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Thursday, January 23, 2020

X-amining Excalibur #89

"Dream Nails Part 2: Easy Tiger"
September 1995

In a Nutshell
Shadowcat & Wisdom infiltrate the Dream Nails airbase.

Writer: Warren Ellis
Penciler: David Williams
Inkers: Mike Miller, Mike Christian & Phil Moy
Letterer: Richard Starkings
Colorist: Joe Rosas & Digital Chameleon
Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Plot
After surviving an attempted assassination by Black Air, Kitty & Pete Wisdom return to the neutral ground of the Crown pub. There, Jardin, an old friend of Wisdom's, passes along info that reveals Dream Nails involves aliens. Meanwhile, Amanda Sefton returns to Muir Island, where Rory is in the midst of psycho-analyzing Spoor. In London, after searching his deceased friend's Cully's flat, Wisdom decides the only way to shake things loose is to break into the Dream Nail's base. On Muir Island, Moira discusses the Legacy Virus with Meggan & Douglock. At Dream Nail's, Kitty helps Wisdom infiltrate the base, but their presence eventually triggers an alarm that calls out Black Air troops. They manage to capture Wisdom, and he seemingly convinces Kitty to save herself and escape before they knock him out.

Firsts and Other Notables
This is the issue that really kicks off the Kitty/Pete Wisdom relationship that will run through Ellis' run on the book, with the pair acknowledging to themselves at various times their feelings for the other (and a desire to ignore those feelings/acknowledgements of why the relationship wouldn't work). In the process of setting it up, Ellis does acknowledge the age difference (calling it at least ten years difference, which, depending on what Wisdom's age is meant to be, seems to indicate that Ellis thinks Kitty is older than she is; if Wisdom is mid-30s, that would put Kitty in her mid-20s by Ellis' estimation, aka almost ten-ish years older than she's meant to be at this point).


Meggan & Douglock combine their powers to analyze Legacy Virus data and conclude there is no pattern to who the virus infects and who it doesn’t, which is a “revelation” that doesn’t really go anywhere.


There’s a sequence where Wisdom shows Kitty how to figure out a keypad lock, despite the fact that she could just phase them through the door, despite her having already phased them into the base...and phases them through a sealed door on the next page.


A Work in Progress
Also in the realm of “Warren Ellis thinks Kitty is older than she is”, here, she is openly drinking at a pub with Wisdom, which I don’t think you can do at 16 even in Britain.


The running gag about Moira making crappy coffee continues (is that part of her secret plan?!?); Amanda also expresses concern over Rory working with Spoor.


I’m no psychologist, but I don’t think that’s how therapy is supposed to go.


It’s revealed that Wisdom, for all his snarky crassness, is secretly a softy.


Moira looks at a monitor displaying Legacy Virus victims, but with the exception of Mastermind, they all appear fairly generic.


The Reference Section
Wisdom hangs a lampshade on this story’s X-Files inspiration.


Austin's Analysis
The "Let's Hook Up Kitty & Pete Wisdom and Do an X-Files Riff In the Process" trilogy continues here, and while the plotting of the main story (and it's overall goal) remains a bit dodgy (mostly in the actual "breaking into Dream Nails sequence", in which Kitty both can and can't just phase them where they need to go, depending on the panel), one of the differences between this and Ellis' other "trilogy" becomes apparent in this issue: he is much more comfortable (or willing) to cut back-and-forth between the main plot for subplot check-ins. Whereas the "Soulsword Trilogy" all focused on one plot, with the various cutaways to other events or characters all in service to the plot, this story is structured like more of a traditional comic book story, with an A-plot and cutaways to various B, C & D plots to keep other narrative threads moving forward, however incrementally. Whether that's indicative of Ellis becoming more comfortable with the characters or just having more plot threads to play with later into his run (or entirely coincidental), who knows, but it does help this issue, and the overall story, feel more balanced.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Cable dives into his past in Cable #23. Next week, Uncanny X-Men #325 and X-Factor #115!

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9 comments:

  1. The artist on this issue really doesn't like drawing backgrounds.

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    1. It's not uncommon in this era, but yeah, it's particularly egregious here. Which is a shame, because there's a few places here where the figurework is kind of fun, in a "Mike Wieringo by way of Terry Dodson" kind of way.

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  2. Where is it shown that Kitty is just 16? When I read this, I assumed she was 21-23.

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    1. With the caveat that age in comics is always nebulous and best left to generalities (ie "late 20s") rather than specifics, Kitty celebrated her 15th birthday specifically in Excalibur #24 (which came out in 1990). When she was introduced in UNCANNY #129 (in 1980), she was said to be 13-and-a-half. Which means she aged 1.5 years in 10ish real years.

      Now, that formula doesn't need to be applied consistently. But even if we assume that Kitty in this issue has aged one year for every year since #24 was published (which is probably how Ellis is approaching it, whether he specifically knows when she turned 15 or not), she'd still just be 20 (which isn't great for her to be hooking up with presumably mid 30s-ish Wisdom, but probably not illegal).

      More likely (especially with Marvel's sliding timeline), Kitty hasn't aged five years in the five years of publication time. So most people generally consider her to be 16 or thereabouts at this point in time - older than 15, but not by much, because no comic character can age all that aggressively (outside of time travel/alt dimension shenanigans).

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    2. There was an interview with Warren Ellis at the time of this run where he said that as far as he was concerned, Kitty was at least 18 years old, and no one at Marvel told him otherwise. I think it was in WIZARD, but I’m not sure.

      Marvel eventually did get on board with her being around that age, as Scott Lobdell sent her off to college during his brief return to the X-books in 2000, and I believe Chris Claremont later had her tending bar at a “Coyote Ugly” type of joint while attending said school — and I’m pretty sure you have to be at least 18 in order to work in a bar.

      Personally, I always took her as about 18 when reading these stories, and all subsequent stories in the 90s. But of course, my only other exposure to her was through UNCANNY X-MEN back issues from the 80s, so I just figured she’d been aged up in prior EXCALIBUR installments since I never sought those back issues out until many years later.

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    3. It was a Wizard X-Men special I believe or it was just talking about his run on Excalibur. He said that she's 18 and should be shagging a lot and I believe he even points out that most people still thought she was 16 but he needer her to be able to do adult things for the story he wanted to tell so he aged her to reach that goal.

      She's always been attracked to older men (and women). From Colossus who was older than her and she liked him but they legally couldn't get together to her 16th birthdy finger lick to Rachel to Pete. The only character that people want to throw her in a relationship with that is her same age is Doug and Magik though I believe Magik was actually just a friend though others like to romantically link them.....except that many girls have frienships just like hers and Magiks and Rachels without it having to be sexual and that's just pushing people's own desires on the charactes and not exaclty how they were written.

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  3. I actually am a (clinical) psychologist and, no, that's not how therapy is supposed to go.

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  4. Kitty not being over 18 seems to be something that people seem to have affixed to this story later, because the general consensus back then was "well, I guess she's an adult now" with a shrug. She'd been depicted, both art wise and personality wise, as an adult-Lobdell in particular wrote her as an adult-so for me, it was no big deal. I'm sure there were some people who complained about her age, but since Ellis had her drinking (which someone under 21 *could* do now with an adult, not sure about the mid-90s) and mooning over an older man, the obvious take away was "she's being written as an adult now."

    Admittedly, a lot of that could be caused by people not reading Excalibur when she was identified as being only fifteen-I know I didn't-but really, from when she showed up around Uncanny 303, she acted like and carried herself like an adult, so Ellis just followed everyone's lead. Personally, I had no problem with it, since it eliminated stories where Kitty was fawning over adults, but it says a lot about comics nerds that we ignore the out of world implications of a story (no way Marvel lets Ellis write a story about a teenager drinking and having a relationship with an older man) and try to work out a sliding age scale for her!

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  5. I wasn’t familiar with David Williams by name but while the art here is definitely uneven it’s mostly rather nice in the Lee Moder / Stuart Immonen / Cully Hamner vein.

    Kurt says the human guerrillas in Genosha are using mutant-piercing bullets, which is some highly weird, magical nonsense.

    I can’t help wondering if Rory subconsciously mimicked Spoor’s angry bearded face when he became Ahab.


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