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Friday, June 8, 2018

X-amining Excalibur #77

"Lowest Common Denominator"
May 1994

In a Nutshell
Nightcrawler & Daytripper defeat D'Spayre and free their mother.

Plot: Lobdell/Ashford
Script: Cooper
Pencils: Robert Brown & Ken Lashley
Inks: Elliot, Champagne, Gorder, Hudson
Letter: Sharpe
Colors: Matthys
Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Years ago, a young Nightcrawler is devastated when his best friend Christian tells him they can't play together, because Christian's father believes Nightcrawler to be a devil. Nightcraler is consoled by Margali, who tells him love always lass longer than hate. In the present, Nightcrawler rescues the gypsy boy targeted by the D'spayre-influenced mob, then hatches a plan with Amanda to defeat him. Meanwhile, Zero is targeted by a pair of robots programmed by Stryfe, but manages to escape them. Back in Germany, Nightcrawler attacks D'Spayre, using his happy memories of the time an adult Christian reunited with Nightcrawler and made amends as a shield, while Amanda takes advantage of D'spayre's divided attention to quell the mob. Defeated, D'Spayre disappears, vowing to return. Nightcrawler then admits to the rescued Margali that he was furious with her for keeping his true parentage a secret, but that he could never hate a woman who has only ever acted out of love for him. Meanwhile, a damaged Zero is joined by one of the Phalanx, who says he is Doug Ramsey.

Firsts and Other Notables
The final page of this issue features the first appearance of Douglock. Presented here as a techno-organic version of the former New Mutant Doug Ramsey, Douglock will eventually join the team even as questions swirl around him regarding the truth of his origins (ie is he really Doug Ramsey, resurrected by the Transmode Virus after Warlock's ashes were poured over his grave, is a Phalanx operative setup to pose as Doug Ramsey, or is he some combination of Warlock & Ramsye), serving as, not surprisingly, an important player in the upcoming "Phalanx Covenant" story. Eventually (well after anyone who ever cared stopped), it will be revealed that Douglock is in fact a resurrected Warlock, who amidst the confusion of his resurrection, adopted the form and memories of his friend Doug. So this technically also marks the return of Warlock following his death in New Mutants #95 (the real Doug Ramsey will also eventually return, via the Transmode Virus, though much later).

Zero, Stryfe's formerly-mute android associate who teleported the MLF from place to place, pops up in this issue. Last seen hanging out with Cable's son Tyler in Cable #6-8, he is now being targeted by robots programmed by Stryfe to eliminate any traces of data regarding him in the event of his death. Douglock, Zero, and the Stryfe robots will form the basis of the book's next three part story beginning next issue.

It's noted here that Douglock was specifically part of the Phalanx after being resurrected (so not just an otherwise random/unconnected techno-organic being), but that Zero freed him from the collective intelligence of the Phalanx. Plotwise, the important takeaway here is that Douglock is no longer connected to the Phalanx (as it allows him to ally with Excalibur and the other X-teams against the Phalanx), but I kinda love the fact that his freedom was brought about by, of all people, Stryfe's teleporting robot man. When reading future Douglock appearances, remember, "there but for the grace of Zero...".

This issue includes a pinup of young Nightcrawler (depicted via memory in this issue as his friend Christian tells him they can't be friends anymore).

Creator Central
Aside from the upcoming annual, this is Richard Ashford's last regular issue of the series, bringing to an end his run of limp, bland scripting. Chris Cooper, who scripts this issue, will write the next few over Lobdell's plots, as Lobdell continues to sort of be the series' main writer while sharing or farming out parts of those duties.

A Work in Progress
Nightcrawler gets the Wolverine treatment this issue, in that we're introduced to a previously-unmentioned friend of some significance, who will never be mentioned again...

The Reference Section
Amanda mentions twitching her nose to do a spell, a reference to Samantha from Bewitched.

Austin's Analysis
Within the first few pages reading this issue ahead of writing this review, I was struck by something: I don't think I'd ever read it before. Now, if you had asked me prior to prepping for this review if I'd read it, I'd have said "of course, I started collecting Excalibur with issue #71, and have read every issue since." Yet, sure enough, by the time I finished reading it, I was convinced: I had just read issue #77 for the first time (it was the scene between Zero & Douglock that clinched it - in my mind, the first appearance of Douglock comes on the opening page of the next issue; I know I'd never seen his appearance in this issue before).

All of which speaks to how relatively inconsequential & mundane this issue is. Douglock will turn out to be a relatively important character (at least for a little while), but his first appearance here is little more than a cameo, his "awakening" by Zero recapped next issue (such that I had always been able to assume that was his first appearance). D'Spayre is one of those villains who schtick is always the same (confront the hero with their worst fears, than get defeated by their better nature), with the climax to his fight with Nightcrawler so routine (Nightcrawler counters D'Spayre's despair with hope & happiness!), I apparently didn't even need to read the issue to know how Nightcrawler fared, and just mentally filled in the conclusion and moved on. All of which, of course, speaks to the state of Excalibur at this point in time: "inconsequential & mundane" describe it well.

Next Issue
Next week: X-Factor Annual #9 and Cable #11


  1. Douglock sure is off-model in this issue.

    1. Yeah, I think that's what happens when a random fill-in artist drawing half an issue ends up presenting a new character for the first time. :P

  2. That title sure fits Excalibur at this stage.

  3. The story’s negligible, and the art in it is not my cup of tea, but congratulations to everyone who’d been clamoring for a pin-up of “The Young Nightcrawler”.

    1. Yeah, honestly, that's the only even slightly redeeming moment of the issue, largely because it's cute. It's completely superfluous to the story, which is completely missable, but it's cute. That's the best that can be said about the entire issue.

      Really curious to see how the Ellis run holds up, but it's bound to be a vast improvement over this.

    2. I'm eager to get to Ellis too, both to see how it holds up and because it'll be better than this. But then again, watching paint dry would be better than this.

    3. Seven Hells, I can't wait for you guys to reach the Ellis issues.

      I feel like Excalibur, more than any other X-Title really suffered extreme peaks & valleys when it came to writer/artist based arcs.

      Claremont/Davis, Davis/Davis, and Ellis/Dobson & Pacheco being the the bright spots (for me).

    4. Those are pretty much the only three runs of note, though there's a few outlier stories mixed in ("Girls School from Heck" isn't terrible - certainly, it's better than the dreck surrounding it - and I recall the upcoming Douglock story as "not terrible", but we'll see).


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