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Thursday, October 16, 2014

X-amining Excalibur #10

"Widget"
July 1989

In a Nutshell 
Captain Britain fights Hauptmann Englande

Writer: Chris Claremont
Guest Penciler: Marshall Rogers
Guest Inker: Terry Austin
Letterers: Mas & Heisler
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Referee: Tom DeFalco
Creators: Chris Claremont & Alan Davis

Plot
At the Tower of London, Captain Britain battles Hauptmann Englande, though Captain Britain, still suffering a decrease in his power, is easily over-matched by his foe. Below, Reichsminister MacTaggert and Callisto attempt to escape with their hostage, Brigadier Stuart, while the family of lizard-like tourists wander into the battle. As debris from the battle threatens the young Calvin, Captain Britain manages to save him, but it leaves Captain Britain open to an attack from the Lightning Squad's Shadowcat and Nightcrawler. Seemingly defeated, he musters enough strength to knock out Hauptmann Englande just as the Lighning Squad's Meggan reveals she's actually Excalibur's Meggan. She takes out the alternate Nightcrawler and rescues Brigadier Stuart as a revived Phoenix defeats the alternate Shadowcat.


Inside the tower, Excalibur's Shadowcat and Professor Stuart encounter Widget, learning he can open doorways to other realities and realizing he's responsible for bringing Reichsminister MacTaggert and Callisto to their world. However, Shadowcat is forced to shutdown Widget's portal by phasing through part of him, rendering him inert, and Stuart tells her Widget wasn't created by WHO. Later, in the great hall of the Tower, WHO hammers out an agreement with Reichminister MacTaggert and the Lightning Squad to get everyone returned to their properly realities, much to Shadowcat's consternation. The battle done, Shadowcat retrieves something from the Tower, then she and Phoenix head for home. They fly past the office of Courtney Ross, who eagerly anticipates possessing their power and potential for herself. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin fill-in on art. The pair is previously collaborated together on a noteworthy and fondly remembered run of Detective Comics with writer Steve Englehart, but their work here is...serviceable, at best.

Fake Courtney Ross pops up at the very end, plotting to acquire the power and potential of Shadowcat and Phoenix for herself; not sure where, if anywhere, that's going.


The lizard/dinosaur family who were teleported to the Tower by Widget last issue will next appear in issue #51.

I dunno who designed this cover, but the title words are almost laughably difficult to read.

A Work in Progress
At one point, Captain Britain, in attempting to prevent the lizard boy from getting caught in the crossfire of his fight with Hauptman Englande, references Mickey Scott. A footnote points out this story occurred in Cap's solo series, but I'm not familiar with it offhand.


Kitty's Nazi counterpart is capable of disrupting the electricity within the human body, something I've always thought Kitty should be able to do as well.


Rachel notes that she does not have a counterpart in the Lightning Squad.

Kitty's counterpart turns out to be a demon transformed by the Reich, something which horrifies Kitty. It's also made clear that the Nazi regime of this alternate dimension maintains its bigotry towards Jews, even while it elevates mutants.


Young Love
A new love triangle seemingly kicks off this issue, as Kitty meets Alistair Stuart of WHO and thinks that he's beautiful.


But later, Alistair meets Phoenix, and is immediately smitten with her in turn.


Teebore's Take
Story-wise, this issue wraps up the "Excalibur vs. Nazi Excalibur" confrontation, giving Captain Britain a chance to do the whole "over-matched but unwilling to give up" thing and Meggan a chance to be sneaky and save the day. The status of "our" Moira and Callisto, lost in the Nazi world, brings about an interesting resolution, as WHO and the British authorities are forced to hammer out an agreement with Nazi Moira in order to get everyone home safely, something that doesn't sit right with Excalibur but illustrates a little-depicted reality of superheroing (what happens after the fight and the bad guys have all been knocked out)

But all that gets mostly overshadowed by the art, which, in the absence of Alan Davis, simply isn't up to snuff. It's readable, but that's about the best that can be said about it, with stilted figures, mundane page layouts and a general lack of energy, especially when compared to Davis' usual work. Rogers and Austin's work with Steve Englehart on Detective Comics is generally well-regarded (and much better than this). Not sure if this was a rush job, or just a case of changing styles over time, but the art is a definite letdown that mars the conclusion to what was otherwise a fun little story about Excalibur fighting their Nazi counterparts.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Wolverine makes good on a promise in Wolverine #9. Next week, Excalibur deals with Mojo's mayhem in Excalibur: Mojo Mayhem, followed by X-Factor Annual #4.

12 comments:

  1. "Fake Courtney Ross pops up at the very end...not sure where, if anywhere, that's going."

    To the corner of Nowhere St. and Dropped Plotlines Ave, more or less.

    "I dunno who designed this cover"

    Crap art aside, it does at least keep the tone of the Alan Davis covers.

    "A footnote points out this story occurred in Cap's solo series"

    Here you go: http://uncannyxmen.net/comics/issue/mighty-world-of-marvel-2nd-series-14

    "Rachel notes that she does not have a counterpart"

    Well, she is the most special snowflake, according to CC.

    "Kitty's counterpart turns out to be a demon transformed by the Reich, something which horrifies Kitty."

    You mean she is turned INTO a "demon", right?

    "It's also made clear that the Nazi regime of this alternate dimension maintains its bigotry towards Jews, even while it elevates mutants."

    An interesting...was going to say dichotomy, but I'm not sure that word applies. In any case, I am curious how other mutants would be treated there, though, especially other ethnic mutants like Storm or Sunspot. Elevated or "altered" like Kitty? Of course, the other members of LS would be treated well; Nightcrawler is at least a Christian German, while Brian and Meggan are the epitome of "Aryan Perfection".

    Too bad about the art. Story wise, this is one of the better non-Davis drawn issues, and you have to wonder how much better it would have been had Davis been the artist.

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  2. Shadowcat is forced to shutdown Widget's portal by phasing through part of him, rendering him inert

    Claremont trying to scare this art team away with some Kitty/Kate action because it worked so well on Byrne back in the day?

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  3. Ugh. I can't even bring myself to consider that art "serviceable". Outright fill-in issues are usually disappointing, but there's a special kind of suck you feel when a multi-part story in the flow of the ongoing narrative is begun by the regular artist(s), especially when it's work of Davis & Neary's caliber, and ended by others, especially when the result is... this.

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  4. "Claremont trying to scare this art team away with some Kitty/Kate action because it worked so well on Byrne back in the day?"
    Has anyone ever said that CLAREMONT intended Widget to be Kate? Because Claremont's issues don't read that way and Widget wasn't revealed to be Kate until after Claremont left the X-Books.

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  5. @wwk5d: To the corner of Nowhere St. and Dropped Plotlines Ave, more or less.

    Heh. Sounds about right. :)

    You mean she is turned INTO a "demon", right?

    Yes. In hindsight, I could have made that more clear.

    Story wise, this is one of the better non-Davis drawn issues, and you have to wonder how much better it would have been had Davis been the artist.

    Had Davis stuck around to finish it, I'd be tempted to call it the book's best story yet, but without him, that honor still falls to the Arcade two-parter.

    @Blam: Outright fill-in issues are usually disappointing, but there's a special kind of suck you feel when a multi-part story in the flow of the ongoing narrative is begun by the regular artist(s), especially when it's work of Davis & Neary's caliber, and ended by others, especially when the result is... this.

    Fill-in art, necessary to the business it may be, has always bugged me, but man, it never bugs me more than in the situation you describe.

    @Anonymous: Has anyone ever said that CLAREMONT intended Widget to be Kate? Because Claremont's issues don't read that way and Widget wasn't revealed to be Kate until after Claremont left the X-Books.

    Yeah, I've never read anything suggesting that was Claremont's intention. It's possible he told Davis his plans around this time, and Davis stuck with them when he finally got around to revealing Widget's origin, but it's just as possible Davis made all that up whole cloth and Claremont never said anything about his ideas for Widget.

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  6. If the Rogers/Austin duo of DETECTIVE COMICS had drawn this story, it would be a worthy follow-up to Davis's work. But for whatever reason, their work here is just horrible. I've said it a few times before, but I'll say again that just can't understand how this happened. We're barely ten or twelve years removed from their DETECTIVE run, so neither Rogers nor Austin has gotten old enough to be losing his ability yet. And while styles change over time, this is just ridculous.

    I can't imagine this product is what Terry Kavanagh expected when he hired the duo for this fill-in. He probably had visions of Batman dancing in his head, and imagined a fight at the Tower of London would look magnificent coming from the artists who had imbued Gotham City with such amazing mood and atmosphere.

    What a let-down.

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  7. "It's possible he told Davis his plans around this time, and Davis stuck with them when he finally got around to revealing Widget's origin, but it's just as possible Davis made all that up whole cloth and Claremont never said anything about his ideas for Widget. "

    I believe Davis has said on his blog or a forum that it's the latter.

    I'm 99% sure that Claremont did NOT intend Widget to be Kitty.

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  8. @Jason: I'm 99% sure that Claremont did NOT intend Widget to be Kitty.

    And that's good enough for me!

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  9. Teebore, check out this page, I'm sure it'll shed some light on lots of plot points we'll see later on:

    http://uncannyxmen.net/secrets-behind-the-x-men/cosmic-comedy-with-excalibur

    Here is an interesting quote from CC:

    "And then basically the concept of Excalibur evolved, and we decided on a team, which would be Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde), Nightcrawler, Captain Britain, his girlfriend Meggan, Phoenix, and someone new whom we'd invent (Widget)."

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  10. @wwk5d: Thanks for that link! Great article, I have a feeling I'll be referencing it often moving forward.

    I also love that, in true Claremont fashion, he and Davis intended for Widget to be a new team member and here we are, 10 issues into the series and Widget's only now starting to interact with the main characters. :)

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  11. Check out the main page as well, it has loads of articles about so many other plots and stories about the X-titles:

    http://uncannyxmen.net/secrets

    And this has a mix of those articles and some others detailing CC dropped plotlines when he left Uncanny:

    http://secretsbehindthexmen.blogspot.com/2012_05_01_archive.html

    Lots of good, fascinating reading :)

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  12. Yup. Bad, bad art.

    That panel of Ross at the end is so evocative of Sharon Stone it's interesting to consider that this was three full years before Basic Instinct hit theaters.

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