In a Nutshell
Excalibur finally returns home as the "Cross-Time Caper" comes to an end.
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Alan Davis
Finisher: Paul Neary
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Big High Muckety-Muck: Tom DeFalco
Creators: Claremont & Davis
Saturnyne, having transported Excalibur to her Omniversal Hub, dresses them down for all the damage they've caused the continuum during their alternate reality jaunts, and tells them she hopes to return Excalibur home and settle the Phoenix imbroglio once and for all. Meanwhile, on Earth, Courtney Ross presents Kitty with a birthday cake, and tells her she has a few ideas for how Kitty can celebrate her birthday. At the Hub, Nightcrawler decides to disguise Rachel as Kitty to prevent Saturnyne from claiming her, then Excalibur emerges from their train to meet with the waiting immigration officers. On Earth, Courtney arranges a makeover for Kitty, then takes her to dinner at a fancy restaurant. At the Hub, Excalibur is questioned to verify their identities, while Captain Britain flies off, hoping to use his past with Saturnyne to change her mind about Phoenix. But when he lands outside her office, he's refused entrance, and ends up fighting her guards as well as counterparts of himself.
On Earth, Courtney follows up dinner with a trip to Paris, while at the Hub, the rest of Excalibur soon joins Captain Britain's fight. As Kitty spends the rest of the night listening to jazz and dancing in Paris, Excalibur is called back to their train by Widget. They arrive to find Saturnyne, in the flesh, waiting for them. She gives them Widget, programmed to take them home, and turns a blind-eye to the clearly disguised Phoenix. The next morning in Paris, Kitty meets back up with Courtney, thanking her for the fantastic night, and Courtney gives her one last present: a Jaguar, telling her it's only illegal for her to drive it if she's caught. Meanwhile, Excalibur materializes in the caves beneath their lighthouse, not realizing that Galactus is outside, waiting for them.
Firsts and Other Notables
The "Cross-Time Caper" mercifully comes to a close this issue, as Saturnyne, in light of all the damage to the omniverse caused by Excalibur flailing about from reality to another, sends them back to their home reality. Her remarks could very easily be read as thinly-veiled commentary on the running length of the story, suggesting Claremont was listening to fan feedback (or growing weary himself).
Kitty, meanwhile, celebrates her 15th birthday along with Coutney Ross (who is actually Sat-yr-9, remember, even though this issue does nothing to remind us of that), and, in another fourth wall breaking moment, Fake Courtney comments that Kitty has always seemed older than that. Kitty turning fifteen here would technically mean it's been a year and a half since her introduction in X-Men #129 (when she was said to be thirteen-and-a-half).
This could possibly be just be a result of my dirty mind, but it seems like there's a bit of a sexual undercurrent to the panel where Kitty licks cake frosting off Fake Courtney's finger. Dirty or not, it's a weird panel.
It's pretty explicitly implied that Saturnyne is well aware that Phoenix is with Excalibur in this issue, but lets her return home with them regardless, possibly bringing to an end the whole "Saturnyne wants Phoenix" plot that kick started the series in the first place. What this means for Technet, who was hired to that end by Saturnyne and as remained on Earth until they fulfill that contract, I have no idea (apparently, Davis picks up the "Saturnyne wants Phoenix" plot when he returns to the series).
This is the final issue drawn by Alan Davis for awhile, marking either the end of his original run or the end of his brief fill-in. He'll return to the series, as writer and penciler, with issue #42.
A Work in Progress
Saturnyne's underlings grill Captain Britain and Meggan about their new costumes as they try to verify their identities.
The Reference Section
One of the immigration officers at the Hub is an archivist who I think is supposed to be John Byrne.
When an overjoyed Meggan returns from confirming that Excalibur is indeed home, she hugs Nightcrawler, prompting a quizzical look from Captain Britain, who might finally be catching on to the whole Meggan/Nightcrawler thing.
At long last, the interminable "Cross-Time Caper", which, by my calculations, began sometime in 1954, finally comes to a close, somewhat abruptly and rather with a whimper. After watching for a dozen issues as Excalibur careened from one reality to the next, with little rhyme, reason or thematic impact, Saturnyne, perhaps speaking for the audience, finally declares enough is enough, brings them to her omniversal hub, cleans them up, and sends them home. That's that, and all we're left to wonder is what was the point of all this?
To be clear, this storyline is twelve chapters long (not including the fill-in #20), meaning at this point, Excalibur has an equal number of issues set in this storyline as not, which is pretty mind-boggling. Half the series has been handed over to the "Cross-Time Caper", and to what end? A few costume changes aside, every character is coming out the end of it exactly the same as they went in: Captain Britain is still ignoring Meggan, Nightcrawler is still fighting his feelings for her, the Kitty/Rachel/Alistair love triangle is still going on. Kitty, possibly, may end up in some interesting places as a result of her separation from the team, but for now, all of that just seems like a vehicle to setup more of the odd Kitty/Saturnyne connections that, ultimately, go nowhere.
Granted, individually, there's some standout parts of this story arc: the Technet-centric issue for one, the Leonardi-drawn battle with Jamie Braddock another. The Shadow King/Alt-Hellfire Club was an interesting story with terrible art, while, of course, anything Alan Davis does is gorgeous, even if more often than not it was in the service of pedestrian alt reality plots. But as a whole, this story is aimless and pointless, with the starring characters robbed of any agency for almost the entire arc.
Even worse, it took the characters of a relatively new series (again, 50% of the ENTIRE SERIES is comprised of this storyline at this point) away from their usual setting, and thus, any opportunity to develop the internal world and external thematic purpose of the series. Twelve issues without any development of the book's supporting cast, only minor developments regarding its recurring villains and barely any movement on its few running subplots (the whole "Courtney is Saturnyne" thing is pretty much at the same point as when the story started, and Claremont isn't even bothering to remind the audience of the switch anymore). Is the point of Excalibur to carry on the work of the believed-to-be-dead X-Men? To serve as Europe's premiere superhero team? Something else entirely? Half the series' run at this point does nothing to answer that question.
There's nothing wrong with a series embarking on a long-running story arc, even one that takes the characters away from their usual surroundings (granted, such storyline usually work better with a more established series). Claremont and Byrne took the new X-Men away from the X-mansion for eleven issues, but in the process, they created the definitive X-Men/Magneto confrontation, presented the closest thing yet to a Professor X origin issue, began planting the seeds for "Dark Phoenix", and used the whole "World Tour" arc as a vehicle for characterization - by the time the X-Men returned home, their understanding of each other and our understanding of them was different.
By contrast, "Cross-Time Caper" established that Jamie Braddock might be a significant villain one day, and teased the idea of a scheming Shadow King that ultimately foreshadows events in the other mutant books moreso than this one. Other than that, it's pretty much just Claremont (presumably) having fun playing with various alternate realities until he (apparently) got bored and decided to send everyone home as perfunctorily as possible. There's no in-story reason Excalibur comes home at this point, no objective achieved or lesson learned; Claremont theoretically could have kept this going forever. Thankfully, he didn't, but the whole thing is still, ultimately, a failure, as both a standalone story and as part of the series' larger overall narrative. But thankfully, it's finally over.
Tomorrow, Wolverine knows when to hold 'em in Wolverine #26. Next week, Fantastic Four Annual #23 and New Mutants Annual #6.