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Friday, March 28, 2014

X-amining Excalibur Special Edition #1

"The Sword is Drawn"
1987

In a Nutshell 
The return of Phoenix and the first appearance of Excalibur. 

Author: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Alan Davis
Inker: Paul Neary w/Mark Farmer
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
On Muir Isle, Kitty awakens from a dream in which the X-Men are still alive but slaves of Mojo, trying to capture Phoenix for him. Elsewhere, Meggan finds Captain Britain drunk and despondent after the death of his sister Psylocke, and she leaves to find him help. On Muir Isle, Kitty and Nightcrawler realize they both had the same dream. They are interrupted by the arrival of Gatecrasher and Technet, interdimensional bounty hunters seeking Phoenix, followed shortly by Meggan. A fight breaks out, and Technet manages to capture Meggan and Kitty while Nightcrawler escapes. Meanwhile, Rachel Summers, Phoenix, escapes from Mojoworld and arrives in London, pursued by the Warwolves. Elsewhere, Nightcrawler seeks out Captain Britain, but finds him still a drunken wretch and leaves, admonishing him, In London, Phoenix is captured by Technet, prompting a scuffle between the Warwolves and the bounty hunters.


Nightcrawler, having located Phoenix using a portable Cerebro, arrives on the scene, and manages to free Kitty and Meggan, but is overwhelmed by Gatecrasher. Suddenly, Captain Britain, having taken Nightcrawler's words to heart, arrives and joins the fray, saving Nightcrawler. Together, the five heroes are able to fight off the two groups, who eventually flee. Kitty and Nightcrawler are overjoyed to be reunited with Rachel. Another night later, the five heroes gather once more and reminisce about the X-Men. Rachel isn't willing to leave things at that, though, and proposes that the five remain together and continue to fight for Professor Xavier's dream. Recalling the legend of King Arthur and citing Excalibur as a symbol of hope for a better world, the five take it as their name, agreeing to fight for the dream.  

Firsts and Other Notables
This marks the first appearance of Excalibur, a team initially comprised of Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, Phoenix, Captain Britain and Meggan, formed when Phoenix returns to our reality from Mojoworld, and the other four help her evade capture by both the Warwolves and Technet. After that adventure, the five decide to stay together and fill the void left by the X-Men and continue to fight for Xavier's dream.


After this one-shot, Excalibur will receive its own ongoing series, which launches a few months after this issue hit the stands. I believe the plan was always to start an Excalibur ongoing, and their initial appearance was just bumped up to a one-shot.   

This issue is a prestige format square bound one-shot, printed on glossy paper and original costing $3.25. Per the GCD, It was published twice, in December of '87 and April of '88. I've seen it referred to alternately as "Excalibur Special Edition" and "Excalibur: The Sword is Drawn". Though Marvel uses the latter on their website, I'm sticking with the former, which is how I knew it growing up.

Rachel Summers returns, following her disappearance during the events of Uncanny X-Men #209. She first appears in this issue in Mojoworld, and a planned Phoenix limited series would have bridged the gap between this issue and #209, showing what happened to her in Mojoworld, but it was ultimately scuttled. She debuts a new costume, more or less just a red variation of her hound uniform from her future timeline, and it will remain her default look for a good chunk of her time in Excalibur.


This is the first appearance of the Warwolves, animal-like agents sent by Mojo to retrieve the escaped Rachel. They all have silvery smooth skin and claws, and have the ability to drain their victims life essence and wear the remaining skin, altering their shape to resemble the person. They will continue to bedevil Excalibur moving forward.


In addition to Captain Britain and his girlfriend Meggan, who made appearances previously in New Mutants Annual #2 and X-Men Annual #11, Claremont also uses this issue to introduce X-Men readers to some other staples of Captain Britain's UK series, including Opal Luna Satunyne, the guardian of the Omniverse (who is an alternate reality version of Captain Britain's former girlfriend Courtney Ross) and an agent of Roma, and her agents, Gatecrasher and Technet, a group of extradimensional alien bounty hunters, all of whom will be regular Excalibur antagonists moving forward (Gatecrasher and Technet have appeared before, but this is the first appearance of specific members Bodybag, China Doll, Joyboy and Waxworks).


Future Excalibur member Widget appears on the back cover of this issue, but does not appear in the story itself. 

For a fantastic overview of Captain Britain's pre-Excalibur history, I recommend you check out frequent commentor Matt's posts on the subject.

A Work in Progress
It's confirmed that in the wake of "Mutant Massacre" and being healed by Reed Richards and Dr. Doom in Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men, Kitty's natural state is now phased, and she must concentrate to become solid. How she sleeps, I have no idea.


Similarly, Nightcrawler, having only recently awoken from his coma, experiences pain when he teleports.


Captain Britain asks Nightcrawler what he knows of death, a reference to Captain Britain's death at the hands of the Fury and his resurrection by Merlin in his solo series.


Throughout the issue there are several visual references to Excalibur and Arthurian mythology, as when Rachel looks in this store window.


Kitty and Nightcrawler's fireside stories are from X-Men #141 and the backup story in Classic X-Men #4.

 
It seems likely that the name "Excalibur" was given to the team because it has an "X" in the name and has ties to Great Britain, but Claremont tries to sell the in-universe connection in this issue's closing pages.


Claremontisms
Rachel notes that you can always tell where the X-Men have been by the damage they cause.


Rachel Summers, Crybaby
It's revealed that Rachel's memories are jumbled up as a result of her time in Mojoworld - the end result thankfully means a less prone-to-burst-into-tears-at-any-mention-of-her-future-timeline Rachel moving forward.


Human/Mutant Relations
Riding the subway, Rachel is able to telepathically detect that the other riders are scared of her.


Teebore's Take
Excalibur, as we'll see, began mostly to serve as a vehicle for Claremont's sense of whimsy, a place for him to have some fun with some old favorites detached from the ongoing (and darker) narrative he was spinning in X-Men. This issue, however, is mostly concerned with setting the stage for the later series, rescuing Rachel from the inadvertent storytelling limbo into which he'd dropped the character after X-Men #209 while using the televised death of the X-Men as the spark to bring together distaff X-Men Kitty and Nightcrawler with Captain Britain, Meggan, and a heaping helping of Cap's mythology. 

To that end, the issue works quite well: we get a sense of each character, for any new readers or readers unfamiliar with one element or another, a reason for the existence of the team (*we* know the X-Men are still out there doing their thing, but the characters don't), and a pair of possible recurring foes in the Warwolves and Technet. Of course, the real standout here is the gorgeous Davis and Neary art, which especially pops on the higher quality prestige format paper. Claremont gives Davis plenty of strange and  exciting things to draw, but Davis makes even straightforward dialogue scenes pop. As a result, the entire issue is filled with an energy that helps elevate the somewhat perfunctory "assemble the team" plot. 

Next Issue
A Dazzler fill-in story in Uncanny X-Men #228 followed by a Magma fill-in in New Mutants #62, while X-Factor celebrates Christmas in X-Factor #27.

41 comments:

  1. How are you going to fit Excalibur and the upcoming Wolverine ongoing series into your weekly schedule -- especially with Uncanny about to start intermittent twice-monthly publications?

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  2. @Michael: How are you going to fit Excalibur and the upcoming Wolverine ongoing series into your weekly schedule

    At least through "Inferno" (which is as far out as I have it specifically mapped at this point), the plan is to alternate weeks between New Mutants, X-Factor, Excalibur and Wolverine, with an issue of Uncanny every week (when it's bi-weekly) or some ancillary issue (like a Marvel Comics Presents serial or an annual) on the weeks when Uncanny returns to monthly.

    You can see the tentative schedule here. I may tweak some things between now and then (I haven't decided which two spinoffs I want to cover in a given week yet), but that should hold up pretty well.

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  3. First -- Thanks, as always, for the plug!

    Second -- Are Paul Farmer and Mark Farmer related? ;-)

    Third -- I still hate Rachel's rat-tail, and I'm not a huge fan of this costume for her, though I like it better than the Romita outfit, at least. Fortunately, Davis does away with the former issue soon enough, evolving the rat-tail into a fe-mullet -- which, while still pretty bad, is infinitely better than the existing alternative. And of course much later, he finally hits on the no-brainer idea of putting Rachel in the original Phoenix costume, solving that problem as well.

    As for this story, it feels like the pilot episode for a TV series, in a way. And as with many pilots, I like it, though I think it's not as good as the actual early "episodes" (issues) of the ongoing series -- though we'll get there soon enough. But in general, this story doesn't really feel grand enough to warrant a bookshelf edition graphic novel. Even with Mojo/the Warwolves and the Technet all involved, the action feels small.

    Some of my favorite bits from the story include the X-Men's "off camera" personas in the opening scene, Nightcrawler dressed like an old-timey fisherman, Captain Britain's very real grief at the death of his sister and his subsequent arrival to join the battle, the appearances by the various Captain Britain supporting cast members, and... JOYBOY -- Possibly the greatest ever Claremont/Davis co-creation.

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  4. I wonder if they'd get away with that Camelot 3000 nod in a modern book, given all the bad blood between the Big Two these days.

    Anyway, I love this issue. It actually got me back into comics during college; I picked it up because Alan Davis' art was so clean and expressive, and I just kept buying back issues I'd missed as a kid. This special isn't quite as comedic as the ongoing will get, and there is a lot of successful drama from the characters' grief & reunuions, but you can see the... I guess quirkiness is the right word to define the series' feel. It made me wonder just how offbeat Marvel UK books could get.

    Also, Matt, allow me to join you in hating Rachel's rattail. Either give her short hair or a French braid - splitting the difference never looks good.

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  5. Second -- Are Paul Farmer and Mark Farmer related? ;-)

    Pretty sure he meant Paul NEARY. ;-)

    Also, are you sure Joe Rosen lettered this? The lettering looks just like Tom Orzechowski's style.

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  6. "and it will remain her default look for a good chunk of her time in Excalibur."

    Yup. It's not until the solo Davis run that she changes her look.

    "How she sleeps, I have no idea."

    How she speaks when she isn't concentrating enough to be solid, I have no idea either.

    "It's revealed that Rachel's memories are jumbled up as a result of her time in Mojoworld - the end result thankfully means a less prone-to-burst-into-tears-at-any-mention-of-her-future-timeline Rachel moving forward."

    Yeah, Rachel becomes a somewhat stronger character during this run. I wonder if CC always had it planned as part of her character growth, or something he adjusted to after less than positive fan reaction to her at the time?

    "Riding the subway, Rachel is able to telepathically detect that the other riders are scared of her."

    Post FOTM, shouldn't people be a bit less scared of mutants at this point?

    Overall, a good start to the series. And as you said, it's got Alan Davis on art, and he can make just about anything look great.

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  7. @Matt: As for this story, it feels like the pilot episode for a TV series, in a way.

    That's a really good way of describing the feeling of this issue - it's mostly concerned with putting the characters in place for their series, like a pilot, but the real meat of the story won't come until after this issue, just like a pilot.

    It's not bad, and its necessary, but it's tough to get too excited about it.

    @Mela: Also, Matt, allow me to join you in hating Rachel's rattail. Either give her short hair or a French braid - splitting the difference never looks good.


    I'll join you and Matt in decrying Rachel's rat tail. I'll even take the fe-mullet over that.

    @Cerebro: Pretty sure he meant Paul NEARY.

    I did; I corrected it. :)

    Also, are you sure Joe Rosen lettered this? The lettering looks just like Tom Orzechowski's style.

    It is Orzechowski - apparently I never updated the lettering and coloring credits from my X-Factor template. I corrected that as well.

    @wwk5d: How she speaks when she isn't concentrating enough to be solid, I have no idea either.

    Hmm...can she speak when she's phased? She shouldn't be able to, but I can't think of any cases offhand that either prove or disprove that.

    Post FOTM, shouldn't people be a bit less scared of mutants at this point?

    Europe is always slower to adopt American cultural trends. ;)

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  8. @wwk5d: Post FOTM, shouldn't people be a bit less scared of mutants at this point?

    After they just recently did terrorist attacks in Paris and wrecked Edinburgh the good people of London have every right to be scared. Some may even have haunting vague memories of the time Mad Jim Jaspers turned England into fascist hellhole... all flashing back now due to all the characters of the storyline suddenly surfacing again. ;)

    There was talk on the other post of Ann Nocenti emulating Alan Moore, but I really think we are in the core here now that CC brings a Days of the Future Past character into the world of DotFP inspired Moore storyline of a character originally created by CC/Byrne. All drawn by Alan Davis.

    Funny when you think about it, but CC essentially swapped Rachel and Betsy between the X-Men/CaptBrit worlds.

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  9. "Hmm...can she speak when she's phased? She shouldn't be able to, but I can't think of any cases offhand that either prove or disprove that."

    She really shouldn't be able to, and i think the few times where she is shown doing so tends to be more artistic mistakes than anything else.

    "After they just recently did terrorist attacks in Paris and wrecked Edinburgh the good people of London have every right to be scared. Some may even have haunting vague memories of the time Mad Jim Jaspers turned England into fascist hellhole... all flashing back now due to all the characters of the storyline suddenly surfacing again."

    True, but between X-Factor saving NYC rather publicly, and the X-men saving the entire universe publicly, I always thought the X-universe was supposed to be turning over a new page after FOTM...of course, in a few years things turn back to normal anyway, but the public should have been a bit less scared of mutants at this point. But as people said, Europe isn't the US ;)

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  10. Goddamn, do I love Alan Davis. You know how Bill Simmons always jokes about LeBron James being the prototypical perfect basketball player? That's how I feel about Davis as a superhero artist.

    Its like some megacomputer took the facial expressions and mastery of humor of Kevin Maguire, the attractive form, proportions and movement of Gil Kane and Neal Adams, the effortless attention to detail for the panel to panel storytelling and pacing of Dave Gibbons, with the mastery of dynamic action sequences of John Byrne, hit the "mix" button, *computer sounds here*, out comes Alan Davis.

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  11. Uuuh I hate you guys with your "Europe not US winkysmiley" posts. Just one little fling with David Hasselhoff and you'll never live it of.

    Let me just remind you he was goddamn Nick Fury before Samuel L. Jackson was.

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  12. Michael Knight >> jedi knight

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  13. I mean really. When the Beyonder came to Earth, he copied for himself bodies of two perfect human beings. The other was Steve Rogers, and the other...

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  14. @wwk5d: True, but between X-Factor saving NYC rather publicly, and the X-men saving the entire universe publicly, I always thought the X-universe was supposed to be turning over a new page after FOTM

    Alas, I fear soon enough after the parade hangover clears out people will start thinking that They use sensitive nerve gases to induce hallucinations. People think they're seeing apocalyptic beings! And they call these bozos, who conveniently show up to deal with the problem with a fake electronic light show!

    I rather feel the Euros were on to it tremendously fast this time. I mean, wasn't that like the total modus operandi of the X-Factor up to now? Someone was already asking if the people are just going to let the go free for it. Of course they aren't!

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  15. "Opal Luna Satunyne, the guardian of the Omniverse (who is an alternate reality version of Captain Britain's former girlfriend Courtney Ross)"

    SPOILERS! :)

    (The Courtney/Saturnyne connection isn't a thing until the first few issues of Excalibur, still to come. It was never a thing in the Captain Britain solo strips -- in fact Courtney faded out of those pretty early on, as I recall. By the time Saturnyne showed up, Ross was out of the picture entirely ... until Claremont brings her back in a few months from this issue.)

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  16. "There was talk on the other post of Ann Nocenti emulating Alan Moore, but I really think we are in the core here now that CC brings a Days of the Future Past character into the world of DotFP inspired Moore storyline of a character originally created by CC/Byrne. All drawn by Alan Davis."

    There's kind of a feedback loop at this point, since DoFP inspired the Fury/Jaspers stuff in Captain Britain, and the Captain UK character in those stories definitely influenced Claremont's characterization of Rachel when he brought her in as an actual character (rather than the plot device she was in DoFP). So putting Rachel into this milieu creates some kind of critical mass of Alan Moore/Chris Claremont cross-influence.

    (Alan Davis eventually did some issues where Linda "Captain UK" McQuillan returned, but -- probably wisely -- never had any scenes directly between Rachel and Linda. That would've been weird.)

    "Its like some megacomputer ... out comes Alan Davis."

    Also he draws really pretty ladies. I'm not saying I would ever have a crush on a comic-book character -- I mean, that would be weird -- but if I did, Alan Davis' Meggan would be the top candidate.

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  17. @Jason: There's kind of a feedback loop at this point, since DoFP inspired the Fury/Jaspers stuff in Captain Britain

    I love the panel where Moore acknowledges this by having Sebastian Shaw and H.P.Gyrich make a cameo just when Jaspers' reality-alternating powers first light up in 616 universe. Sebastian Shaw's name and looks being originally (and always, naturally) also an acknowledgement for where the inspiration for his character was drawn really makes on fearful of how things would have gone had the producers nixed the somewhat risque Avengers episode back in the day.

    I wonder how much there was CC/Byrne Proteus saga behind Jaspers, with daddy McTaggart having been a British MP and his son a reality-altering mutant...

    the Captain UK character in those stories definitely influenced Claremont's characterization of Rachel when he brought her in as an actual character (rather than the plot device she was in DoFP).

    Nonsense. She could have jumped into alternate universe of the comic book's protagonists' from a totalitarian world with a killer robot targeting superpowered people coming after her on all by her own. *poker face* With a short red hair.

    Which put Moore declining to allow Chris use his Sentin... I mean Fury in peculiar light. Though it may have been a good call of him to whistle it down at this point and make Chris go to other direction. And have his protagonists resurrected by Roma, because Chris.

    So putting Rachel into this milieu creates some kind of critical mass of Alan Moore/Chris Claremont cross-influence.

    And yet everyone complains about Rachel! Isn't that like the stuff our dreams should be made of. I'm beginning to think that Mr. Sinister really is a boy child, and it's only the temporal disturbances and his boyish gender bias that puts him off to sidelines targeting young Nathan instead.

    I mean really. Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past jumbled together by Alan freaking Moore!

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  18. Since we're all picking the credits apart, I think I should also mention that Bob Harras didn't edit this issue -- it was Ann Nocenti. Looks like another carry-over from the X-Factor template.

    Jason -- "Also he draws really pretty ladies. I'm not saying I would ever have a crush on a comic-book character -- I mean, that would be weird -- but if I did, Alan Davis' Meggan would be the top candidate."

    I like Meggan, though strictly in terms of visual appearance, Saturnyne is my favorite Davis female. But just in general, Davis has this amazing ability to be a fantastic cheesecake artist without it overpowering the other aspects of his work, which is a skill far too few artists have mastered. I guess he doesn't have to rely on pin-ups because he's so good at everything else, so the attractive ladies are just a bonus.

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  19. Excalibur is such a refreshing change of pace at this period in the X-books. Between the cast, the humor and Davis's really bright, poppy, gorgeous art, the book is a really necessary counterpoint to the darker tone of Uncanny, etc.

    It's too bad that the book never completely finds its footing, at least until the Davis solo run. It really struggles to establish a real, ongoing story (you know you're in trouble when Arcade shows up within the first ten issues) and then the Cross Time Caper comes along and completely derails everything.

    Still, whenever Davis is on Excalibur-- even when the stories aren't totally clicking-- it just has an energy and buoyancy to it that's pretty irresistible.

    And yes, Davis has a knack for hot women, but he also draws very hot men. I've always appreciated-- for the sake of gender equity of course!-- that he's a notable artist who makes a point of filling out his male heroes' packages. And I love those green drawstring pajama bottoms he always has Brian running around in. Very hunky.

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  20. @Matt: I like Meggan, though strictly in terms of visual appearance, Saturnyne is my favorite Davis female.

    British Betsy Braddock here.

    Other than that, comparing Davis to Silvestri of the darker Uncanny of the same era, to me Davis' style feels warm and soft whereas Silvestri is cold and hard. High class art, both, of course.

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  21. Meggan was my favorite Davis-drawn lady as well, but Cerise was a close second. To me, Davis is the all-time champ at drawing Nightcrawler.

    Yes, "The Sword is Drawn" (that's how I know the Special Edition) is a pilot, but between the gorgeous art and near-constant action, it's a realy good one. It's funny that some of the plot threads introduced here won't be addressed or resolved until issues 42-55.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  22. Mike -- I forgot about Cerise, which is surprising because she's far and away my favorite of the Davis-creataed characters from his second run. On the one hand I feel like it's a shame that they were all written out immediately after Davis left, but on the other hand it's probably for the best as someone would've inevitably done something stupid with them. Cerise got pretty close to that fate anyway, when she was randomly revealed as a Shi'ar, which went totally against everything Davis had stated about her up to that point.

    While I don't dislike Davis's nightcrawler -- and I love the subtle change he made to his gloves and boots, turning that "U" shape into sort of a circle instead -- I tend to believe Cockrum is the best Nightcrawler artist. You can pretty see just by looking at pretty much any page how much he loved to draw the character.

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  23. "(you know you're in trouble when Arcade shows up within the first ten issues)"

    If only they'd saved Arcade for #11, Excalibur would still be going strong today and about to celebrate its 600th issue!

    "To me, Davis is the all-time champ at drawing Nightcrawler."

    Same here.


    "I've always appreciated-- for the sake of gender equity of course!-- that he's a notable artist who makes a point of filling out his male heroes' packages."

    Corollary to the above, I remember being on a forum where people were talking about how "sexy" Davis' Nightcrawler was ... which is cool! But it surprised me, what with the ears and tail and such. (But I guess come to think of it, Meggan has pointy ears too, doesn't she.)

    Anyway, I do find it comforting when I see people talking about the hotness of a male superhero. Equality is cool.

    "I wonder how much there was CC/Byrne Proteus saga behind Jaspers"

    I've long assumed that there was lots.

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  24. Arcade did show up in Jaspers' Warp too, so it's only appropriate that CC appropriates him too alongside the other Moore-era Captain Britain cast. And makes one question what part of the classic Claremont/Byrne X-Men Moore didn't appropriate. Moses Magnum?

    I'm also sure I don't have to remind anyone here that Arcade premiered in Marvel Team-Up #65-66, which were guest-starred by our captain who also was Arcade's specific target in the story. Spidey tagged along only because he was sleeping with Brian at the time.

    A case could be made that Arcade belongs foremostly to Captain Britain's personal rogues gallery being used also by Moore, and the business with X-Men is only due to Claremont having shine on the character.

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  25. Teemu,

    I tend to think Arcade belongs more to Claremont's "personal stash" of characters, along with Kitty Pryde, Sage, Magneto (who he didn't create but rebuilt and redefined), the Shi'Ar, and others. Other writers use them, but they really belong to Claremont. Kind of how Richard Rory, Man-Thing, Shanna the She-Devil, the original Guardians of the Galaxy, Foolkiller, Howard the Duck & Bev, etc. were Steve Gerber's even if he didn't create them all.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  26. "I tend to think Arcade belongs more to Claremont's "personal stash" of characters ..."

    Sounds about right to me, though I think there is something to be said for using him early on in Excalibur. The series was about linking Captain Britain's mythology with the X-Men's, and Arcade is -- at that time -- the only villain who has one foot equally in both. Plus it pays off that Alan Moore subplot page that Teemu mentioned, where Arcade kind of makes noises about having a rematch with Brian (but never gets around to it in any of those British Cap strips).

    There was also some corporate synergy at work there ... The two Arcade issues of Excalibur were published concurrently with the two issues of Classic X-Men that reprinted X-Men 123 and 124 (the original X-Men vs. Arcade two-parter). That had to have been deliberate.

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  27. I actually like the upcoming Arcade 2-parter. There are only three Arcade stories I realy enjoy: the first appearance by Claremont & Byrne (a generally fun story even if it relies on some hefty coincidences to work), the first encounter with the X-Men by Claremont & Byrne (character was still novel and not yet played out), and the first encounter with Excalibur by Claremont & Davis (Courtney Ross dressed as a Playboy bunny). I think part of the reason I like these three over all others is that, with the exception of Captain Britain involved twice, he's dealing with different heroes every time.

    Much mockery is made of Arcade around here and just generally around the internet, pretty much all of it based on the fact that he never kills anyone on-panel. But the guy is a known assassin when we first meet him, and even in his upcoming Excalibur appearance, we see him taking out a normal guy in Euro-Murderworld. I believe Arcade probably has a pretty high success rate when it comes to killing non-powered human beings, but we never see those stories. It's just when he gets cocky and goes after superheroes that we get to see him in action, so to speak, and the nature of those encounters mean he's pretty well destined to lose in the end.

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  28. What Jason mentions isn't the only time a Classic X-Men issue coincides with a current X-issue... they did publish the Classic in the original order though, didn't they?

    But, a dedicated Arcade Villain Month, that's something not even Doom can boast with. Is there no end to these affronts on Doom's personage!?

    About Arcade's ineffectiveness, what can one expect really when he takes on the heroes in their own book? That's ballsy that is, and he always gives them run for their money. Off-panel he catches all the supporting characters he needs to regardless of what sort of witch powers or samurai skills they have and could kill them just like that if only they were who he was currently targeting.

    And the sound his garbage trucks makes when catching his victims is the fourth most recognizable Marvel sound after 'snikt', 'bamf' and 'twip'.

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  29. Okay, fair enough! I actually don't hate Arcade that much, and I feel like the upcoming Arcade issues are indeed him at his best. (Pairing him with the Crazy Gang makes a lot of sense)

    I guess my problem is that these early issues of Excalibur have so much promise and they waste so much time dicking around with no particular direction. Arcade-- even the good version of Arcade-- almost always feels inconsequential and tossed off to me. He's someone you use as a lark when an established series needs a change of pace, not someone you use when you're trying to lay the tracks for a new series.

    I actually LOVE Excalibur. Alan Davis + Kitty/Nightcrawler + Captain Britain mythos is basically a no-fail combo for me. It just seems like Claremont never really figured out what he wanted to do with the series, and that's a shame.

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  30. (I'll add that my first-ever comics were the Doom/Arcade issues reprinted in Classic X-Men, and while that arc gets slammed a lot, it was a fairly perfect entry point for a new reader. I was hooked immediately and as a result have a lot of affection for Arcade. I just wish the real estate in Excalibur had been allotted more carefully.)

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  31. "I actually LOVE Excalibur. Alan Davis + Kitty/Nightcrawler + Captain Britain mythos is basically a no-fail combo for me. It just seems like Claremont never really figured out what he wanted to do with the series, and that's a shame."

    Yeah, like you said, the Cross-Time Caper was the total derailment. The weird thing is that Claremont obviously had some ideas ... he was introducing storylines galore in every issue. (Remember just before Cross-Time, when Moira is coming on the train to give important news to Excalibur about Phoenix? Just totally dropped ... and unlike a lot of other plotlines, that one never got picked up later by Davis or others, as far as I remember.)

    Ultimately I know Claremont is to blame for dropping his own threads, but in my head I have a bit of blame for Terry Kavanagh as the editor. I know Claremont hated the firm editorial hand of Harras, but if Kavanagh is any indication, the alternative apparently led to pure unadulterated chaos.

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  32. "But, a dedicated Arcade Villain Month, that's something not even Doom can boast with"

    I don't know about that. He did appear in Dazzler at the same time that X-Men 145-147 came out.

    "What Jason mentions isn't the only time a Classic X-Men issue coincides with a current X-issue..."

    What examples are you thinking of? Off the top of my head, I can remember two others: The Juggernaut-riffic 217 and 218 coinciding with the Classic reprints of the Cassidy Keep issues, and New Mutants 48 (featuring the Sentinels) coinciding with the reprints of the Stephen Lang arc. Any more that I'm missing?

    "they did publish the Classic in the original order though, didn't they?"

    Why wouldn't they?

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  33. @Jason: I don't know about that. He did appear in Dazzler at the same time that X-Men 145-147 came out.

    Ah. Would it be a cheap shot to claim that it was a Doombot in the X-Men? Non-combat unit A 76, to be precise. ;) And I bet the one on Dazzler was too.

    Ok, it's a fair cop. My contrivances for making a cheap Arcade/Doom pun crashed and burned. No body was found in the wreckage, though.

    What examples are you thinking of? Off the top of my head, I can remember two others: The Juggernaut-riffic 217 and 218 coinciding with the Classic reprints of the Cassidy Keep issues, and New Mutants 48 (featuring the Sentinels) coinciding with the reprints of the Stephen Lang arc. Any more that I'm missing?

    I was mainly thinking those ones and I believe based on your (or someone's) mentioning them sometime somewhere. But, if they did publish Classic on strictly monthly schedule and in proper order they would have needed good luck with plenty of beforehand planning to get the timings match with current stories and Classic. Unless of course they were tweaking the current stories a bit to coincide with Classic. Which now that I actually think is completely possible.

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  34. Jason -- "I don't know about that. He did appear in Dazzler at the same time that X-Men 145-147 came out."

    Wow, he was there, too? In my recent reviews of Iron Man #149-150, I noted that, in the span of barely more than half a year in 1981, Doom appeared in the Claremont/Cockrum UXM 145-147 (May - June), the Michelinie/Layton Iron Man 149-150 (August - September), and the Byrne Fantastic Four 236 (November). Now I learn that he was also in Dazzler from May through July of that year! Truly, 1981 was the Year of Doom at Marvel Comics.

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  35. It's true!

    (Almost. Thinking about it, I'm a little off ... he was only in two issues of Dazzler. So, May-June, probably. Still! And he was never retconned into a Doombot, even.)

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  36. "Unless of course they were tweaking the current stories a bit to coincide with Classic. Which now that I actually think is completely possible"

    Well, it was Claremont who wrote all those, and he was actively involved in the Classic issues too, writing new stories and pages for them for a good long time.

    So it wouldn't have been hard to coordinate, I'd assume. Certainly much easier than coordinating crossover sequences like "Masscare" that involved multiple writers and a single continuous narrative.

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  37. @Jason: two issues of Dazzler. -clip- And he was never retconned into a Doombot, even.

    I refuse to allow it called a retcon, because what goes to the changing of quips Byrne wins this round hands down. I give it in though that Claremont may not have been in possession of all the facts.

    Because, that all-Doom FF issue 258 just keeps on giving. I had earlier noted that in the (in)famous Doombot A 76 sequence Victor von Byrne is very open to his young protege "Cristoph" about this being a valuable lesson he would do good remembering, but I just now realized the immense self-aware metaness by von Byrne who, on the same page no less, becomes mightily angry when "Cristoph" out of nowhere suggests that mutant Magneto might rival Doom in villainous awesomeness.

    Which is awesome because Claremont starts just around that time putting his spin on the silver age Magneto, to direction that to my knowledge worked poorly for Byrne, and soon Doom's throne as the greatest Marvel villain is truly in jeopardy. (Or am I just being confused by the times of post-Secret Wars II, when Magneto really comes to prominence and Doom fades back on Byrne's departure from Marvel?)

    Byrne of course wins the next round too, with Lilandra Claremani requiring Reed Richards to be put on trial and verily getting one under Byrne's watch.

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  38. I haven't read this in so long.

    Unlike Mela, Excalibur didn't get me back into comics, period, in college, but at the time it launched (just as I began my first year) it was the only Marvel I read consistently. The fact that the one-shot — which I probably scooped up just for the Davis art — stood on its own enough, while being rooted partly in the X-Men world I used to love, was enticing. I got pushed out by creative substitutions and the general mess of The Cross-Time Caper.

    With the addition of Colossus' old-school uniform and the Davis/Neary style, the X-Men look much more like a traditional superhero team in the opening pages here than they did concurrently in their own series.

    // [Rachel] debuts a new costume, more or less just a red variation of her hound uniform //

    You could interpret that as empowerment through reclamation, I suppose, the way oppressed groups have done with language and other trappings forced upon them by their oppressors — which feels like a very Claremont interpretation — but it's pretty lame. Like everyone else, I hate the rat-tail braid too.

    // this is the first appearance of specific members Bodybag, China Doll, Joyboy and Waxworks //

    I used to blame the Image crew and Liefeld in particular for this brand of codename, but maybe it began with Claremont and/or Davis.

    // distaff X-Men Kitty and Nightcrawler //

    I must correct you there. The word "distaff" means "female" (in dated and to some folks chauvinistic usage), not "former"; it refers to a tool used in spinning wool and other fibers, a job traditionally done by women, thus expanded to refer to the woman or women in a family or other collective as the "distaff" members of said group. The word "erstwhile" by contrast does mean "former" even though it's popularly misappropriated as a synonym for "esteemed" (possibly due to misinterpretation of phrases such as "my erstwhile colleague").

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  39. @Matt: // Some of my favorite bits from the story include the X-Men's "off camera" personas in the opening scene //

    I enjoyed that stuff too. Wolverine getting his nails done as he reads a book on Japanese flower arrangement is great. I don't know if this was carried over from previous Mojo appearances (since I try to block them out) but the jackets and equipment read "Mojo's New World Pix"; this was of course during the period New World Pictures had acquired Marvel Comics.

    Camelot 3000 appearing with other Arthurian books in the store window, as Mela noted, is also a nice touch.

    Another reference of sorts is Joyboy's exclamation "Vootie!" — a nonsense word that dates back to 1950s Mad.

    @Teemu: // Let me just remind you he was goddamn Nick Fury before Samuel L. Jackson was. //

    I disagree with the blanket statement that Michael Knight trumps all Jedi knights, but sadly I would watch Hasselhoff in Knight Rider over Jackson as Mace Windu any day and I find his Nick Fury only a slightly thicker variety of cardboard.

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  40. Blam: I used to blame the Image crew and Liefeld in particular for this brand of codename, but maybe it began with Claremont and/or Davis.

    No. No! This here is ironic usage, the characters that bear the names intentionally have absolutely no other characterization on them than their looks and powers. Expendable other-dimensional beings. If he had wanted, Claremont could easily have put more into them like Moore did in his Captain Britain, where some of the Technet - or their exactly similar brothers (looking at you, "Thug") - appear. But he didn't. They're plainly and intentionally expendable bunch.

    But Image bunch plays it straight and the characters just lack everything of interest because their writers can't, or won't bother, because the story is there just to tie together the poses.

    The word "distaff" means "female" (in dated and to some folks chauvinistic usage), not "former"; it refers to a tool used in spinning wool and other fibers, a job traditionally done by women, thus expanded to refer to the woman or women in a family or other collective as the "distaff" members of said group.

    I kind of always took it granted that it's only thinly veiled "de-staff", marking the person's lack of, eh, tool.

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  41. I'm so glad you joined the conversation here, Teemu.

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