krueger!

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Godzilla and King Kong are also hanging out. I wonder if they despise being put next to Freddy, as they are just destructive by their nature, while Freddy is evil and does stuff like kill Johnny Depp.

Deadeye does the sensible thing here and fills Mastodon full of tranquilizer darts; I also assume that he hit his target exactly where he wanted due to his awesome cybernetic eye.  Yes, I am still hung up on that, and yes, I always will be.  Of course, some might say that since the Exiles want to train him, attempting to talk him down is the sensible thing.  I’d disagree, but I’m not Dr. Deming, so I am not running this team.

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Deadeye spends a lot of time worrying about the cops, which is understandable since they are tearing up malls and stuff, but in my mind, he is also worried due to a shady past as a rogue agent; how do you think he became a cyborg?

While all of this is happening, Amber Hunt is starting to get really antsy back at the Exiles’ base.  I feel like antsy is sort of a trite way to put Amber’s feelings, since she is waiting on the doctor to come back so the doctor can keep her from dying of the Theta Virus.  Facing death deserves more than just some dude saying, “Why are you so antsy?  I mean, it’s just your life.”  So her antsiness, which is not a word, by the by, is certainly well deserved.

I have anxiety.  Really bad anxiety.  Like anxiety so bad that I think whoever is reading this is angry that they did not get to read it sooner or because it isn’t as good as someone reading this thinks it should be.  I’d like to apologize to those readers now, but that will just make me apologize a whole bunch.  The point of this diatribe on anxiety is that I can only imagine how I would feel in regards to this situation, and I have NO REASON to fear as much as I do.  Amber Hunt, on the other hand, is going to die.  She needs this treatment, and she needs it soon.  So her reaction to the situation is the only normal one; she calls a different lady a skank.

What could possibly go wrong?  I mean, it's just a super science machine and you just were bored in high school biology.
Is rhinoplasty easy? Is it the first thing a doctor learns? Like if you’re in medical school, do they measure how good you will be based on how much you struggle with rhinoplasty? Why do I hope that is true so badly?

While Amber Hunt deals with being on the precipice of death, Ghoul is also dealing with being on the precipice of death.  Or at least, he is dealing with being on more of a precipice of death than he usually is.  Kort has tossed him into the garbage disposal, and he is rightfully none too happy about it.

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It looks like a 90’s Nickelodeon show exploded. Who’s got the Gak?

Ghoul manages to stay alive because he is already sort of dead.  I could look for hours at the random debris in that slime wave.  The skull bothers me less than the bunny somehow, which I think makes me a bad person.  I am sure that someone already found me to be a bad person, though, since I love 90’s comics so much.

Ghoul makes it through this, and even though I compared it to Nickelodeon Gak earlier, now I think it is more like ooze from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The secret of this ooze, though, is that has empty beer bottles floating in it.

Back where the rest of the Exiles are trying to capture Mastodon, Dr. Deming is learning the folly of attempting to talk out one’s problems in a superhero comic book.

What?  Rationally talking to the preteen who just got transmogrified into a horrific monster didn't work?  How could that be?
What? Rationally talking to the preteen who just got transmogrified into a horrific monster didn’t work? How could that be?

The biggest reason why I wish the Exiles had lasted longer is due to the fact that they could have had an awesome crossover with Freddy Krueger who would have been seeking revenge over being senton splashed by Dr. Deming, whether it was her fault or not.  I mean, she can’t talk the kid into calming down, so I see no way she could ever convince the King of Nightmares that this offense was not of her doing.

Also, I find it awesome to see her glasses falling off.  I am a sucker for stuff like that.  Mastodon gets away, but Deadeye’s tranqs start to kick in just in time for one of Kort’s robots to see him trying to get away.

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With the amount of tranquilizer that Deadeye shot into you, you’re not about to be sick, kid; you’re probably about to die.

The book starts to get very real from here on out, as Tinsel is now subjected to Bloodbath’s predilections, which are all nefarious, sick, twisted, and depraved.  Tinsel seems like a wonderful woman, and I think my biggest regret is that we learn nothing about her before she is eradicated by one Bloodbath.  Despite knowing little about her, she is fascinating, and so her death hits hard.  Especially because of this build-up, where Tinsel spends the last few moments of her life being sexually assaulted and hunted down.

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I wish that this scene didn’t start with what appears to be Tinsel laying provocatively on the bed, seeing as how all of this is against her will.

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The next image basically represents the series.   Despite Tinsel’s last great act of defiance, it was too late her for her, just as it is too late for all of The Exiles.  The image is brutal, even for the 90’s, and I don’t have an issue with that.  This is almost certainly the outcome when folks bite off more than they can chew in dangerous situations.  When you constantly tempt death and don’t really have the training or skill to do so, you eventually die.  It’s that simple.

I also think there is subtext here, in that we are shown this brutal scene in order to fully grasp the powers that The Exiles were grappling with and how ill-prepared they were for it.  As we see Tinsel gunned down, we somehow know deep inside that while Bloodbath pulled the trigger, the real murderer is Dr. Deming, who stubbornly refused to see that her team was not ready for confrontations like this.  You realize that life, even life in a superhero universe, just isn’t fair.  Neither is death.

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Brutal.  That’s really all I can say.  There’s no doubt that Tinsel is gone, just as her life and superhero career started.  This time, the bad guys won.  The bullets seem to take up the entire page, as they enter and exit her chest, head, and basically every body part except her knees and feet, and with how Bloodbath is, I am not sure he would not just go and shoot them up after the fact.  A moment of silence for Tinsel, folks; she truly deserved better.

We’ll finish Exiles up in part 3 later this week!   Guess what?  EVERYBODY DIES.