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Thursday, March 26, 2015

X-amining Excalibur #19

"Madripoor Knights"
February 1990

In a Nutshell 
Meggan battles Jamie while Kitty ends up back on Earth. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Rick Leonardi
Inkers: Austin & Milgrom
Letterers: Orzechowski & Joyce
Colorist: Brad Vancata
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Regulator: Tom DeFalco
Creators: Claremont & Davis

Plot
Captain Britain attacks Jamie, but Jamie easily overpowers him. Nearby, Widget creates a portal, and when Jamie attacks Shadowcat, she dives through it. Meanwhile, the Dirty Angels arrive at Excalibur's train, while Phoenix, still recovering from Jamie's attack, telepathically awakens Meggan. Hoping to surprise Jamie, Phoenix uses her memories of the X-Men and Meggan's metamorphic abilities to enable Meggan to manifest the forms and powers of the X-Men. Elsehwhere, Kitty awakens in a strange bedroom and realizes she's in Jamie's house while Meggan, manifesting Wolverine, stalks Jamie. He sets Captain Britain on Meggan, but she uses Dazzler's powers to knock him out. Back at Jamie's house, Kitty reads through a stack of newspapers and realizes Widget has managed to teleport her to Excalibur's home Earth.


Then she hears a sound like Dazzler's blast coming from upstairs and investigates. Elsewhere, Meggan shifts again, blasting Jamie with Havok's power, as Kitty discovers a different Jamie sitting before a fire, playing with figures of Excalibur, his body manifesting the effects of Meggan's attacks. When Meggan, as Rogue, tries to absorb Jamie's powers, he instead takes hers and attacks Phoenix through their shared connection. Just then, the rest of Excalibur and the Dirty Angels arrive, breaking the connection, while Kitty orders the Jamie sitting before her to go to bed. Her gamble paid off, he goes to sleep, and when he does so, the other Jamie and the world around Excalibur fades away. However, Kitty is unable to go back through Widget's portal to her teammates, and despondently goes alone to Captain Britain's townhouse, watched by Courtney Ross, who declares she will make Kitty hers.

Firsts and Other Notables
Consummate fill-in artist Rick Leonardi, who has previously contributed to New Mutants and spelled Marc Silvestri on Uncanny X-Men, steps in for the absent Davis this issue. It is, not suprisingly, a significant step up in terms of quality from the previous issue. 

Kitty interacts with Emma, the housekeeper at the Braddocks home, though I believe she died at some point during Captain Britain's series. It's unclear if Jamie somehow resurrected her, or she returned some other way.


When Kitty awakens in Braddock manor, she's dressed in Asian-inspired clothing which is later said to be Psylocke's, presumably a suggestion that Psylocke had an affinity for the culture even before her recent transformation at the hands of the Hand. 


A Work in ProgressThe issue opens with a series of narrative captions that spell out the concept of "cross-time" for really the first time in this storyline.


Meggan, while mimicking Wolverine, notes how her senses are heightened, but she's doesn't automatically absorb all the heightened information, which is a nice explanation of how the whole heightened sense thing works.


She also manifest bone claws in place of Wolverine's metal ones, a nice bit that inadvertently fits with later retcons.


In light of their encounter with the Alt Jamie, Nightcrawler wonders if perhaps their Jamie has powers too.


Though she appears as Courtney Ross at the very end of the issue, it should be noted that is still Sat-yr-9, who killed and replaced the real Courtney what feels like eons ago now. 

Claremontisms
Nightcrawler notes that, like the X-Men, one can always tell where Excalibur has been by the destruction they wrought.


Teebore's Take
What a difference an artist can make. While Rick Leonardi is no Alan Davis, this issue is light years ahead of the previous one. In fact, whether it's the presence of Terry Austin & Al Milgrom or something else entirely, this is some of the strongest work yet from Leonardi across his various X-book fill-ins, his looser, more cartoony style reigned in a bit by the inks (at least in the first half; the quality dips a bit in the second, presumably when Milgrom takes over). The end result is art that manages not to detract from the story, giving the first encounter between Excalibur and Jamie Braddock the kind of quality art it deserves. "The Cross-Time Caper" is still showing no signs of coming to an end, and Alan Davis is still gone, but this issue at least shows that, with the right artist, Excalibur can still turn out an entertaining issue despite those two facts.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Wolverine discovers Spore in Wolverine #21. Next week, Colossus and Marc Silvestri return in Uncanny X-Men #259, followed by the debut of Cable in New Mutants #87. 

Collected Edition


12 comments:

  1. "Madripoor Knights"? But... but but... but...

    My very first Marvel comic was Leonardi. He's fine by that token only.

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  2. It seems worth noting -- I guess it's a "Work in progress" kind of note -- that it is revealed here that the wacky-racecar world of this issue and the previous one is not a "real" parallel like the other ones have been, but a world mentally manufactured by the Jamie of the mainstream Marvel reality.

    That is what's going on here, right? (I could be misremembering, but I thought that was the twist in this issue.)

    Also: And this is just my own subjective thing, I think this is the point at which a reader could jump straight to Excalibur 23 and 24 and wrap up the Crosstime Caper, and it doesn't feel so interminal. (I've tried it, and it feels just right. You just have to read a couple of subplot pages in ... I think it's issue 21 ... involving Kitty/Fake-Courtney/Nigel. You read those and nothing else, you don't miss anything too important from Excalibur 20-22. I know you can't do that for this blog, Teebore, but I swear, it works great!)

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  3. Leonardi should've become the regular artist after Davis left. And I don't know who Brad Vancata is, but his colors in this issue are absolutely gorgeous. I can't believe I've never -- to my recollection -- seen his work anywhere else!

    "Kitty interacts with Emma, the housekeeper at the Braddocks home, though I believe she died at some point during Captain Britain's series."

    Emma was terminally ill when the series ended. I don't believe she died on-page, but I think it's accepted that she was dead by this point. That's what happened as far as Alan Davis was concerned, anyway. And, with regards to Captain Britain, if Davis says something happened, whether explicitly shown or not, then it happened (in my opinion).

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  4. Meggan's powers are super confusing. Now she can take on all the powers of the X-Men? I guess it's all stuff we've seen her do before in some capacity or another but the lines of what she can and can't do are never that clearly drawn.

    I remember whatever's going on with Jamie/the world being totally impenetrable, as stuff with Jamie Braddock often is. This whole episode (including the previous issue) is probably my least favorite in the Cross Time Caper. It's ugly, it makes no sense, and it's getting really old.

    Kind looking forward to Crusader X though, because I reread those recently and was more intrigued by them than i expected to be.

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  5. The scene of Meggan manifesting bone claws in place of metal ones when mimicking Wolverine is a nice hint of Claremont's later plan to reveal the same in his proposed Dark Wolverine Saga…

    @Teemu: With you on the Madripoor Knights. What was up with that?

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  6. Do you know, Nathan (or anyone) if Barry Windsor-Smith consulted Claremont for his WEAPON X story on MCP? There was the scene where the liquid adamantium surprisingly starts amassing around Logan's wrist area hogging some more than was allocated for, forcing them to go onto the extra tank.

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  7. @Jason: that it is revealed here that the wacky-racecar world of this issue and the previous one is not a "real" parallel like the other ones have been, but a world mentally manufactured by the Jamie of the mainstream Marvel reality.

    That is what's going on here, right?


    Maybe? It was a little unclear. It was clear that the Jamie of that world, and the race car trappings, were all an extension/creation of the real Jamie back in the 616, but it wasn't clear if the entire world was his creation or not. Or, to put it another way, if 616 Jamie created the entire world, where is most of Excalibur now that Kitty managed to make him stop creating that world?

    I assume the next issue will make their whereabouts more clear, but maybe not?

    I know you can't do that for this blog, Teebore, but I swear, it works great!

    At this point, I really wish I could. :)

    Leonardi should've become the regular artist after Davis left.

    I would be entirely down for that.

    @Ben: I guess it's all stuff we've seen her do before in some capacity or another but the lines of what she can and can't do are never that clearly drawn.

    Very true. In this case, I chalked it up to being linked to Phoenix, and thus getting a bit of a power boost along with the memories, to morph in different, more powerful ways than usual.

    @Teemu: Do you know ... if Barry Windsor-Smith consulted Claremont for his WEAPON X story on MCP?

    He did. Though whether or not they discussed bone claws is unknown.

    We'll get to it eventually, but I always liked that bit with the metal pooling near his hands. It probably wasn't meant to imply bone claws, but in hindsight, it does, which helps strengthen the retcon.

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  8. Thinking about it a little more, the other thing that bugs me about the gimmick of having Meggan transform into the various X-Men is that it's yet another example of this book trying to tease a meeting between the X-Men and Excalibur without following through on it. This isn't the worst example of it-- at least the cover mentions that they're "Not X-Actly" the X-Men -- but still, it becomes a bit of a running gag in this series and even as a little kid it always felt really transparent. Other than a quick cameo, Excalibur doesn't cross paths with the full non-doppelganger in-universe X-Men until deep into Davis's solo run. (And after all that, it's sort of a let down.)

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  9. "Very true. In this case, I chalked it up to being linked to Phoenix, and thus getting a bit of a power boost along with the memories, to morph in different, more powerful ways than usual."
    Yeah, but it still doesn't work. If the idea is that Meggan can duplicate the powers of anyone Rachel's met, then why don't they try having her duplicate the powers of someone with interdimensional travel powers? Besides, Meggan having the ability to copy her teammates' powers makes the rest of Excalibur redundant.

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  10. The art's a huge step up from last issue, I agree. Even with Kitty back "home" and events tying into the team's proper reality, however, I'm so over what could've been a fun diversion or a clever way to introduce Jamie (if not both) were it all just... better.

    @Matt: // I don't know who Brad Vancata is, but his colors in this issue are absolutely gorgeous. //

    His name's familiar to me, but I couldn't have told you exactly where from. Per a chronological "any credit" search on the GCD he started out coloring, did some pencils, and has mostly inked. Seeing that list, I think I know his name from inking Martin Egeland on Peter David's Aquaman run.

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  11. Only tangentially related to here really, but I just realized that if Claremont meant it to be Apocalypse to be behind the adamantium project, and Apocalypse himself was a very near escape of the Owl becoming the X-Factor villain... It's like *this* close that Weapon X wasn't a project of the Owl's to create Logan as his own ultimate version.

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  12. ... but he escaped before they could fit the wings

    A nice set too, well naturally they'd have to be of course, considering the weight they had to carry. Luckily Poc could recycle them later on to Warren, also the once-Death of his Horsemen.

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