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Thursday, March 12, 2015

X-amining Excalibur #18

"Wild, Wild Wheels"
January 1990

In a Nutshell 
Excalibur lands on a world controlled by Jamie Braddock. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Guest Penciler: Dennis Jensen
Guest Inkers: Dan Adkins and co. 
Letterer: Jade Moede
Colorists: Mike Rockwitz & Brad Vancata
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
While traveling between worlds, the mysterious link between Meggan and Phoenix causes Phoenix to violently crash their train onto a new world, one obsessed with a global grand prix of which Captain Britain's brother Jamie is the champion. In the wake of the crash, Meggan is captured by Jamie and Captain Britain chases after them, as Phoenix grows sick. Later, Widget transforms into a race car and Kitty, worried about her teammates' continued absence, sets out after them. She comes across Captain Britain, who has lost the ability to fly but is walking after Jamie, and the pair are assisted in their hunt by a two cops calling themselves the Dirty Angels.


Meanwhile, Jamie tries to take control of Phoenix through her link with Meggan, but is interrupted by the arrival of the Dirty Angels, followed by Kitty and Captain Britain. Jamie sets Meggan against Captain Britain as he attacks Kitty, but her phased state makes it difficult for him to use his power on her. She manages to escape, but he captures Lockheed and Widget, confidant that as long as he has them, she'll be back. Meanwhile, Captain Britain emerges from the rubble of his battle with Meggan clutching her unconscious form, swearing that his brother will do no more harm.

Firsts and Other Notables
Excalibur encounters a version of Jamie Braddock for the first time this issue, as they land on a world in which he basically reshapes the planet to his whims via his reality warping powers. Interestingly (to me, at least), Captain Britain doesn't know his brother from his world has powers.

A pair of weird, Manga-esque female cops show up in this issue, gunning for Jamie. I have no idea where, if anywhere, that's going.


Art in this issue comes from Dennis Jensen, a name with which I'm completely unfamiliar, who is billed as a guest penciler. However, though Alan Davis will return to draw two more issues of "The Cross-Time Caper", he has said in interviews that last issue was actually his last regular penciling work for the series, at least until he returns much later as writer and artist, meaning the book is without a regular artist at this point. 

A Work in Progress
Excalibur's train is said to travel through a "pan dimensional void", and it's made clear that it takes time to travel between worlds (rather than the train just popping from one world to the other nearly instantaneously. We see said void for the first time this issue.


Kitty notes that Psylocke spoke fondly of her older brother, which of course had to have happened off panel.


It's noted that Rachel's powers keep her from getting sick, which is probably tied to the notion of her being able to telekinetically control molecules.


Nightcrawler is oddly protective of Kitty at one point, basically saying he should go after Brian and Meggan because she's a young girl, despite everything they've been through together. 


This version of Jamie (and presumably the regular version as well) is jealous of how much his parents doted on Captain Britain and Psylocke, calling himself the prototype child for them.


Jamie, who views reality as an assortment of strings he can manipulate, finds Kitty's strings to be slippery and hard to grasp when she's phasing.


Teebore's Take
This issue marks the first encounter between Excalibur and Jamie Braddock (or, at least an alt version of him), and in theory, that should make for an interesting story, due both to Jamie's relationship to one of the series' main characters and the setup of his villainy/insanity in earlier issues of this storyline. In practice, this is just...weird. Some of that is intentional, as it becomes clear that the latest world Excalibur has arrived on is being warped by Jamie's power, but it becomes hard to tell exactly what he's affecting and what he's not (the world's obsession with auto races? Jamie. The fact that the characters don't really sound like themselves even though the issue is written by Claremont? Not so sure). And then there's the two random Manga-esque women obsessed with capturing Jamie, and the weird shift in art that accompanies their arrival, which, again, is probably supposed to be an indication of Jamie warping reality but it remains unclear why.

Which really gets to the heart of this issue's problem: the art. The one saving grace of the interminably-long "Cross-Time Caper" thus far has been Alan Davis' art, which has at least made the book fun to look at it even if the stories have been, more often than not, rather humdrum. But Davis is gone now, in any significant way, at least as far as "Cross-Time" is concerned, and this issue suffers for it. Claremont clearly wrote it expecting Davis to draw it, and he probably would have handled the subtle shifts in art, indicating Jamie's madness, just fine. But without him, this is just a mess, with sloppy layouts, inconsistent figure work and downright confusing action muddying what would otherwise be one of the more significant and intriguing chapters in the long-in-the-tooth story.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Wolverine gets the heck out of Tierra Verde in Wolverine #20. Next week, Uncanny X-Men #258 and New Mutants #86.

Collected Edition


10 comments:

  1. I think the two manga characters are meant to be an homage to anime/manga series "Dirty Pair"

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  2. I wonder if the artist responded to this ad:

    http://ripjaggerdojo.blogspot.com/2012/07/learn-to-draw-tarzan.html

    Maybe he should.

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  3. "Kitty notes that Psylocke spoke fondly of her older brother, which of course had to have happened off panel."

    True, but it isn't implausible that it happened.

    "Nightcrawler is oddly protective of Kitty at one point, basically saying he should go after Brian and Meggan because she's a young girl, despite everything they've been through together."

    I don't mind Nightcrawler being an over-protective big brother of sorts to Kitty at this point. The reasoning you mentioned doesn't make sense, of course, but if was prevented differently - most of the X-men they were close to are dead, so Kurt feels it his job to maybe keep an eye out for her if only to honor her relationships with Storm, Colossus, and Wolverine - it might have come across better.

    CC's use of quicksilver here is another "almost" Claremontism.

    The story itself isn't horrible, it just needs a better artist. Can you imagine how much better this would have potentially been had Davis been the artist?

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  4. "Kitty notes that Psylocke spoke fondly of her older brother, which of course had to have happened off panel."
    I always wondered about that- Brian learned that Jamie was involved in human trafficking and as a result refused to help him escape from the African country where he was being tortured. Are we supposed to assume he didn't tell Betsy to keep her from having to make a similar choice?
    "This version of Jamie (and presumably the regular version as well) is jealous of how much his parents doted on Captain Britain and Psylocke, calling himself the prototype child for them."
    The reason for this is that when Jamie was first introduced, he was written as a nice guy. We didn't see him for a while, and years later, when he reappeared, he was being held captive by Africans. Brian goes to rescue him and the twist is that Jamie was a human trafficker. The writer did this because he wanted to do a story where the Scary Black Men turned out to be the good guys and the captive White Guy the villain. The problem is, the writer never explained WHY Jamie became a human trafficker in the first place (he seemed to be wealthy when we last saw him). So this was probably Claremont's attempt at an explanation.

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  5. Yeah those were a Dirty Pair nod (love the site BTW frequent lurker lol) http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_Pair

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  6. Yeah those were a Dirty Pair nod (love the site BTW frequent lurker lol) http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_Pair

    ReplyDelete
  7. Man, that art... I genuinely can't tell if it's supposed to look "off" because of the warped reality around them or if it's just bad art. Those sample panels with Kitty look like she was drawn temporarily in the BTAS style, though. Probably the best art in the book, totally by accident.

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  8. "Ugh" indeed.

    I got the homage/parody of Dirty Pair — where the characters are called the Lovely Angels and nicknamed the Dirty Pair, hence the mash-up in this issue "Dirty Angels" — but I'm at a complete loss as to why Jamie is apparently (consciously or subconsciously) mangafying people on this world and I care only to the extent that I'm reading this stuff anyway so I wish it were good.

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  9. @Spithead: I think the two manga characters are meant to be an homage to anime/manga series "Dirty Pair"

    Ah, makes sense. I'm not hugely familiar with a lot of manga, so that's not a series I've heard of before.

    @wwk5d: True, but it isn't implausible that it happened.

    Definitely.

    @Matt: Ugh

    I almost just typed that for the entire post...

    @anonymous: The problem is, the writer never explained WHY Jamie became a human trafficker in the first place (he seemed to be wealthy when we last saw him). So this was probably Claremont's attempt at an explanation.

    Makes sense. And good on Claremont for trying to make it all fit.

    @Kris: Yeah those were a Dirty Pair nod (love the site BTW frequent lurker lol)

    Thanks!

    @Blam: but I'm at a complete loss as to why Jamie is apparently (consciously or subconsciously) mangafying people on this world

    Right? I'm fine with the idea of the art changing to reflect Jamie manipulating reality, but why is it changing it that specific way? We're given no reason.

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