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Thursday, November 6, 2014

X-amining Excalibur #11

"The Price"
August 1989

In a Nutshell 
Nazi Excalibur goes home just as Excalibur disappears. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Guest Penciler: Marshall Rogers
Guest Inker: Terry Austin 
Letterer: Todd Klein
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Terry Kavanagh
Prime Minister: Tom DeFalco
Creators: Chris Claremont & Alan Davis

Plot
In London, Nigel Frobisher watches as Phoenix and Shadowcat fly overhead, then realizes he's running late. Rushing through Fraser's Bank, he reaches Courtney Ross office just a few seconds late. Meanwhile, Rachel and Kitty arrive back at the Lighthouse to find Illyana's Soulsword waiting for Kitty. Rachel tries to destroy it for her, but is unable to do so, and Kitty flies into a rage when she discovers Lockheed, injured by the Lightning Squad during their initial attack. Back in London, Nigel is dressed down by Courtney, then is tasked with engaging the services of Gatecrasher and Technet. A few days later, Alistair Stuart visits Rachel and Kitty at the lighthouse, while his sister and the rest of Excalibur are still hammering out an arrangement with the Lightening Squad, and gives Kitty the inert Widget. At the Tower of London, the Nazi Nightcrawler attacks Brigadier Stuart, who turns out to be Meggan in disguise.


The next morning, Kitty is suddenly transported to an alien world while getting dressed, and is mortified when she returns to the lighthouse in front of Alistair. That evening, as she's trying to repair Widget, Rachel contacts her telepathically, saying the rest of the team needs them. They reconvene with the rest of Excalibur at an abandoned rail line in North England, where the train from the Lightning Sqaud's reality has been moved. Rachel realizes the train is powered by an enslaved sentient dragon, and refuses to send it back with the Lightning Squad. Just then, a portal from the Lightning Squad's world opens, with Moira and Callisto coming through. As the Lightning Squad returns to their world, Reichminister MacTaggert tosses a grenade back through the portal just as it closes. Rachel does her best to contain the explosion, but in the aftermath, Excalibur, Alistair, Widget and the train all disappear to parts unknown.

Firsts and Other Notables
The explosion at the end of this issue launches Excalibur (and Alistair Stuart) into the "Cross Time Caper", Excalibur's take on the multi-part storyline all the other X-books are doing around this time (though "Caper" will last much longer than any of the others). 

"Our" Moira and Callisto, as well as the passengers aboard the train transported to the Nazi reality by Widget, are returned this issue, just as Nazi Moira, Callisto and the Lightning Squad go back to their world.

After being manifested by Kitty during "Inferno", Illyana's Soulsword shows up in a rock outside Excalibur's lighthouse this issue, where Kitty decides to leave it. Not sure if this is specifically going anywhere in the immediate future, but I do know Kitty continues to be the guardian/wielder of the Soulsword for awhile yet.


The Chronology Corner
Mojo Mayhem takes place between pages of this issue.

A Work in Progress
Fake Courtney tasks Nigel, as part of his repayment of the debt he owes her following his lost bet, with contracting Technet for her. 

Kitty notes the X-Men's propensity for damaging their homes.


She also notes that she somehow always ends up with physically attractive roommates.


Last issue seemed to suggest that Kitty took Widget with her when she and Rachel left the Tower; in this issue, Alistair brings Widget to the lighthouse with him.

Just as Nightcrawler and Meggan did previously, Kitty briefly finds herself transported to an alien world while at the lighthouse. 


Captain Britain is seen wearing what I assume is meant to be a standard WHO uniform this issue.


I Love the 80s
In a rather odd moment that doesn't really go anywhere, Nazi Nightcrawler tries to rape Brigadier Stuart (and says that eventually, she'll learn to enjoy it), who turns out to be Meggan in disguise. An interesting thing that comes out of the scene is Nightcrawler realizing just how close some of his own swashbuckling romantic gestures towards women come to the line Nazi Nightcrawler blatantly crossed.


The Reference Section
Kitty has a Cats Laughing poster in her bedroom.

Young Love
Kitty continues to pine for Alistair, who only has eyes for Rachel, which triggers some body issues for Kitty.


Teebore's Take
This isn't quite a Classic Claremont Quiet Issue, but it is chiefly concerned with wrapping up the Nazi Excalibur story and setting up Excalibur's multi-part 1989 storyline, and as such, it's filled with mostly quiet, character driven moments. Aside from the really creepy and mostly pointless scene in which Nazi Nightcrawler tries to rape Brigadier Stuart, the most notable bit is Kitty grappling with body image issues and the fact that she keeps ending up with hot best friends/roommates. That's probably not going anywhere (given that the series is about to be caught up in the seemingly-endless "Cross Time Caper") but it's still an intriguing bit of writing, even in just this small dose. Of course, it's hard to really get too invested in much of any of this with Rogers & Austin still turning in sub-par art. Davis & Neary are back next issue, and they can't return soon enough.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, a tale from Wolverine's past in Wolverine #10. Next week, Nanny attacks in Uncanny X-Men #248, followed by the New Mutants in Asgard in New Mutants #79.

11 comments:

  1. Rogers and Austin seem a tiny bit improved this issue, but not to the point that I would ever call this "good". It's still pretty terrible.

    It's entirely possible I'm mistaken, having not read much mid-EXCALIBUR outside of Claremont's and Davis's runs, but I don't think anyone does anything with the Soul Sword on the front porch until Warren Ellis somewhere around the series' 80s, right?

    (I really, really like Ellis's EXCALIBUR. It's pretty much the only mainstream Ellis comic book run I enjoy.)

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  2. I don't think anyone does anything with the Soul Sword on the front porch until Warren Ellis somewhere around the series' 80s, right?


    Unfortunately Scott Lobdell decides to fiddle with it during The Prometheum Exchange (#37-#39?), a really terrible crossover with the West Coast Avengers.

    Among comic book writers, Lobdell has a distinctive knack for giving everything he does-- including long-ish runs and multi-part stories-- the feel of subpar fill-in issues. This person is the hack to end all hacks.

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  3. // Meanwhile, Rachel and Kitty arrive //

    "Letting her own power overwhelm her was what got the original Phoenix in trouble," Kitty says as they regard the giant hole that Rachel tore in the lighthouse roof while blasting off. A moment later Rachel is unconsciously manifesting images from Kitty's mind. This sure feels like a possible repeat of the X-Men, Moira and Scott in particular, watching Jean exercise her amped-up abilities in similarly cavalier or unintentional ways, which is all the more confusing since I'm really not sure just what percentage of the Phoenix entity's power Rachel has and whether it's a case of a fraction of infinity still basically being infinity.

    // Alistair Stuart visits ... and gives Kitty the inert Widget //

    Is that what they're calling it these days?

    Seriously, though: Yes, Alistaire, by all means, do bring the impenetrable tech doodad of unknown origin that creates dimensional portals on a whim to Excalibur's headquarters and leave it lying around while you have some chicken soup.

    I had a funny Fringe flashback reading the discussion about each of the parallel Earths being afraid that the other would invade their side, by the way. (Don't recall if you ever ended up watching it, Teebore.)

    // Kitty is suddenly transported to an alien world while getting dressed //

    We really have a surfeit of this kind of thing now with both Widget bridging parallel realities and the lighthouse itself maybe being a nexus among dimensions of some kind as seen in early issues and perhaps revisited here, if this wasn't in fact a heretofore unexplored aspect of Kitty's own power manifesting itself when she got angry.

    One pertinent bit that you neglected to mention, although it's seen in the panels you posted, is that Kitty is starkers again. I'd almost suggest giving this its own category — Naked Pryde! — if that weren't so, y'know, skeevy.

    // Rachel does her best to contain the explosion //

    Claremont refers to the grenade as a "micro-nuke" in the captions, "straining even Phoenix to her limits," more-or-less bookending the issue in references to Rachel's power. And, I suspect, tossing off a description that not unreasonably would've sent John Byrne into a fit with its offhand suggestion of how enormously strong that would make her.

    // in the aftermath, Excalibur, Alistair, Widget and the train all disappear to parts unknown //

    My theory? They just had to get away from this art.

    // Kitty continues to be the guardian/wielder of the Soulsword for awhile yet //

    Given that it's stuck in a stone, Excalibur is the most appropriate place for it.

    // Captain Britain is seen wearing what I assume is meant to be a standard WHO uniform this issue. //

    WHO apparently gets SHIELD's hand-me-downs.

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  4. Ben -- "Among comic book writers, Lobdell has a distinctive knack for giving everything he does-- including long-ish runs and multi-part stories-- the feel of subpar fill-in issues. This person is the hack to end all hacks."

    I haven't liked what little of Lobdell's EXCALIBUR I've read, and I've barely read anything else he's written outside of his X-Men work, but I really like his UNCANNY X-MEN run and especially his GENERATION X. I think he came into his own on UNCANNY after "Fatal Attractions" and did some good stuff there all the way up through issue 350.

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  5. I think Lobdell is also credited as co-plotter of the Soulsword trilogy Ellis wrote, which was a sequel to Lobdell's.

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  6. I love how Kitty in that panel is expositing about Soul Sword to Rachel, of all people. I almost expected her to either interrupt or have a though bubble "Yes, Kitty, I lived with Illyana too for a while, I know all about the Arcan Magik Soul Sword Fishcakes". I mean, all that exposition would have made more sense if Kitty was speaking to Meggan or Brian...

    "She also notes that she somehow always ends up with physically attractive roommates."

    Which comes out of nowhere, because 1) Since when was Rachel ever considered a babe? Unless she had some work done on her on Mojoworld, the woman didn't exactly have guys drooling over her all the time during her days with the X-men and 2) When was Illyana considered a babe? Unless there were scenes during the New Mutants days where the guys were all lusting after Illyana while saying Kitty looked like a hunchback...

    "which triggers some body issues for Kitty."

    Just like Jubilee and Psylocke...I'm seeing a theme here...of course, given how most women in comic books are drawn, I'm not surprised. Of course, given that Meggan is much more...voluptuous than Rachel, I'm surprised this hasn't been an issue for her earlier.

    As with most of the fill-ins of this run, the writing on it's own is all right, but it would have been so much better had Davis been the artist.

    If you think about it, I'd say a good third of Davis' run here feels like it was done by fill-in artists, which is a shame.

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  7. The Nightcrawler that ended into Belasco's Limbo was pretty deprived too, and he was supposed to have been our 'crawler up to the point of the X-Men going to Limbo in #160. Maybe Kurt's introspection here has its roots in that story also by Claremont, who now decides to do some lip service on it. It's a bit scary. I mean, he knows Alysande is someone's sister... can we please return to this when Amanda decides to take her into swimming some UXM issues ahead?

    Illyana is a babe just by courtesy of the long blond hair (universal rules, not mine), and Davis' art on Rachel has been so strong, gorgeous and beautiful it has sieved into in-universe through the fourth wall and affects on everyone's perception of Rachel, not unlike in the movies where individual comic book character's importance increases plentifully if they have managed to get a hot name actor/actress for the role (Mystique...). It's funny because it's the JRjr Spiky Hound costume that Rachel still wears, though in a sinfully red form. Her civilian clothes taste has developed from the baggy/gym gear she wore in Uncanny, though, and likely how she carries them too, which may amount to her current perceived hotness.

    Meggan is a bat creature by nature and a sex goddess only because Brian likes it that way, which is all known to Kitty. She also has a) boyfriend who b) hits hard, so there's less reason to be jealous of her.

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  8. Or, if you prefer, Rachel got it from Spiral's (TA-DAA!) Body Shoppe.

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  9. @Ben: Among comic book writers, Lobdell has a distinctive knack for giving everything he does-- including long-ish runs and multi-part stories-- the feel of subpar fill-in issues.

    Like Matt, I have some affection for Lobdell's X-work, especially his take on the Classic Claremont Quiet issue, some of which are all time faves (it helps that he was one of the first X-Men writers I ever encountered).

    But I've never read his Excalibur stuff, which I understand to be pretty terrible.

    @Blam: Is that what they're calling it these days?

    Haha! :)

    (Don't recall if you ever ended up watching it, Teebore.)

    Not yet. It's still on the "to watch" list, though.

    I'd almost suggest giving this its own category — Naked Pryde! — if that weren't so, y'know, skeevy.

    That's honestly why I haven't. And also why I never kept a running tally of all the times Illyana got sexualized over in New Mutants.

    Given that it's stuck in a stone, Excalibur is the most appropriate place for it.

    And, I think, this is the only place it's ever depicted as such (later, it emerges from Kitty's chest, IIRC) making me think Rogers and/or Austin drew it that way because of the obvious connection to the team's name.

    @wwk5d: Which comes out of nowhere, because 1) Since when was Rachel ever considered a babe? Unless she had some work done on her on Mojoworld, the woman didn't exactly have guys drooling over her all the time during her days with the X-men and 2) When was Illyana considered a babe?

    As Teemu suggests, the Rachel of Excalibur has been said to be more babe-like than ever before (see the way both Nigel and Alistair are instantly attracted to her, and Kitty's occasional comments on her more bawdy clothing). Whether that's because of work done in the Body Shoppe (kudos, Teemu!) or just a change in attitude/dress is unclear, but it's a pretty well-established element of this series, at least, at this point.

    As for Illyana, yeah, I've always taken her to be the "babe" of New Mutants, if just for all the time she ended up in a skimpy bathing suit or was otherwise sexualized during her tenure on the title - skeevy it may be, we were clearly meant to think of her as "the hot one".

    If you think about it, I'd say a good third of Davis' run here feels like it was done by fill-in artists, which is a shame.

    It is a shame, and is a bit atypical still for artists around this time.

    Of course, nowadays, an artist who completes 2/3 of his run on a book is nearly unprecedented.

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  10. Babe of the New Mutants = Amara.

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  11. The ironic thing is that, if you break the fourth wall, Kitty attracts more male fans than either Rachel or Illyana combined.

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