"Exiled #1" sees writers Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Kieron Gillen collaborating on the opening chapter of a multi-part crossover which brings together the casts of "New Mutants" and "Journey into Mystery" to address several long-running storylines seeded in both titles. Kind of an alternative take on "Avengers Vs. X-Men", if you like that idea.
With the Mutant and Asgardian strands of the Marvel Universe so wildly different from one another, it does take a while for the story to get moving. It opens with a concerted effort to give readers all the tools they need to understand what's going to happen, even if they've never read a Thor or X-Men comic before -- but you can practically hear the gears clanking. It turns the first half of the book into a persistent infodump, which makes for a difficult start.
In that sense, though, it's nothing you wouldn't expect of a crossover bookend. The real shame is that the dense exposition leaves little room for each book's strongest elements: "Journey into Mystery's" glorious dialogue, and "New Mutants'" fun character moments. Readers hopping on board with this issue are going to find too little of either and that's a shame.
The loose association between the New Mutants and Marvel's Asgard is a long-running one, but it's also based on that history rather than any thematic similarity. The writing team here attempts to be better than that, and finds a common thread that might connect the story: an all-new character named Zig/Sigurd.
His presence is used to catalyze a radical status quo shift in the final pages and one that will presumably form the basis of the story from this point on. It's ultimately that which has to sell the rest of the crossover, and it is an idea with lots of intriguing potential. It's also vastly out of either book's comfort zone, but then that justifies the confluence of the two.
Artist Carmine Di Giandomenico offers inventive interpretations of the material he's asked to draw, but the thick outlines bury the detail in many panels. It's a dense book in terms of both story and backstory, so it could do with an artist whose work was a little lighter to balance that out. Instead, we spend as much effort struggling to interpret the art as the words, and it's probably a bit too much to handle in one go.
So, a slightly faltering start for the crossover, but not one which readers of either series should be put off by. It's hard to imagine newcomers sticking with it, but fans of either series will find something at once familiar and original and that's enough to mean it deserves a chance.