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Thursday, June 30, 2016

X-amining Excalibur #47

"Come One Come All To The Ugly Bug-Eyed Monster Ball"
February 1992

In a Nutshell
The first appearance of Cerise

Writer/Penciler: Alan Davis
Inker: Mark Farmer
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
At Excalibur's lighthouse, the bug-eyed alien removes its helmet, revealing a humanoid woman who introduces herself as Cerise. In Otherworld, an older member of the corps who claims to have known Brian's father points out how Roma manipulated the formation of Excalibur, prompting Brian to seek her out, something the disguised Corps member wanted. On Earth, Cerise is explaining that she is an adventurer who was thrown off course before landing at the lighthouse when another group of aliens arrives outside the building. On Otherworld, Brian storms into Roma's room, prompting her to confirm that Merlin is dead, and that she placed a jinx on Brian to encourage him to work with Excalibur. Angry at being manipulated, he demands that that she lift it, then declares he's going home. On Earth, Technet negotiates a deal with the newly-arrived aliens, joining their mercenary group. Now technically no longer Technet, they're free to leave Earth, whom the aliens declare will be destroyed in 78 hours. Shortly after they depart, Meggan & Rachel return, followed by Brian and Nightcrawler begins to fill them in on recent happenings, while in Ireland, Kitty, alongside Alistair, discovers a completely enclosed underground chamber, inside of which a human-sized body is moving around.

Firsts and Other Notables
Cerise, who will eventually join the team and enter into a romance with Nightcrawler, appears for the first time this issue. Presented here as a generic alien, I believe she'll eventually turn out to be related to the Shi'ar in some way. Her schtick at this point is that she goes into a lot of detail about herself and her power whenever she's introduced to someone new (she repeats the dialogue in the screencap below verbatim). .


This issue reveals that Roma placed a "blunder jinx" on Captain Britain in an effort to make him less effective as a solo hero and thus more willing to work with Excalibur, explaining some of his screw-ups whenever he operated on his own (incidentally, I have no idea who the disguised Captain Britain Corps member who tells Brian all this is, but at this point, I'm assuming Necrom).


The Blunder Jinx is part of a larger reveal that shows how Roma manipulated the various characters to come together in the first place, thus explaining some of the inconsistencies found in the initial launch of the series, such as how Phoenix escaped Mojoworld and why she ended up in England of all places.


It's also established that Roma, through Saturnyne, put the contract out on Phoenix that Technet was given simply to get Technet involved so they'd prevent the Warwolves from recapturing Phoenix after she escaped Mojoworld, which is why Saturnyne didn't care when Phoenix showed up in Otherworld at the end of the "Cross-Time Caper", and why she recently rescinded the contract with minimal fuss.

Roma says that she wanted Excalibur to form to challenge evil, but doesn't know specifically what evil.


In addition to re-contextualizing and slightly retconning the early days of the series, this is also the issue that effectively removes the Possession oneshot from continuity, revealing that everything which occurred in that issue was a hallucination someone caused Captain Britain to experience for some reason.


After hanging around the lighthouse since the contract on Phoenix was lifted and serving as Nightcrawler's "N-Men" (and being stuck on Earth even longer than that), Technet departs this issue, having negotiated a new contract with a alien company that briefly appears on Earth via the lighthouse. This is the last we'll see of Technet, I believe, until their appearance in the final issue of the series.


A Work in Progress
Kurt and Brian make amends this issue, over the whole "breaking Nigthcrawler's leg in a jealous rage" thing.


Austin's Analysis
Alan Davis continues to pull together threads, bringing 4/5 of the team back together on the same page, finally (mercifully?) writing out Technet, getting them out of the way for whatever is coming next, putting to bed the feud between Nightcrawler and Captain Britain, and catching up with Kitty's trip to Ireland. Remarkably, he does all this while also (rather aggressively but understandably) retconning out the entirety of the not-very-good-at-all Possession one-shot, and also completely re-contextualizing the beginning of the series, using the revelation that it was all part of Roma's master plan to explain away some of the inconsistencies and answer lingering questions about the formation of the team. It's the kind of retconning of history that, when left to carry a story, can be tedious and frustrating, but Davis deploys it so elegantly here, almost as an afterthought to the more immediate plot machinations and characterization happening in the issue, that it works.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Wolverine gets wild with Mystique in Wolverine #51. Next week, X-Men action figures!

Collected Editions

20 comments:

  1. Huh, so this is where Cerise comes from. I remember her card in the Jim Lee series, but had no idea where she came from.

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  3. The Captain Britain Corps member isn't Necrom- no spoilers on who it is.
    Brian claims that Emma Collins couldn't have appeared in the Possession since she was dead but Jamie brought her back (and Kitty saw her).
    This reopens the issue of why the X-Men went to Australia instead of after the Marauders- it's suggested it was Roma's handiwork. So did Roma make sure the X-Men, including Maddie, went to Australia? And did Maddie just respond the way she did to Jean's question during Inferno because she didn't know why she went to Australia?

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    1. Roma nothing sort of teleported the X-Men to fight the Reavers first in Singapore and then in their Australian base, which they adopted as their own and which had a supercomputer not unlike the one in Braddock Manors cellar, and she was selling the place hard to them up to the computer being excluded from their invisibility to electronic machines. But the X-Men were planning for their Plan Omega pretend-death already before meeting Roma so maybe it made sense.

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  4. On Earth, Technet negotiates a deal with the newly-arrived aliens, joining their mercenary group.

    Consisting at least of Wardog, Zeitgeist and Cobweb, who were members of the Special Executive in Alan Moore/Alan Davis CAPTAIN BRITAIN and who also had some Technet folks as members back then. Or their brothers.

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    1. I love that touch with the Special Executive here. I've always assumed this means they're time travelers or something and the group seen in the Moore/Davis run was this group, but from the future. Maybe I read too much into this cameo, but the idea seems cool to me.

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    2. I think it's been confirmed that it is exactly as you assumed. I'm always sucker for this kind of thing.

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  5. Where’s the random variant cover of the FF even though they have nothing to do with the issue?!? It’s the team’s 30th anniversary! And what about a Skottie Young variant cover that has adorable little Kylun playing with a ball of yarn?!?

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    1. Blam, if I could "Like" or "Fave" "Upvote" or whatever the kids do these days, I would do so for this comment.

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  6. "I believe she'll eventually turn out to be related to the Shi'ar in some way"

    That was all Lobdell once Davis has left the title. Davis certainly had something different in mind, though he never gets around to revealing anything definite before he goes.

    "I have no idea who the disguised Captain Britain Corps member who tells Brian all this is, but at this point, I'm assuming Necrom"

    I guess that's a good thing...

    "This is the last we'll see of Technet, I believe, until their appearance in the final issue of the series"

    They do appear in a back-up story in an upcoming annual, though given their line-up, I'm not sure where it fits in, continuity wise.

    Speaking of the Technet...

    "finally (mercifully?) writing out Technet"

    Personally, I like Technet. Mileage varies, I understand, but I like the "Captain Britain" elements of this title, like Technet, Crazy Gang, the Corps, the Special Executive, etc. It sure beats the Upstarts and Externals non-sense, in that the intentional sillyness is part of the charm, or supposed to be, as opposed to kewlness being offered in the other titles. I like it, as it adds something to this title you don't get in the other titles. But I can see how it may not be to other's liking or taste.

    Overall, Davis is still doing a good job moving things along while doing a clean-up job of the series. Other people who like to retcon titles as soon as they start writing them really should study these Davis issues. This is basically a master class on how to retcon a title while still keeping true to the history and spirit of the title, as opposed to an in-your-face "Everything you know is wrong!!!" strategy.

    And of course, it looks so damn good as well. Easily the highlight of the line at this point.

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    1. I don't know, to me the single biggest outstanding failure by Claremont (?) was to bring back Legion of Special Executive from Moore's CAPTAIN BRITAIN as Thug, his brother, of Technet.

      Legion's death as told by Moore is perhaps the most awesome pathos ever put into a comic book death, and seeing him effectively being brought back for the cool visuals and little anything else just so disturbingly evokes comparisons and underlines the overall underwhelmingness in trying to implant Moore's characters to US continuity. Moore managed in having his ones be living, breathing, interacting characters who nothing short of stole the show during Jaspers' Warp. Having read Claremont/Davis EXCALIBUR before knowing of any of that stuff, I genuinely felt Thug as a short and hairy rowdy was but a bit early Wolverine clone. Davis can bring back the cutesy looks, but the inner lives Moore put into them were lost during the journey here.

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  7. Except he wasn't brought back, he was a different character. If he had the exact same power set and was still shagging Cobweb, then you could say it was the same character. But it wasn't the same character.

    To each their own, I suppose. I thought CC & Davis did a good job in bringing over the various members, whether as Technet or SE, over to Excaliber. The biggest failure was nothing was done with them in the long run, but that was due to CC and Davis' behind the scenes problems and leaving the title than anything else. And I really liked them when Davis had them in his solo run, and was sorry to see them go. To say they were just cutesy looks under Davis isn't accurate at all, but again, to each their own.

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  8. I thought Thug was from the original British comics that introduced Technet. Is that not right? "Captain Britain" #4, is what teh internets is telling me. So that was pre-Claremont. (Although it might be Claremont who named him "Thug.")

    Also, this is the issue of Excalibur where Alan Davis' writing approach was starting to lose me. I bought these issues as back issues, and wasn't particularly happy about the notion that I needed to go read "The Possession" in order to appreciate this storyline (even though Davis is implicitly informing the reader that "the Possession" sucks at the same time that he's using its continuity errors as a plot point that will inform the big reveal in a few issues). Wouldn't it be easier just to ignore that one-shot entirely?

    I liked tying together the Roma/Saturnyne stuff, and it's certainly ingenious to tie in Roma's actions in setting up the "Australia" status quo for X-Men into the contemporaneous events from the earliest issues of Excalibur ... but did we really need an explanation for why Captain Britain was doing pratfalls?

    He was the straight man in a comedy book. It allowed for a lot of visual gags, and it set Captain Britain apart from other more generic square-jawed patriotic heroes like Superman or Captain America. Do we need to explain that away just so Brian can join the ranks of generic square-jawed heroes?

    It's also hard for me not to compare Davis' work here with what Alan Moore did when he took over Captain Britain. It's basically the same schtick: All the weird stuff that happened, the abrupt shifts in tone, the nonsensical aspects here and there ... it was all manipulations by Merlin/Roma to prepare the hero for the big trial to come. The difference being that Moore accomplished all the exposition and explanations in 8 pages and then he moved on to the story. With Davis, we're now at Part 6 of a 9-part story, and it's still drowning in "explaining the plot flaws from earlier stories" exposition. I know Claremont left a lot of loose ends, but yeesh. Sometimes this story drags as much as the Cross-Time Caper. (Davis is also devoting an awful lot of time to introducing new characters. And Micromax, Cerise and Kylun are not exactly masterpieces ...)

    I don't dislike these issues. Davis' artwork is brilliant, and the series still has more charm than anything else in the X-world from this era except for X-Factor ... but given the way it drowns in exposition and given the way that Davis is just aping the whole schtick from Alan Moore who did it much better, I could never get on board with the idea that Davis' writing here is a "masterclass." If the artwork weren't so brilliant, I don't think the writing would come off nearly so well.



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    1. ... bloody hell. So he is. Claremont's back to being near faultless so, and the introduction of Roma to UNCANNY for Fall of the Mutants just got a lot more fancy for me.

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    2. To each his own. I love these issues.

      I came into the Alan Davis run knowing nothing about most of its concepts. I found the character development that occurred in 42-50 absolutely riveting. Night crawler comes into his own as a leader. Megan discovers her inner strength. Brian learns that he has much to learn and resolves to be a better person. Rachel starts to figure out her past and herself, making issue 50 all the more... well, I don't want to spoil anything... These characters were believable and likable, and I don't think any of them have been as great as they were in this run of Excalibur.

      Also, I really like Kylun & Cerise. They didn't have a huge amount of depth, but "true hero with a goofy secret" and "like Starfire but not a stereotypical bimbo/ berserker" worked for me. Micro max and Feron were unpleasant, but at least they contrasted well with the other characters.

      Yeah, the anti-"Possession" screed was a bit much. Resolving and forwarding all the other plot lines kept my interest, even knowing nothing about the set-up.

      - Mike Loughlin

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    3. Jason: but did we really need an explanation for why Captain Britain was doing pratfalls?

      We did. Captain Britain has done disturbingly good in his own books and adventures compared to what he's been on EXCALIBUR. His becoming a blundering fool out of nowhere begets an explanation. It's always a bit uncomfortable setup to begin with when once-star of his/her own book gets demoted to a member on a team book. I for example read the era of Dazzler's membership in the X-Men when they published it and she didn't do much for me then, but I've since come to read her own books and now she's actually kind of cool. It's one thing if a character was created to be a butt-monkey, but the role ill fits to once acclaimed adventurer.

      Personally I genuinely went "Of course!" upon reading this.

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    4. And then I learn the Technet and Special Executive are time/space-jaunting mercenaries and it seems to be that the Technet folks actually join the Special Executive here the first time and on their personal timescale they possibly will appear in Jaspers' Warp only after these happenings. I blame Doctor Who for the Brits' willingness to go with this kind of thing.

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  9. I wouldn't say he is aping what Moore did. Moore did it with less pages, true, but he had a lot less history behind the characters at that point, he had less main characters in general to deal with, and didn't have to deal with reworking/retconning all the discrepancies that came before, the way Davis had to.

    To say it's drowning in exposition is also an exaggeration, as the plot is moving forward and subplots are being advanced. That, coupled with the fact that Davis' retcons aren't flipping the title 180 degress, but rather instead the changes are being adapted seamlessly into the title, well, that's why I still maintain it's a masterclass.

    As for Kylun, Cerise, etc, mileage varies I guess. I liked them, and wish we had seen more of them post-Davis, but Marvel editorial at the time wanted things different, so there you go.

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  10. Mojo, though? Here we have everything being pinned on Roma making it so, but when we go examine how the happenings went down back in the day we remember it was Spiral who lured Rachel into the Body Shoppe and to Mojoworld, and Mojo and his WildWays who brought Betsy in contact with the X-Men to join them, and in the dreams of Kitty and Kurt there was Mojo and weren't they Mojo's Warwolves too who were there conveniently to be bested by Excalibur on behest of Roma, and even the damn Reavers were made of MojoTech, as will be very soon shown on WOLVERINE. Mojo next on WOLVERINE! Mojo soon on X-MEN! It's like Claremont's last laugh on the overproductation of the X-universe.

    But, like, the plausible deniability of Mojo not being Roma's agent is wearing kind of thin. I'm starting to think the Mojo and Spiral at Betsy's transformation weren't her own imagination after all.

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  11. I really like this issue. The cover cracks me up and I love all the explanations for stuff. I'm a sucker for stories which are just excuses to fix continuity. I like seeing how writers can tie things together. And Davis's merciless skewering of THE POSSESSION is hilarious.

    Also, I'm a big fan of Cerise. For years I only knew her as some random ancillary EXCALIBUR character, then when I actually read these issues I realized she was a lot of fun. I wish Davis had gotten to do more with her before he left the series.

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