Talking about comic books, TV shows, movies, sports, and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

X-amining Excalibur #106

"A Portrait of the Artist"
February 1997

In a Nutshell
The Acolytes make Colossus an offer he easily refuses!

Writer: Ben Raab
Pencilers: Randy Green, Casey Jones, Rob Haynes, and Aaron Lopresti
Inkers: Martin, Rob Haynes, Ketcham, Pinnock, Simmons, Aaron Lopresti, Casey Jones
Letterer: Richard Starkings
Colorist: Ariane Lenshoek 
Editor: Matt Idelson
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

After finishing a painting Meggan intends to give to Brian as a wedding present, Colossus is contacted by Frenzy, one of Magneto's Acolytes. Having regrouped under Exodus' leadership following the fall of Avalon, the Acolytes want Colossus back in the fold. Learning the Acolytes are operating out of the X-Men's old base in the Outback, Colossus, Shadowcat, Wisdom, Nightcrawler and Wolfsbane travel there. Reaching the base, they find that only Colossus is able to enter. Inside, the Acolytes, including Frenzy, Unuscione and Scanner, urge him to rejoin the group and help bring about Exodus' vision for mutantkind's future. Colossus tells them he is done following the visions of others, and urges a wavering Scanner to leave with him. But the girl ultimately refuses, and Colossus is expelled from the base, with Unuscione warning him this was his only chance; when next they meet, the Acolytes won't be so cordial. Later on Muir Island, Colossus laments his failure to reach Scanner, in whom he sees a lot of himself. Wisdom points out that if someone as stubborn as Colossus can admit and learn from his mistakes, there's hope for anyone. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue more or less serves as an epilogue to the immediate post-"Age of Apocalypse" story "Fall of Avalon" (in which a battle between Exodus and a newly-arrived in this reality Holocaust causes the destruction of Magneto's space station and the seeming end of the Acolytes) as well as, more broadly, Colossus' time amongst the Acolytes (which came to an end as of that story). 

In doing so, it reveals that the Acolytes remain a thing (and/or have come back together to be a thing again), directly under the leadership of Exodus (and operating out of the old X-Men/Reaver base in the Australian Outback, which is where a group of surviving Acolytes were led by Cyclops in X-Men (vol. 2) #44). Of course, this also serves as a direct setup for the forthcoming Magneto limited series, continuing the X-books' collective requirement of late to work setups for the seemingly never-ending string of ancillary X-related limited series into their pages. 

The issue opens with Colossus finishing a painting commissioned by Meggan to serve as a wedding present for Brian, the first reference in a long time to the fact that the two characters are technically engaged (and have been since issue #61); it could also mark the beginning of the brief period in which Colossus and Meggan almost have a thing together (similar to the earlier almost-romantic relationship between Nightcrawler and Meggan), though here, Colossus simply seems struck by Meggan and it's not yet clear this will lead to a full blown romantic infatuation. 

Creator Central
This is the last "regular" issue of Excalibur to which Casey Jones, the book's de factor co-regular artist of the last year or so, will contribute, though he will return to work on the book's "#-1" issue as part of Marvel's "Flashback" event in a few months' time. 

He is joined this issue by a small army of pencilers and inkers. 

Um, Actually 
A footnote states that Colossus defected to the Acolytes in Uncanny X-Men #34; it was in fact Uncanny #304.

A Work in Progress
The "Moira makes shitty coffee" recurring bit continues.  

As Excalibur prepares to leave for Australia, Kitty spots Moira sitting on the balcony of Proteus' old room in the middle of a blizzard. 

Colossus explains that there are landmines surrounding the X-Men's old base; it is unclear if those were left there by the Reavers, added by the X-Men, or added by the Acolytes. 

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Colossus is listening to a Prodigy song as he completes his work on Meggan's painting. 

Austin's Analysis
With the series still in something of a post-Warren Ellis transition - it has a new regular writer but is still awaiting the arrival of its new penciller - Ben Raab takes the opportunity to address Colossus' time with the Acolytes. Raab will come to quietly make this sort of thing his specialty within the X-office; we've already seen him do it before in Black Knight: Exodus, a one-shot whose sole existence seems born of a desire to tie off a mystery dangled by one line of dialogue in an otherwise unrelated story. But like that one-shot, Raab's efforts here to circle back to Colossus' tenure with the Acolytes and give it a proper sendoff is appreciated from someone who likes a tidy narrative, but doesn't really rise above the level of "simply crossing off an item from a list of dangling plotlines for the sake of crossing it off". 

Certainly, given how central Colossus' defection was to the X-Men narrative for a time, addressing it now that Colossus is (more or less) back in the heroic fold is a worthwhile endeavor. And to Raab's credit, he does so by focusing on Colossus' characterization, emphasizing that Colossus left the Acolytes less because e disagreed with them but because he no longer feels beholden to either Xavier OR Magneto's vision for the future (to say nothing of Exodus'...). This is largely consistent with how Colossus has been portrayed since joining the cast of this series, which as a whole functions as something in synch with but not beholden to the mission of the X-Men. Yet at the same time, Raab isn't so much revealing anything here as he is reemphasizing what is already known (which is fine), but he's not really doing it in any kind of clever or unexpected way (which is...less fine). 

Sure, it's fun to see the old Outback base again as well as some of the Acolytes (not gonna turn my nose up at a Frenzy or Unuscione appearance), but all it really amounts to (aside from a perfunctory "prove your worth by fighting me!" action sequence) is Colossus reiterating to the Acolytes that he's not a devout believer in their cause, which is more or less always been the case. Again, I can't begrudge the desire to revisit this bit of Colossus' past and give it proper closure, but the end result is a story that, while not bad, is also just sort of...there. Which is, unfortunately, going to be the case more often than not for the rest of the series' run. 

Next Issue
Next week, we return to the "Age of Apocalypse" with Tales from the Age of Apocalypse and then, we return to "Onslaught" with Onslaught Epilogue

Like what you read? Then support us on Patreon & gain access to exclusive reviews of Ms. MarvelX-Men: The Animated Series and more!


  1. Ben Raab's run started a little stronger than I remembered. Possibly because it's been long enough that I don't measure him against Warren Ellis.

    This issue highlights a big problem I have with Collosus. No one seems to know how to write him. Since Fatal Atteactions he just seems to "Be There." And it's not a complaint I ever thought I'd have as he's never been one of my favorite characters.

    It wasn't until about 2011, when I got the Essential reprints that I started to really like him. The same goes for Storm. Even today Collosus is still just... there.

    As to the issue itself, it's fine. Better than thought it would be not memorable. And the art in those panels with Piotr and Meggan are just weird. But that's pretty much par for the course in this era.

    Also, welcome back!

    1. Also, welcome back!

      Thanks! I didn't really intend to be away that long, but then life and such got in the way. Hoping to get caught back up and in a regular groove again soon.

    2. I completely get that. The best laid plans and all that.

      BTW, did anyone ever address the weird, self healing computer in the Outback or is that just a dangling Claremont plot? I suspect it is but I'm not positive.

  2. "As Excalibur prepares to leave for Australia, Kitty spots Moira sitting on the balcony of Proteus' old room in the middle of a blizzard."

    Muir Island was basically destroyed and then rebuilt after Legion/Shadow Kings whole thing. How could Proteus's old room still be there?

    1. I actually double-checked this, and the "Muir Island Saga" is maddeningly inconsistent in terms of the extent of the damage - while Shadow King does trigger a massive explosion that turns the island into a crescent with water in the middle (something never directly addressed but not really contradicted, either, in this era of EXCALIBUR) and you'd THINK that would have taken out the complex, in X-FACTOR #70 there's an aerial shot of the island that clearly shows the actual Muir Island research center still intact, and that's largely where everyone is hanging out in that issue.

      That said, I'm fairly certain you and I have now put more thought into this than anyone did at the time. :)

  3. "it is unclear if those were left there by the Reavers, added by the X-Men, or added by the Acolytes."

    I would say the Acolytes, since Cyclops was able to lead them to the town without any issue back in X-men Vol. 2 44.

    1. Good point. Unless Cyclops, being the nerd that he is, made a point to study whatever data the Australian team put into the X-Men's files about the base and thus knew how to bypass the mines. But now we're heading into Occam's Razor territory. :)

    2. If only Excalibur had a member of the Australian team with them to help them navigate through the mines instead of charging through them...

      (Btw, that original comment was from me, but for some reason it didn't register my id)

    3. Austin, what mines? I don’t recall that being mentioned during Claremont/Silvestri run. Or was it mentioned only in this Excalibur issue ?

    4. I hadn't read the issue yet when I made my comments below, but now I have, and I can confirm that it really sounds like the mines were placed by the X-Men. Colossus knows all about them and describes how they work, and when Kitty suggests that she can "airwalk" over them, Colossus says they will still go off because "we" didn't have her genetic signature on hand when the mines were programmed. And since the Acolytes hadn't visited the Outback town prior to X-MEN 44, the only "we" Colossus could be speaking of would be the X-Men with whom he lived there.

      Not sure why the X-Men -- even the comparatively more ruthless X-Men of the Outback era -- planted mines around their home that would kill anyone who tried to get close, but there you have it.

      Doesn't explain how Cyclops and the Acolytes got past the field in X-MEN 44, either!

  4. "Raab's efforts ... [are] appreciated from someone who likes a tidy narrative, but doesn't really rise above the level of 'simply crossing off an item from a list of dangling plotlines for the sake of crossing it off'."

    I think this line from your review pretty much encapsulates why I quit EXCALIBUR within around half a year. It sort of felt like Raab was going through the motions. Like he would see characters and setups and think, "Well, I have to do this" or "I should explain that." Which, as a continuity geek, I love in theory -- but the problem with Raab's approach in particular is clarified by two more lines from your review:

    "Raab isn't so much revealing anything here as he is reemphasizing what is already known..."

    "...the end result is a story that, while not bad, is also just sort of...there."

    As you note, this would remain the case for the rest of the series. Even after I dropped it, I would still peruse EXCALIBUR at my X-completist friend's house, and I was rarely impressed by what I saw -- certainly never impressed enough to want to pick up the series again. Contrast this with Kurt Busiek, who over in THUNDERBOLTS and within a year in the pages of AVENGERS, would dredge up ancient continuity in service of really good stories, rather than just for the sake of navel gazing.

    As you noted, Raab was particularly good at recognizing story opportunities to tie up dangling plotlines -- but he just didn't seem well suited to doing it in an ongoing series. The weird thing, though, is that he did a much better job of it in the various random mini-series he wrote throughout the late 90s. UNION JACK, HELLFIRE CLUB, CRIMSON DAWN, and I think one or two others were good stories in addition to being continuity dives. (At least to my recollection -- I know I still hold UNION JACK in very high regard, having re-read it relatively recently, but I haven't touched the others in many years.)

    I'll be interested in reading along with Raab's run -- at least through issue 115, the final one currently available digitally -- to see if my opinion has changed in the decades since this stuff was first published.

    1. I finally tracked down the Excalibur min-series (technically Vol. 2) and was excited until I saw that Been Raab wrote it. However, he seems to do well in a limited series format so I'm actually looking forward to reading it when I reach that part in my complete X-Men read through.

      I am dreading reading this part of Excalibur but I feel like I have to.

    2. One more thing I noticed while reading this issue today -- Moira refers to her and Xaiver having been "friends with benefits" at one point in their shared past, and I was a little surprised that A) the phrase got past Marvel editorial and the Comics Code, and B) the phrase existed in 1997! I think the first time I ever heard it was probably in the mid-00s. Or at least, so I would've thought, but I know I read this issue when it first released. I assume the meaning just went over my head. I was a fairly naive teenager.


  5. I had a rueful chuckle over the fact that all the biographical stuff in the splash page’s captions postdates my stint(s) reading these books as a fan — X-Men and spinoffs from 1976 to 1986; Excalibur only, plus a brief look at the other titles during Inferno, 1988-1989; and then a few months during the 1991 relaunch.

    Given how firm Colossus’ hair traditionally looks in his armored form, like in that panel after he grabs Nightcrawler shared in the post, it’s really weird to see it rendered all tousled and flyaway by other artists here. On the other hand, I appreciated the bit of Meggan standing with one foot slightly in the red paint on the floor and then hovering in the air with a bit of it dripping from her toes.

    There’s an odd line of dialogue where Kurt uses the word “reconstruction” and it’s lettered with quotes as if he’s repeating what Frenzy(?) said, but she never used that word — or at least not in the issue as published; I know there was frequent rewriting in this era.


Comment. Please. Love it? Hate it? Are mildly indifferent to it? Let us know!