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Friday, February 22, 2019

X-amining Excalibur #85

"Edge of Night"
January 1995

In a Nutshell
Shrill & Amanda help Kitty defeat Gravemoss.

Writer: Warren Ellis
Penciler: Ken Lashley
Inker: Tom Wegrzyn
Letterer: Jon Babcock
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
As Nightcrawler urges Kitty to hand over the Soulsword, Shrill reveals that Gravemoss is in control of his body. She then blasts Nightcrawler, and Kitty uses the distraction to phase away. With a moment to herself, Kitty returns the sword to her body and remembers the training she received from Wolverine. When Gravemoss teleports into the room, Kitty attacks him. Overwhelmed, Gravemoss teleports to Nightcrawler's room. Realizing his body possesses knowledge of swordfighting, he draws a sword and returns to Kitty, forcing her to draw the Soulsword to defend herself. Using Nightcrawler's skills, Gravemoss defeats her, but Shrill intervenes again, along with a still-alive Amanda, which gives Kitty an opening to use the sword to do what it does best: break enchantments, thereby expelling Gravemoss from Nightcrawler's body. Kitty hands over the sword to Amanda, who in turn gives it to her mother, only to discover that with the defeat of Gravemoss, Margali's position on the Winding Way has improved. 

Firsts and Other Notables
The Soulsword Trilogy concludes with this issue, leaving the titular sword in the possession of Amanda Sefton's mother Margali, who has used the entire situation to improve her position on the Winding Way. Both Margali and the Soulsword will return later in Ellis' run.


Meanwhile, this issue marks the final appearances of Gravemoss & Shrill to date.

Preparing for Gravemoss’ attack, Kitty flashes back to a time when Wolverine trained her in an Israeli martial art, which essentially serves as a gratuitous way to work Wolverine into the story (and enable him to be on the issue’s cover).


Ken Lashley returns this issue, making it the only chapter of the three part story drawn by the book’s nominal regular penciler.

A Work in Progress
Shrill is able to see that Gravemoss is possessing Nightcrawler thanks to her Soulsteel eye.


Wolverine considers Mossad the scariest secret service in the world.


Amanda says that there is less of Illyana in the Soulsword than in a photo or piece of clothing, which is just wrong, In her (and Ellis’) defense though, Amanda is essentially trying to get the sword from Kitty as much as Gravemoss or Shrill, so she may be intentionally misleading her.


The Reference Section
Kitty yelling “get out of my friend!” Every time she hits the Gravemoss-possessed Nightcrawler just makes me think of Bobby Hill yelling “That’s my purse/I don't know you!” as he kicks people in the crotch.


Echoes of Watchmen as Kitty tells Gravemoss she’s not trapped with him, he is trapped inside with her.


Austin's Analysis
Warren Ellis' introductory story arc concludes with its strongest issue, largely because Kitty Pryde is, for the most part, the agent of her own victory by successfully defending herself against Gravemoss and handing over the sword to an ally. While this issue still features the same weaknesses as the previous chapters (Ellis still has a good knack for dialogue but a poor one for continuity, and this issue - and the story as a whole - concludes as abruptly as the previous ones, with Shrill just disappearing and only a page of denouement, providing no resolution as to the fate of the rest of the team), and the story on the whole suffers from the rotating artists creating a visual incoherence to the story (each individual's work is fine, but the transition from each issue can be jarring), this is nevertheless easily the best story in the book since Alan Davis left. Ellis' introductory arc is far from perfect, but there's a level of craft and potential for even better things on display that the series has been lacking for months, and thankfully, this is just the beginning of his run.

Next Issue
Next week, Wolverine - Scorpio Rising.

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6 comments:

  1. The cover is ridiculous. Not only does it depict a brief flashback, it shows only Wolverine and none of the actual series cast members!

    Speaking of the flashback, it's clearly set during Kitty's earliest days at Xavier's school. And while Lashley draws a decent interpretation of John Byrne's Kitty, his Wolverine is way, way too 90s-looking. Plus, circa 1980/1981, you never would've seen Wolverine in the danger room out of costume. Byrne, Cockrum, Smith, and all the other artists of that era always depicted the X-Men in full costume whenever they were in the room. As a result, the whole thing feels off to me.

    Lastly, it really looks like somebody ran out of space on this one. I don't know if it was Ellis's plot running long or Lashley suddenly realizing he had too few pages left to work with as he got near the end, but the last page is just a weird montage splash with an info-dump we probably should have actually seen. I mean, the narration is describing some pretty key events here, and just glossing over them in the process!

    Anyway, aside from those issues, I do agree this is a decent story. And it's nice to have Lashley back; I really like his depictions of Kitty and Nightcrawler.

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    1. That's actually an early Ellis tick, the last page summing up events and even dropping important story beats in captions. He did it a few times in Stormwatch, usually to offer some sort of twist ending, almost as if he was lulling you to sleep with what looked like a summary page and then hitting you with the twist ending or the gutpunch.

      As a stylistic tick, it didn't stay for long-it was gone by the time the Authority popped up-but this wasn't the only time Ellis did this at all.

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    2. @Matt: // The cover is ridiculous. Not only does it depict a brief flashback, it shows only Wolverine and none of the actual series cast members! //

      And how is this the gratuitous Wolverine cover you come up with? It has no costume and no claws, just a very awkwardly posed shot of him elbowing some… thing. He’s more recognizable than Nightcrawler was on the previous cover but that’s not saying much.

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  2. "The Soulsword Trilogy concludes with this issue, leaving the titular sword in the possession of Amanda Sefton's mother Margali, who has used the entire situation to improve her position on the Winding Way."

    Kind of annoying to have a cliffhanger of sorts like this relegated to a one page info-dump.

    "which essentially serves as a gratuitous way to work Wolverine into the story"

    So gratuitous, I can heard "For no reason here's Wolverine" in Apu's voice.

    I mean, Kitty is a trained ninja, did we really need a 4 page flashback explaining to us this particular move? Did they really think Wolverine on the cover would give the title a sales boost? And how lucky Kitty had enough to think about that flashback before Gravemoss catches up to her...

    Of course, all of this is something of another tic Ellis and other British writers like to throw out; non-Western stuff designed to impress us with the author's worldly knowledge. While it can be impressive and fun to learn, it does at times lead to superfluous scenes like this, or the writer just gets it wrong (sorry, Grant Morrison, but there is no such thing as a Pakistani language).

    "Ken Lashley returns this issue"

    And for some reason it looks better than it usually does.

    "In her (and Ellis’) defense though, Amanda is essentially trying to get the sword from Kitty as much as Gravemoss or Shrill, so she may be intentionally misleading her."

    But still, you'd expect Kitty to pull a "That's not how the Souldsword works!" style retort. I mean, it might make sense if Amanda was giving that lecture to someone like Rory or even Brian or Meggan, but Kitty should still know better.

    Still, even with all of what I nitpicked about, it's a huge improvement over what we were getting from the post-Alan Davis issues.

    wwk5d

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  3. Can't Kitty stay phased, why would she ever have to fight nightcrawler or pull the sword back out?

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  4. Lashley’s Kitty face looks an awful lot like Davis’s to me, in the first few pages at least — and to the extent that he’s swiping or just aping Davis’s art there’s a real disconnect between it and the style of the faces on most other characters.

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