Thursday, June 26, 2014
X-amining Excalibur #3
In a Nutshell
Excalibur battles Juggernaut and moves into their new headquarters.
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Alan Davis
Inker: Paul Neary
Guest Letterer: L. Lois Buhalis
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco
Vixen and her men break into Crossmoor Prison, determined to free a specific prisoner, but they discover his cell to be empty, and are quickly attacked by the guards. Trying to escape, they stumble across a cell containing Juggernaut. Agreeing to release him if he creates a distraction, Juggernaut, as well as some other inmates, are set free. Vixen gets away as Excalibur arrives to round up the escaped prisoners and battle Juggernaut, who is ultimately defeated by Phoenix's telepathy. Meanwhile, in Newcastle, a UFO enthusiast discovers Widget, who teleports him to the world of Opal Lun Sat-Yr-9. Later, Excalibur moves into their new headquarters, Captain Britain's lighthouse, just as a storm sets in.
In the days that follow, tensions rise as the teammates become accustomed to living with one another, culminating in the team confronting Captain Britain about his drinking. Angry, he flies off. When the lighthouse loses power, Kitty tries to restore it and she stumbles across an alien-looking version of herself, who quickly disappears. Now staying in London, Captain Britain is discussing his future as a super-hero with Courtney Ross when he's telepathically contacted by Rachel, who tells him about Kitty's strange occurrence. Captain Britain returns to the lighthouse, where he reconciles with the team and they vow to remain together.
Firsts and Other Notables
Juggernaut makes an appearance in this issue, briefly breaking out of jail before being sent back by Excalibur, making him the first traditional X-villain the team has faced (unless you count Mojo. And even then, Excalibur never really fought him directly). Of course, it makes sense that Juggernaut would be in a British prison, since the last time we saw him he was defeated by the X-Men in Scotland. It's an appreciated bit of continuity on Claremont's part you just wouldn't see these days.
Juggernaut is freed from his cell by Vixen and her men, who, in the course of a botched attempt to free someone else, release Juggernaut to create a diversion. I have no idea who Vixen was trying to free, and even though the character is presumably British, I keep reading her dialogue in the voice of Jessica Walter, aka Lucille Bluth and Mallory Archer.
Widget appears again, this time sending a UFO enthusiast into the realm of Sat-Yr-9, who appears in the series for the first time. Not to be confused with Saturnyne (who sent Gatechrasher and Technet after Phoenix in Excalibur Special Edition #1), Sat-yr-9 is the deposed ruler of an alternate reality who previously appeared in Captain Britain's series. I've never quite gotten a good handle on Saturnyne/Sat-yr-9/Courtney Ross, but I have gathered it's all rather confusing.
Excalibur moves into Captain Britian's lighthouse this issue, effectively making it their home and headquarters moving forward.
Talking over his current situation with Courtney Ross, Captain Britain mentions that the last time he gave up being Captain Britain, his sister was maimed, a reference to the end of his last UK series, in which Betsy briefly took up the mantle of Captain Britain and lost her eyes to Slaymaster (leading to the bionic implants she received from Mojo in New Mutants Annual #2).
It's the dialogue on the covers. That's what makes the covers to last issue and this one feel more whimsical than contemporaneous covers on other series. Even in 1988, the idea of putting word ballons on covers was more or less passe, so seeing it here creates a kind of fun, retro 60s vibe.
We now have the traditional "headshots of the team members" arrangement in the corner box on the cover.
The back cover features a pin-up of Nightcrawler.
A Work in Progress
Apparently, a "stasis cage" can stop the Juggernaut.
Kitty is able to phase a car, effectively pitching the occupants out of the vehicle when doing so. She also notes she can't yet drive a stick shift.
Meggan is able to draw enough power from the Earth to physically match Juggernaut, though Phoenix intervenes before she's able to try her strength against him.
Phoenix introduces herself to Juggernaut, in what is clearly more of an action-movie style line than an actual introduction, though the two may have met previously during the events of X-Men #194 (it's unclear whether they would have interacted enough for Rachel to expect Juggernaut to remember her, especially she's now using a different name and costume).
Kitty is upset when Captain Britain accidentally drops a box containing some software she wrote with Doug Ramsey (though it's unclear how software could be damaged by a dropped box).
Captain Britain is called out on his drinking.
After he angrily storms off, Nightcrawler tries to comfort Meggan.
Courtney describes her relationship with Brian as that of best friends.
While in the basement of the lighthouse, Kitty sees a warped version of herself and Lockheed, who quickly vanishes, which Nightcrawler chalks up to another strange occurrence, after the incident in issue #1 in which Nightcrawler briefly stumbled into a room of aliens.
Meggan is upset that Captain Britain turns to the bottle for solace rather than her.
This is easily my favorite issue of the series yet. Part of that, I'm sure, comes from the presence of Juggernaut, the first truly X-Men-related villain the team has faced, helping make the series feel even more connected to the larger X-universe. But that appearance, in addition to being a fun action sequence, also gives us a look at the in-universe purpose of Excalibur: after largely dealing with threats personally related to them (and one hostage situation), this issue presents the team as, essentially, the British Avengers, stepping in when a threat becomes larger than can be safely handled by traditional authorities. That's good enough for me, as far as an in-universe reason to exist (Also, the Davis and Neary art in this issue is just gorgeous. The best yet. I could stare at it for hours).
And then, after Juggernaut is dealt with in the first half of the issue, the back half settles in for what turns out to be Excalibur's first Classic Claremont Quiet issue, as the team moves into their new home/headquarters and all the remaining conflicts are purely character driven, as the still-new teammates get to know one another and come to terms with their new living arrangement. While pretty much all of these characters have existed prior to this series (and thus, readers are likely coming to the series with some understanding of at least a few of their basic characterizations), this is still worthy ground to cover, as it offers us for really the first time an opportunity to see the cast of the book interacting as genuine teammates, and not just disparate characters working together.
Wolverine battles Silver Samurai in Wolverine #2. Next week, "Inferno" begins in Uncanny X-Men #239, followed by the blessedly-final issue in the Spyder/Gosamyr story, New Mutants #70.