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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

X-amining Excalibur #108

April 1997

In a Nutshell
Captain Britain & Meggan battle 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

On Muir Island, Nightcrawler and Colossus playfully fence with each other. Afterwards. Amanda Sefton approaches Colossus, telling him that she's leaving Excalibur for personal reasons she can't share with anyone, especially Nightcrawler. Meanwhile, in London, the The Dragons of the Crimson Dawn continue their attack on Captain Britain. Back on Muir Island, Wisdom receives a strange email, after which he's harassed by Kitty about acquiring proper superhero attire. Elsewhere in the complex, Wolfsbane expresses her concern over Moira's work habits to Douglock, before departing with Kitty for Ireland. They have a hair appointment with the highly sought after Molly Fitzgerald. In London, Meggan regains consciousness, and is able to help Captain Britain defend himself. Watching nearby is Spiral, who is reminded by the Dragons that she is now one of them, and teleports everyone away but herself and Meggan. Confronted, Spiral assures Meggan she's no friends of the Dragons, and Meggan suggests they head to Muir Island for help. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Amanda leaves the team this issue, mysteriously saying goodbye to Colossus but no one else and giving non-answers as to why she's leaving. Of course, we'll eventually learn in X-Men Unlimited #19 this isn't Amanda but rather her mother inhabiting her body (as one does). 

Wisdom receives a mysterious email from someone named "Peckham" which he promptly deletes. I honestly don't remember if this goes anywhere, but I suspect not. 

Regaining consciousness, Meggan briefly sees some kind of ethereal figure. Similarly, I have no recollection of where this is going, either. 

Kitty and Wolfsbane go to Molly Fitzgerald to get their hair done, with a footnote asking readers if they can guess who it is and directing them to the letters page. There, a contest announced in which two readers who can identify the character will win signed copies of the issue. I don't know if anyone ever won those copies, but the character is Shamrock, the Irish superhero introduced in Contest of Champions

A Work in Progress
Carrying over from the previous issue, there's a lot of talk in Excalibur #108 about Excalibur getting their own Cerebro up and running in order to operate more like the traditional X-Men. 

Kitty pushes Wisdom to get himself proper superhero attire; he resists (and won't ever don a what we'd consider a costume). 

The fact that Spiral is sporting a Crimson Dawn facial tattoo (like Psylocke of this time) is highlighted. 

Artistic Achievement
I'm just going to leave this drawing of two human beings right here. 

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Colossus is sporting some Tekken 2 pants.

Remember when they created an entire Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan rom-com around an email chime? 

Human/Mutant Relations
Wolfsbane and Kitty make their contribution to the now-regular "things are really bad for mutants right now" discourse.  

Austin's Analysis
Excalibur #108 is a frenetic issue. Some of that simply comes from the art — Salvador Larroca, decades away from his hyper photorealistic/tracing style, is still doing his best Joe Mad/manga-influenced work here. Which means we're dealing with tons of lines, over-the-top proportions, and just a lot of stuff going on in each panel. It takes work just to follow the action, which gets to be exhausting. But weaving in and around the action scenes are a bunch of sequences set around Muir Island. These are quieter, more character-focused, and while still drawn by Larroca, less exhausting to get through. 

They're also written much more like typical "table setting" scenes. "Amanda" leaving, the talk of using a Cerebro to take on the X-Men's mission, even the jibes about Wisdom's (lack of) costume; all make it seem like this issue is about setting up a new direction for the series. Not only is that not really the case (there's some changes afoot but the direction of the book doesn't really shift appreciably between now and its end with issue #125), it creates tonal whiplash when cutting back and forth with the obnoxiously loud action scenes. Loud action/quiet sublots is a classic bit of comic book construction, but where the juxtaposition between the two is usually used to highlight the respective tonal differences, the loud is so loud here, and the quiet so ultimately-aimless, that it just makes for a confusing reading experience. 

Next Issue
Deadpool battles the Hulk in Deadpool #4!

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  1. The issue’s title page declares “Stan Lee presents ‘The Old Ways’ featuring the European X-Men!” without even mentioning the actual team/series’ name.

    I only know Salvador Larroca from his ’90s runs on The Flash and Fantastic Four, which this is pretty much smack between, so I’m curious to look up this later style you mention.

    Kitty uncaringly shorting out Pete’s computer when she phases in takes me out of the story, as similar bits usually do, but not as much as does me almost physically wincing at the sight of her kissing him and viscerally tasting cigarettes.

    1. Larroca's Invincible Iron Man w/Fraction and his Star Wars work (on both the first Darth Vader volume and later Star Wars) are good examples of his later style, which is much stiffer and photorealistic (his Tony Stark looks like Sawyer from Lost, his Han Solo looks like...Harrison Ford), which works a little better for the licensed books, but is still...weird, especially compared to this early stuff.


    2. I find those radical shifts in style kind-of fascinating. Travis Charest and Ryan Sook had similar progressions. Of course it may vary with the artist in terms of whether they’re natural refinements of style or concerted efforts to go for a certain aesthetic.

      That ridiculously oversized Barak you posted sure looks to owe something to the work of Kelley Jones, by the way, whether it’s an intentional swipe or just the result of internalized appreciation.

  2. I feel bad for Amanda Sefton. It feels like there could be an interesting character there but writers tend to keep forgetting about her. Even in the middle of issues that they're writing. I think this particular story is the only one where she actually gets a resolution (eventually) rather than just being taken off the board and then randomly showing up again later with no explanation.


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