There's more to the universe than we know. There are hundreds, thousands, perhaps infinite versions of reality, each branching off from choices that were made differently, from events that had different outcomes. In one world, a familiar superhero became a world-wrecking dictator. In yet another, the man who we've all known as the champion of superhuman equality instead became the most feared mutant on the planet.
And now... they're breaking.
Each universe going out of balance destabilizes the next, setting up a cascade effect that will certainly end in the destruction of all existence.
Enter the Exiles.
Each Exile is an X-man or a "good guy" mutant in his or her reality. The original team was composed of Mimic, Morph, Magnus, Thunderbird, Nocturne, and the Age of Apocalypse's Blink. They all meet on a desert plain, and the Timebroker appears before them, explaining that the instability in the multiverse has led to all of them suffering a terrible fate — death or worse. To combat this, they've been drafted to fix the various problems in each reality, which will eventually allow them to go home.
Their missions take them across a wide variety of dimensions, some of which are different takes on Marvel Comics' main setting, the Marvel Universe (or Earth-616). In other cases, they visit the nooks and crannies of Marvel's long publishing history, including The New Universe of the 80's, and the 2099 setting (where they even recruit 2099's Spider-Man).
Unlike many popular comics, this series stays surprisingly true to Anyone Can Die. Much more often than not, a character's death is irreversible, and some of the partings are especially moving. At least in the earlier parts of the series, whenever a character would die, he'd get a replacement, one with a similar class of powers (substituting Sasquatch for Thunderbird, for instance). This was balanced by the fact that at least some of the characters got happy endings, either in the form of permanent vacation or being able to go back to their home realities and pick up their lives where they left off.
Later in the comic's run, it was taken over by Chris Claremont. The series was shortly relaunched as "New Exiles," and Claremont kept creative duties until that title's cancellation. The series saw a (unfortunately brief) relaunch in 2009 (in the hands of Jeff Parker) that lasted from April until December of that year, but the series was canceled afterwards. It subsequently got a Spiritual Successor in Greg Pak's X-Treme X-Men.
In 2018, Exiles was relaunched with a new team and concept. Written by Saladin Ahmed (Black Bolt) with art by Javier Rodriguez (Spider-Woman), the series follows the Unseen (a.k.a. the original Nick Fury) leading a team comprised of popular mainstay Blink, Iron Lad, an older version of Kamala Khan from a bad future, the chibi-fied Wolverine from X-Babies, and a version of Valkyrie inspired by Tessa Thompson's portrayal of the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Provides examples of:
- Aborted Arc: Claremont's run on the title had Psylocke being visited by two godlike beings who claimed existence was "on a fast-track to the end". This didn't really come up afterward.
- Adaptational Villainy: Very frequently, the team meets twisted mockeries of people they knew and loved, starting right off the bat with Professor X himself.
- All Your Powers Combined: Mimic. He can copy 5 powersets at a time, each at half of the original's power.
- Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome:
- In the second reality they come to, it's implied that reality's version of Mimic shares much of his history with the team's Mimic, meaning he'd eventually lead the X-Men to unbelievable heights. Or he would have, if half the X-Men hadn't been killed by Jean Grey.
- In a reality ruled by Skrulls since the 1800s, Reed Richards is one of the only free superpowered beings, and is able to reverse-engineer Skrull tech in a few days.
- One Reed Richards realized his reality's version of Iron Man was evil, and planned accordingly.
- In a darker example of this trope, one Mimic copied powers of Professor X and Magneto and became his world's greatest supervillain. Until the team's Mimic convinced him to reform.
- Anyone Can Die: One of the series highlights. In the first arc alone, one of them pulled off a Heroic Sacrifice.
- Even worse for Weapon X, who never have the same line-up twice.
- Appropriated Appellation: The team initially didn't have a name. They took it from a taunt from Jean Grey in their second reality.
- Bald of Evil: When Hyperion returns, this is his look.
- Beard of Evil: The evil Charles Xavier has a beard suiting his behavior.
- Beach Episode: In Exiles #100, "Home is Where the Heart is", Clarice Ferguson was sitting at a beach inside the Crystal Palace and was having flashback of her past memories, and decades of global wars had been stripping everyone of any decent possibility of pleasure. Then the others kicked in when she relaxed.
- Big Bad: First Hyperion, later Proteus. Later, an evil Sue Storm is the main enemy.
- Bittersweet Ending: The Iron Dominion arc. Stark's schemes are foiled, and he's murdered by Sue Richards, but most of the Inhumans are dead, having chosen to die rather than be Stark's slaves. Not to mention that Earth is still very badly messed up from all the other crap Stark pulled.
- Bluffing the Advance Scout: In Exiles #54, the Timebroker sets up an elaborate chain of events that ends with Earth's atmosphere being filled with foul-smelling gases for 72 hours. All because the Timebroker has foreseen that during those 72 hours an alien invasion fleet will arrive, scan the planet, and decide to move on to somewhere with a nicer atmosphere.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Inflicted on Blink, Longshot and Spider-Man 2099 in one of Claremont's stories, by a Hand-Hydra team-up.
- Brainwashing for the Greater Good: One reality has Doctor Doom inflicting this on the entire world. And it's profoundly creepy.
- Break the Cutie: Blink already came with some damage from her nightmarish childhood, but the experiences she goes through during her time away from the team break her.
- Changing of the Guard: Frequently due to the Anyone Can Die nature of the story and other characters completing their arcs.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Mimic versus an alternate version of Steve Rogers in a world ruled by Skrulls. It's a title gladiatorial fight, and it lasts all of five seconds, ending decidedly in Mimic's favor.
- Demonic Possession: One of Proteus' powers lets him hijack and kill Mimic and others before eventually being trapped in Morph.
- Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Thunderbird manages to break Galactus' armor and throw a bomb into him, though that quickly leads into Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu, since John is rendered comatose by the explosion.
- Earth Is The Center Of The Multiverse: The Exiles are tasked to prevent the multiverse from collapsing by fixing problems on alternate Earths. The only time they don't is the one time Earth is already obliterated, and even then the success of their mission restores it as a side benefit.
- Enfant Terrible: The Exiles and Weapon X encounter one in their first-and-only team-up, the son of Rachel Summers and Franklin Richards, who has his mother's powers and absolutely neither of his parents' morals. Their mission is to kill him before he becomes a threat. They don't, and try to Take a Third Option, but it doesn't work.
- Evil Counterpart: Every member of Weapon X is a morally murky version of established characters, like a She-Hulk who works as a leg-breaker, a Peter Parker merged with the Carnage symbiote, or an Iron Man who started a world war.
- Eye Scream: Inflicted on Weapon X's Iron Man by Longshot.
- Fish out of Water:
- Mimic comes from one of the most pleasant realities we ever see, one where superheroes are adored. About the only bad things we know about it are that Jean Grey is (probably) dead, and that Reed Richards abandoned his family in the pursuit of science. All the bleak realities the team visit begin to wear on Mimic after a while.
- Likewise, Blink comes from an utter craphole of a universe, so most of the common Marvel themes and tropes are utterly alien to her. She's made the leader mainly because she has no pre-conceived notions about the realities they visit.
- For Want of a Nail:
- Morph noted that most of the bad realities had the common thread of The Mighty Thor not arriving on Earth.
- The evil Mimic the team encounters learns the only difference between he and the Exiles Mimic, which he had assumed had a pampered life to turn out so noble, is that he chose to accept Xavier's offer. This inspires his Heel–Face Turn.
- One mission involves them averting an invasion by a Deathbird lead Shi'ar by inadvertently making Earth look unappealingly polluted from buying the last danish at a bakery.
- Future Slang: Marvel 2099 shows up, ridiculous slang and all.
- The Heart: Beak is recruited on the team for his capacity to make friends, which makes him the center that ties the group together and brings them new allies like two Hyperions to take out an evil Hyperion.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Technically seeing as how Sunfire is not heterosexual, but she and Morph were totally platonically in love with each other and nigh-inseperable.
- Hijacking Cthulhu: In the 2018 series, Kang is the Big Bad as the Time-Eater, a being capable of consuming whole timelines, by cannibalizing power from Galactus, probably multiple parallel versions.
- Hybrid Power: Magnus, an alternate son of Magneto and Rogue, has a distinctive combination of his parents' power: he has the power of magnetism from his father, and a variation of his mother's deadly touch; in this case, skin-to-skin contact will cause the victim to turn to pure metal.
- I Choose to Stay: Morph actually got the chance to go back to his own reality, but wanted to stay behind to help the team.
- Insistent Terminology: Curt Connors would like to remind you that they are fighting Kaiju, not 'giant monsters'.
- In Spite of a Nail: In the Skrull-dominated reality, despite Earth having been ruled since the 1800s, almost all the normal Marvel heroes are still there.
- Interrupted Cooldown Hug: Thunderbird and his alternate-reality counterpart very nearly talk a rampaging Hulk down. Then Deadpool shoots the big guy in the head.
- Kill 'em All: The only consistent teammates are Blink and Morph, the rest are either put on a bus or killed off.
- Killer Robot:
- Everyone hates Sentinels.
- Weapon X's iteration of Vision has no compunctions about murdering children.
- Kill It with Fire: Mimic's solution to a murderous version of Namor. He was in a bad mood that day.
- Kudzu Plot: The cause being the premature ending of the New Exiles series.
- Manipulative Bastard: A version of Iron Man, who arranged wars, diseases and disasters that ravaged his world just so that he could be in charge.
- Mission Control: Exiles always has one of these in their ranks. The first one was the Timebroker, then Dr. Heather Hudson, and then Cat Pryde. The Reboot of the series has Morph playing this role.
- Mission Control is Off Its Meds: After a while, the Timebroker begins getting increasingly hostile and irrational towards the team, culminating in his forcing Holocaust onto the team. It isn't until they find the Crystal Palace that they learn why: He's a hologram being dictated by King Hyperion.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
- In their first reality, the team accidentally set free that Earth's greatest villain, and he proceeds to fry the minds of an entire cities' worth of people.
- In the second, their refusal to immediately kill Jean Grey results in the deaths of Cyclops, Storm, Angel and Wolverine.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: The Skrulls of one Earth run away when Galactus comes looking for dinner... leaving a planet filled with superhumans trained in how to fight. Terrax the Slayer in particular learns just how well they can fight.
- No Holds Barred Beat Down: An alternate of Namor inflicts one on Mimic, who returns the favor moments later.
- Noodle Incident: The week spent with the Moose Men. The narration says not to ask. From what we can see, it was incredibly boring.
- In issue #4, a version of Nightcrawler tries teleporting multiple times to disable Nocturne, who's more than used to the effects, what with being his daughter.
- In issue #5, Blink tries to teleport the Hulk. It doesn't work.
- Not His Sled: In their second mission, the team arrives at the Trial of the Phoenix and assume that Jean Grey has just been replaced by the Phoenix. She hasn't, which becomes a problem when they're told their mission is to kill her.
- Nuke 'em: One version of Iron Man killed his reality's Hulk with a really big gamma bomb. Problem was, Simon Williams was standing next to him, and absorbed some of the energy, and... well...
- Oh, Crap!:
Morph: (In the shape of a chicken) "HULK! IT'S THE &%*@#$ HULK! RUN! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!"
- The team arrives in the middle of Canada, with no idea why they're there. Cue The Incredible Hulk.
- In another reality, the Skrulls have this when they see Terrax is approaching Earth. They instantly abandon the planet.
- Everyone's reaction to finding themselves in Mojoworld.
- Hyperion has this reaction after he's beaten everyone and is gloating over his victory...until Beak comes back through the portal with two Hyperions from alternate realities. They explain that Beak is now their new best friend, and he's told them there's an ass that needs kicking.
- Opposites Attract: Mimic comes from a near-utopian reality. Blink comes from the Age of Apocalypse. Their experiences could not be much more different, and yet they fall in love.
- People Puppets: Nocturne can possess people for up to twenty-four hours, but it leaves their minds scrambled afterward.
- Power Perversion Potential: Morph occasionally offers the ladies to transform into the shape of any man they'd like to have sex with, and it becomes sort of a running gag for him to offer Sunfire to turn into one of the other marvel superheroines.
- Put on a Bus: Blink, Nocturne, Sasquatch, Spider-Man and Thunderbird all left the team towards the end of the first series to settle down either for a vacation or for good.
- Race Lift: Sasquatch, normally a white guy, is in this series a black woman.
- Rage Breaking Point: One bad reality too many makes Mimic snap, and beat an alternate Namor to death.
- Reality Warper: Proteus and the alternate-universe Impossible Man.
- Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?: An early story has a running gag where the Exiles and Alpha Flight, while fighting the Hulk, joke about how The Invisible Woman beat him once and never shuts up about it.
- Retcon: The crystal palace, according to Jeff Parker, is an evolved, sentient Kang the Conqueror.
- The Reveal: When Blink returns to the team, she doesn't act like she used to, being more nervous and withdrawn. It's not until she returns to the world the team left Sabretooth on that she tells Cal what happened. David Richards took control of her and made her graphically murder the people behind the Sentinels with his powers.
- Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: An entire planet's worth of Skrulls up and abandon the Earth they've ruled for a hundred years the minute they see Galactus coming.
- Send in the Clones:
- One storyline featured the use of an army of alternate reality Wolverines to deal with an alternate reality Wolverine.
- The Annual in which the Exiles find out about an alternate reality team of Exiles.
- How do you defeat an evil Hyperion? Why you send two good Hyperions to fight him of course!
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The team is sent to various realities to fix incidents which will cause damage to spread throughout The Multiverse.
- Split-Personality Merge: Morph and Proteus actually come to terms with being in each other's body and mind, respectively in Claremont's New Exiles Annual.
- Straight Gay: Exiles Beast, who was actually in a relationship with his 'verse's Wonder Man. Really it was just taking the Ho Yay from their 616 counterparts to its logical conclusion.
- Storyboarding the Apocalypse: When the team refuse to take part in a mission, the Tallus shows them exactly what will happen, making them feel every second of it.
- The Multiverse: Over the course of the series, the Exiles have visited or had members from Earth-616 (the mainstream Marvel universe), the Age of Apocalypse timeline, Earth-2099, the Mojoverse, and a whole lot of previously unknown ones.
- Tempting Fate: Terrax announces there is no mortal mightier than he. Cue the strongest one there is.
- Token Evil Teammate: Magik is this to the Exiles.
- Token Good Teammate: While Sabretooth, and then Colossus, are this to Weapon X.
- Touch of Death: One of Magnus' powers turns anyone he touches into metal.
- Wolverine Publicity: One notorious storyline took this to the next level with the team replaced by an entire group of Wolverines who are tasked with stopping an evil alternate Wolverine. Yes. Of course, the whole point was that Wolverine (no matter how many of him there are) isn't a suitable replacement for a well-balanced team. The Exiles are quickly called back into service.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Issue #1 has a big honking moment of this. The team are told to "find the one who would lead you", which all of them (save Blink) assume means Professor Xavier. They bust him out... and he turns out to be a villain. It's this exact reason Mimic puts Blink in charge.
- You Have Gotto Be Kidding Me: Say word-for-word by Blink when Sabertooth reveal the Weapon X's imagine of the Timebroker hologram: a beautiful woman.
- You Should Have Died Instead: When Mariko is killed as a result of a Brood-infested Mimic's rampage, Morph calls him out, stating "It should have been you!"