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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

X-amining Excalibur #44

"Witless for the Prosecution"
Late November 1991

In a Nutshell
As Meggan searches for information about her past, Captain Britain is put on trial.

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

Captain Britain is brought before a tribunal of the Captain Britain Corps, with Hauptmann Englande prosecuting his case. On Earth, Rachel helps Meggan explore her memories, prompting a recollection of the Scotts, who may have some more information on Meggan's past. Meanwhile, Alistair arrives at the lighthouse, hoping to invite Rachel to join him on a trip, but in her absence, Kitty invites herself along instead. On E'erath, Kylun and Sa'tneen's rebellion continues. Back on Earth, Meggan and Rachel meet with the Scotts, a family which Meggan and Brian befriended early in their superhero career. They direct Meggan to one of the gypsies who took in Meggan as a child, Madame Zelda, who is working as a fortune teller in town. At the lighthouse, Inspector Thomas comes looking for Excalibur's help, but with everyone away, Nightcrawler is forced to consider using Technet in their stead. In London, while Meggan meets with Zelda, Rachel is drawn to an antique shop, where a strange energy being tries to steal a dagger and she runs afoul of FI6 agent Micromax. Meggan then emerges, saying the last Zelda heard of her parents suggested they were in France. On Otherworld, Hauptmann Englande runs down the list of Captain Britain's offenses, Fed up, Captain Britain declares that he refuses to recognize the authority of the court, which prompts the chief magistrate to thereby find him guilty and sentence him to death, to be carried out immediately.

Firsts and Other Notables
Micromax, a size-changing mutant named Scott Wright, appears for the first time this issue. He will appear semi-regularly throughout Alan Davis' run on the series, working with Excalibur, though I don't believe he ever officially joins the team, before fading away into general obscurity outside the occasional guest or background appearance.

Both Meggan and Captain Britain's histories get essentially recapped this issue. First, Meggan, as she recounts to Rachel the circumstances of her birth.

Later, Captain Britain's trial serves as a recap of some of his past adventures and events from this series.

Hauptmann Englande, the Captain Britain of the alternate Nazi reality who fought Excalibur in early issues of the series, returns as Captain Britain's prosecutor. His defense attorney is Captain UK, whom he teamed-up with in issues of his earlier solo series.

The Scott family are the parents of Mickey Scott, the young boy who died in Captain Britain's first adventure, which was also referenced in Excalibur: Possession.

For whatever reason, this is the second issue of this series to ship in September of 1991 (cover dated Early and Late November), giving the series a random one month of bi-weekly shipping.

A Work in Progress
This issue confirms that Captain Britain is on trial for attacking Nightcrawler last issue, a violation of his Earth's morality code.

Rachel theorizes that her and Meggan's similar way of handling memories might be responsible for the rapport they share, as we saw off-and-on during "The Cross-Time Caper". Not sure if this is meant to be Davis closing off that dangling thread, or just reminding readers it exists so as to address it again later.

The Earth on which Kylun is leading his rebellion is designated as Earth-148 in this issue.

Upon meeting the Scotts, Rachel wills the Phoenix Force to lie dormant, the first such time she's done that since adopting the power.

It's noted that Nightcrawler's fur feels like velvet, for what it's worth.

In pointing out Captain Britain's killing of Slaymaster (the villain who took out Psylocke's eyes before she joined the X-Men and had them replaced by Mojo), it's established that the Captain Britain Corp has a clause in their morality code that allows for the revenge/justice killings of people who attacked denizens of Otherworld.

Young Love
Alistair shows up hoping to invite Rachel along with him on a working holiday to Ireland; in her absence, Kitty manages to invite herself along instead.

Austin's Analysis
The bulk of this issue (which is pretty much a Classic Claremont Quiet issue, in that it's about a lot of different things and very little of them have anything to do with superheroes fighting super-villains) is an assortment of scenes that further or setup new subplots (like Nightcrawler leading Technet or Kitty's trip to Ireland with Alistair) or characters (Meggan's origin refresher leading to the introduction of Micromax). But the main plot, such as it is, deals with Captain Britain being put on trial for jealousy attacking Nightcrawler last issue. Like the Meggan material, it largely serves as a (well-illustrated) infodump about the character's past for readers who may not have read Cap's previous UK adventures, and for any that have, this is all probably a bit boring.

But as someone who hasn't read much pre-Excalibur Captain Britain, I got a big kick out all the all the Captain Britain Corps shenanigans: the way each captain is judged relative to the moral code of his/her/it's dimension, bringing Hauptmann Englande back as the prosecutor (which immediately clues the reader in that this maybe isn't the most fair tribunal), tying in little bits of Excalibur continuity (like Brian's adoption of a new costume) as evidence, and even addressing past contradictions to what's being presented here (like the death of Slaymaster). It's borderline fan-wanky and a little twee (and I'm not quite sure I entirely buy Brian's hostility towards the tribunal, at least without knowing much about his past dealings with the Corps), and if someone said they didn't like this because it was just a nicely drawn recap, I couldn't argue with them. But this uses continuity smartly, to inform character and move the current story forward, and I rather enjoyed it.

Next Issue
Next week: more about Bishop in Uncanny X-Men #283, a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants debuts in X-Force #5, and Madrox fights Madroxs in X-Factor #73.

Collected Editions


  1. I do mostly like the Rachel & Meggan stuff, but even though the multiversal Captain Britain trial would seem right up my alley it just doesn’t mix serious and silly the right way for me.

    // Upon meeting the Scotts, Rachel wills the Phoenix Force to lie dormant, the first such time she's done that since adopting the power. //

    I don’t quite understand all of that — how putting her power in check is supposed to let her socialize more freely or whatever. If we’ve heard of that before, I’m not remembering, anyway. I felt like it was telegraphing some danger she then wouldn’t sense or be prepared for, although then we get the later scene in the antique store that presumably belies my suspicion.

    1. I think the idea is that Rachel is suppressing her TP so she can have a normal conversation w/o thoughts intruding, but it's definitely setup to be a bigger deal than that.

  2. The Captain Britain Corps always cracks me up. Used sparingly, I really like them. I also like MicroMax -- cool costume, cool name. I wish he'd stuck around in some capacity. I think Davis planned to use him as a recurring character and possibly eventually have him join the team, but he left before reaching that point.

    On the other hand, the Meggan stuff has always been the least interesting part of this run of issues for me. (Also, it's worth noting that young Mickey didn't die in Cap's first adventure. I believe it actually happened pretty far into the series, shortly after Alan Moore's run as writer.)

    1. Interesting; this seemed to suggest that Mickey's death was early in his career. But maybe I was interpreting that wrong.


  3. // Mickey didn't die in Cap's first adventure. I believe it actually happened pretty far into the series, shortly after Alan Moore's run as writer. //

    Thanks for confirming. I was pretty sure I remembered that from the first American TPB, especially since Meggan only pops up then, but given my recent track record I didn’t want to correct it without looking it up first.

  4. Micromax is often listed as having been a member of Excalibur, and I've never quite understood why, since he was never more than a supporting character at best. I had an Excalibur poster ages ago in which he's shown with the rest of the team. (Can't find the poster itself, but here's the image: )

    1. Yeah, my first encounter with Micro Max was that X-Men Series II card wwk5d links to below, so I always assumed he was stalwart member of the team.

  5. "though I don't believe he ever officially joins the team"

    I think he was meant to, but Davis left before it was official, and Lobdell was too busy decimating the, just didn't want the character on the team. On various ancillary art sources (like the poster mentioned above), he seemed to be a member of the team. Here is as part of the team in the X-men Series II card:

    "Upon meeting the Scotts, Rachel wills the Phoenix Force to lie dormant, the first such time she's done that since adopting the power."

    If I remember correctly, there is a reason for that which does end up moving the plot forward as we go on. As for why Davis chose to present this way, as her doing it to "drop her guard" so to speak...I'm not sure about that. But as with many thing Davis introduces here, it does lead somewhere.

    "It's noted that Nightcrawler's fur feels like velvet"

    I'm sure Amanda Sefton would say he does have that velvet touch...

    Overall, it's a strong issue. I like the mix of serious and silly in this issue, between the Meggan/Rachel story and Capt. Britain Corps, and I think Davis pulls it off well. Why we never got a Capt. Britain Corps miniseries by Davis, I'll never know. I always like the various designs he came up with for the various Captains.

    The infodumps here don't feel too heavy and needlessly confusing, it's a good way to refresh long term reader's memories and also bring new people up to speed (especially with regards to Meggan's history prior to joining Excalibur). And again, Davis does a good job balancing existing sub-plots while also setting up news ones which do get paid off later on.

    All in all, it's good fun and looks gorgeous.

    1. Of course, a lot of the revisited history could just be a hard-sell for the Captain Britain trade, which does show up in quite a few footnotes ;)

    2. I meant to mention those footnotes; they were DEFINITELY hard selling that trade. :)

  6. Is that one Captain Britain meant to be Alan Moore, or just a generic Hippy-Cap?

    1. I at first assumed the former, but then I read over those panels again and I think it's just a generic Hippy-Cap.

    2. That said, the LOOK of the hippy may be Moore-inspired, but the character is just a hippy, not a Moore-parody/pastiche.

  7. Just realised Margaret Rutherford is the template for the old lady detective!


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