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Thursday, August 28, 2014

X-amining Excalibur #7

"Goblin Morn!"
April 1989

In a Nutshell
Excalibur is consumed by Inferno. 

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

Plot
In the transformed Manhattan, Crotus comes across the mannequin-like Rachel, frozen in place inside a bridal shop. Recognizing her as Phoenix, Crotus begins to enact a spell to bind her power to his will, through which he can rule everything. Meanwhile, inside the demonic movie theater, Shadowcat battles a possessed Captain Britain, their action movie trappings eventually changing, with Captain Britain becoming a horror movie monster and Shadowcat a cheerleader. Elsewhere, Nightcrawler is scooped up by demonic garbage truck, but manages to escape, then helps leads a defense against an army of possessed mannequins as Shadowcat comes face to face with Meggan the Goblin Princess.


Spotting a mannequin wearing Phoenix's costume, Nightcrawler realizes what's happened to his teammate. Back at the bridal shop, Crotus begins casting his spell in the form of a wedding to Rachel. Elsewhere, Shadowcat suddenly manifests Illyana's armor and Soulsword and, using the sword, is able to free first Captain Britain and then Meggan of their enchantments. At the bridal shop, Nightcrawler intervenes just as Crotus' spell is about to finish, disrupting the wedding and freeing Phoenix. Now back to normal, Captain Britain assures Meggan neither of them were acting like themselves while enchanted, though Shadowcat worries the spells merely twisted and magnified pieces of each them. Elsewhere, a defeated Crotus searches for his master.

Firsts and Other Notables
Towards the end of the issue, Shadowcat suddenly manifests Illyana's armor and Soulsword, just as she did when the Beyonder briefly killed Ilyana (and the rest of the New Mutants) during Secret Wars II. Kitty doesn't know it yet, but that's because Illyana has been killed/ceased to exist as of New Mutants #73. The full ramifications of this will be explored more fully next issue.


This issue features a wraparound cover.

The Chronology Corner
Crotus appears here prior to his appearance in Cloak & Dagger #4 and after X-Terminators #4 (when he was burned and blackened). This issue (or, at least, its closing pages) runs parallel to New Mutants #73, with Kitty receiving Illyana's armor and sword after she sacrifices herself.

A Work in Progress
It's unclear if the Grimoire  Crotus uses in this issue is the same book as the Belasco spell book he uses in Cloak & Dagger #4. I like to think it is.


Shadowcat does worry that something has happened to Illyana once she manifests her armor, thinking that her loss on top of everyone else would be too much to bear. 


The Reference Section
The Inferno-possessed Captain Britain morphs into a Nightmare on Elm Street/Friday the 13th Freddy/Jason amalgamation at one point.


Nightcrawler's fight takes him into the Forbidden Planet comic book shop.


Teebore's Take
Kind of a ho-hum issue. Granted, Alan Davis at least makes it fun to look at and helps elevate it above the level of the standard "Inferno" tie-in fare, but story-wise, it's little more than a routine crossover tie-in. Despite featuring the best friend of Illyana Rasputin (the central figure of New Mutants' portion of "Inferno"), as well as the sort-of sister of baby Christopher and the sort-of daughter of Madelyne Pryor (two significant characters in the X-Men/X-Factor storyline), AND despite those relationships serving as the impetus for this book's entrance into the crossover last issue, the bulk of this issue is little more than a standard "Excalibur fights demons and the effects of 'Inferno'" story. While that sort of tangential connection is all well and good for an issue of Spectacular Spider-Man or Daredevil, for what is ostensibly an X-book with at least two of its main characters having strong ties to characters involved in the crossover's larger narrative, this should be more than just a routine (though superbly drawn and mostly entertaining) tie-in issue.   

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the Madripoorian gang war continues in Wolverine #6. Next week, the X-Men go to the mall in Uncanny X-Men #244, followed by the New Mutants' confrontation with Magneto in New Mutants #75.

18 comments:

  1. Does "sum and substance of _______" count as a Clarmontism? ;)

    The reason (I believe, anyway) that Excaliber stays on the fringes of this crossover, despite the connections between them and other characters you mentioned, is that had they been more involved in the storyline, then Kurt, Kitty, Rachel, and Brian would have found out the X-men were alive. Which would mean less angsting about how much they've all lost. Heck, the New Mutants should have some idea the X-men are still alive, and nothing came of that anyway.

    So...yeah, a blah issue with the usual high standard Alan Davis art. It could've been better, true, but it could have been worse.

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  2. @wwk5d: Does "sum and substance of _______" count as a Clarmontism? ;)

    Oh, probably. But it's not as egregious as, say, "focused totality".

    The reason (I believe, anyway) that Excaliber stays on the fringes of this crossover, despite the connections between them and other characters you mentioned, is that had they been more involved in the storyline, then Kurt, Kitty, Rachel, and Brian would have found out the X-men were alive.

    Oh, I'm pretty sure that's the case too. Excalibur was born from the death of the X-Men, and it probably is too early in the series' run for them to learn their creation was born of a lie, but that doesn't change the fact that their involvement in the crossover (whatever the reason), was still kinda ho-hum.

    But yeah, it could have been much worse. This is more a case of the issue being disappointingly "not good" as opposed to be being outright bad.

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  3. Augustin Mas' lettering is not good. There, I've said it.

    "Oh, probably. But it's not as egregious as, say, "focused totality". "

    HE HARDLY EVER USED THAT PHRASE

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  4. @Jason: HE HARDLY EVER USED THAT PHRASE

    Heh. I've argued that same thing at various places around the internet. If anything, the writers who followed him, probably trying to emulate him, used it more.

    There are some Claremontisms that become such just because he used them more than most. Others, despite not using them as often, are Claremontisms just because they're a phrase he coined. "Focused Totality" is one of the latter.

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  5. I'd just like to point out that Captain Britain loses his costume this issue and doesn't get a replacement until (I believe) issue 13! That feels like some sort of record at this point in time. But I guess such a liesurely change is easier to get away with in a team book rather than a solo series, where you'd expect that if a costume is lost, it will be replaced by next issue (if not in the very same installment).

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  6. @Matt: I'd just like to point out that Captain Britain loses his costume this issue and doesn't get a replacement until (I believe) issue 13!

    Wow, I had no idea! That is pretty amazing. That's one of those observations I miss out on from having never read this series before.

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  7. Special squarebound edition "Excalibur: Mojo Mayhem," which chronologically must fall in between the pages of Excalibur #11, features Cap in costume. Continuity flub, Art Adams!

    I know you haven't covered it yet, Tee, but I suggest that -- in Mojo Mayhem -- since Cap was arriving on the scene of a battle he knew was being filmed by TV cameras, he used an Image inducer, to make it appear that he had his costume, so as not to lower the morale of the British population who were tuned in.

    Right, right? Wink wink nudge nudge, say no more.

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  8. unrelated, but I'm sure you're watching the Simpsons marathon right?

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  9. "Oh, I'm pretty sure that's the case too. Excalibur was born from the death of the X-Men, and it probably is too early in the series' run for them to learn their creation was born of a lie, but that doesn't change the fact that their involvement in the crossover (whatever the reason), was still kinda ho-hum."
    But in issue 8, Rachel seems to have figured out the woman she met was Maddie. Shouldn't she be wondering if the other X-Men are alive? (Of course, the same goes for Colossus and the New Mutants.)
    The other issue is that the Soulsword reverts anyone to their pre-demon personality, so X-Factor 38 would have ended very quickly had Kitty been there with it:
    "What do you want, Madelyne?"
    "Vengeance, death. OW. I mean some pants and a divorce lawyer."

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  10. I don't know if it's because of this book's British affiliations or what, but whereas before he had a stereotypical "Igor" voice in my head now I'm reading Crotus as Dobby the House Elf.

    For what it's worth, I took the grimoire to be the same one as in Cloak & Dagger #4, although then I can't figure out how to place the stories chronologically. It seems like this comes before that, given that the Limbo portal only closes in this issue and Crotus still has his lisp; on the other hand, Crotus leaves the church without the book — which is being thrown by Nightcrawler into that last-ditch, chuck-all-the-ingredients-together counterspell.

    There are lots more references to mention:

    Zeke, a member of the punk trio drawn into the cineplex adventure, provides running film criticism and highfalutin' philosophical observation. First he likens the winged demons descending on them to the "Harryhausen harpies" from Jason and the Argonauts and then observes that being sucked into the movie screen is Purple Rose of Cairo in reverse.

    Upon entering Forbidden Planet the store, Kurt finds that its back wall has vanished to reveal a vista from Forbidden Planet the movie, calling out the landscape of Altair-IV, the ship, and Robby the Robot by name. He then remarks that toys have come to life, with the SF novels The Forever War, Starship Troopers, and (one I hadn't heard of, apparently the first in a shared-world series) The Fleet, appearing in crowd-scene speech balloons along with "Japanimation". Later the spacesuited soldiers refer to the unending onslaught of mannequins as "Night of the Living Dead meets Aliens!"

    I'd like to believe that Kitty's unnecessary crotch shot was, as Zeke might put it, cross-medium genre deconstruction, but given the way she's been sexualized in the series probably not.

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  11. @Jason: // Augustin Mas' lettering is not good. There, I've said it. //

    No, it's not, and I was going to bring that up even if you hadn't. The beautiful Davis/Neary art really deserves Orzechowski.

    I get that lack of interaction with the X-Men is a giant elephant in the room, but Manhattan's a big place and given how tied up the Excalibur cast seems to be — with the possible exception of Nightcrawler, out scampering across the skyline — it's believable. Until we get Rachel's giant phoenix effect, anyway. I'm fuzzy on the timeline, I admit, partly because the stories themselves are somewhat contradictory; the main players definitely should've noticed that if they were still in the city, and if Jean had absorbed the Phoenix spark in Maddie by then she arguably should've felt Rachel's exertion of the power even out at the mansion in Salem Center.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the issue exactly for what it is, which seems to mean more than Teebore did.

    How could you not mention the literally pathetic subplot about the gargoyle who takes a shine to Nightcrawler before returning to inanimate stone, dude?

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  12. Jason -- "Continuity flub, Art Adams!"

    Morseo than any other artist on X-Men annuals and other special projects, I feel like we see these things the most with Adams, owing, I assume, to the amount of lead time he needed to get things done.

    Anyway, your image inducer theory, while making little sense for Captain Britain as a character, works for me.

    (Unless you want to go with my preferred theory that "Mojo Mayhem" never happened and doesn't count.)

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  13. Matt: (Unless you want to go with my preferred theory that "Mojo Mayhem" never happened and doesn't count.)

    No! Judith Rassendyl deserves his prince!

    ("hersoot preference", my not-robot ensurement words for the post, of course refer to her wistful looks at our dark-skinned swashbuckler)

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  14. Judith was a tranny?

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  15. "Anyway, your image inducer theory, while making little sense for Captain Britain as a character, works for me."

    ***Well, maybe Meggan talked him into it.

    "(Unless you want to go with my preferred theory that "Mojo Mayhem" never happened and doesn't count.)"

    ***One of my very first comics was X-Men Annual 12, so I also can't help but have a soft-spot for the sequel (which I bought on sight off the shelf when I saw it had my beloved X-Babies on the cover).

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  16. "The beautiful Davis/Neary art really deserves Orzechowski."

    Truth.

    "How could you not mention the literally pathetic subplot about the gargoyle who takes a shine to Nightcrawler before returning to inanimate stone, dude?"

    That was odd.

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  17. These Inferno issues are perfectly emblematic of why early (i.e., pre solo-Davis) Excalibur never quite worked for me. Even with the various percolating subplots, each individual arc feels like a digression. Issues like this are pleasant to read and a lot of fun to look at but they hint frustratingly at the book this could have been if Claremont had been giving it full attention. He nails the tone, but it never adds up. Okay, fine, it's a crossover tie-in but does it have to last three issues? Couldn't he have found a way to give it some narrative weight without taking away from the (refreshing) fact that it's a bit of a lark?

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  18. Even keeping in mind the limitation that Excalibur can't cross paths with the X-Men, there's a lot of material that could have been mined here. Instead, like much of Excalibur, it just resorts to mindless pastiche. One often gets the impression Claremont is just throwing Davis a lot of fun things to draw, which, it could be worse but it also seems like a waste.

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