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Wednesday, January 4, 2023

X-amining Excalibur #107

March 1997

In a Nutshell
Salvador Larroca debuts as the new series artist while Excalibur is attacked by the Dragons of the Crimson Dawn!

Writer: Ben Raab
Penciller: Salvador Larroca 
Inker: Scott Koblish
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Kevin Tinsley
Separations: GCW
Editor: Matt Idelson
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Brian Braddock and Meggan arrive arrive in London for what Meggan says will be one of the happiest days of their lives, while back on Muir Island, Colossus, Wolfsbane, and Nightcrawler work together to build their own Cerebro unit to detect mutants. In London, Brian and Meggan discover that despite their recent heroics in saving the city, many of the citizens still blame them for the death of the "real heroes" at the hands of Onslaught. Angry, Brian declares he doesn't want to be a superhero anymore, just a scientist, then laments that he's letting his anger ruin his and Meggan's day. On Muir Island, Douglock urges Moira to take a break from her Legacy Virus research, but she refuses, determined to find a cure for the virus. Back in London, Brian and Meggan are picking out an engagement ring when Meggan is suddenly knocked out onto the street. Just then, Spiral appears, and Brian attacks her, thinking she targeted Meggan. But when Spiral reveals she's been marked by Crimson Dawn, the Dragons of Crimson Dawn, Meggan's actual attackers, emerge and reveal they have come to kill Brian!

Firsts and Other Notables
After being announced on the letters page as the book's new regular artist in Excalibur #103, Salvador Larocca arrives as the new series' artist in Excalibur #107, though he will only stick around through issue #110 (after which he'll depart for, I believe, the Psylocke/Archangel Crimson Dawn miniseries and then to pencil Heroes Reborn: The Return, the miniseries that brings the Avengers and the Fantastic Four back into the main Marvel Universe after the end of "Heroes Reborn"). He will, however, return for intermittent runs on both Uncanny X-Men and X-Men (vol. 2) in the late 90s/early 00s and perhaps most notably, help Chris Claremont launch X-Treme X-Men, the third regular X-Men title, in 2001. 

His style here and throughout the 90s is in the vein of the general Madureira clone/manga influenced look that was popular at the time, though his later work on Marvel's second Star Wars line as well as in the fifth volume of Uncanny X-Men will veer more towards photorealism and heavy tracing. 

The Dragons of the Crimson Dawn, who will serve as the chief antagonists for the entirety of Larroca's short run, debut here as well. They are connected to the Crimson Dawn dimension/elixir which saved Psylocke's life in Uncanny X-Men #329-330 and will appear in the limited series of the same name after this story. 

Evergreen X-foe Spiral also pops up here, being chased by the Dragons; more on their connection will be revealed over the course of the story.  

Hey, remember how Captain Britain and Meggan have technically been engaged since Excalibur #61? Well, Ben Raab does, and it gets referenced for the first time in forever in this issue, as the couple spends their time before being attacked shopping for an engagement ring. 

Moira once again muses that the key to curing the Legacy Virus may reside with Cable (and/or Nate Grey), as in X-Men (vol. 2) #30; once again, this ultimately proves not to be the case. 

A Work in Progress
Nigel MacWhirter, brother to Angus MacWhirter who rented the X-Men a hovercraft in X-Men #104 then got eaten by Proteus in X-Men #119, pops up in this issue, mostly has a continuity callback/gag. 

Nightcrawler has decided Excalibur needs its own Cerebro unit and has enlisted Wolfsbane and Colossus' help in building one; it's unclear why he didn't enlist the help of Kitty, someone who previously spent time tinkering around with the actual Cerebro. 

When Nightcrawler, Kitty, Colossus, and Wolfsbane reminisce about their times as pupils of Xavier to Wisdom, each character gets a page that basically serves as a Secret Origins-style origin.

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Kitty's origin page comes in the form if a recreation of events from Uncanny X-Men #129, in which she declares learning she was a mutant was ultimately "totally rad". 

As part of the ongoing "Moira can't make good coffee" running gag, America's then-burgeoning fascination with coffee and coffee shops (culminating perhaps most persistently in the chosen hangout of the friends on Friends) is referenced. 

Austin's Analysis
Though writer Ben Raab officially took over the series last issue, the arrival of a new artist in the form of Salvador Larroca gives Excalibur #107 big "new beginning" energy. That feeling is helped both by it's structure as a table-setting issue for the "Dragons of the Crimson Dawn" story and for the way Raab and Larroca take pains to feature each of the book's regular cast to some degree, giving both creators a chance to show off their visions of the book's cast. So while the Brian/Meggan stuff serves as the A-plot and kicks off the new story, the rest of the issue is handed over to little vignettes and origin recapsfor the rest of the team. 

Neither the Raab/Larroca run generally nor this Crimson Dawn story specifically are held in terribly high regard, whether in the specific context of the series or more broadly, but on a micro level, this is all perfectly fine. From the broad focus on the core cast to the incremental subplot advancement (Brian and Meggan are looking for an engagement ring!) to the check-in with the larger arcs of the franchise at this time (people are hating mutants more than ever cuz of Onslaught!) to the introduction of villains both historical (Spiral) and new (the Dragons of the Crimson Dawn) this reads a lot like the result of a "writing serialized superhero comics 101" course. Which will, for better and worse, ultimately prove to be (along with the previously seen tendency to lampshade continuity bits) one of Raab's defining characteristics as this series' writer.  

Next Issue
Deadpool stalks Siryn in Deadpool #3!

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  1. Young Love
    Pete affectionately refers to Kitty as “my little Yankee strumpet”.

  2. I think I dropped Excalibur as of the next issue. I started reading it during AOA and really liked it during Ellis' run but it was going nowhere here.


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