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Thursday, June 26, 2014

X-amining Excalibur #3

"Moving Day"
December 1988

In a Nutshell 
Excalibur battles Juggernaut and moves into their new headquarters. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Alan Davis
Inker: Paul Neary
Guest Letterer: L. Lois Buhalis
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Vixen and her men break into Crossmoor Prison, determined to free a specific prisoner, but they discover his cell to be empty, and are quickly attacked by the guards. Trying to escape, they stumble across a cell containing Juggernaut. Agreeing to release him if he creates a distraction, Juggernaut, as well as some other inmates, are set free. Vixen gets away as Excalibur arrives to round up the escaped prisoners and battle Juggernaut, who is ultimately defeated by Phoenix's telepathy. Meanwhile, in Newcastle, a UFO enthusiast discovers Widget, who teleports him to the world of Opal Lun Sat-Yr-9. Later, Excalibur moves into their new headquarters, Captain Britain's lighthouse, just as a storm sets in.


In the days that follow, tensions rise as the teammates become accustomed to living with one another, culminating in the team confronting Captain Britain about his drinking. Angry, he flies off. When the lighthouse loses power, Kitty tries to restore it and she stumbles across an alien-looking version of herself, who quickly disappears. Now staying in London, Captain Britain is discussing his future as a super-hero with Courtney Ross when he's telepathically contacted by Rachel, who tells him about Kitty's strange occurrence. Captain Britain returns to the lighthouse, where he reconciles with the team and they vow to remain together. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Juggernaut makes an appearance in this issue, briefly breaking out of jail before being sent back by Excalibur, making him the first traditional X-villain the team has faced (unless you count Mojo. And even then, Excalibur never really fought him directly). Of course, it makes sense that Juggernaut would be in a British prison, since the last time we saw him he was defeated by the X-Men in Scotland. It's an appreciated bit of continuity on Claremont's part you just wouldn't see these days. 

Juggernaut is freed from his cell by Vixen and her men, who, in the course of a botched attempt to free someone else, release Juggernaut to create a diversion. I have no idea who Vixen was trying to free, and even though the character is presumably British, I keep reading her dialogue in the voice of Jessica Walter, aka Lucille Bluth and Mallory Archer.

Widget appears again, this time sending a UFO enthusiast into the realm of Sat-Yr-9, who appears in the series for the first time. Not to be confused with Saturnyne (who sent Gatechrasher and Technet after Phoenix in Excalibur Special Edition #1), Sat-yr-9 is the deposed ruler of an alternate reality who previously appeared in Captain Britain's series. I've never quite gotten a good handle on Saturnyne/Sat-yr-9/Courtney Ross, but I have gathered it's all rather confusing.


Excalibur moves into Captain Britian's lighthouse this issue, effectively making it their home and headquarters moving forward.


Talking over his current situation with Courtney Ross, Captain Britain mentions that the last time he gave up being Captain Britain, his sister was maimed, a reference to the end of his last UK series, in which Betsy briefly took up the mantle of Captain Britain and lost her eyes to Slaymaster (leading to the bionic implants she received from Mojo in New Mutants Annual #2).


It's the dialogue on the covers. That's what makes the covers to last issue and this one feel more whimsical than contemporaneous covers on other series. Even in 1988, the idea of putting word ballons on covers was more or less passe, so seeing it here creates a kind of fun, retro 60s vibe.

We now have the traditional "headshots of the team members" arrangement in the corner box on the cover.

The back cover features a pin-up of Nightcrawler. 

A Work in Progress
Apparently, a "stasis cage" can stop the Juggernaut. 


Kitty is able to phase a car, effectively pitching the occupants out of the vehicle when doing so. She also notes she can't yet drive a stick shift.


Meggan is able to draw enough power from the Earth to physically match Juggernaut, though Phoenix intervenes before she's able to try her strength against him.


Phoenix introduces herself to Juggernaut, in what is clearly more of an action-movie style line than an actual introduction, though the two may have met previously during the events of X-Men #194 (it's unclear whether they would have interacted enough for Rachel to expect Juggernaut to remember her, especially she's now using a different name and costume).


Kitty is upset when Captain Britain accidentally drops a box containing some software she wrote with Doug Ramsey (though it's unclear how software could be damaged by a dropped box).


Captain Britain is called out on his drinking.


After he angrily storms off, Nightcrawler tries to comfort Meggan.


Courtney describes her relationship with Brian as that of best friends.


While in the basement of the lighthouse, Kitty sees a warped version of herself and Lockheed, who quickly vanishes, which Nightcrawler chalks up to another strange occurrence, after the incident in issue #1 in which Nightcrawler briefly stumbled into a room of aliens.


Young Love
Meggan is upset that Captain Britain turns to the bottle for solace rather than her. 


Teebore's Take
This is easily my favorite issue of the series yet. Part of that, I'm sure, comes from the presence of Juggernaut, the first truly X-Men-related villain the team has faced, helping make the series feel even more connected to the larger X-universe. But that appearance, in addition to being a fun action sequence, also gives us a look at the in-universe purpose of Excalibur: after largely dealing with threats personally related to them (and one hostage situation), this issue presents the team as, essentially, the British Avengers, stepping in when a threat becomes larger than can be safely handled by traditional authorities. That's good enough for me, as far as an in-universe reason to exist (Also, the Davis and Neary art in this issue is just gorgeous. The best yet. I could stare at it for hours).

And then, after Juggernaut is dealt with in the first half of the issue, the back half settles in for what turns out to be Excalibur's first Classic Claremont Quiet issue, as the team moves into their new home/headquarters and all the remaining conflicts are purely character driven, as the still-new teammates get to know one another and come to terms with their new living arrangement. While pretty much all of these characters have existed prior to this series (and thus, readers are likely coming to the series with some understanding of at least a few of their basic characterizations), this is still worthy ground to cover, as it offers us for really the first time an opportunity to see the cast of the book interacting as genuine teammates, and not just disparate characters working together.  

Next Issue
Wolverine battles Silver Samurai in Wolverine #2. Next week, "Inferno" begins in Uncanny X-Men #239, followed by the blessedly-final issue in the Spyder/Gosamyr story, New Mutants #70.

21 comments:

  1. The Saturnyne/Sat Yr 9 connection never confused me too much; they're just alternate-timeline doppelgangers.

    Courtney's role in it is a little more confusing, first of all because she was introduced as a totally separate character and then retconned into being a Saturnyne-alt in a typically Claremonty way. This leads to all the conversation about dyeing her hair brown to cover her natural platinum blonde, etc. As a kid who-- like almost everyone in the US, I assume-- hadn't read Captain Britain, this was just weird to me. Like, why are they talking so much about this blond lady's hair?

    And the fact that Captain Britain was so dazzled by blondeness that he never realized two of his girlfriends (Saturnyne was kind of his girlfriend?) were essentially identical never made any sense. As Kitty would say: *MEN!*

    The other sort of confusing bit is that after Sat Yr 9 replaces Courtney there are times when Claremont seems to forget it ever happened. But not always! "Courtney" spends the next few years, when she appears, behaving in a completely inscrutable fashion-- sometimes she's clearly villainous and sometimes not and of course it never goes anywhere until Davis solves it (sort of) like fifty issues from now.

    Finally, Claremont repeatedly dropped hints that Kitty is supposed to be the "next" Saturnyne. He even I think suggests a physical resemblance, and I think has people mistake them for each other on a couple of occasions? What???

    Finally, I would just like to say, on a completely unrelated note, how hot I have ALWAYS thought Brian looks in those lime green PJs.

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  2. I like this issue a lot too; it's more Captain Britain-centric than the previous installments and Cap is my favorite member of Excalibur. Unfortunately it's not long before he begins getting shorter shrift than the rest of the characters.

    Juggernaut's continuity stayed pretty tight around this time. After Excalibur recaptures him, he's next seen in a Tom DeFalco/Ron Frenz THOR during "Acts of Vengeance", still imprisoned at Crossmore. Though the artwork there, a direct swipe of Davis's establishing shot of the prison in this issue, seems to indicate that Frenz mistook Davis's spotlights shining up in a pyramid shape over the facility as an actual enormous clear pyramid. It looks... odd, to say the least.

    Ben beat me to the Saturnyne/Courtney/etc. explanation and did a better job of it than I would have anyway. I can't imagine Claremont actually forgot he had replaced Courtney, but it really reads that way sometimes. And I agree that Brian not recognizing Saturnyne as an alternate Courtney is ridiculous. Brian and Courtney were never an item, but they were very close. And Cap spent a lot of time with Saturnyne.

    Interestingly, I don't believe Cap ever revealed his identity to Courtney on-panel before this story, though someone can correct me if I'm wrong.

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  3. "The Saturnyne/Sat Yr 9 connection never confused me too much; they're just alternate-timeline doppelgangers."

    Yeah, it's not confusing. It's just frustrating that the Sat Yr 9/Courtney Ross plot just becomes another CC dangler that goes nowhere. Davis moves it along, but again, it too is unresolved by future writers. Ben pretty much sums it up well.

    "I have no idea who Vixen was trying to free"

    Chalk it up to 1) pointless plot device to free Juggernaut 2) another CC dangler 3) SPOILER ALERT! J*m*e *r*d*o*k 4) all of the above?

    "It's the dialogue on the covers. That's what makes the covers to last issue and this one feel more whimsical than contemporaneous covers on other series."

    The covers Davis does for this series on both runs are great.

    "Meggan is able to draw enough power from the Earth to physically match Juggernaut, though Phoenix intervenes before she's able to try her strength against him."

    Too bad, it might have been to see them slug it out for a few pages.

    "though the two may have met previously during the events of X-Men #194 (it's unclear whether they would have interacted enough for Rachel to expect Juggernaut to remember her"

    They didn't interact in that issue. He only really interacted with Rogue in that issue. He may have interacted with her in Marvel Team-up # 150, but I haven't read that issue in ages.

    All in all, another good solid issue.

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  4. "Kitty is upset when Captain Britain accidentally drops a box containing some software she wrote with Doug Ramsey (though it's unclear how software could be damaged by a dropped box)."

    No, he sets a very heavy crate on the cardboard box with the software inside, thereby crushing flat the box containing the software. (See the "Fragile" label among the tatters of the smashed box, in the panels you posted.)

    Hence his dialogue in the 2nd of those panels: He didn't realize that the crate he was holding was so heavy, so he thought it was safe to put it on top of a cardboard box.

    "While in the basement of the lighthouse, Kitty sees a warped version of herself and Lockheed, who quickly vanishes ... "

    I remember really liking Kitty's dialogue when someone asks her to confirm that it was indeed an alternate version of her ... "Yes! Well, kind of, maybe. But it was definitely another Lockheed." (Or something to that effect.)

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  5. "3) SPOILER ALERT! J*m*e *r*d*o*k"

    That sounds plausible.

    "nd I agree that Brian not recognizing Saturnyne as an alternate Courtney is ridiculous. Brian and Courtney were never an item, but they were very close. And Cap spent a lot of time with Saturnyne."

    I can buy it. I can remember several circumstances where I've failed to recognize the similarity between someone new I've met and a good friend I've known for years, and then someone who doesn't know either person that well notes it immediately.

    And I've been on the other side too ... In an acting class with my girlfriend, there was a lady in class that my girlfriend said, "She looks familiar, but I can't place it," and I told her, "She looks just like your best friend."

    Sometimes we're too close to something, and we've got a lot of associations with someone such that we don't see what they "really" look like.

    (Also, not everyone is a visual person in general, i.e. someone who notices the visual details of others' appearances.)

    (Also, since it's comics, there is a lot of "information" about these characters we don't experience ... the way they sound, the volume at which they speak, the relative relaxedness or tenseness of their movement, etc., that could contribute to two identical people seeming very very different.)

    (Also, Clark Kent and Superman. Thanks.)

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  6. Damn you Jason, I was so gonna ride in triumphantly revealing that software can and will easily be damaged when it is... on floppy disks (insert MacGyverish 80's drumfill here)!

    Well actually it was well into 2000's when I still heard student colleagues tell teacher sad stories about how they can't yet return their assignment as they ejected the disk too soon from the disk drive when the computer was still saving the work and now it's *sob**sob* completely lost.

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  7. "3) SPOILER ALERT! J*m*e *r*d*o*k"
    I doubt that, since he was being held in an AFRICAN prison when he was finally freed.
    "The Saturnyne/Sat Yr 9 connection never confused me too much; they're just alternate-timeline doppelgangers"
    The problem was that Claremont never bothered to recap the previous stories with Saturnyne/ Sat Yr 9. I remember being confused about whether or not they were the same person with the name spelled differently or alternate-reality versions of the same person. It would have taken a couple of panels to have Brian say "They're alternate dimension versions of each other. One's a dimensional guardian, the other a deposed dictator."

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  8. "I doubt that, since he was being held in an AFRICAN prison when he was finally freed."

    Well then, see choices 1 and 2 then lol

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  9. Until I hear otherwise, I'm going to assume that the Vixen was trying to break Hurricane out of Crossmore. No particular reason, other than that he was created by Chris Claremont.

    Jason -- "(Also, Clark Kent and Superman. Thanks.)"

    This is true. It may say something about my opinions of Marvel and DC that I'm willing to suspend disbelief easily for the Clark/Superman situation, but I don't give Marvel that much leeway. The Clark/Superman precedent could also be Claremont's excuse for "Patch" over in WOLVERINE, and I have the same problems with that as I do with this.

    But, as has been pointed out, Brian Braddock does seem like the sort of fellow who might focus less on a woman's face and more on her other parts. Especially given the super-slinky outfits Saturnyne usually wears.

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  10. Fun, and very memorable, cover.

    // Tom Orzechowski //

    L. Lois Buhalis, actually ("guest letterer"). And just Terry Kavanagh editing. You must have carried this over from a previous post.

    // Vixen and her men break into Crossmoor Prison //

    I can't be the only one who sees that place and thinks, gee, if "Her Majesty's ultra-maximum-security prison" [caption] is set up to hold Juggernaut then, um, the Warwolves really should be here. Notwithstanding Vixen's incursion, of course.

    // It's an appreciated bit of continuity on Claremont's part you just wouldn't see these days. //

    Yeah. I'm sure it just worked out nicely — Claremont didn't use Juggernaut back in Uncanny #217 because he was planning Excalibur — but, well, it worked out nicely.

    // Excalibur moves into Captain Britian's lighthouse this issue //

    From what I recall of reading these issues and that TPB of the Captain Britain stuff that most immediately preceded it, the Brian Braddock of this era is kind-of a giant dick, so it's only fitting that he lives in one. And I say that as a big fan of lighthouses.

    // It's the dialogue on the covers. That's what makes the covers to last issue and this one feel more whimsical than contemporaneous covers on other series. //

    That's an integral part of it, no question, but I think they're just foundationally humorous in concept — maybe this one more than the previous issue, since you might need the belch.

    // Kitty is able to phase a car, effectively pitching the occupants out of the vehicle when doing so. //

    Which is a really neat trick, apart from the fact that it would probably kill any of them landing on their heads and almost certainly paralyze that guy who landed on his butt.

    // she's now using a different name and costume //

    This is at least the second issue in a row where I've noticed Rachel's hair having the crackle and yellow color of her Phoenix energy, which is jarring since I so associate her with being a redhead — and don't remember this from reading these issues 20+ years ago, but then again that was 20+ years ago. I wonder if it was the creative team's way, along with her blank eyes and the Hound lines on her face, of disguising her when powered up.

    // though it's unclear how software could be damaged by a dropped box //

    I didn't get that at first either, but if you look closely at the panels in tandem he puts down the crate on top of another box that gets smashed to bits when the crate drops through it onto the floor, so the disks were presumably in the pulverized box underneath. Like Jason said, now that I've read the comments.

    // After he angrily storms off, Nightcrawler tries to comfort Meggan. //

    Whose face rather subtly shifts back into either its natural faerie form or simply an uglier form, as far as Meggan's concerned, befitting her mood. I'm pretty sure at some point we learn, or maybe learned back in Captain Britain, that Meggan's predominant slammin' self is one she manifests subconsciously because it's what she thinks Brian likes.

    // the Davis and Neary art in this issue is just gorgeous //

    So gorgeous.

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  11. Blam --"I'm pretty sure at some point we learn, or maybe learned back in Captain Britain, that Meggan's predominant slammin' self is one she manifests subconsciously because it's what she thinks Brian likes."

    Not just what she thinks he likes -- I observed in my own CAPTAIN BRITAIN reviews that Brian has absolutely no interest in Meggan until after she transforms into her "sex goddess" form, at which point he quickly falls in "love" with her.

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  12. Blam: Brian Braddock of this era is kind-of a giant dick, so it's only fitting that he lives in one. And I say that as a big fan of lighthouses.

    Brian Braddock with his big throbbing time-and-space penetrating thing and a subdued girlfriend altering herself to look like a sex goddess just to make him love her... did. some other writer at some point make Brian do something Chris would now be angry to them both about?

    I won't even go into Rachel-Phoenix as the sort of being that this ultra-dimensional lighthouse has no power over with there being only one of her around the dimensions, because there may be a feminist commentator somewhere in dire lack of material, but am awaiting in shocked awe and fear for what sort of exactly was the panel a couple of issues forwards where she shots from the lighthouse to participate Inferno.

    Also, it seems Excalibur for me is eternally ruined.

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  13. Yeah, so I had to go and google the panel. Now I feel... I don't know, a cigarette perhaps.

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  14. "This is true. It may say something about my opinions of Marvel and DC that I'm willing to suspend disbelief easily for the Clark/Superman situation, but I don't give Marvel that much leeway. The Clark/Superman precedent could also be Claremont's excuse for "Patch" over in WOLVERINE, and I have the same problems with that as I do with this."
    I think that readers are more forgiving towards a plot element that originated before 1975, since comics back then didn't make sense.

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  15. @Matt: // Brian has absolutely no interest in Meggan until after she transforms into her "sex goddess" form //

    I've pulled my 1988 Captain Britain TPB off the shelf to revisit. Unfortunately I can't get to the boxes with that X-Men Archives mini reprinting the stuff immediately before it, so your recaps will have to bring me up to speed. I've been impressed by how much has stuck with me, "Tea and Sympathy" in particular, but I'd completely forgotten that Meggan was a were-bat/wolf/thing when we first saw her.

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  16. Uncannyxmen.net has great summaries, both for the characters and the issues as well. If anyone is interested in the pre-Excaliber histories of Meggan and Brian, here they are respectively:

    http://uncannyxmen.net/characters/meggan/page/0/1

    http://uncannyxmen.net/characters/captain-britain-i/page/0/1

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  17. @Ben: The other sort of confusing bit is that after Sat Yr 9 replaces Courtney there are times when Claremont seems to forget it ever happened. But not always!

    I think that's the part (combined with my spotty reading of Excalibur and knowledge of its history) that has confused me. Nevertheless, I appreciate you (and others) laying it all out, which should make it easier to track moving forward.

    @Matt: Interestingly, I don't believe Cap ever revealed his identity to Courtney on-panel before this story

    That is interesting; it totally played like something Courtney already knew, so I just assumed it was something that came up during Cap's series.

    Brian has absolutely no interest in Meggan until after she transforms into her "sex goddess" form, at which point he quickly falls in "love" with her.

    I forget that sometimes, too. For as much as Brian and Meggan are usually presented as Excalibur's OTP, especially given that they eventually marry, it seems like Captain Britain is often (apologies to Teemu) a colossal dick to her.

    There's the whole "didn't like her til she became hot thing", and even in this issue I was struck by how he almost offhandedly refers to her as a "lovely creature" to his attractive ex-girlfriend. Like, "ah, yes, my hot sentient sex doll is great, but sometimes, I just need to chat with a real woman".

    It's just a really creepy vibe. I'm curious to see if it gets explored at all, but I suspect not (or at least not enough).

    @wwk5d: He only really interacted with Rogue in that issue. He may have interacted with her in Marvel Team-up # 150, but I haven't read that issue in ages.

    Ah, yeah, you're right, MTU #150 is definitely the more questionable "they interacted a lot so he should probably know her" issue, vs. #194. Then again, like I said, she wasn't calling herself Phoenix yet (esp. circa MTU #150), so it's not too egregious.

    @Jason: No, he sets a very heavy crate on the cardboard box with the software inside, thereby crushing flat the box containing the software.

    Yes, well, technically, he just crushed a box containing (presumably) floppy disks, on which her software was stored. Software itself is largely ephemeral, and can't really be crushed (which is the admittedly pedantic point I was trying to make). Besides, as Dr. Bitz can attest, any good software developer always keeps good backups. :)

    @Anonymous: I doubt that, since he was being held in an AFRICAN prison when he was finally freed.

    Well, the point is made in this issue that whomever Vixen was after, was not in the cell she expected that person to be. So theoretically, the person in question could have been transferred to that African prison while Vixen still thought he was at Crossmoor.

    @Blam: You must have carried this over from a previous post.

    Indeed. And rushed to get it out before I went out of town. For shame.

    gee, if "Her Majesty's ultra-maximum-security prison" [caption] is set up to hold Juggernaut then, um, the Warwolves really should be here. Notwithstanding Vixen's incursion, of course.

    Excellent point.

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  18. "It's just a really creepy vibe. I'm curious to see if it gets explored at all, but I suspect not (or at least not enough)."

    I think Claremont intended to eventually break the couple up, for all the reasons discussed. Brian's poor treatment of her is addressed (I think in the very next issue), by Kurt. There's a bit of a Megan/Kurt/Brian love-triangle that is teased, but which doesn't quite amount to much.

    It's explored as a parallel track to the whole "Brian is an oaf" characterization that I think began with Alan Moore, if not with Dave Thorpe before him. Moore said in his intro to the TPB that he saw Brian as an Adam West-esque straight man, the square-jawed guy who is bewildered by all the wacky goings-on by the more interesting and colorful characters surrounding him.

    Claremont surely didn't see him that way when he created him in the 70s, but he obviously really liked that take and ran with it in Excalibur.

    One of the things I don't like about Davis' run as writer is that he cleaned up stuff like that a little TOO tidily. I won't spoil it all, but you obviously already know that Brian and Meggan will eventually marry. Davis is the one who pretty much resets Brian and Meggan to "OTL" status in a way that is a bit pat, to my eyes.

    "Software itself is largely ephemeral, and can't really be crushed (which is the admittedly pedantic point I was trying to make)."

    But you said he dropped the box, and he didn't. He set something too heavy on TOP of the box, which is the pedantic point *I* was trying to make. :)

    "Besides, as Dr. Bitz can attest, any good software developer always keeps good backups. :)"

    Despite Kitty's angst here over losing the programs she "developed with Doug Ramsey," we'll learn within only a couple issues that (MILD SPOILERS) she must have backed up at least *one* of those programs ...

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  19. Jason: Claremont surely didn't see him that way when he created him in the 70s, but he obviously really liked that take and ran with it in Excalibur.

    It's a testament of kind for a guy's prowess as a writer to not have Claremont ignore your characterizations and developments. Quite the other way really, with his plans for Jim Jaspers.

    As for the floppy disks, I base my case on Kitty's one time rant about the X-babies misplacing her disks which she then finds on her desk to deadpan commentary of Illyana. In comic book time that was, what, a week and a half ago.

    So, did you guys watch soccer yesterday and laugh like me at the Belgian goalie who had himself dressed like the ersatz Daredevil from Marshal Law takes Manhattan?

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  20. @Jason: But you said he dropped the box, and he didn't. He set something too heavy on TOP of the box, which is the pedantic point *I* was trying to make. :)

    Touche. :)

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  21. I greatly enjoy the kabuki theater of young ladies who lived with Wolverine hen-pecking Cap'n B about his drinking. Maybe someone should talk to Rachel about her choice of sleep wear.

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