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Jan 26

Sabretooth & The Exiles #3 annotations

Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2023 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

“Station Three”
Writer: Victor LaValle
Artist: Leonard Kirk
Colourist: Rain Beredo
Letterer: Cory Petit
Design: Tom Muller with Jay Bowen
Editor: Mark Basso

COVER / PAGE 1. Nekra and Sabretooth fight. I assume that red and white swirly background is meant to say “astral plane”, though it’s really more “Jim Steranko”.

PAGE 2. Recap and credits.

PAGE 3. Establishing shot of the astral plane.

Third Eye, as our narrator, describes this version of the astral plane as “the classics”. It’s basically the Ditko Dr Strange version of the astral plane, complete with something in the bottom right that resembles the window from Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum.

PAGE 4. Sabretooth and the Exiles in the astral plane.

In keeping with the general swirliness of the astral plane, the art gives us a breakdown in the passage of time, with a page that’s simultaneously a series of panels and a single static splash page. Everyone appears much as they do on Earth, complete with Nanny and Orphan-Maker in their armour.

“My days as a janitor are done.” Toad was the janitor at the Jean Grey School in Wolverine and the X-Men. He’s unusually assertive in this issue – his basic character trait is that he’s a toady, after all – but there are parts of his back story where he’s tried to set himself up as a leader, so it’s not completely unprecedented.

PAGE 5. The cast discuss how to help Orphan-Maker.

The layout is more conventional here, though we do get a weird background to make up for it. That Sanctum window is visible again in panel three.

Being a scientist, albeit a mad one, Nanny is understandably a bit sceptical about hazy stuff about the astral plane. But to her credit, she seems prepared to accept that this clearly is working, and attempts to figure out why.

PAGE 6. Establishing shot of Station Three.

Station Three is the third Orchis station we’ve seen in this book, although they aren’t actually numbered in sequence – Station Six was the big floating ship from the end of issue #1, and Station Two is the real-world prison that we see elsewhere in this issue. Station One was the Dungeon, the flying prison from the 2021 Juggernaut miniseries.

Station Three is basically depicted here as an oil rig, glaringly at odds with the general vibe of this place. As Third Eye points out, the very existence of a literal physical construct on the astral plane (as opposed to a replica of one, such as the Altar in Legion of X) is bizarre.

PAGE 7. The Creation makes her presence known.

Everyone changes into a more stable physical form when they approach Station Three, but this doesn’t mean that their physical bodies are there – we see them unconscious in Station Two later on.

Creation was in fact shown being brought to the astral plane along with everyone else on the final page of issue #2. What’s she been doing until now? Or maybe it’s just convenient to sideline her while the plot mechanics were figured out.

“But what about Dr Barrington? If she’s still alive, then she’s back there. And she’ll do so much worse than I ever could.” We didn’t see what happened to Barrington last issue, but the Creation accused Orphan-Maker of killing her. He insisted that she wasn’t dead, “[b]ut I took off my helmet and she was standing right in front of me.” Nanny then said that if Barrington was still alive, then “she has, at the very least, been exposed to an unimaginable power set.” So it’s a bit odd that everyone’s now talking as if she might still be a threat, but judging from what we see later in the issue, apparently that’s right, and Creation was just being a bit histrionic.

Third Eye assumes here that he would have to send Creation back to Earth, but later in the issue she does it on her own accord – albeit with Barrington calling her back, and possibly acting as an anchor. Also, by that point Third Eye is openly complaining about the strain of keeping them all on the astral plane, which may make a difference.

PAGE 8. Recap and credits.

PAGE 9. Data page. Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951) wrote horror stories. HP Lovecraft was a big admirer. This particular quote comes from Blackwood’s 1907 novella The Willows.

PAGE 10. Barrington digs herself out of the wreckage.

See, she’s fine. Well, kind of. We don’t see her face on this page, but she’s badly burned when we see her later on.

The guy in shadows is presumably the “GC” mentioned throughout this series, implied to be Sabretooth’s son Graydon Creed.

PAGE 11. Herd and Bab try to figure out the plot.

We saw these two among Station Two’s prisoners last issue. They conclude that the Exiles were sent here to rescue them which is… not exactly true, since their official mission was to get Sabretooth back. On the other hand, it does seem to have been what Destiny had in mind when she sent them.

PAGES 12-13. Melter calms Orphan-Maker.

Orphan-Maker insisted in issue #1 that Melter was the Human Torch. At that point Melter was trying to talk Orphan-Maker out of it, but of course he’s making himself useful here. Curiously, considering he was raised by a supervillain, Orphan-Maker seems to idolise the Torch – though not to the point of being able to remember what he looks like.

PAGES 14-15. Sabretooth and the Toad argue.

Blimey, actual footnotes. The reference to Sabretooth #2 is self-explanatory. House of X #1 refers to Sabretooth and Toad being sent on a mission to recover information about the newly built Orchis Forge; it was Sabretooth’s gratuitous killings of human guards during that mission that led to him becoming the first mutant sentenced to the Pit in the first place.

Toad is remarkably willing to stand up for himself against Sabretooth, a notorious violent lunatic. Maybe he figures Sabretooth isn’t much of a threat on the astral plane, or maybe it’s that he tends to defer to classier leader types like Magneto and finds Sabretooth just too obnoxious to respect.

Toad does have an extensible tongue, but what he does on the astral plane is a vastly exaggerated version of this; presumably none of this is doing any permanent damage since it’s all a projection anyway.

PAGE 16. Splash page: big monster.

Well, that’s unpleasant. We’ll find out at the end of the issue that the guy floating inside this thing is an emaciated version of Sabretooth himself.

PAGE 17. Oya suggests talking to the creature.

And, as we find out later, Victor II does talk back to her. Toad accuses Sabretooth of attracting its attention by being so loud, but maybe he’s just drawn to Sabretooth for the obvious reason.

PAGE 18-19. The imprisoned mutants’ powers return.

Station Two is over a volcano; presumably Bab’s powers don’t have much range, at least when she’s teleporting blind. So leaving the building isn’t an option, and she settles for sending Herd through the wall instead.

Presumably the implant coils only work with some sort of ongoing power source from Station Two, since it’s not obvious what else might cause them to shut down. The other possibility would be that GC does something, but it’s hard to see why he’d do that when he wants to destroy the Station.

Other than Bab and Herd, the escaped prisoners are all generics.

PAGE 20-21. Barrington calls the Creation back to Station Two.

Nanny actually gets some praise for her work on Orphan-Maker’s armour – which, to be fair, is the one thing that everyone seems to agree is a big technical achievement on her part.

Barrington’s comment about “our sacrifices” mirrors the theme of the data pages (specifically, her own memos) about the exploitation of the vulnerable for scientific progress.

PAGE 22. Data page. Unlike the memos in the previous issues, this is written by “GC #299” – presumably Graydon Creed – and addressed to the more senior Feilong. The theme is very similar to Barrington’s memos, though, which suggests that GC was listening to her after all.

This memo is about the history of the Indian Health Services in hiring doctors with alarming records of prior malpractice. This 2019 Wall Street Journal investigation seems to be the source for a lot of the page. It’s not obvious how GC actually proposes to use these doctors; it’s one thing to say that information can be gained from seeing the results of allowing grossly incompetent doctors to practice, and another to suggest that those doctors are interested in actively helping Orchis. Most of these people are just really bad doctors. Of course, a lot depends on what they’re actually being told the job is. Perhaps Barrington is in this category, even if she thinks she’s been hired as a serious scientific researcher.

PAGE 23. Barrington and Creation escape.

We’re going to Station Four for issue #4, then.

Herd’s power is revealed for the first time.

PAGES 24-25. Oya reveals Victor II’s identity.

Nekra is understandably alarmed about what might have happened to Oya in this place, but she’s clearly very protective of Oya even above that.

The second Victor has died, but we still don’t know why Orchis were making dying Sabretooth clones on the astral plane.

PAGE 26. Trailers.

Bring on the comments

  1. Chris V says:

    I never expected to see a quote from Algernon Blackwood in a Marvel comic. He’s one of my favourite writers of horror fiction.

  2. Moonstar Dynasty says:

    This book has by far the most genuinely interesting data pages in recent memory. Really enjoying how Lavalle is illuminating real world instances where women, black, latino, indigenous, and other vulnerable populations were exploited in the name of scientific advancement.

  3. Moonstar Dynasty says:

    Hit submit prematurely on mobile.

    The mutant metaphor, while it has always been imperfect, works a lot better when a book like this actually acknowledges the existence of characters from actual minority populations (outside of Storm). And of course the irony isn’t lost upon me that it’s a writer of color who has most expressly challenged the merits of several controversial aspects of Krakoa–a society mostly run by white people.

    Fingers crossed Lavalle scores an opportunity to write an ongoing in the future.

  4. Michael says:

    “G.C.#299” is a reference to Graydon Creed’s first appearance in Uncanny X-Men 299.

  5. >PAGE 9

    It’s not that surprising to see an Algernon Blackwood reference in this comic simply because LaValle’s background is horror fiction – such as “The Ballad of Black Tom” where he deconstructed Lovecraft.

    Blackwood is still a huge name in classic horror fiction, he’s just not remebered outside the niche.

  6. Evilgus says:

    Really enjoyable series. And I think it’s because it’s doing what’s been the most narratively satisfying thing to come out of the Krakoa era: leaning into the unsettling weirdness, acknowledging past character relationships and bringing D or Z list characters to the foreground and giving them a chance to shine. I mean, Nekra…!!

    There’s so many good unexploited Krakoa hooks we can still dive into. Make more mutants? Could you start to clone yourself to act as surrogate? Do Chimeras count as children if we agree clones have souls?

    Anyway, another great series. Would that the ‘main’ line have a bit more of this.

  7. wwk5d says:

    “Would that the ‘main’ line have a bit more of this.”

    While I am enjoying this mini and the one before it, I still prefer and enjoy both Immortal and Red more.

  8. Uncanny X-Force says:

    I’m in accord with Evilgus.

  9. Mike Loughlin says:

    My main concern for the X-line’s future is that Gillen, Ewing, & LaValle will move on and the next round of Krakoa books will be by lesser writers. I know that this is Marvel so that’s the nature of the business, but I can’t think of writers working in super-hero comics currently who could match what they’re doing.

  10. Nu-D says:

    OT: I’m just getting around to reading X of Swords and the annotations are very helpful. It would be really helpful if I could navigate the crossover with a tag on each related issue.

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