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Thursday, June 19, 2014

X-amining Excalibur #2

"A Warwolf Possessed"
November 1988

In a Nutshell 
Excalibur rescues Shadowcat from the Warwolves. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Alan Davis
Inker: Paul Neary
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco
Creators: Claremont & Davis

Plot
In Loch Daemon, a young mutant named Colin is hunted by men employed by the crimelord Vixen. Desperate to escape, he is teleported away by Widget, much to Vixen's dismay. Meanwhile, in London, the Warwolves, including the captive Kitty, are chased through the subway tunnels by Excalibur. The Warwolves manage to shake their pursuit, and return to their lair, where Kitty is skinned. Feeling the pain of that act telepathically, Rachel takes to the sky, the better to focus all her attention on maintaining Kitty's consciousness. As she does so, her ascent is noticed in the night sky by both Nigel Frobisher and Courtney Ross. Meanwhile, Nightcrawler, following a lead on his own, his attacked and captured by one of the Warwolves.


Alerted to this by Rachel, Captain Britain and Meggan are able to track Nightcrawler to the Warwolves den, interrupting his skinning and defeating the creatures. However, it quickly becomes clear that Kitty's phased state enabled her to merge with the body of the Warwolf which skinned her. She then manages to free herself of the Warwolf's body, climbing out its mouth, explaining that Rachel was able to hold her consciousness together until she was able to influence - and then control - the Warwolf's actions. With the Warwolves defeated, Excalibur debates what to do with them, unwilling to kill them but uncertain if the authorities can contain them. Kitty, however, offers up a solution, and the Warwolves are put on display in the London Zoo. Excalibur watches as the Warwolves entertain the crowd, with Nightcrawler worried that they haven't captured all of them. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Colin McCay, the young mutant being hunted in the early pages of the issue, will eventually return from the dimension to which he escaped this issue fully grown, and join Excalibur as Kylun, making this is essentially the first appearance of Kylun. 


The Warwolves are captured this issue, and unwilling to kill them and afraid the authorities couldn't handle them, Excalibur puts them in a zoo. They'll return later in the series. 


Vixen, a ruthless crimelord and old Captain Britain villain, appears in the series for the first time. 


Right off the bat, he cover of this issue hints at the tone of the issue, and is much more tongue-in-cheek than what the other series usually feature. The back cover, meanwhile, features a pin-up of Shadowcat and Lockheed. 

A Work in Progress
Widget has grown to the point that it now possess the ability to create a gateway, through which it can generate dimensional portals.


It's established that Kitty didn't share her "dress up as Rachel to lure out the Warwolves" plan with the rest of Excalibur before putting it into action because she was certain they'd veto it for being too dangerous. Which, you know, they were kind of right.


We see Meggan use her shape changing ability for the first time, transforming into an animalistic form in order to track Nightcrawler's scent.


I Love the 80s
The walls of the Warwolves lair are lined with posters from movies with "wolf" in the title. 

Claremontisms
You know the Warwolf which skinned Kitty has merged with her when it starts saying it "can't, must, won't".


Artistic Achievements
One of the sound effects when Captain Britain punches one of the Warwolves is, appropriately enough, "punch". 


Teebore's Take
While not exactly whimsical, this issue definitely has a different tone than the usual X-fare. The Warwolves represent this tone best, at one time out-and-out creepy, as when they return to their lair carrying the skins of the people they killed, and then turning towards the macabre, as they take care to gently hang their skins like clothing on a coat rack, and then the downright silly as they kick back with a six pack of beer. Even the ending strikes this unique tone, as Excalibur rightly reasons that they can neither kill the Warwolves nor turn them over to the regular authorities. The solution is, again, unlike anything in any other X-Book, as the Warwolves are put into a zoo and the issue ends with one of them winking at the reader as he reads the newspaper, smoking a pipe. With the series still in its infancy, it can't exactly be said that this tone feels out of place, but while this isn't yet the vehicle for whimsy it will become, it's definitely carving out a unique place for itself amongst the X-books already.  

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Wolverine makes the leap to a solo series in Wolverine #1. Next week, Colossus gets a Marvel Comics Presents feature, and a familiar villain drops in for Excalibur #3.

9 comments:

  1. The Warwolves crack me up. A rare instance, for me, at least, of Claremont hitting the comedy mark. Davis's depiction of their body language and home life certainly helps, too.

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  2. I'm a little confused at why a zoo would be a better fit to contain the Warwolves than a maximum security facility designed to keep intelligent beings from escaping. And really, is it Excalibur's call where to contain them? Does Excalibur have the authority to demand the zoo take them in? And are the zoo keepers capable of handling beings that want to skin them alive and also have sentience? Isn't it dangerous to have them in a place where children can gawk at them? Are there two Warwolves humping at the zoo in that panel? Am I over thinking things?

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  3. The two warwolves are watching telly and being disturbed by the audience while doing so. As for the whole zoo thing, it's the British humour mostly. If the Americans fir example did a funny flick of the zombie apocalypse, the protagonist probably would not have his zombified best friend chained in his yard shed for a quick two-up video game every now and then like in Shaun of the Dead, but the Brits do and want none of those rationale-questioning questions.

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  4. "Colin McCay, the young mutant being hunted in the early pages of the issue, will eventually return from the dimension to which he escaped this issue"

    Not until the solo Davis run, which makes it one heck of a long dangler. I wonder what CC's original plans for him were?

    "afraid the authorities couldn't handle them, Excalibur puts them in a zoo."

    Funny gag aside, one wonders how the zoo staff are more qualified to handle them lol

    "Right off the bat, the cover of this issue hints at the tone of the issue, and is much more tongue-in-cheek than what the other series usually feature."

    Davis gives us some really great and memorable covers during both of his runs. Not just well-drawn, but some are genuinely funny as well.

    "You know the Warwolf which skinned Kitty has merged with her when it starts saying it "can't, must, won't"."

    Does it call anyone "buster" also?

    Like much of the early Claremont/Davis run, it's a good, solid, fun read.

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  5. As much as I like this comic, it does feature something that disturbed me in early Excalibur: Kitty, who is 15 years-old, being naked and/or humiliated. She's naked in front of her teammates as she emerges from the Warwolf. She'll appear naked in front of someone again in a few issues. She's the source of toilet humor later. The Kitty from the Nazi dimension is blatantly abused.

    I don't know what was up with that, but... Ugh.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  6. I agree with your take, Teebore. Of course, Dr. Bitz is entirely right about the London zoo being an inappropriate place for the Warwolves in several ways — maybe in the Marvel Universe it's set up to contain them, who knows, although it still isn't appropriate to put sapient beings on display like that — but at least in these early issues Excalibur rides that fine line between horror and humor in style. It's a success that I attribute mostly to Davis, not because I don't think Claremont is capable of it but rather because (as I believe we've established by now) Claremont often rises or falls on the strengths of, and the inspiration he draws from, his artistic collaborator. I suspect that Claremont picked up on Davis' plot contributions if not what Davis simply surprised him with in the pencils and ran with it. As long as he doesn't run too far, or — what eventually snapped his simpatico with Byrne — veer off in the opposite direction, the result works. The working-class domesticity of the Warwolves in their lair is just funny, all the more so for how it adds to rather than negates their menace. On the other hand, I was really disturbed by the sequnce that Mike brings up, an unfortunately rather common trope of juvenile SF and fantasy at the time that probably didn't bother me as much when I was a teenaged boy myself as it does now.

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  7. Blam, I agree, I think the uniqueness of the tone is indeed thanks to Davis. Claremont said that he wanted Excalibur to be more light in tone, but I don't think his writing style changed all that much in and of itself ... it's just that Davis' imagery seemed to spark off Claremont's ideas and lead to a different sort of vibe. Like you, I'm not out to diminish Claremont's contribution (perish the thought). Claremont and Davis both are in good form here and that's what makes the series entertaining ... but I think it's Davis who makes it something unique.

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  8. Mike, I think the Kitty abuse is completely about her being the foremost protagonist in the book. The dynamo whose out-of-the-box thinking moves the plot. Things happen to you when you're in the position where you actually get to be mentioned before Wolverinein the title should you happen to have a book together. It's Kitty Pryde & something-something-X we're really reading here.

    Or then it's karmic payback for all those n-words along the way.

    The Nazi bit was to me a very good call: she's a Jew in a group of victorious Nazis, of course that has to be addressed. The way it is done by amping the ghost form soon after the Mutant Massacre fallout has kind of been just sorted is massively appropriate and scary.

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  9. @Temmu- the problem is that a 15-year old girl winds up naked in front of adult males on 2 occasions. That's just creepy.

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