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Thursday, October 13, 2016

X-amining Excalibur #51

"Don't Drink the Water"
June 1992

In a Nutshell
The Dinosaur Excalibur of Earth-99476 works to returns some lost humans to Earth-616.

Writer: Alan Davis
Penciler: Dougie Braithwaite
Inkers: Jeff ALbrecth, Jose Marzan, Marck McKenna, Jimmy Palmiotti
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
The Excalibur of Earth-99476 meets with WHO regarding a group of mammals that arrived on their world from Earth-616, and were recently kidnapped by the High Evolutionary and taken to the Savage Land. Meanwhile, on Earth-616 in Brighton, the mammals' saurian counterparts suddenly revert to more primitive forms. The Saurian Excalibur arrives in the Savage Land, accompanied by Dr. Lykos, while Dai Thomas is called in to deal with the now-rampaging dinosaurs, watched by a morose Gatecrasher, who vows revenge on Excalibur. On Earth-99476, Excalibur battles a brainwashed Fantastic Five and learn that the High Evolutionary plans to use the kidnapped humans to stabilize his artificial race of humans, whom he believes genetically superior to the Saurians. But Lykos destroys his machinery, prompting the Evolutionary to vanish and the Fantastic Five to regain their senses. As Dai Thomas attempts to call the exhausted Excalibur of Earth-616, the humans are taken back to the Saurian WHO, where a means of returning them home is devised. Excalibur and the Fantastic Five arrive on Earth-616 in the midst of the dinosaurs' rampage. They corral the dinosaurs through their portal, saying that the pollution on Earth-616 caused their transformation. At Braddock Manor, Excalibur wakes up to news of the dinosaur attack, as well as a message from Jean Grey saying she and Professor X are on their way to help Rachel.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue follows up on a dangling plot thread from issue #9, in which a group of tourists disappeared from the Tower of London, and a group of sentient dinosaur tourists took their place. It is told mostly from the perspective of the Excalibur from that dinosaur world, labeled here as Earth-99476.


In addition to Excalibur, we see dinosaur counterparts to Dr. Karl Lykos (Sauron), Ka-Zar, the High Evolutionary, and the Fantastic Five (ie the Fantastic Four plus Spider-Man).

Though it debuted last issue, the cover calls attention to the series' new logo, something I failed to do in last issue's post.

This issue's cover is an homage to issue #1 of the series, with the Dinosaur Excalibur in place of the original.

A Work in Progress
Gatecrasher, exiled to Earth by Saturnyne, pops up briefly, talking to an apparent hallucination of Hardcore Henry.


Dinosaur Captain Britain mentions having seen Earth-616 Captain Britain at his trial in issue #44.


Captain Britain tells Kylun and Cerise they're welcome to stay at Braddock Manor (Feron remains as well, watching over the comatose Rachel in the hopes of claiming the Phoenix Force from her when she dies), though I'm not sure if this counts as them being formally inducted into Excalibur.


The Reference Section
The exchanged tourists are named the Griswalds, the same name as the starring family of the various National Lampoon's Vacation movies featuring Chevy Chase.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Dinosaur Excalibur imparts an environmental message by the end of the issue, with the high level of pollution in the air of the main Earth being a plot point. While the points made about the importance of reversing environmental decline remain, sadly, as prescient today as they were then, the whole thing still have a very early 90s/Captain Planet vibe to it.

Austin's Analysis
Taking a break both from the big, sweeping cosmic events of the last few issues and from penciling duties, this issue still finds Alan Davis in "tie up loose ends" mode, this time reaching all the way back to issue #9 of the series to follow-up on dinosaur people who exchanged places with a tourist family while Excalibur battled their alternate reality Nazi counterparts. The end result could come across as, essentially, yet another chapter in the "Cross-Time Caper", showing an alternate world complete with alternate heroes and villains and a threat to combat that is ultimately meaningless because it's all happening on another world but, despite my better judgement, I kind of enjoyed this.

It helps that Davis commits fully to the dinosaur iteration of Excalibur - this isn't so much Excalibur interacting with an alternate world as it is a story about characters from an alternate world, a small but important distinction. The fact that the "real" Excalibur only appears, briefly, in the middle of the story (with everyone asleep) and at the end (mostly just to setup the next issue) without ever having any impact on the events, is to the story's benefit, as is the fact that it's told mostly from the perspective of the dinosaur Excalibur. This is the kind of quirky story that is this series' bread-and-butter, and while it certainly would have been better drawn by Davis, it's still fun, both fluffy and serious enough. Were this just another whacky one-off alternate reality story, it'd be interminable, but tying it in to the history of the series to wrap up a dangling thread gives it just enough narrative import to buoy up the more zany and farcical elements.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Wolverine goes to Japan in Wolverine #55. Next week, the X-Men are still in New Orleans in Ghost Rider #27, and Excalibur reaches the XX Crossing.

Collected Editions

5 comments:

  1. Lizard Reed's parting words kinda let on that "an alternate world" this really isn't. ;)

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    Replies
    1. I mean, I understand Lizard Captain Britain being a member of the Corps may complicate it a bit, but the dinosaurs the Lizard Griswalds evolve into through pollution are historical enough to suggest that the Lizard High Evolutionary's huge hellish modern city complex will end up polluting the supposed "Earth-99476" enough to alter the reptilian population therewith and make his dream of the mammal uprising realize while all that will be left of the good people of Earth-99476 are a couple of fossils.

      And in due time the Dr. Karl Lykos essence scattered around by the explosion into everything will maybe concentrate to form a human/Sauron creature for his next appearance in early X-MEN vol 1 issues.

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  2. I re-read this run about two months ago and had already forgotten that this issue exists, which says quite a bit about it. It's cute but disposable, and Davis' art is sorely missed.

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  3. I appreciate Davis going so far as to tie up the dangler involving the lost tourists, and I like the absurdity of the story, but for whatever reason this issue just doesn't do much for me.

    It's interesting to see Davis scripting over another artist's work, as he does here and next time. I'm not sure I've ever seen him do it outside of these two issues. I don't know if the experience didn't agree with him or what, but before long he'll be merely plotting the fill-ins with Scott Lobdell providing scripts.

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  4. Kylun and Cerise are referred to as “team members” in a lettercol reply, but they’re not added to the (still poorly laid-out and lacking in punctuation) blurb/logline on the first page — and “You’re both welcome to stay” is hardly a formal induction to the group.

    While I didn’t love this, I too enjoyed it more than expected after I almost literally rolled my eyes as the opening made clear what was going on.

    Unless something’s failing to come to mind, which is entirely possible, Dougie Braithwaite’s is for me easily the best fill-in art we’ve had on the series yet.

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