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Thursday, September 11, 2014

X-amining Excalibur #8

"Excalibur's New York Adventure"
May 1989

In a Nutshell 
Brian searches for Meggan while the rest of the team follows up on some loose ends. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Guest Penciler: Ron Lim
Guest Inker: Josef Rubinstein
Letterers: Orzechowski & Mas
Colorist: John A. Wilcox
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Tour Guide: Tom DeFalco
Creators: Claremont & Davis

Plot
At the plaza hotel, Brian Braddock wakes up to discover Meggan and the rest of his teammates missing. While everyone else left a note, Meggan did not. Worried, Brian flies out into the city to search for her. Meggan, meanwhile, is at Coney Island, upset about her actions during Inferno. She runs into a group of women who befriend her and take her shopping. At the remains of Xavier's mansion, the New Mutants are picking through the rubble of the school when they're interrupted by Shadowcat. After she learns what happened to Illyana, Mirage offers Shadowcat a place with X-Factor, but she insists her place is with her team. In the city, Brian's powers begin to fail him, and he's forced to take a cab to continue his search, while Meggan dances with a handsome gentlemen at a street fair.


In California, Nightcrawler retrieves the X-Men's abandoned Blackbird jet from Lockheed's Skunk Works facility. Back in New York, Meggan is forced to use her powers when her dance partner tries to take things too far, while Rachel visits her baby brother aboard Ship. On her own again, Meggan ends up playing in a street basketball game when Brian finds her. Though Brian is concerned about his loss of powers and fears it may be affecting her as well, Meggan feels newly invigorated and confidant as a result of her journey that day, and pays Brian's massive cab fare for him, taking the opportunity to, for once, save him.  

Firsts and Other Notables
Kitty swings by the X-Mansion this issue (thus learning it's been destroyed) and runs into the New Mutants for the first time since "Mutant Massacre" and learns what happened to Illyana during "Inferno". She proceeds to throw some shade at them for the death of Doug Ramsey and Illyana's condition, but ultimately realizes she's just angry and sad about the loss of her friends.


She also notes that she checked out the underground parts of the mansion and they're fine, with the self-repair systems working on the damaged areas, setting the stage for the Cable-led New Mutants eventual assumption of those facilities as their headquarters.


It's unclear at this point if the New Mutants are aware that the X-Men are still alive (presumably they'll learn it from X-Factor at some point, but at this point, they haven't really interacted much yet), but they're certainly aware that Colossus is alive, since they fought beside him in New Mutants #73, but as far as we see, they don't share this info with Kitty (because, of course, that would lead to Kitty learning about the rest of the X-Men and Excalibur's whole point in being coming unraveled). 
 
Last seen being flown by the X-Men to Dallas prior to "Fall of the Mutants" in Incredible Hulk #340, the Blackbird jet has been moved to the Skunk Works facility in Californa, from which Nightcrawler retrieves it this issue to be used by Excalibur moving forward.


Rachel spends some time with her baby brother this issue, though of course she doesn't actually board Ship and say hi to Cyclops or introduce herself to her "mom" (whom she should be ecstatic to learn his alive, considering how much she freaked out when she learned she was dead in this timeline), though she can't be faulted for thinking that being confronted with her grown daughter from an alternate timeline might be a bit much for Jean in the wake of everything that happened in "Inferno". They'll eventually meet face-to-face in the "Days of Future Present" story that runs through the 1990 annuals.


Captain Britain's powers act wonky throughout this issue, turning on and off at random times. I believe this is setting up the notion that his powers weaken the further/longer he's away from Great Britain.


Ron Lim, who was concurrently providing the pencils to the "Retribution Affair", fills in on this issue. 

The Chronology Corner
The New Mutants appear in this issue between issues #75 and #76 of their series. Presumably, Kitty arrives just after the Inner Circle departed, with the New Mutants still picking through the wreckage before returning to Ship.

Jean Grey, meanwhile, appears here before X-Factor #40.

A Work in Progress
Brian notes that Meggan is barely literate, something I believe was established in his solo series.


He remains costume-less following last issue, wearing a set of "gym togs" provided by the hotel throughout this issue. 


Meggan's Inferno-influenced moniker is, at one point in the issue, referred to as the Goblin Queen, though it's later correctly referred to as the Goblin Princess.

It's noted that Moira is the executrix of Professor Xavier's estate.


Nightcrawler says he can basically only do one teleport a day (though it's unclear if we're supposed to assume he teleported from New York to California, something which he couldn't have done even before his recent injuries).


Jean Grey continues to hear baby Christopher's thoughts in her head, and has started to think of him as her son.


I Love the 80s
Coney Island is depicted as being rundown and past its prime, though I believe nowadays its back to being, at least, a popular tourist destination.

Claremontisms
The Skunk Works, the facility from which Nightcrawler lifts the Blackbird, is a real place, and the captions' description of it and its history is all fairly accurate, not surprising given Claremont's well-established love of planes and aviation.

The Reference Section
Lois and Clark are amongst the people who witness Brian flying away from the hotel. 


Teebore's Take
This, then, is the post-"Inferno" Classic Claremont Quiet issue the X-Men never got, as the members of Excalibur, still in New York following the events of the crossover, engage in a variety of activities not immediately pertaining to traditional superhero antics. Captain Britain and Meggan, being the least connected to the events of the crossover, get what stands as the plot of the episode, a character journey for Meggan that speaks to her experiences as the Goblin Princess and the recent strains on her relationship with Brian.

The other three ex X-Men, then, are left to perform little bits of fan service (albeit mostly necessary ones): Kitty learns about Illyana (but not, of course, that Colossus and the X-Men are still alive), an important moment for her character that I'm glad wasn't left to the imagination, Rachel bonds with her baby brother, a nice payoff to what was the initial impetus for Excalibur being drawn into the crossover, and, in a remarkable bit of continuity, Kurt retrieves the X-Men's unused Blackbird jet for Excalibur's use. While the absences of Alan Davis and Paul Neary are certainly felt, this is nonetheless an enjoyable issue, like X-Factor #40, the kind of "catch-your-breath and do some character business" issue that more series could have used post-"Inferno".     

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Patch meets Mr. Fix-it in Wolverine #7. Next week, the X-Men meet a DC parody in Uncanny X-Men #245 and the New Mutants meet Namor in New Mutants #76.

14 comments:

  1. Well, even if the cover isn't drawn by Davis, at least it has his spirit.

    "She proceeds to throw some shade at them for the death of Doug Ramsey and Illyana's condition, but ultimately realizes she's just angry and sad about the loss of her friends."

    Kitty doesn't come off that well this issue ("Kitty is a jerk!...er, brat!" comes to mind). I get that she is upset, but it does seem like a forced confrontation with the New Mutants. But at least they mend fences.

    Not telling her about Colossus, though, is about as contrived as it can be. But as you mentioned, it would undermine the reason Excaliber's being if she knows at this point.

    "Nightcrawler says he can basically only do one teleport a day (though it's unclear if we're supposed to assume he teleported from New York to California, something which he couldn't have done even before his recent injuries)."

    I think he just teleports directly into the cockpit of the Blackbird. Of course, you have to wonder how he got to California in the first place.


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  2. This is not the best Ron Lim job, but what a perfect Nightcrawler! As I just noted in a comment on the MCP serial he drew, one of the things I really love about Lim is his ability to draw characters perfectly on-model. In my experience few artists capture the definitive Cockrum/Byrne Nightcrawler all that well, but Lim has the design down pat.

    "It's noted that Moira is the executrix of Professor Xavier's estate."

    Is "executrix" an actual word?? Or is this like in the seventies, when characters would toss around words like "traitoress" and "murderess", which, as far as I know, are also made-up by semi-pretentious comic book writers?

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  3. @wwk5d: Well, even if the cover isn't drawn by Davis, at least it has his spirit.

    Indeed.

    Not telling her about Colossus, though, is about as contrived as it can be.

    You could write it off as the New Mutants not being sure the Colossus they saw was the real deal, like maybe they thought he was a specter summoned by Illyana or something. But of course, that require there be SOMETHING in the text SOMEWHERE to suggest as much. As it is, the never really reacted to his presence at all.

    Of course, you have to wonder how he got to California in the first place.

    Which is what makes me think maybe we're supposed to think he teleported there (even though he can't). It's unclear either way.

    @Matt: Is "executrix" an actual word?

    Heh. I wondered the same thing when I read it. It certainly sounds Claremontian (and a little dirty), but it's listed on Merriam-Webster's online dictionary at least as the female executor of a deceased's estate.

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  4. Come one guys, it's like two issues since we had a majestrix on board demanding people to be "Orf wit their heads", and in equal-opportunity societies that means there also needs to be executrix...i?

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  5. While it makes her look like a brat, I like to read Kitty's snit as Claremont throwing his own shade at what's become of New Mutants since he left through a favorite character. The "act your age" especially feels like that, since the editorial de-aging is what irreparably damaged the book. But that's me reading into it.

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  6. If Kitty had any point called her "friends" this would have all be avoided. It is interesting to see her react to Doug's death/Illyana's...never existing(?).

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  7. "Rachel spends some time with her baby brother this issue, though of course she doesn't actually board Ship and say hi to Cyclops or introduce herself to her "mom" (whom she should be ecstatic to learn his alive, considering how much she freaked out when she learned she was dead in this timeline), though she can't be faulted for thinking that being confronted with her grown daughter from an alternate timeline might be a bit much for Jean in the wake of everything that happened in "Inferno". "
    If Rachel knows about everything that happened "lately", does that mean she knows about the X-Men being alive? If that's the case, then why doesn't she tell the rest of Excalibur?
    "She also notes that she checked out the underground parts of the mansion and they're fine, with the self-repair systems working on the damaged areas,"
    Apparently she didn't check very carefully, since the repair systems start stealing materials from innocent people to effect repairs in Damage Control.

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  8. @Matt,

    "This is not the best Ron Lim job, but what a perfect Nightcrawler!... In my experience few artists capture the definitive Cockrum/Byrne Nightcrawler all that well, but Lim has the design down pat."

    Definitely! There's Cockrum's original, Byrne's tweaks, Davis's designs, and then a whole lot of (mostly) mediocre Nightcrawlers. Even artists who seemed like good fits for a demonic-looking character, Chris Bachalo and Sam Kieth (on early '90s Marvel trading cards)didn't nail it.

    Of all artists, I think the best post-Davis Nightcrawler goes to Ed McGuiness in Amazing X-Men. He nailed the look, attitude, and body language and it was awesome.

    Of course he's off the book now.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  9. Lim's stuff looks a little better here than in the Cyclops serial, probably due to Rubinstein's inks, but I still think it's awful.

    David Letterman is on the cover at extreme left — by Captain Britain's right hand. The fellow in front of him, and the civilians on the other side of Excalibur, might be Marvel staffers or friends of the creative team.

    Spider-Man is fighting Doctor Octopus in the background of the tall panel on the page where Brian's trying to lift the taxicab.

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  10. "The fellow in front of him, and the civilians on the other side of Excalibur, might be Marvel staffers or friends of the creative team."

    I think you might be right. The guy in front of Letterman looks a little bit like Chris Claremont himself.

    Over on the other side, the fellow with brown hair sort of reminds me a bit of then-Marvel editor Danny Fingeroth, sans glasses. Though looking over some of Lim's early Marvel credits, I don't see that Fingeroth ever edited him around this time, so I'm probably mistaken.

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  11. Hmm, apparently my Fingeroth link didn't work for some reason. But just Google his name and you'll see what I mean.

    Mike -- "Of all artists, I think the best post-Davis Nightcrawler goes to Ed McGuiness in Amazing X-Men."

    I agree! I remember seeing ads for that series and thinking McGuinness drew the best Cockrum-style Nightcrawler I'd seen since, well -- Cockrum!

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  12. @Mela: I like to read Kitty's snit as Claremont throwing his own shade at what's become of New Mutants since he left through a favorite character. The "act your age" especially feels like that, since the editorial de-aging is what irreparably damaged the book.

    I can see that. I think that might be why her snit didn't really bother me much.

    @Branden: If Kitty had any point called her "friends" this would have all be avoided. It is interesting to see her react to Doug's death/Illyana's...never existing(?)

    Clearly, phones don't work in the way of the X-Men the way we expect to them. I do appreciate that we at least get to see some reaction from Kitty to what happened to Illyana.

    @Anonymous: If Rachel knows about everything that happened "lately", does that mean she knows about the X-Men being alive? If that's the case, then why doesn't she tell the rest of Excalibur?

    Yeah, you'd think if she knew, she'd have to tell Excalibur. Or at least, react to it. So presumably, she didn't pick up on that from Nathan.

    Possible fanwank explanation: Maybe Psylocke did something telepathically to prevent other telepaths from picking up memories pertaining to the X-Men, sort of a psychic version of Roma's "invisible to electronics" thing? Obviously, Rachel is probably a stronger TP than Psylocke, but if she doesn't know she needs to be, she wouldn't even try to break Psylocke's whammy.

    Apparently she didn't check very carefully, since the repair systems start stealing materials from innocent people to effect repairs in Damage Control.

    Or she did, and didn't care. :)

    Seriously though, I didn't know the X-Mansion played a role in the Damage Control story. That's kinda neat.

    @Blam: David Letterman is on the cover at extreme left — by Captain Britain's right hand.

    Nice! I totally missed that (and wondered where he was, after seeing the GCD reference him in this issue).

    Spider-Man is fighting Doctor Octopus in the background of the tall panel on the page where Brian's trying to lift the taxicab.

    Huh. I had that in my notes, and I swear I even screen capped it, but obviously I forgot to add it to the post.


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  13. This is a fun issue I guess, but I've never been able to get around how butt-ugly it is.

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  14. @Matt: // The guy in front of Letterman looks a little bit like Chris Claremont himself. //

    I thought of both Claremont and Len Wein, as his face/head is a little "taller" where Claremont's is rounder, but it's impossible to know how close to the mark the art is without first knowing who's being drawn.

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