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Friday, August 4, 2017

X-amining Excalibur #66

"Back to the Present"
June 1993

In a Nutshell
The truth between Widget is revealed as Excalibur travels to the future.

Writer/Penciler: Alan Davis
Inker: Mark Farmer
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Dana Moreshead
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

In 2013, Ahab attempts to harness the residual temporal energy surrounding Kate Pryde to follow Rachel Summers back in time. But the combination of that energy, radiation from the Sentinel attack that triggered Rachel's time jump, and Kate's phasing ability cause a malfunction that results in her being fused with a Sentinel and tossed into the timestream, emerging as Widget two years later before fleeing to warn Rachel. In the present, Excalibur returns to Braddock Manor, and Rachel immediately prepares to return to her future timeline. In 2015, Widget encounters the RCX, then senses Rachel entering the timestream just as Ahab launches a Sentinel attack, hoping to capture Widget. The link between Widget and Rachel opens a gateway stable enough for the rest of Excalibur to travel into the future, where they assist the RCX in repelling Ahab and the Sentinels. However, both Widget & Rachel are captured as Ahab retreats. Though the RCX insists Excalibur would be insane to go to the Sentinels headquarters, Nightcrawler declares that since they're stranded in the future, their choice is simple: defeat the Sentinels or die trying.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue returns to the "Days of Future Past" timeline from which Rachel hails, returning to the events that led to her being sent back in time by Kate Pryde, as well as Ahab, Rachel's Hound master who first appeared during the "Days of Future Present" story which ran through the 1990 X-books annuals (and Fantastic Four).

In the process, Widget's whole deal gets explained, as it's revealed that Widget is in fact a cybernetic Kate Pryde, fused with mechanical parts and inundated with temporal energy (and radiation) as Ahab attempted to use her to track down the time traveling Rachel after Kate sent Rachel back to the X-Men's present (as seen in X-Men #192). Disappearing from then-futuristic 2013, Widget next appeared in 2015 as she attempted to warn Rachel, with the various appearances of Widget showing up, shouting cryptic things and then disappearing sprinkled throughout the previous dozen or so issues instances of Widget emerging from the timestream as she sought out Rachel.

It's explicitly stated her that while Rachel has the mutant ability to send her consciousness through time, it is the Phoenix Force which enables her to transport her physical body through time as well.

Between issues, Kylun received a new costume, and Kitty notes that makes her the only member of the team still wearing her original look, something that bothers her. This will culminate in Kitty adopting a new costume in issue #71, but if Davis was going somewhere else with this, it never comes to fruition.

In the future, Excalibur fights alongside a later version of the RCX.

By the way, it's super weird to reference dates like "2013" and "2015" and have to remind myself those are "future" years as far as this story is concerned, in a way that didn't seem as weird when writing about the original "Days of Future Past".

A Work in Progress
In 2013 (prior to the 2015 setting of later events in this issue) Ahab is shown to be contained in a Captain Pike-esque floating wheelchair, suggesting the majority of his limbs in his later look are cybernetic.

2015 Ahab references the events of "Days of Future Present", and correctly cites their setting as an alternate reality to his own.

As Phoenix melts off Ahab's hands, he cries out "not again!". This is presumably a reference to something that happened in "Days of Future Present", but I honestly don't remember it.

Young Love
Meggan is having second thoughts after seeing Captain Britain without his energy matrix. Brian responds that people are more than their looks, but Meggan counters that he probably wouldn't like it if she returned to her original form.

Austin's Analysis
For his final story, Alan Davis returns to Rachel's home "Days of Future Past" timeline. "Days" is a story that looms large over the X-books, and this marks at least the third concerted effort to revisit it, following Rachel's initial return to the present and the expansion of future events, including Nimrod, that ensued, as well as the later "Days of Future Present" story, and while at least "Present" suffered from diminishing returns, Davis returning to this narrative corner of the X-universe makes sense: Rachel is "his" character at this point, and he's spent much of his run building up and clarifying her history & characterization, making a return trip to her timeline a logical course (I'm holding judgement on whether this whole return trip to "DoFP" was worth it until I read the next issue; I've not read this whole story before).

At the very least, he finally ties up arguably the series' biggest (and longest running) remaining mystery right off the bat, the question of who Widget is and where he (she, we know now) came from. Revealing Widget as Kate Pryde not only strengthens Widget's connection to the team, but also calls into question past events in a fun way (recall that Widget sent Kylun to Ee'rath, and the team on the interminable Cross-Time Caper), which is of course what Davis has been doing through much of solo run (ie adding new meaning to past events). Everything else that happens in this issue is mostly setup: getting the characters into the future, and then having Rachel & Widget get captured so the rest of Excalibur has something to do, but the long-overdue Widget reveal, combined with the fun of having Alan Davis drawing futuristic Sentinels, get things started off on a high note.

Next Issue
Next week: Sienna Blaze makes her first official appearance in X-Men Unlimited #1, the Chalker family returns in X-Force Annual #8, and Cable goes back in time in Cable #2.


  1. This story does nothing for me. As I've said before, I get bored to tears any time someone revisits the "Days of Future Past" era.

    "In the future, Excalibur fights alongside a later version of the RCX."

    Some of the folks Excalibur meets in the future are Marvel U.K. characters. I don't have the issue in front of me, but in that one panel you posted, I recognize Dark Angel and Killpower, at least. But my Marvel U.K. knowledge is pretty limited, so I'm not sure who the others are (if they're mean to be anyone). Also, I could be misremembering, but I'm pretty sure that Marvelman even puts in an unnamed, under-the-radar appearance at some point during this storyline.

    "Brian responds that people are more than their looks, but Meggan counters that he probably wouldn't like it if she returned to her original form."

    I like that Davis is willing to acknowledge this. I have no doubt that Brian loves Meggan, but it's definitely worth noting that in the original CAPTAIN BRITAIN series, he had no romantic interest whatsoever in her until the she took on the blonde bombshell look for the first time.

    1. Two of the others are Albion and Grace, from the Knights of Pendragon series.

    2. Now I'm laughing at myself. I went to take a closer look at the panel to see Albion and Grace, and both of the characters I recognized all by myself happen to be name-checked in the dialogue! So much for being helpful.

    3. Marvelman did such an appearance in Moore/Davis "Jaspers' Warp", at least, in similar surroundings. Other than Tangerine, I think characters appearing all are legit existing Marvel UK characters of the era.

    4. Excalibur #94 will revisit the Days of Future Past setting, except it shows what that particular iteration of the team is up to in 2013. One of the future Excalibur members is Tangerine, who I did not recognize when reading it back in the day. From these reviews, I realized she was one of the RCX, albeit with a very different look than she has here.

  2. Projecting mind through time is a crazy 90's superpower, but it certainly answers the open question of how Rachel, a supposed telepath, could send Kate into young Kitty's body through time, or herself later on.

    Claremont-written X-MEN: TRUE FRIENDS is fun in that regard, as Rachel gets caught in a stone circle in Scotland, and it immediately launches a travel back in time.

  3. I've always been amused by the juxtaposition between the dark, dystopian Days of Future Past world and the super-bright, uber-Alan-Davis-looking RCX. It's like they're in the wrong comic!

    1. The Knights of Pendragon appearance here closely coincidences with the time they changed their looks to these Alan Davis designed monstrosities in their own book. Considering what the mood in the vol 1 was like, it was the totally wrong direction for the book.

  4. "As Phoenix melts off Ahab's hands, he cries out "not again!". This is presumably a reference to something that happened in "Days of Future Present", but I honestly don't remember it."
    I think the implication of the scene was supposed to be that Rachel was responsible for Ahab losing his limbs- see also, Ahab in the floating wheelchair.
    Excalibur Annual 1 has to take place during- or at least shortly before- this issue- even though there really doesn't seem to be a gap.
    "the Chalker family returns in X-Force Annual #8"
    Poor X-Force- they don't have to just fight their own villains, they have to fight X-Factor's. :)

    1. "Maybe you have confused us with X-Force. Everyone else does."

      Great perfectly intentional pun here, Austin. ;)

  5. Ahab seems to have a pal in the future, Quinn. In the circumstances, it's hard to not think that his name is a slightly botched nod to Quint, the rowdy sharker captain in "Jaws".

  6. "Sentinel Hierarchy" is a spitting image of Master Mold on the cover of UNCANNY #16.

  7. "Revealing Widget as Kate Pryde not only strengthens Widget's connection to the team, but also calls into question past events in a fun way"

    ***I also remember there being something kind of fun/amusing in that world that's a giant race-track (from issues 18 and 19). There's a bit where Widget is being uncooperative, and then Kitty is the one who convinces Widget to transform into a giant car that she can drive. Kinda cute.

    It also means that when Kitty got separated from the team at the end of issue 19, the entire lineup were nonetheless still together during the last parts of the Cross-Time Caper, because Widget was still with them.

    (And of course it's amusing to think that in all those early parts of the Caper where they met alternate versions of themselves, there were -- at any given time -- THREE alternate Kitties all hanging out together.)


  8. I’m not a fan of revisiting “Days of Future Past” either. Rachel being from that alternate future, okay, I guess, interesting, and it does follow that her own past in that future should be fair game, but expanding on what we saw in the initial story only lessens the impact of the original when considered in the larger context of ongoing X-Men continuity, including but not limited to how it distorts or contradicts the apparent status quo of that world with, for instance, the colorfully costumed RCX gallivanting about.


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