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Thursday, August 18, 2016

X-amining Excalibur #49

"Let There Be Dark"
April 1992

In a Nutshell
Necrom begins his attack on Excalibur.

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

FI6 attempts to capture the perpetrator of the recent string of heists, but the perpetrator is Necrom, who absorbs the life force of the FI6 agents to increase his own power. He attempts to do the same to Micromax, but Micromax seems to disappear before he can, and Necrom flies off for Excalibur's lighthouse. At the lighthouse, amid an increasing number of cross-time intrusions, Excalibur debates their next course of action. In London, Inspector Thomas discovers Micromax, who shrank at the last minute to escape Necrom. He wants to warn Excalibur, but Thomas says their communication lines are dead. At the lighthouse, Necrom telepathically contacts Excalibur, explaining that the increase of cross-time breaches is his doing, as the various alternate worlds are collapsing into a singularity that will destroy them all, unless Rachel unleashes the Phoenix Force to stop him. On Otherworld, a mystified Roma is monitoring the collapsing realities when Merlin suddenly appears, declaring that the final gambit begins.

Firsts and Other Notables
The issue concludes with the return of Roma's father Merlin, who seemingly died during the "Jasper's Warp" story in Captain Britain's pre-Excalibur solo series. This reveal may explain why Davis went out of his way to retcon out Possession (beyond just not liking the story), as that story also revealed a not-dead-after-all Merlin, and Davis clearly wanted to reveal that here.

Feron is on hand along with the rest of the team (and fairly snooty about Rachel's mishandling of the Phoenix Force and being treated like a kid by Excalibur), but I don't believe he's officially joined the team or anything at this point.

We get glimpses of a variety of different alternate worlds throughout the issue, and Necrom reveals he is causing the various realities to collapse in on themselves, ultimately threatening all existence, as a tactic to force Rachel to unleash the Phoenix Force to try and stop him.

Connected to that, Captain Britain grows increasingly clumsy throughout the issue, culminating in him turning into, basically, a Captain Britain Hulk, and prompting Excalibur to wonder if Roma has really lifted the jinx she put on him; next issue reveals that his transformation is the result of him inheriting the power of the other Captain Britain's from the collapsing realities.

Cerise detects some kind of Fourth Dimensional barrier protecting Excalibur from the time distortions happening around them; I believe this gets attributed to Phoenix next issue.

Of the various alt-realities we see, I think my favorite is the one in which a chef Captain Britain apparently fights Magmeato's Brotherhood of Evil Vegetarians.

The cover is an homage to X-Men #56, with Necrom taking the place of the Living Monolith (of course, X-Men #135 also homaged that cover, with Dark Phoenix).

A Work in Progress
This issue establishes that FI6 is made up of the best soldiers culled from Britain's military, but it doesn't really matter, since Necrom kills most of them, including their leader, "Inky" Blott.

Austin's Analysis
The penultimate issue of the Necrom storyline (and, really, Alan Davis' solo run to date), Davis continues to impress by playing with expectations. Usually these kinds of issues feature some kind of confrontation between the heroes and the villain, in which the heroes are trounced but valiantly promise to come back and beat the villain in the end. Here, Excalibur hasn't really even come to face-ro-face with Necrom yet, barely understand the threat he poses, and have no obvious inkling how they're going to defeat him, with their best weapon (Phoenix) off the board. The end result is a feeling that things are even more dire than if Excalibur had just lost a direct confrontation; they're so far out of the game at this point, they don't even know HOW to fight Necrom. It's a great "things are always darkest" feeling heading into the conclusion, with even the last minute appearance of Merlin adding to the effect, as it's uncertain whether his return is a good or bad thing.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Wolverine battles Mojo at the end of time in Wolverine #53. Next week, Uncanny X-Men #288 and X-Force #10.

Collected Editions


  1. Long story: I just finished a several month long re-reading of the Claremont X-Men (including spin-off books, limited series, etc.). I discovered your blog early on and read the old entries in tandem with each issue, which added a lot of behind the scenes info and commentary (thanks!). I never got to comment though, because I was always behind y'all, and you finished the Claremont years before I caught up. But since the Alan Davis Excalibur run is basically the only post-Claremont X run I have any interest in, I decided to also re-read it as a little palate cleanser. And here we are!

    Anyways, this is a fine issue, partly (as you say) because it's the penultimate chapter of a big story and it gets to promise so many things and it's all big and exciting. And when you read it in isolation, you can judge it on its own merits instead of whether or not the next issue sticks the landing (spoiler: I don't think it totally does). My main complaint is that, like most of Davis' solo run, it falls prey to over-exposition bug. But dear god does it look fantastic.

    1. First of all, welcome, and thanks for reading along! Secondly, I hear you on the over-exposition thing. I think Davis walks a very fine line with that, and there's been a few times he's crossed it, only to be saved by the stellar art.

  2. I love the Merlyn reveal in this issue. One of my favorite moments in Davis's run.

    1. Someday I really want to go back and read the full run of pre-EXCALIBUR Captain Britain stuff. *cough* Captain Britain Epic Collection, Marvel *cough*.

    2. Well, it's not an Epic Collection, but you may be interested in this: CAPTAIN BRITAIN: LEGACY OF A LEGEND. I found some contents elsewhere on the web and it looks like it will feature a large smattering of Cap stories, jumping around from his origin to the MARVEL TEAM-UP two-parter to his partnership with the Black Knight to the Moore/Davis "Crooked World" and "Jaspers' Warp" sagas. It's not every pre-EXCALIBUR Cap story, but it seems to hit all the highlights. Sadly not all the Davis material is there, though. He had a decent run post-Moore and it looks like only a single issue of that (the final one) is collected in this book. (Also, some of the Moore issues are left out, which is odd.)

    3. I did that pop up on Amazon a couple weeks back, but I hadn't seen the contents. I have the two hardcover volumes Marvel released a few years ago collecting his oldest stuff, and an even older trade collecting some of the Moore/Davis stuff.

      But that's why I'd like a comprehensive, chronological reprinting of his series, just because it seems like so many collections are missing issues or otherwise incomplete, and then due to vagaries of Marvel UK's publishing, he hops around a bunch of series, few of which have "Captain Britain" in the title, so it's even hard to track his appearances issue-by-issue sometimes (I know Marvel Unlimited has some of the UK stuff up - like his appearances in DAREDEVILS, I believe, but I have no idea if that's everything or if they have other series he was in, etc.).

      Basically, if his pre-EXCALIBUR stuff was just, like, CAPTAIN BRITAIN #1-300 or something, it'd be a lot easier. Since it's not, a nice curated collection of all his appearances would be nice. :) /whining

    4. I don't think MU got DAREDEVILS, but from the Comic Book Database listing at ( ) MU seems to have MARVEL SUPER HEROES (1979) #377-388 and the CAPTAIN BRITAIN (1985) series.

      Apparently CAPTAIN BRITAIN HC (2011) #1 and #2 prints all/most of the earlier stuff.

  3. "as that story also revealed a not-dead-after-all Merlin, and Davis clearly wanted to reveal that here."

    And it works so much better here as well.

    Good stuff all around. It looks gorgeous, the story moves along nicely, the characters have distinct voices, I like how Davis has tied all the various plot strands together. Really, there isn't much more to add really except that this is arguably, at this point in the X-line, the best title being produced, and a damn good read regardless.


  4. I don’t know that the art’s ever looked better.

    // The penultimate issue of the Necrom storyline (and, really, Alan Davis' solo run to date) //

    Yes to the first part, which is just a matter of fact, but no to the parenthetical. I think you’re using “penultimate” as “climactic” or “the culmination of…” but whereas “ultimate” has a broader meaning than “final” — as, say, “the best example of…” or “the most concentrated dosage of…” (like the way “ultimate expression” = “focused totality”) or “the purest form of…” — there’s no colloquial, metaphorical definition of “penultimate” that means something is the antecedent to the “ultimate” iteration in a sequence where “ultimate” means anything other than “last”. Sorry to harsh your mellow on a late-summer weekend. 8^)

    1. I understood what is meant is that the following issue will be the last, i.e. the ultimate of Davis' solo run, as someone else will be assuming penciling duties and it's not solo anymore. As the word is used in its "last but one" meaning for the Necrom story bit, I find it implausible the same word would have been used in any other assumed meaning for the following parenthesed bit.


    2. Y'know, I did look up #51 under the assumption that Teebore meant that, but after seeing Davis' name in the credits I wrote what I wrote — not realizing that Davis wasn't penciling after #50; I hereby apologize and retract my supposed correction, which has become a pattern I can't seem to break.

    3. But on the happy note the word "penultimate" always reminds me of one of my favorite Monty Python skits where the Pope is less than perfectly pleased to Michelangelo's The Last Supper, and now upon looking it up I learned it awesomely is based on an actual historic precedent where late 16th century painter Paolo Veronese got some canonical heat for his painting on the same subject because there was a nose-bleeding servant, a jester with a parrot(!) and, according to the interrogation notes, "buffoons, drunken Germans, dwarfs, and other such absurdities".

      They gave him three months to fix the painting. Which he did by changing the name to "The Feast in the House of Levi", also mentioned in the Gospels and explicitly mentioned of having had a less select crowd attending. Your underlining the word, my friend, certainly has not been a waste.

    4. Nah, Blam is right to chide me on my use of penultimate here (I knew my fondness for that word would get me in trouble some day!). This isn't the penultimate issue to Davis' run, since even though he takes some issues off from drawing after #50, he'll be back shortly as both writer/artist, and the "to date" modifier that I thought would cover for my usage really doesn't.

    5. We apologize again for the fault in the comments. Those responsible for correcting the people who have just been corrected have been corrected.


    6. // Nah, Blam is right to chide me //

      Nah, I really wasn’t, because — even if Davis returning to writer/penciller mode in a while means #50 isn’t (ultimately…) the end of his “solo” duties on the series — I misidentified your usage as incorrect when at best, had I been more attentive to future credits, I should’ve noted what you point out here.

  5. Still the best X-Men book currently. Polished gorgeous Alan Davis art, distinct colorful cast of characters, funny yet dramatic storytelling, compelling and coherent plotting. Its actually better than Claremont's run with Davis.

    1. We'll see how it finishes out, but I'm definitely liking this more than the initial Claremont/Davis stuff. It's not necessarily a fair comparison - that run was all setup, and it's not the run's fault Claremont left before paying it off - but still, this run has all the pros of the previous one, with none of the cons.


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