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Thursday, August 14, 2014

X-amining Excalibur #6

"Goblin Night"
March 1989

In a Nutshell 
Excalibur is drawn into the events of "Inferno". 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Alan Davis
Inker: Paul Neary
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Boss: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In the middle of the night, Rachel awakens from a dream to a psychic cry of help from her baby brother. In a burst of energy, she flies off to New York, and the rest of Excalibur decides to follow her. At Euston Station, Inspector Dai Thomas meets with Alysande and Alistair Stuart of the Weird Happenings Organization, who show him a train seemingly from an alternate reality, inside of which are strange versions of Moira MacTaggart and Callisto, each wearing Nazi armbands, with Moira threatening to tell the Fuhrer of their wrongful imprisonment. Meanwhile, Phoenix arrives in New York and, seeing the Goblin Queen atop the Empire State Building, approaches her, thinking she is her mother. But the Goblin Queen blasts her , and Phoenix is absorbed into the demonic building.


As the rest of Excalibur makes a mid-Atlantic pit-stop, Phoenix manages to break free of the building, landing in a nearby bridal shop. Shortly thereafter, her teammates arrives in New York and are shocked by its transformation. Splitting up, Meggan and Nightcrawler reconnoiter the Empire State Building, where Meggan is transformed by N'astirh into the Goblin Princess. She attack Nightcrawler, but he manages to escape, landing outside the bridal shop and spotting a statue-esque Phoenix inside before falling unconscious. Elsewhere in the city, the Goblin Princess attacks Shadowcat and Captain Britain, dragging the latter inside a movie theater. Shadowcat follows, only to find herself suddenly on the set of an action movie, as a possessed Captain Britain confronts her, calling himself the Goblin Queen's champion and vowing to execute Shadowcat.   

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the first appearance of the Weird Happenings Organization (or WHO), a British SHIELD-like organization tasked with investigating weird happenings. It is led by Brigadier Alysande Stuart, and its chief scientist is her brother Professor Alistaire Stuart, both of whom also make their first appearances this issue while investigating the alternate reality Nazi train teleported by Widget in issue #4. The Stuarts and WHO will play a continuing role in Excalibur moving forward, and are, as I understand it, rife with Dr. Who references.   


Said train contains alternate reality Nazi versions of Moira and Callisto, both of whom are appearing for the first time.


Upon reaching the Inferno-racked Manhattan, Meggan is transformed into the Goblin Princess by N'astirh. 


The back cover image features the Crazy Gang.

The Chronology Corner 
N'astirh appears in this issue after his appearance in X-Factor #37 and after making a deal with Hobgoblin in Spectacular Spider-Man  #147, thus effectively setting the events of this issue between X-Factor #37 and Uncanny X-Men #242 (with Madelyne's attack on Rachel occurring just prior to X-Factor #37).

Which is all well and good, save for the fact that Rachel first telepathically heard Christopher crying out in Excalibur #4, days ago, Excalibur time (the days which passed last issue between the defeat of Arcade and Brian's date with Courtney). Even if Rachel's lack of immediate action then can be written off as being caused by her jumbled memories or simply forgotten in the wake of all the head scrambling she experienced during the fight with the Crazy Gang, it seems like Christopher's demon captivity (which triggered the telepathic crying also heard by Marvel Girl) certainly didn't last days (even though it stretched across three issues of X-Factor).

A Work in Progress
It's noted that Rachel's mind is crammed full of jumbled memories, something which has been true since the Special Edition issue and spares us from the return of Rachel Summers, Crybaby, but which isn't mentioned too often. 

Meggan worries that if she merely reflects the interests of those around, is she anything more than a "Mirrorgirl"?


Without a plane or a jet, the rest of Excalibur is forced to follow Phoenix to New York via Captain Britain and Meggan flying under their own power as each carries Nightcrawler and Shadowcat. In a nice touch, Captain Britain notes that while they could both fly faster, they're limited by how much the rigors of flying Nightcrawler and Shadowcat's bodies can handle.


This leads to one of the series more overtly comical moments of the series thus far, as the foursome is forced to land on a passing ship so that Kitty can pee.


The Reference SectionInspector Thomas makes a reference to It Happened Here, a British film from the sixties directed by Kevin Brownlow set in an alternate reality in which the Nazis invaded and conquered Great Britain.


Claremontisms
Kitty hopes and prays Rachel can control herself. 

Like a Phoenix, From the Ashes
Nightcrawler compares Rachel's scream as she flies after her brother to that of Phoenix's death on the moon (and, it's worth pointing out, at this point Nightcrawler does not know it was Phoenix specifically, and not Jean, who died on the moon). 


Young Love
Kurt grows increasing angry towards Brian's treatment of Meggan this issue.



Teebore's Take
It's been mentioned before that, for all its talk of demonic influence and sacrificial babies, there's also an undercurrent of whimsy and the macabre to "Inferno", things like possessed mailboxes attacking mail carriers or fire hydrants attacking dogs. As a result, Excalibur, which has displayed a similar tone since its inception, transitions relatively seamlessly into the crossover, even if it is coming to the party of bit late (as the other X-titles' involvement is winding down). Using Rachel, and her relationship to her threatened "brother", as the point-of-entry for the series into the storyline is also a smart move (even if it does beg the question of why, after he's been psychically screaming his head off for three issues of X-Factor, Rachel only now hears and responds to the cries, at a time when Madelyne is already in full-on Goblin Queen-astride-the-Empire State Building mode).

And even though this crossover occurs early in the life of the young series, the series hasn't yet developed much in the way of ongoing subplots, so the only thing being somewhat derailed is Courtney's demise last issue (which goes unmentioned here, not that anything about it required comment from the characters, given they remain unaware of it) and the fact that Brian believed he went on a kissy date with her (though the Brian/Meggan/Nightcrawler tension remains very much in play, showing that interpersonal relationships remain a strong suit of Claremont). All things considered, as series having to set aside their own stories for the sake of a crossover go, "Inferno" is not terribly disruptive to this title. Though Excalibur remains the series most disconnected from the main X-narrative (for a variety of reasons), its entry into the larger "Inferno" storyline is thankfully, both tonally and in terms of the narrative, a relatively natural and easy one.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the gang war continues in Wolverine #5. Next week, Mr. Sinister strikes in Uncanny X-Men #243, followed by "Inferno" fallout in New Mutants #74.

8 comments:

  1. Kitty says that Rachel established a psychic bond between her and the baby to let her know when the baby was in trouble. If that's the case, then why didn't it warn her when Nate was grabbed by the Marauders?
    Kitty, Kurt and Rachel don't seem to realize that the baby was missing. Why? The video of the X-Men's deaths showed Maddie asking Scott to "find" the baby. It never occurred to Kitty, who is supposedly a genius, that the baby might be missing? And Kitty calls Rachel and Meggan bimbos?
    Rachel notes that Maddie's psi-readings are both identical and different to Jean's. Why didn't she notice this the previous times she met Maddie?
    Rachel also doesn't seem to be able to figure out who Maddie is through process of elimination, since there's only one other person she knows of that resembles Jean. Is the idea supposed to be that her jumbled memories prevent her from identifying people through process of elimination? For example, if someone told her one of the original five X-Men has been kidnapped and isn't Scott, Jean, Hank or Warren, her memory problems would prevent her from figuring out it's Bobby? If that's the idea, it's never a problem in future issues.

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  2. Two things:

    1. How would Nightcrawler know what Jean/Phoenix sounded like when she died? Cyclops was the only person near her.

    2. Note that the cover colorist has messed up Meggan's costume, coloring the covering of her breast in flesh tone, making it look like she has a cutout on the front of the outfit explicitly for her boobs to hang out of. I never caught this until I saw Alan Davis himself point it out on his website.

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  3. Oh. We didn't get the panel where Rachel bursts out from Bri Braddock's giant d..., I mean house with a firebird effect and a call of Nathan. An artistic achievement if I ever saw one.

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  4. Flaws aside, this is still an enjoyable issue. Even though Kitty is still something of a brat. It did take her a while to acclimate to being on Excaliber, and to really warm up to the rest of her teammates (Nightcrawler excluded). Maybe a new section "Kitty is a brat"?

    Davis as always does a great job. I think I like his version of N'astrah the most. And cover coloring misstep aside, I really love that cover.

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  5. Also, you missed a "Claremontism"...Kitty's "I hope. I pray." ;)

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  6. Is this is the issue where we see Alan Davis' take on the super-tall Empire State Building? I love how comical he makes it, just poking miles above the rest of the NYC skyline.

    These issues were a weird read for me, because I read "Inferno" when I was eleven, but didn't read the Excalibur tie-ins until I was pushing 30 and finally filling in gaps in the X-collection. So odd, like watching a parody as an adult, of a movie that you grew up with.

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  7. I wonder if Davis was to any extent affected by fellow Brit Terry Pratchett and his depiction of the city of Ankh-Morpork and specifically the miles-high Tower of Art of the Unseen University in the middle of it.

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  8. @Matt: // the cover colorist has messed up Meggan's costume //

    I didn't notice that either. What I did notice, though, is that none of the characters on the cover are demonicized the same way they are inside. I'm not even sure what Captain Britain's deal is supposed to be. He's all bone? So given that and the strange colors — Kitty's face only is gray while the rest of her from neck to hands is her normal flesh tone, and Kurt's going from turquoise to a terribly clashing green — I wouldn't necessarily call Meggan's peek-a-boob window a mistake if it hadn't been named as one by the artist himself.

    This continues to be the best-looking X-Men family title by far. Even the (interior) coloring here stands out. Which makes the upcoming fill-in work all the sorrier.

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