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Thursday, May 7, 2020

X-amining Excalibur #92

"I Want You"
December 1995

In a Nutshell
Colossus joins Excalibur after jealously beating Wisdom to a pulp

Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Casey Jones
Inkers: Mike Miller, Tom Simmons, Joe Rubinstein & W.C. Carani
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Ariane Lenshock with Malibu’s Hues
Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Returning from their trip to the pub, Kitty bids Wisdom goodnight as he remains outside for one more cigarette. Out of the darkness, Colossus attacks, enraged at having seen Wisdom with "his Katya". Colossus savagely beats Wisdom, who manages to use his power to slice into Colossus' back. As the rest of the team responds, Brian & Meggan knock out Colossus, and the injured parties are taken to the medlab. Moira is able to repair Colossus' spinal injury with relative ease, but Wisdom remains in critical condition. Colossus is moved to a holding cell and, when he wakes up, receives a dressing down from Nightcrawler. However, Nightcrawler is sympathetic given all that Colossus has gone through, and gives him the cover story of needing to remain with Excalibur for observation of possible neural problems as a way for Colossus to stay with the team and make amends. Later, Kitty visits Colossus as well, telling him Wisdom will live, barely. Colossus insists he cares about Kitty, but she says if that were true, he never would have left her for someone else, or hurt someone she cared about. He asks if Wisdom is good to her, and she says yes, adding to herself as she phases away, "just like you were".

Firsts and Other Notables
Colossus joins Excalibur in this issue; his intention in coming to Muir Island was simply to look up Kitty (whom he's suddenly decided is the great love of his life who must absolutely feel the same way about her, even though he previously opted specifically not to stay on Muir Island and instead go back to Avalon with the Acolytes in issue #71), but he ends up joining the team after attacking (and nearly killing) Pete Wisdom out of jealousy, with Nightcrawler suggesting he needs to stay with the team for observation as a way to prevent him from getting into any larger trouble for the attack.

With his arrival, the book once again regains its standard quotient of former X-Men on its roster (three), a number that had been lacking since the departure of Rachel Summers in issue #75. He will stick around through the end of the series, at which point its three former X-Men will move back to their original team.

Colossus' attack on Wisdom is particularly brutal, as he doesn't pull any punches against a (physically) human opponent, breaking several ribs, fracturing his skull, and collapsing a lung in the process, something we don't usually see (as his opponents tend to be invulnerable/are better able to defend themselves against his strength).

Casey Jones pencils this issue, his first on the book (he also contributed to X-Man #10 the month before, his first work for the X-office). Jones will serve as the series' sort of co-regular artist, trading off with Carlos Pacheco, for the duration of Warren Ellis' run, with the pair alternating stories and issues (ie Jones draws this issue and the next two, then Pacheco comes aboard and pencils two issues, then Jones does another, etc.). Jones doesn't have a ton of credits to his name, but he pencils stuff for Marvel well into the 00s (and currently works for Disney, I believe), though I mostly just know him as "the artist who isn't Carlos Pacheco during Ellis' Excalibur run".

A Work in Progress
In a legitimately funny moment, Wisdom upon seeing Colossus bearing down on him and not having the first clue who he is, asks if he's the Terminator.

Captain Britain & Meggan are described as the strongest members of Excalibur; that's not uncommon to think in the context of Brian, but Meggan usually isn't considered as such (though its technically true).

Following issue #71, Moira has adjusted some of her medical equipment to accommodate Colossus' organic metal physiology.

Colossus suggests he only joined the Acolytes in an effort to mitigate their more evil, violent impulses, which is casting himself in a pretty favorable light given how his actual defection was depicted (as an act of someone deeply hurt & angry after a series of admittedly crappy things happened to him one after the other).

Kitty says they've "heard reports" of what Colossus has gone through, and I'm not quite sure what that means...maybe the stuff about crashing to Earth from Avalon? Cuz Excalibur was present for Colossus' last big life decision in #71.

Austin's Analysis
With this issue, Ellis adds Colossus to the roster of the book (a decision I've always been curious about, as to whether it came from Ellis himself or was something editorial asked him to take on), and in the process, he briefly tries to litigate and re-contextualize Colossus' actions in the recent past; essentially, his "defection" and association with the Acolytes (now that the group has essentially disbanded). The idea that Colossus only joined the Acolytes to help steer them away from violence - something Nightcrawler more or less rightly calls shenanigans on - is a pretty blatant retcon. Colossus certainly ended up in that role, sort of, at least in stories like Uncanny X-Men #315, but his initial defection definitively grew out of his grief for Illyana and rage towards Xavier's inability to save her, and he stayed with the Acolytes, circa X-Men #25, specifically to care for the now brain-dead Magneto as a sort of proxy for the sister who died. And the winky bit with Nightcrawler asserting that Colossus' involvement with the team is due to his need for treatment is overly cute (and largely unnecessary; rightly or wrongly, the X-Men have forgiven worse).

But while Ellis maybe isn't the best person for the job - his familiarity with the previous material seems a bit spotty in places, a frequent problem for Ellis in stories tied to specific bits of continuity - reckoning with Colossus' time as a "villain" is necessary in order for the character to move past that (still of questionable merit) development and be part of a regular series' cast again, and Ellis, particularly in the scenes with Nightcrawler, a character with a long history with Colossus (even longer than Kitty) who's never really had a chance to express his own feelings about Colossus' actions, does it well enough to accomplish what it needs to. While perhaps not a full accounting of his time with the Acolytes nor his immediate actions at the start of the issue, this works well enough to clear the deck in order to bring Colossus onto the book, and if nothing else, the effort is appreciated. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Cable #26. Next week, X-Force & Cable '95!

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  1. There was talk that Ellis initially didn't want Colossus to begin with, and that editorial made that decision. I could see this as Ellis throwing a temper tantrum of sorts, like, fine, I'll have him join the team, but let me piss all over his character first...

    Because we couldn't just have Colossus show up, react awkwardly but rationally to seeing Kitty with Gary-Sue Wisdom, and then having a conversation with Kitty later where she chooses to stay with Gary-Sue and not start up again with Peter. No, Peter has to go batshit crazy and assault someone instead, all the better to prop up Gary-Sue.

    I could be wrong, but that was how I felt at the time, and still do. At least Ellis does a decent job with Peter going forward after this, but still.

    1. I could see that. I have a hard time imagining Ellis saying "hey, can I use Colossus in my book?" Though he does handle him pretty well after this, so he can't have been too chuffed about being saddled with him, if that's the case (I wonder similar things about Wolfsbane - who he doesn't do nearly as much with - a character who I have a hard time imagining Ellis even knew existed before someone said "hey, you're gonna have Wolfsbane in your book now". But who knows?).

  2. Colossus having romantic feelings for Shadowcat makes no sense at all. The last time he actually thought about her was when he penciled her and the other X-Men, before asking his sister to teleport him to them, just as Fall of the Mutants began. This is ANCIENT history at this point. At no moment did Colossus ever thought about her during the Outback era or when he was a member of the Gold team. We could easily argue that he didn’t even care about her since the very first Secret Wars. Can anyone forget the beautifully drawn reaction of Kitty to the breakup in that issue in which Colossus fought Juggernaut in a pub? They tried to make amends (of sort) in UXM 197, when they fought together a fake Dr. Doom, but that was it. In conclusion, his reaction to Kitty kissing another man still causes in me the same feeling I had when I read this issue when it came what: “this makes no sense.”

    Having said that, Colossus’ defection to join the acolytes never made any sense as well, and I think everyone at Marvel realized this as well. And they did nothing of meaningful with that defection. There’s not a single story or event that anyone remembers which could prove a point to Colossus joining a clearly insane and murderous Magneto because his daughter had died of a disease. Or because his parents were (unnecessarily) murdered just before (and no one among the X-Men cared or reacted to it). Colossus should have just jumped from the pages and attacked Marvel’s X-office people instead.

    Lastly, I never ever cared about Pete Wisdom. Never understood why the character was there, and why he suddenly got such an importance in the book. He didn’t earned it. The only plausible explanation is that he was just a character pet from the writer.

    1. The last time he actually thought about her was when he penciled her and the other X-Men, before asking his sister to teleport him to them, just as Fall of the Mutants began.

      For what it's worth, their past together was referenced/alluded to during "Fatal Attractions" and the run-up to all that. Particularly in EXCALIBUR #71, when Kitty specifically played on their romantic past together (and implied continued feelings for one another) to get him to Muir Island, then told him she'd "wait for him" when he decided to leave with the Acolytes again after getting his brain fixed. Given that (relatively) romantic sentiment was the last thing she said to him before this issue, it's understandably Colossus would be upset when he shows up at the spot where the girl who told him she'd wait for him was meant to be waiting for him, only to find her making out with some other dude (not "beat a man you don't know to a bloody pulp" upset, but still).

      The only plausible explanation is that he was just a character pet from the writer.

      Oh yeah, Wisdom is 100% a writer-insert character for Ellis. He's certainly not the only writer who does it, but Ellis in particular has a habit of giving himself a "this is the author commenting on the narrative from inside it" type character in most of the stuff he writes.


    2. Peter and Kitty had just recently been shown as married in the AOA timeline, remember, although that’s hardly the kind of potential destiny the DOFP future is and, well, AOA utterly assassinates Peter’s character in the end so never mind...

  3. I'm gonna submit to you all the following:

    Ellis having Colossus beat the living hell out of Wisdom wasn't Ellis crapping all over Colossus, it was Ellis deliberately pointing out how stupid bringing Colossus back by editorial fiat was. "Oh, so you want me to bring back the violent man who turned on his friends? Okay here's what you're letting back onto the team, now let me just sweep it under the carpet and forget about it."

    I am, admittedly, a bit of a Warren Ellis fanboy, but even at this stage of his career Ellis was a good enough writer to know that there was no real justification to bring Colossus back without addressing the betrayal and reminding the reader that, yeah, this guy turned on the X-Men violently. I will also admit there's a decent chance all Ellis read was X-Men #304 and the Excalibur issue of Fatal Attractions, which certainly support this reading of Colossus being a hot-headed violent man who had betrayed the X-Men and then turned away from him after they helped him. But I can see Ellis going "okay, fine, you want the violent traitor back, you got him."

    The problem is he pointed Colossus at his self-insert, and while Ellis got better at the self-insert (Wisdom isn't even the worst of them; there's a cop in the Worldengine arc of Thor Ellis wrote that is inexplicably a British cop on loan to the NYPD, whose role is to sit outside the narrative, comment on it, and then get killed by the Enchantress) Wisdom is so obviously a self-insert that we can't care that Colossus beats the hell out of him.

    That or he really didn't want Colossus back and he just half-assed the issue, which is ALSO very Warren Ellis.

  4. Finally got around to reading this one last night. I forgot how much I disliked it!

    For the record, I've always assumed it was editorial instruction that brought Colossus into EXCALIBUR. After "Age of Apocalypse", it was pretty clear Marvel wanted him back in regular circulation. Heck, even just before AoA, when you think about it. The final issue of UNCANNY prior to "Legion Quest" focused on Colossus and the Acolytes, then he showed up in four straight months of AoA issues, followed by four straight months of regular issues, between X-MEN 42 - 44 and UNCANNY 325.

    I'm sure editorial wanted him back on a regular basis, but figured the core X-books would be a bad fit after his recent past. And you can't put him on X-Force since they're living in the mansion right now, which that would make him "core book adjacent". That leaves Gen X, which makes no logical sense, or Exaclibur as his landing spots. And when you consider that Excalibur has Kitty and Nightcrawler, two characters with whom he has a long history but with whom he's barely interacted in several years, it feels like a great idea.

    I agree that Ellis handles him better going forward, but even knowing that, I really have trouble getting past this issue because it's so out-of-character. Colossus may have been irrational when he left the X-Men, and he may have still been coldly reeling from his family's deaths even after his brain damage was repaired, but that had all passed by this point. UNCANNY 315 and 325, plus the "fall of Avalon" issues between, make it clear that Colossus was more-or-less back to his old self -- or at least, he wasn't acting like an irrational jerk anymore.

    So to see him come in and use his metal hands and super-strength to beat the ever-loving stuffing out of what, to his perspective, is a normal flesh-and-blood human being, is insane. I tend to agree with the sentiments above that Ellis didn't want Colossus in the series, and this was his brief temper tantrum to get that out of his system before moving along with business as usual.


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