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Thursday, February 11, 2016

X-amining Excalibur #39

"Heart of the Matter - Book Three of the Promethium Exchange"
July 1991

In a Nutshell
Darkoth's helps defeat Dr. Doom and become Limbo's ruler.

Writer: Lobdell
Artist: Badger
Letterer: Eliopoulos
Colorist: Vancata
Editor: Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: DeFalco

Plot
In Limbo, Phoenix is able to telekinetically hold back Doom's sword stroke, preventing him from destroying the heart of Limbo. Just then, the horde of demonic superheroes attack Excalibur and the Avengers, leaving Darkoth to fight Doom. Their struggle distracts Phoenix, enabling Doom to plunge the Soulsword into the heart of Limbo, reducing the demons to indistinct forms and opening a portal to Earth. His work done, Doom leaves the place. But in his absence, Darkoth claims the sword just as S'ym suddenly appears, wanting it for himself. But Darkoth swallows up S'ym and declares his intent to kill himself, destroying Limbo in the process and thus fouling Doom's plan. A horrified Meggan overhears this, and willing merges with Darkoth, using her empathic abilities to overcome his sorrow. At peace with himself, Limbo becomes calm and orderly, a reflection of its new master. Opening a portal, he declares he will remain as the guardian of the now-empty Limbo, and the heroes return to Earth.

Firsts and Other Notables
Darkoth ends up the new ruler of Limbo, wresting control of the Soulsword from Dr. Doom and fighting off a brief attack by S'ym, showing up here alive after all following his last appearance at the end of "Inferno", in New Mutants #73. However, Darkoth has made no additional appearances outside this issue, and is only briefly mentioned in passing when next we journey to Limbo.

The injuries sustained by Lockheed in this story will form the basis of next issue's story. The footnote also pulls a me and attributes the issue he sustained his injuries to...this issue.


A note in this issue's letter column says that Brad Vancata colored issue #37, not Glynis Oliver, as the credits had stated. I've left Oliver listed in the credits of that post, as my general rule is present the credits as they appeared in the issue, be they correct or otherwise.

A Work in Progress
When Doom's armor is damaged, he replaces it with the armor afforded him as ruler of Limbo (the same armor Illyana and Kitty have worn whilst wielding the Soulsword), and says the armor is made from promethium. So I guess that means Illyana's armor was promethium.


Darkoth confirms that in the wake of Doom's defeat, Limbo has been purged of promethium, establishing a reason for Tony Stark or someone to not figure out a way to bring its limitless energy to Earth for the benefit of all.

Artistic Achievements
In addition to the still-a-mess art, this issue also features a lot of dialogue from Darkoth, which is rendered via purple ink on a blackground and it's, well, it's borderline illegible in most places.

Teebore's Take
I read online recently that when Lobdell was given this assignment, knowing he was just killing time before Alan Davis came back in issue #42, he was also tasked with tying up some lingering loose ends in anticipation of Davis' return, at Davis' request. I couldn't find a source for that idea, so I have no idea if it's true, but it would make sense: Lobdell's run has featured a surprising amount of loose-thread-tying-up for an ostensible fill-in: Nightcrawler's teleportation problems were resolved in issue #37, Lobdell will soon tackle the issue of Excalibur's relationship with the alive-after-all X-Men, and this entire storyline, in retrospect, seems to be about addressing Kitty's ownership of Illyana's Soulsword and the status of Limbo following Illyana's death. That becomes even more apparent this issue, as a new ruler of Limbo is crowned and the place changes to reflect his rule, becoming, for all intents and purposes, a blank slate, thus cleaving Excalibur from any additional ties to the place (that, of course, won't last, but Davis at least won't be dealing with it).

Whether Lobdell was specifically asked to do it or simply took it upon himself to clean things up, the end result is the same: despite the series still lacking a clear purpose, a distinct identity, or a consistent artistic vision, this batch of issues is a far cry better than the usual fill-in fare. Excalibur is still the least of the X-books at this point, but it could be (and has been) worse.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the fate of Nathan Christopher in X-Factor #68. Next week, Excalibur: Possession and Wolverine #41.

8 comments:

  1. The source was a posting by Gary McElhaton on 5/6/93 on rec.arts.comics.xbooks . Davis told Lobdell he was to fix Kurt's teleportation, get rid of the Warwolves, get rid of the Soulsword and heal Kitty (the last one fell through the cracks).

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  2. When Doom's armor is damaged, he replaces it with the armor afforded him as ruler of Limbo

    Hey! It's the same armor Doom pops up in in FF #350 (cover date May 1991), after allegedly long absence! Arts here are not Walt Simonson of course, but the grey scaled armor pants and the pointy torso armor bits speak volumes.

    I though this was a third unrelated appearance of the Feared Crappy White Armor 90's Doom, but no, it's Continuity Done Right after all and it all feels embiggened for me now. Now, was the armor change commissioned by Simonson for his FF, or did Lobdell & co throw it in all by themselves as their explanation for the white armor in FF?

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  3. And then when Davis comes on, he continues tying up loose ends as well -- the Technet, the Vixen and Nigel Frobisher, and more. People make fun of Chris Claremont's dangling plotlines on X-MEN, but I think he left a lot more when he departed EXCALIBUR -- though he never seemed terribly invested in this series, given how many fill-ins there were over the years.

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    1. I also think Claremont's departure from EXCALIBUR was a lot more drawn out/unplanned. Like, I've seen it presented as he took a break, but expected to come back, then didn't come back until "Girls School", and by then, he knew he'd be leaving after that story.

      So he may have been less inclined to tie up danglers when he first left, thinking he'd be back to deal with them properly, and then by the time he knew he was done for good, didn't have the time to tie much up.

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  4. I attributed the huge quantity of loose ends to CC being edited here by Terry Kavanagh instead of Bob Harras.

    Matt, I hereby demand that you agree with me. :)

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  5. This actually isn't bad. Lobdell's pre-Davis issues are pretty decent, and if he had a better artist, some of this stuff might be remembered better. His post-Davis, on the other hand...well, we'll see if it has aged better or not.

    Didn't know Davis wanted some subplots tied up, but given how busy and packed the first half of his run is, I guess it makes sense he'd want some of this stuff resolved before his return.

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  6. I’m all for being accessible to new readers but the effort to mention everyone by name via dialogue on Pg. 2 is just painful. Last issue’s roll call with head shots is a much better option. The characters are awfully quippy, too.

    What you said about Darkoth’s word balloons.

    The art is way more consistent and just plain better this issue, however, in my opinion — with the considerable exception of most close-up faces, Kitty’s especially. I really like a fair amount of the figures, particularly Rachel early on and Meggan later in the issue. Doctor Doom on that cover, though, looks for all the world like he's breaking the fourth wall to warn us against buying an issue of What The—?!, and come to think of it that’s exactly where the Limbo/Otherworld Punisher looks like he’s from too.

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