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Friday, April 19, 2019

X-amining Excalibur #86

"Back to Life"
February 1995

In a Nutshell
Pete Wisdom debuts as Excalibur heads to Genosha.

Writer; Warren Ellis
Pencil Artist: Ken Lashley
Ink Artist: Tom Wegrzyn
Letterer: J. Babcock
Colorist: J. Rosas
Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In Thailand, in the wake of a disastrous mission, British Intelligence operative Pete Wisdom decides to quit. Later, on Muir Island, Brian Braddock finishes work upgrading Moira's hovercraft to serve as Excalibur's chief mode of transport, which he dubs the Midnight Runner. Just then, agents of British Intelligence's Black Air organization arrive, along with Pete Wisdom, and enlist Excalibur's help in going to Genosha alongside Wisdom to help settle the war still raging between the humans and mutates. Despite feeling like they're being played, Excalibur agrees to go. As they arrive in Genoshan airspace, Kitty questions Wisdom, and he reveals that conditions in Genosha are far worse than they believed, with both sides of the conflict suffering massive starvation. Just then, rockets pepper the Midnight Runner, sending it crashing to the ground as all of reality crystallizes, then shatters.

Firsts and Other Notables
Pete Wisdom, the snarky, world-weary Intelligence operation with the mutant ability to generate "hot knives" from his fingertips, makes his first appearance in this issue. Wisdom is arguably the most notable/infamous thing to come out of Warren Ellis' Excalibur run, as the character will eventually become involved in a questionable relationship with Kitty Pryde while also functioning to varying degrees as a Mary Sue/authorial mouthpiece.


Much to her initial dismay, Brian re-purposes Moira’s hovercraft into a new X-jet in this issue, which he dubs the Midnight Runner.


Black Air, an arm of British Intelligence that has replaced the defunct WHO, debuts in this issue; they will be a recurring presence throughout Ellis’ run (much in the way Alan Davis used WHO during his run).


They sends Excalibur to Genosha due to an outbreak in violence between humans and mutants that could involve ammunition manufactured in Britain, though Ellis continues to display his ignorance or lack of concern with continuity, as no reference to the recent "Bloodties" or Genosha-set X-Factor stories are made (for example, "Bloodties" seemed to end with the human/mutant violence dying down; here it's suggested the fighting has been going on for some time).


Black Air was also suggests the Braddock family has connections to Genosha; I don't think anything ever comes of this.


The Legion-triggered crystallization wave destroying all reality hits Excalibur as the Midnight Runner is crashing, sparing the group from dying in a fiery plane wreck, at least.


A Work in Progress
Brian - despite still having flashes of the future from his time in the timestream - is talking much more normally. He also mentions relishing getting in touch with his physics roots while working on the jet, a rare acknowledgement of his original scientific roots.


Ellis carries over the “Rory is afraid he’ll become Ahab” subplot, as he declines going to Genosha out of fear of being hurt by a mutant and starting down the path towards becoming Ahab.


Nightcrawler realizes Moira is infected with the Legacy Virus in this issue, though he deduces this in part by stating she and Rory are the only humans on Muir Island; technically, Captain Britain is human as well (though Ellis will routinely handle him like he's a mutant throughout his run).


Xavier’s absence from Muir Island is attributed to the events of “Legion Quest”.

Kitty & Pete Wisdom have their first encounter, and the sparks fly!


Human/Mutant Relations
In a brief glimpse of Genosha, we see that humans and mutants alike are starving as a result of their sustained conflict.


It's in the Mail
A response to a letter promises the untold tale of Darkoth losing the Soulsword will be told in next year’s Excalibur annual; there is no Excalibur annual next year, or ever again.

Austin's Analysis
Though his run began three issues ago, and the plot beginning here is ultimately interrupted by "Age of Apocalypse", this feels like the proper beginning of Warren Ellis' run on the book, as it is the most in line with the tone and kinds of stories that will characterize his work on the series. Not just because it introduces Pete Wisdom, his most significant addition to the mythos and pet character, but also because the level of world-weary snark Wisdom brings with him is very much of a piece with what becomes Ellis' trademark worldview. It also returns a very British tone to the book (combined with the general thrust of this story involving the British government trying to rectify colonial sins without actually addressing them directly), something largely lacking since Alan Davis' departure (who brought a different but still very British sensibility to the series). Excalibur is at its best when it embraces its British-ness (the better to set it apart from all the other X-books), and while it remains to be seen if Ellis' particular style of cynical, smoldering cigarette, eyes-red-from-a-hangover British-ness is a good fit with the brighter, more traditional superheroics of characters like Kitty & Nightcrawler (or how long before his schtick wears thin), just having a distinctive creative vision on the series again is refreshing.

Next Issue
Next week: the kids go Christmas shopping in Generation X #4, and Cable says goodbye to reality in Cable #20!

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8 comments:

  1. I recall more-or-less liking Pete Wisdom when I read this stuff the first time around -- though as I mentioned a while back, I didn't join Ellis's run until it was nearly over, so I missed all the early Wisdom stuff. I was kind of surprised years later when I learned that a lot of fans apparently disliked him. Mind you, he was never a favorite character, but I didn't really object to him either.

    As far as his relationship with Kitty goes, when I was 16/17, it didn't really matter because they were both older than me, so that was that. I hadn't grown up with teenage Kitty; by the time I started reading the X-comics, she was clearly drawn like, and acted like, an adult. (It was a few years later that I realized she had always acted like an adult even when she was a kid, courtesy of Chris Claremont.) I read some interview where Ellis likened the Pete/Kitty romance to Han Solo and Princess Leia -- which I had grown up with -- and based on that, I figured it was fine.

    That said, I feel like Ellis also believed that Kitty was older than she was supposed to be. She's likely not far past 18 at this point, but I suspect Ellis thought she was in her twenties. I'm also not sure how old Wisdom is supposed to be. His world-weariness could add a few years to his actual age. If he's late 20s and Ellis figured Kitty to be like 22 or something, then it's not that bad.

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    Replies
    1. I agree with you about Ellis not realizing that Kitty was so young when he started the relationship with Pete Wisdom.
      I also thought that Kitty was much older while reading these issues of Excalibur.

      Ellis didn't seem to be overtly familiar with the Marvel Universe during his period starting writing at Marvel.
      I don't think he really understood the concept of "Marvel time".
      I'm sure he figured since Kitty was so young during the Claremont run on X-Men, and how many years had passed since that point, that Kitty must be somewhere in her 20s by that point.
      So, I never saw a problem with this relationship.

      As far as Pete Wisdom, I was a huge fan of the John Constantine character. So, I saw Pete Wisdom as Ellis writing a JC-avatar when he created Wisdom.
      This meant I was quite a fan of Pete Wisdom.

      Delete
  2. Is Brian not a mutant, though? His brother Jamie is one, ditto his sister Betsy.

    The necklace trinket supposedly powering up Captain Britain Merlin might've gotten from a Kinder Surprise Egg for what we know.

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  3. I strongly disliked Ken Lashley‘s art and I still do. I avoided Excalibur because the art was terrible and because I simply couldn’t care about the book. I loved Nightcrawler, Kitty and Rachel (yes, even crybaby Rachel) back in Uncanny X-Men, but, I never understood or liked Excalibur’s concept. It should have been a miniseries at most, not ongoing. I read during Alan Davis’ era because I loved his art, but, I couldn’t like the stories. They were too close to Captain Britain’s mythus and I never felt it was compelling on its own. When Excalibur became another offshoot of X-Men upon Davis’ departure, it was felt like the sickly child. None of the characters nor storylines were interesting enough.

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  4. "Black Air was also suggests the Braddock family has connections to Genosha; I don't think anything ever comes of this."
    I might be wrong, but I think next Excalibur issue (just after AoA hiatus) reveals that Braddock's father developed some kind of special bullets used by genoshans in their war.

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  5. "Wisdom is arguably the most notable/infamous thing to come out of Warren Ellis' Excalibur run, as the character will eventually become involved in a questionable relationship with Kitty Pryde while also functioning to varying degrees as a Mary Sue/authorial mouthpiece."

    Those 2 elements aside, I thought he was an ok character.

    "though Ellis continues to display his ignorance or lack of concern with continuity"

    To be fair, I always found that while it was annoying, it didn't hurt the story itself all that much (unlike, say, my dislike for the Kwannon fiasco).

    "Black Air was also suggests the Braddock family has connections to Genosha; I don't think anything ever comes of this."

    See Cesar's comments.

    "and while it remains to be seen if Ellis' particular style of cynical, smoldering cigarette, eyes-red-from-a-hangover British-ness is a good fit with the brighter, more traditional superheroics of characters like Kitty & Nightcrawler (or how long before his schtick wears thin), just having a distinctive creative vision on the series again is refreshing."

    For the most part, I thought it did. It also helps that things improve once Lashley is gone too. Definitely not a fan of his Jim Lee/Alan Davis hybrid style.

    As for the Kitty/Pete Wisdom relationship...I did feel that Ellis either ages her or purpose or just assumed she was older than she was supposed to, just to have the two of them become involved romantically.

    wwk5d

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  6. That was strange.

    It’s amusing that there’s never another Excalibur annual, given the editorial reply plugging one, but even more so that said reply comes when all the extant X-Family titles have supposedly just been canceled. A special called The Askani Tome coming out the next year is mentioned in another lettercol response. Issues featuring untold tales of the would-be former continuity might not be entirely out of the question, sure, if you absolutely have to No-Prize it away, but still.

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  7. Regarding the Kitty and Pete Wisdom romance, it seemed like an obvious progression to me... Poor old Kitty had been mooning over Alistair since forever with no genuine love interest of her own (weird Satyr9 grooming thing notwithstanding?!). So it made sense for her to play up to being a teenager with a wildly inapporinappr relationship... That actually mellowed Pete Wisdom out.

    Now the years have passed, I can see the Mary Sue-ness of it. Nowhere near as bad as Kong and Kitty in Ultimate aspider-man, though...

    And Ellis really does take time to move all the cast forward, which I appreciate. I LOVED his Moira... :)

    ReplyDelete

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