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Thursday, July 14, 2016

X-amining Excalibur: Air Apparent

"Air Apparent"
1991

In a Nutshell
Excalibur battles a mad scientist and his Air-Walker android.

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Pencilers: Ron Lim, Brian Stelfreeze, Dwayne Turner, Jackson Guice, Rick Leonardi, Erik Larsen, James Fry
Inkers: Al Gordon, Karl Story, Klaus Janson, Tom Palmer, Joe Rubinstein, Erik Larsen, Don Hudson
Colorists: Glynis Oliver, Dana Moreshead, Ariane,
Letterers: Michael Heisler, Steve Dutro,
Asst. Editor: Mark Powers
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Excalibur is briefed by WHO about Dr. Cayre, a brilliant bio-physicist who has gone mad. He has recreated Galactus' android herald Air-Walker, who has subsequently gone on a rampage, equipped his Life Model Decoy lab assistant Norm with a nuclear warhead, and experimented on himself, giving him the ability to unravel a person's genetic structure with a touch. Excalibur proceeds to split up, with Nightcrawler defeating Norm, Shadowcat defeating a failed Air Walker prototype, Meggan battling the mercenary Coldblood before destroying Cayre's lab, Phoenix trapping Cayre himself in a prison of glass, Captain Britain destroying the rampaging Air-Walker, and Lockheed defending the lighthouse from some overzealous WHO agents.

Firsts and Other Notables
The main plot of this issue revolves around an attempt by one-off scientist Dr. Cayre to resurrect the android Air-Walker, who once served as a herald of Galactus (Galactus' heralds kind of had an elemental theme, so Air-Walker is air to Firelord's fire, Terrax's earth and, I guess, Silver Surfer's water). In addition to Cayre, a Cayre LMD and a couple Air-Walker androids of varying degrees of completion, this issue also features Coldblood, a relatively new cyborg mercenary character created by Doug Moench & Paul Gulacy in Marvel Comics Presents. He'll pop up again in Deathlok and much later, very briefly, in Civil War, but his biggest claim to fame is being the inspiration of James Badge Dale's character in Iron Man 3 (he was the chief henchmen to Guy Pearce's Aldrich Killian).


I still have no idea if this or Excalibur: Possession is considered the series' 1991 annual, but like that book, it's a double-sized one-shot that could easily serve that purpose.

All else aside, not a bad Walt Simonson cover on this one.

The Chronology Corner 
This issue takes place after Possession, between issues #41 and #42 of the regular series (after Nightcrawler regained the ability to do multiple teleports, but before his leg was broken by Captain Britain).

The Reference Section
Kitty battles a creature that seems very reminiscent of the xenomorph from Alien, which in turn could be a reference to the Kitty vs. the N'Garai demon story in X-Men #143.


Austin's Analysis
I don't know the genesis of this story, but between the structure (a series of chapters drawn by rotating artists featuring one member of the team per chapter) and the presence of Scott Lobdell (who cut his teeth on the series) it really reads like a re-purposed Marvel Comics Presents story (this is also Lobdell at his schtickiest, with everyone from Nightcrawler (fine) to Kitty (I guess) to even Meggan (huh?) cracking wise in their chapters, a hallmark of his earlier writing). It's also reminiscent of a Marvel Comics Presents story in that it's utterly superfluous: it has no bearing on any ongoing storyarcs, does nothing to develop the characters, speaks little to any of the series' themes, or even features any villains germane to the series. This feels like a relic of the pre-Alan Davis days, when the series just sort of listlessly existed. There's some decent art in some of the chapters - Ron Lim is reliable as always on the framing chapters, Brian Stelfreeze does some nice work, it's always good to see Rick Leonardi, and Erik Larsen is a surprisingly good fit for Captain Britain's chapter in an over-the-top, proto-Image kind of way - but otherwise, like so many other Excalibur one-shots, this is eminently skippable and ultimately forgettable.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, political satire in Incredible Hulk #390-391. Next week, Uncanny X-Men #286 and X-Force #8.

10 comments:

  1. Kitty battles a creature that seems very reminiscent of the xenomorph from Alien, which in turn could be a reference to the Kitty vs. the N'Garai demon story in X-Men #143.

    I have hard time in not believing that someone also went all in with the fact that "Byrne drew the character to slightly resemble an adolescent Sigourney Weaver" (direct quote from Wikipedia).

    this issue also features Coldblood, a relatively new cyborg mercenary character created by Doug Moench & Paul Gulacy in Marvel Comics Presents

    (this is also Lobdell at his schtickiest, with everyone from Nightcrawler (fine) to Kitty (I guess) to even Meggan (huh?) cracking wise in their chapters, a hallmark of his earlier writing).

    Sooo the vitriolic relationship between the man and his computer, like someone wrote 90's Deathlok as a one-man two-man comedy act, which is pretty much the only thing going for the character... is that Lobdell, then?

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    1. I assume, but honestly, I know next to nothing about Coldblood, so maybe that's how Moench wrote him initially as well?

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  2. There was back-and-forth between Coldblood and his computer in the original MCP serial- Lobdell just put his own spin on it. See, Marvel wanted a Deathlok series but couldn't use the 70s Deathlok for some reason, so Coldblood was created as a replacement but then 90s Deathlok was created so Coldblood was redundant.

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    1. That actually makes me feel kinda bad for Coldblood...

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  3. James Badge Dale's character in IRON MAN 3 was (based on) Coldblood?? I had no idea. (Though the extent of my Coldblood knowledge has always been that A) he exists and B) he was created by Doug Moench in MCP.)

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    1. Yeah, I didn't know that until I did some poking around trying to figure out who this Coldblood guy is for this post. Apparently, James Badge Dale's character's name is the same as Coldblood's real name, along with the general idea of being a solider involved in a government experiment.

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  4. I never realized Silver Surfer was Water. Of course! I have to go read the Air-Walker stuff sometime soon, I only know of him from the OHOTMU introduction they published on Firelord on our Spider-Man issue where those two had their notorious fight. I'm afraid he's again one of those "Gosh, he must be a Big Deal!"-characters you learn of when they build later continuity on him.

    That Lockheed-bit is so a spoof on "Home Alone". Just take one look at the WHO agents. On which note: "Sonic lockpick", eh? These Brit-based comics... Alysandre's first page mention of "the Doctor" roaming somewhere (after having dropped the Dr. Cayre's name in midst of a preceding wall of text) is totes an intentional allusion/trick by the writer.

    I quite liked the first 90's Deathlok limited series. Coldblood apparently appears on the monthly book that followed.

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    1. Yeah, I don't think Air-Walker is all that big a deal; he gets an introductory story, this one, and a run in the 90s SILVER SURFER book, and I think that's about it.

      And Surfer never struck me as water until I read about the idea of Galactus' heralds having an elemental rotation to them, and I figured he was water by default. Then the whole surfer bit struck me, and I felt dumb.

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  5. I was surprised to see Kitty talking while phasing through solid objects here instead of holding her breath. Maybe she emerged from the time stuck in her phased state by default with augmented powers.

    // like that book, it's a double-sized one-shot that could easily serve that purpose //

    And wouldn’t it be nice for either of those books to actually serve a purpose?

    Lobdell’s writing is, well, like you say. The way Kitty defeated her opponent was pretty clever, while Captain Britain’s solution was made much more ridiculous than it needed to be: His crossing the wings could just as easily have been written to incapacitate or eliminate Air-Walker without “destroying the universe on a cosmic level” — which is even called out in the cursory epilogue, and yet the last note of the book is still almost mind-bogglingly lame.

    Honestly, I’m flummoxed by all the squarebound, glossy-pages love thrown Excalibur’s way in this period, especially given the inconsequential stories and middling-at-best artwork. You’d think that if Marvel wanted to squeeze readers for extra cash with subpar material then the X-Men proper — or some limited subset thereof: solo adventure, original- and/or ANAD-team untold story, etc. — would be more likely to reel in completists. It feels like we’re getting at least as much Excalibur as Wolverine, his regular series’ twice-monthly summer schedule notwithstanding.

    I really don’t care for Lim’s work, but the early Stelfreeze/Story art was a pleasant surprise; the Larsen and Leonardi/Rubinstein chapters were pretty good too.

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  6. Honestly, I’m flummoxed by all the squarebound, glossy-pages love thrown Excalibur’s way in this period, especially given the inconsequential stories and middling-at-best artwork.

    Right? The main book labored so long with no direction or consistent creative team, it's a wonder why Marvel wanted to extend/prolong that by putting out so many additional EXCALIBUR stories at the same time, and then expecting people to pay top dollar for them to boot. It just makes very little sense.

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