Excalibur # 78 - 82, X-Factor # 106, X-Force # 38, Wolverine # 85, Cable # 16
The Phalanx Covenant: Life Signs & Final Sanction
Excalibur V1 # 78 - 81: The Douglock Chronicles
Plot - Scott Lobdell
Script - Chris Cooper
Pencils - John Royale (78 - 80), Amanda Conners (81)
Picking up on the Phalanx Covenant storyline (which began in earnest in 120: Phalanx Covenant (Generation Next), we open with Zero in a cave, hiding from Stryfe-Bots hell bent on destroying him, when he is joined by a different artificial being, Douglock. Douglock is an entity who decided to break free from the Phalanx collective, and we'll come to learn that he is essentially Warlock with all of Doug's memories. Both Zero and Douglock will commiserate with each other over their newfound independent feelings. If you've ever seen any episode of Star Trek The Next Generation and seen Data struggling with whether he's alive...you've seen this story before.
Considering this is a 4 part story featuring Excalibur and introducing Douglock, it really seems a lot more like a story about Zero. Maybe because he's ripe for some great art.
There is a quick subplot with Kitty calling her mom, looking for her missing dad.
Another subplot introduces the concept that Professor Xavier will be staying at Muir Island indefinitely, determined to work with Moira until they cure the Legacy Virus. I always considered Charles more of an academic than a scientist, but hey let's roll with it. We'll learn at the conclusion of this story that Moira is infected with the Legacy Virus, being the first human we know of to become infected.
Finally, picking up on the seemingly aimless Brittanic story first introduced in 112: Exc 75 - 77 (Goodbye Rachel, again), Brittanic, Megan, and Kitty are drawn to Zero and Douglock who are in the process of saving a family from the Stryfe-Bots. Zero, who we originally met as the silent teleporter working with Stryfe and the MLF is suddently quite chatty and acting like quite the hero.
Kitty is clearly struggling with the idea that Doug may be alive and bitches him out, basically pissed off that he would dare call himself Doug Ramsey, who is clearly dead. Meggan, who is an empath, is able to sense the emotions of both Zero and Douglock, leading the team (and especially Kitty) to suspect that maybe they are truly alive.
In the end, Zero announces that he has the secret to the Legacy Virus, which he transfers to Douglock before sacrificing himself for the family he saved earlier and the new friends he made (Excalibur and Douglock). Apparently this is the end of the narrative journey for Zero, but Douglock will be around for a while, so he gets to live, which is not the first time that I'll talk about this in this blog.
Phalanx Covenant: Life Signs
X-Factor # 106, X-Force # 38, and Excalibur # 82 comprise one of the three parts of the overall Phalanx Covenant event. This event prominently features Docklock and at attempt by one offshoot of the Phalanx to start breeding Phalanx, destroy all human life, and contact the rest of the Phalanx in space.
X-Factor V1 # 106
Plot - Scott Lobdell, Todd DeZago
Script - Todd DeZago
Pencils - Jan Duursema , Roger Cruz
X-Factor responds to a summons from Xavier and lands at Muir Island, before being given a harsh welcome by X-Force and Excalibur. The other teams try to confirm that they are who they claim to be and not Phalanx spies. I was totally expecting the typical "superheroes teams and need to fight each other" but was glad that the tension was mostly short lived.
Rahne sees Douglock for the first time and is predictably emotional. Unlike Kitty, her naivety brings her to trust that it's Doug immediately, which will be a theme carried heavily throughout this sector of the Phalanx story.
In a really cool depiction of Forge's powers, he is able to look at Douglock and see what makes him tick. He is completely stunned and sees this as the ultimate use of technology. Forge's admiration for the Phalanx is another gripping theme that we'll be following throughout the story.
The Phalanx origin is unveiled as we learn that Warlock's body was given by the Genoshan government to American scientists, looking to find a way to protect themselves from mutants. They choose Stephen Lang because he had close connections to Sentinels and Master Mold, which I guess made him more susceptible to controlling the techno organic virus (quite a thin justification).
There is a lot of discussion about whether Douglock can be trusted (he is improsined throughout most of the issue). At the conclusion, Douglock "captures" Forge (called the Maker more and more often), Sam, and Rahne because he feels he needs to act to save everyone, but he convinces most of the remaining heroes that he was never to be trusted from the beginning.
X-Force # 38
Writer - Fabian Nicieza
Pencils - Tony Daniel
This is the middle story of this three part epic and it outlines the true scope of this conflict. The teams find a Phalanx breeding ground and learn that the Phalanx is trying to reach the rest of the Phalanx collective (in spaced, where Warlock came from) to come to Earth and wipe out all organic life!
We also see that Stephen Lang, the supposed core Phalanx entity, doesn't support this as his goal was simply to use the Phalanx to kill off mutants, but now that he sees humanity at risk, he's having second thoughts.
Forge's emotions are heating up as he is really starting to sympathize with the Phalanx and strongly questioning whether they should be destroyed or not.
Excalibur # 82
Plot - Scott Lobdell
Script - Todd DeZago
Pencils - Ken Lashley and Steve Epting
Phalanx Covenant: Life Signs comes to a conclusion with Excalibur # 82. For a while, Forge is being manipulated into helping the Phalanx babies. The combined teams take on the Phalanx.
But in the end, it all comes down to Douglock who sacrifices himself to take down the spire, which was going to contact the Phalanx in space. All of the Phalanx featured in this story are destroyed, including the Phalanx Breeding Grounds. Unsurprisingly, Douglock ends up being the only member of the Phalanx in the area to survive.
Phalanx Covenant: Final Sanction
Final Sanctions is the last segment of the Phalanx Covenant Event which is covered in Wolverine # 85 and Cable # 16. This will address Wolverine, Cable, Cyclops, and Jean taking on the Phalanx hub and destroying the Phalanx once and for all. Larry Hama is the guest writer for this issue of Cable so that he can pen both installments of this story.
Wolverine # 85
Writer - Larry Hama
Pencils - Adam Kubert
Wolverine meets up with Cyclops, Jean, and Cable on Muir Island. This foursome realize that they have no choice but to take the Phalanx on directly. Cyclops is able to locate the X-Men directly in Tibet, so the four take off.
This story will highlight Scott and Jean trying to tell Cable to put his guns aside and use his mutant powers. At first Cable will shrug off this suggestion, but as the story goes on he'll start using his power more and more, ultimately making it clear that he should be listening to his daddy. When arriving at the Phalanx Hub, Jean and Cable do a psychic link to fight the Phalanx. While in the psychic link, Jean is trying to merge minds with Cable to fight the Phalanx without letting Cable realize that she was the one who raised him (as the human Red, covered in the Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix). Obviously this doesn't go great and Cable gets more hints.
Cable # 16
Writer - Larry Hama
Pencils - Steve Skroce
By this point, Stephen Lang has decided that he needs to act to stop the rest of his Phalanx from destroying humanity. He begins secretly communicating with Psylocke, trying to work through her to stop the rest.
At one point the foursome spends half the issue climbing a mountain, trying to stay off the Phalanx radar and having some great character moments. Ultimately, with Lang's help, the foursome is able to destroy all of the Phalanx and free the X-Men who were unsurprisingly unharmed.
Forge serves as the primary conduit for the reader to examine whether the Phalanx are living creatures and therefore deserve to be spared. Lobdell and company does a good job of using characters who would believably have this internal crisis, starting with Storm in 120: Phalanx Covenant (Generation Next). While Storm is coming from a perspective of her refusal to take any life (something we really haven't heard much about in a decade), Forge's sympathy comes from his mutant power as a technopath. He has spent his whole life creating advanced technology, so when presented with living technology, he can't control his awe. Lobdell attempts to make the Phalanx less of a one note, forgettable villain and while I applaud the effort, they are still going to be largely forgettable.
With the introduction of Douglock, I now realize that I was incorrectly using that name years ago when Doug was still alive used to interface with Warlock. I was vaguely aware of this name and assumed I should call them Douglock when they performed that interface, not knowing it will be this separate character in the future. Oh well, that's the fun of writing this blog from the perspective of a novice.
I also can't help but comment on how similar the Phalanx are to the Borg from Star Trek. I feel like they aren't even trying to hide the inspiration, even going as far as to write the line "Resistance is futile." I love the Borg, but isn't that copyright infringement?
In light of me recognizing that Fabian Nicieza will eventually be leaving the X-Office, I noticed that even though Nicieza wrote X-Force # 38, Lobdell was the plotter on the Excalibur Douglock Chronicles as well as X-Factor. Perhaps he is starting to gain even more influence in the X office.
Even though I have historically struggled to enjoy Larry Hama's Wolverine solo comic, I was glad that he penned Cable # 16 as well to keep the continuity of that two part story tight. I also enjoyed that part of the story more than the other two segments of the event.
Anyone who has been following my blog from the beginning knows that I'm obsessed with Kitty. Or at least, Claremont's version of Kitty Pryde. I spent a lot of energy analyzing how she strongly represented feminism in the Claremont era, while also giving us (the audience) a point of view character to follow while examining the world of the X-Men. Unfortunately, I haven't really seen much of that Kitty in Excalibur, but with Lobdell getting a chance to write her, we're seeing that flash once again. Kitty is incredibly mature for her age and always ready to dive into an impassioned soliloquy, but when written correctly we see that come through with a splash of immaturity. This is on full display when Kitty bitches out Douglock for impersonating Doug. It becomes clear that she is overflowing with emotion and rather than deal with it, she immaturely takes it out on Douglock telling herself that he's not really Doug.
Professor Xavier is entering a new status quo where he's determine to stay at Muir Island until a cure for the Legacy Virus is reached. On one hand, this is yet another attempt by a writer to sideline Xavier and keep characters like Cyclops and Storm in charge, it also gives us some opportunities for his character development. This is sorely needed because Xavier has been around for 25 years and has yet to become terribly likable (in my opinion). His past and present relationship with Moira is getting explored more and I can't help but notice how cozy they are getting. Banshee hasn't been around much and will soon be busy with Generation X, are these two going to get back together!?
Also worth mentioning that the interaction between him and Strong Guy is revisited (where SG was embarrassed around him since he looked up to him), and Charles asks him to carry him up the stairs with his wheelchair being damaged by the Phalanx.
There's also some super fascinating developments with Cable. Cable has really become my favorite character of the 90's and with me realizing I never read far enough as a kid to see how his relationships with Scott and Jean fully develops, I find this all captivating. When Cable was first introduced, he was the gritty veteran with big guns, but ever since X-Tinction Agenda we've been starting to see the softer side of him.
While X-Force primarily focuses on his relationship softening with Sam and the rest of the team, his solo series (and Uncanny) takes some shots at seeing him interact with Scott and Jean. At one point, Wolverine says "I hear you, Red" causing Cable to be awestruck thinking about "Redd" who raised him. Later he will be in a psychic link with Jean and start to realize that she knows more about him than he should. He hasn't quite put it all together yet (can't wait to be there when he does), but it's fun watching these little revelations.
It's also worth mentioning that I like what is happening with Jean and Cable. Madelyn was his real mother, so I wasn't sure how they were supposed to sell Jean being close with him, other than her just helping with him a bit as a baby. However, with Jean going back in time to raise him with Scott, she is now officially a mother figure.
Speaking of Scott and Jean, we get confirmation that they are wiser than their years with spending more than a decade with their consciousness in the future. Wolverine mentions that he can tell they are different and seem wiser than they should be. Another great use of characters here, where of course it would be Wolverine and his heightened senses to be the one to notice that something is different about them. I really appreciate that this point is being siezed on as I wasn't sure if this angle would be touched on since technically 30 years of publishing fits into only a few years of continuity.
And speaking of Wolverine, I really liked that his feud with Cable seems to be put to rest because he can tell how much Jean cares about Cable (even though he doesn't know why yet), and since Jean thinks highly of Cable, it automatically raises his opinion of Cable as well. That's such a nice character beat! Can we bring him home please?!
Now for a few other quick hitters. Most other characters are relegated to the sidelines, but there a few points worth exploring. As mentioned earlier, Wolfsbane is quick to welcome Douglock into her heart. Similar to Kitty, Rahne carries a lot of guilt but instead of hardening, she opens her arms, likely as a means to release her guilt over Doug dying to save her life. In Excalibur, I'm happy to see Meggan and Brian with a bit more to do, but I can't believe how much Captain Britain (Brittanic/Brian) is such a throwaway character these days compared to how he came out of the gate with the comic in the Claremont era (and having a lot of history in the British publishing world).
My Rating - 9/10
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