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Thursday, April 9, 2015

X-amining Excalibur #20

"The Eye of the Beholder"
March 1990

In a Nutshell 
Excalibur battles Demon Druid. 

Guest Writer: Michael Higgins
Guest Penciler: Ron Lim
Guest Inker: Joe Rubinstein
Guest Letterer: Augustin Mas
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
At Arthur's Seat in Scotland, a portal suddenly opens, from which Demon Druid emerges. Meanwhile, Nightcrawler tries to console Meggan, who is upset with the way Brian has been treating her. She flies away to London, where she spots Brian on a date with Courtney Ross, but is distracted by Demon Druid, who is constructing a replica of Stonehenge out of energy. The two fight one another, drawing the attention of a barhopping Rachel and Kitty, who join the fight as well. When Kitty phases through Demon Druid, she senses his true goal before the effect causes him to disappear. Later, at Excalibur's lighthouse, Kitty is working on a device when Brian returns from his date, but he's rude to Meggan and storms off before helping Kitty.


The next morning though, Brian helps finish the device, just as the news reports on Demon Druid creating another facsimile of Stonehenge atop the Darkmoor Nuclear Research Facility. Brian rushes off on his own to battle Demon Druid, leaving the rest of the team to teleport there through a combination of Phoenix and Nightcrawler's powers. Once they arrive, Kitty begins interfacing Widget with her new device, while Captain Britain attacks Demon Druid, forcing Phoenix to intervene, worried their battle will endanger the surrounding areas. But Kitty and Widget manage to open a portal that will return Demon Druid to his own people, his goal all along, and he departs, leaving Excalibur to admonish Captain Britain for acting so foolhardy and to marvel that they saved the day despite themselves.

Firsts and Other Notables
This is a fill-in issue by Michael Higgins and Ron Lim, completely unrelated to the "Cross-Time Caper". Placing the story chronologically is tricky; it seems like it should take place between issues #5 (when Courtney Ross is replaced by Sat0yr-9) and #6 (when the "Inferno" tie-in starts), yet Widget is on hand, with Kitty having developed enough of a rapport that she can call on Widget for reliable help, which didn't really happen until after "Cross-Time" began.   

The villain of the story is Demon Druid,a one-off Thor villain who will eventually be revealed to be a Kree Eternal named Ultimus and join the Kree Starforce during "Operation: Galactic Storm".


A Work in Progress
Demon Druid performs his ritual at the Darkmoor Nuclear Research facility, which is where Brian first attained his Captain Britain powers.


With Phoenix boosting his power, Nightcrawler is able to teleport the entire team from the lighthouse to Darkmoor, despite his usual limitations on distance and his current "teleporting is a strain" limitation, making one wonder why Phoenix doesn't just boost his power all the time. 


The Reference Section
Meggan transforms into Godzilla during her initial attack on Demon Druid. 


Young Love
Brian is still two-timing Meggan at this point, stringing her along while also dating Fake Courtney Ross.


Nightcrawler remains flummoxed by the situation, fighting his own feelings for Meggan and his disbelief at how Brian is her treating her. 


Teebore's Take
You know what the "Cross-Time Caper" doesn't need? An unrelated fill-in issue that does nothing but prolong an already interminably long story. This issue on its own is fine; the characters' voices are way off model to the point that it's clear Claremont didn't write the dialogue even without looking at the credits (Brian, in particular, is written as being very rude, petulant and brash to the point where it seemed liked his attitude was going to be a plot point), but the art is serviceable enough, and the "Cross-Time Caper" has dragged on so long now and advanced the series' narrative so little that even though this story is set in the past, things like Meggan's frustration at Brian's philandering and Nightcrawler's conflicted feelings about Meggan are still as relevant now as they would have been if this story was published closer to when it takes place, which keeps it from feeling like a complete waste of time. But it's still just a fill-in issue interrupting a long-running storyline, one which, at this point, seems like it may never end. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, more fun with Spore-laden cocaine in Wolverine #22. Next week, Uncanny X-Men #260 and New Mutants #88.

Collected Edition


12 comments:

  1. "(Brian, in particular, is written as being very rude, petulant and brash to the point where it seemed liked his attitude was going to be a plot point)"

    Somehow this tended to be every guest-writer's version of the poor guy. It's like everybody automatically equated "British upper crust" with "dick".

    (And yes, Cap can be a dick sometimes, but there's much more to him than that!)

    Anyway, this issue is eminently skippable. I'm actually not sure I've ever read it in full, skimming over it even the first time I read EXCALIBUR.

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  2. Excalibur 26 featured a fill-in issue also written by Higgins and in it, Brian is acting uncharacteristically jerky and it turns out Masterind is impersonating Captain Britain. I have to wonder if the idea was that Mastermind was impersonating Brian in Excalibur 20 too.

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  3. Yeah I don't know. I got this and the next one of EXCALIBUR on my stack of original issues that I mail-ordered randomly from interesting-to-me titles, and of the two this one was actually the more approachable if not a very memorable one. "Demon Druid" is so Silver Age-y it hurts, but nice that for once they parted amiably... expect that in the first pages he cocooned two innocent tourists and our heroes here are smiling and waving him through the portal.

    But as fill-in artists go, you could do worse than Ron Lim, suspiciously non-90's for a 90's guy.

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  4. It's Agustin, not Augustin, Mas. His lettering is as terrible as ever. I'm not the Ron Lim fan some here are, to say the least, but neither he nor Higgins deserve to have their work defaced by that stuff.

    // Meggan transforms into Godzilla during her initial attack on Demon Druid. //

    Also: The squabbling tourists are named Sonny and Cherilyn.

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  5. This reads like a really bad parody/pastiche of early Excaliber. Even if it were printed earlier, it would have still felt a bit "off".

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  6. @Matt: Somehow this tended to be every guest-writer's version of the poor guy. It's like everybody automatically equated "British upper crust" with "dick".

    Yay. I guess I have that to look forward to...

    @Anonymous: I have to wonder if the idea was that Mastermind was impersonating Brian in Excalibur 20 too.

    That would at least explain the attitude.

    @Teemu: expect that in the first pages he cocooned two innocent tourists and our heroes here are smiling and waving him through the portal.

    Yeah, I probably should have pointed that out. Sure, all Demon Druid wants is to go home, but he murdered at least two people trying, so, maybe not so much with the smiles and congratulations?

    But as fill-in artists go, you could do worse than Ron Lim, suspiciously non-90's for a 90's guy.

    This is true. Lim is one of those artists whose work I never really sought out, but I didn't mind when he turned up as a fill-in artist.

    @Blam: It's Agustin, not Augustin, Mas.

    Hm. Not sure if that was my error, or auto-corrects. Anyways, I've updated it. Thanks!

    Also: The squabbling tourists are named Sonny and Cherilyn.

    ...and, I somehow missed that, completely. At least they've got each other, babe.

    @wwk5d: This reads like a really bad parody/pastiche of early Excaliber.

    Well said.

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  7. @Teebore, got me thinking though: did our heroes actually know of the tourists? I'd hate to feel like a Comics Code proponent for whom the story itself would have to be morally upstanding and evil generally to be punished, even if the good people of Excalibur here are doing their best within the knowledge they're in possession of. Well, except for the squappling and two-timing.

    If they're going after the British thing, there's few things more British than Doctor Who (homaged a plenty on the book) and on the show they're always disturbingly magnamious and lenient over the ordinary civilian extras ending up as collateral damage.

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  8. @Teemu: did our heroes actually know of the tourists?

    I don't believe so. Which makes the ending a little less egregious, but still troubling given that the readers still know about the couple.

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  9. Teemore, Teemu, I think you're missing the obvious explanation- Meggan was put in a cocoon and she was freed when Kitty drove the Druid away, so probably the tourists were too.

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  10. @Anonymous, that's... actually plausible, but, darn it, if there is a young couple of extras pickering with each other around a curious geographic site, and then things get sinister and then take a sudden ill turn, and eldritch fires strike around and we see nasty thing happening to the folks and next someone steps forth, raises his both fists in the air and announces "That'n'that lives again!", I'm really not open for a "Psyke!, they're fine after all" resolution as the extras go.

    You get a flat tire and it's Proteus who stops for you, or you're stealing a Christmas tree with your young wife from the Xavier mansion lands hoping to find one before the bastards get them all rooted, and a N'garai pops up, sorry, but we'll expect to see you only as a corpse afterwards. That's canon, like baseball. The basketball era is not upon us yet!

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  11. Teebore- does anything in the art suggest that the couple were freed?

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  12. Ok, I found a copy of Excalibur 20. When the cocoons disappear and Meggan is freed, we see the couple falling unconscious in the background. Then Kitty thinks to herself "Got to make sure Meggan and the others--whoever they are-- are okay. Thank goodness! They're all right!" So it looks like the tourists WERE unharmed. So if all he did was cocoon them for a couple of hours, that's arguably no different than the many times when a hero has knocked a civilian unconscious.

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