Excalibur # 86 - 90 (Dec ' 94 - Aug '95)
The New Status Quo
Warren Ellis began establishing his new team status quo in #86, which is the issue before Age of Apocalypse began. Let me help to set the table.
The British Government Group, the Weird Happenings Organization (WHO), which was established in the Claremont era, is replaced by a group named Black Air. This is clearly meant to be less of a whimsy organization and more serious like the CIA (or X-Files). One member of the organization is a mutant named Pete Wisdom, who we open by seeing him regretfully killing a large group of terrorists using his mutant mind blades power. I believe we're supposed to get the idea that he is a hardened soldier, but regretful of his past deeds. We've seen this trope before, but usually not in X-Men comics.
Brian seems to be more prominent and is done speaking in riddles, but starts out plagued with visions of the future (including one with Pete). We see him using his brains (which really hadn't been on display since the Captain Britain solo series) to supe up Moira's plane, now called the "Midnight Runner." Don't forget that term because we'll hear it repeatedly as if it's this legendary and special aircraft.
We're also introduced to Excalibur as "Europe's X-Men," which I'm guessing is the X Offices way of taking Excalibur back under their control and re-defining the series.
Excalibur # 86 - 87: Back in Genosha
Writer - Warren Ellis
Pencils - Ken Lashley
The Excalibur team (Nightcrawler, Kitty, Brian, Meggan, Douglock, and Daytripper) are asked by Black Air to take Pete Wisdom with them on a mission to Genosha. We quickly learn that things are nuts there, with a civil war brewing between mutates and humans.
On the way to Genosha (and immediately before and after Age of Apocalypse), the midnight runner crashes after a Genoshan attack, but not before Meggan (?) uses her mutant elemental power to fix the wires and help ease the landing. The civil war is brewing and we see what looks like Sugar Man from A of A pulling some strings. It really doesn't amount to much other than establishing a new atmosphere with Genosha (Civil War, Sugar Man), creating a contrived reason for Pete Wisdom to join the team, and to provide snippy commentary connecting the prime reality to AoA (comment about NC not teleporting someone's head off, Sugar Man, etc.)
There is a sub plot (which is confusing to me) about some bullets made for Genoshan soldiers which came from Brian's father...or something???
Pete is forced to kill a mutate and freaks out a bit at needing to commit murder.
One other subplot follows Moira investigating how the world found out about the Legacy Virus (as it was revealed to the world by Trish Tilby in X-Men Prime).
Excalibur # 88-90: Dream Nails Trilogy (Pete Wisdom)
Writer - Warren Ellis
Pencils - Marcus Stroman (88), David Williams (89), Jam (90)
Pete and Kitty in London ("A" Plot)
The A plot follows Pete Wisdom and Kitty heading to London to help Pete's friend (Culley), who turns up dead. This sparks an X-Files/detective like story as the two of them act as partners and investigate a murder mystery.
While investigating the murder, a Black Air assassin tries to kill Pete and Kitty. They find their way to a secret base where Pete is captured and interrogated by a forgettable villain named Shrine. Shrine is leaching Pete of his memories to torture him and Pete ends up sending his worst memory to Shrine (him killing all those terrorists) and the pure fact of accepting it is enough to throw off Shrine and allow him to escape.
Meanwhile, Kitty discovers an alien species called "The Uncreated" who claims that it has killed God. This alien species has been captured and harvested by Black Air to kill mutants (so that ends Pete's affiliation with them.) This was very weird, and again very "X-Files" and I really hope these aliens go somewhere or else this is just weird.
All of this is backdrop for a budding romance between Kitty and Pete, which I'll share my opinion on in the My Connections section below. Kitty slowly realizes (from interviewing people Pete knows) that he's a curmudgeon, but really a "great guy." She sees that he has risked his life saving a lot of people. They end up being pretty good partners and then bang in the midnight runner on the way back to Muir Island.
For some reason I don't understand, Rory is put in charge of "treating" Spore, the capture acolyte with a deathwish. Rory thinks he can "help" him by interrogating him and ends up taking it a bit too far and has a bit too much fun torturing him. In a very convoluted fashion, Rory set up a series of lazers to kill Spore if he gets too emotional, as a way to protect himself. Predictably, that backfires. Rory gets himself all worked up and when Spoor chastises him for crushing on Daytrippter, he freaks out and gets his leg lazered off. This unhinged act is clearly putting him on the path to becoming Ahab.
Legacy Virus (Subplot)
There isn't a whole lot here, but Moira and Xavier are working together to figure out who leaked the Legacy Virus. They discover that someone must have broken in during the Phalanx attack on his ready room. I'm not sure where there is going, but it's clear that some sort of traitor is going to be revealed. Rory, maybe? Also, Wolfsbane shows up to help Moira after hearing that she has the Legacy Virus and I believe she will remain with the team until the series concludes.
My Connections and Creators
The European X-Men
I've been reading X-Men comics straight through for about 2 years now. There have been a lot of new writers taking over series. You can typically tell when tone changes or new characters have been introduced, but for some reason this felt different. More contrived. Warren Ellis is here and Excalibur is now "The European X-Men." This is a very specific re-branding. For a long time, Excalibur was focused on being lighthearted and slapstick as it was run separately from the Marvel "X Office", but now we are going to see a team that is firmly connected to the core X-Men teams operating out of America.
Another form of the re-branding comes with this comic being "X-Men East." Ellis even introduced a new character (Pete Wisdom) with a strong English accent to remind us that we are in Europe. Wolfsbane joins the team, because she's Scottish. We already had Nightcrawler who's German. And I believe Colossus will join the team who is Russian (which isn't technically Europe, but close enough.)
Kitty and Pete
So...Kitty and Pete Wisdom are an item by the end of this arc. I have much to say on this.
We'll start with the obligatory "I love Kitty" stuff. Because I do. And she hasn't had much relevance since the 80's. I like that she is getting more screen time and appears to be more central to the stories. I like the fact that she is going to get into a "normal" relationship, as opposed to the weird ones she's been in before. But let's talk about whether it truly is normal.
Now let's explore their ages. This gets tough because Marvel has a sliding timeline. Kitty joined the X-Men at age 13.5. She celebrated her 15th birthday in the pages of Excalibur # 32 in 1990. So at tops, she is 18, but that certainly seems like a stretch. Pete Wisdom spent some of his life as a soldier and some of his life as a Black Air Agent. He can't be any younger than 30. I personally have 3 daughters. I can't see myself being ok with one of my 18 year old daughters (oldest is 9 right now) dating a 30 year old. But...Kitty has been risking her life and living on her own since she was 13, so I guess that's ok. Maybe I don't realize that Kitty isn't actually one of my daughters. I'll reflect on that.
Remember Meggan? She used to be a member of Excalibur. Luckily, Warren Ellis does. He seems to have a very unique spin on her and is trying to go out of his way to make her a more central and interesting character again. That's a good thing! He is focusing on her "elemental powers," with one example her saving the Midnight Runner by manipulating electricity to make the ship work again. This sure seemed like a stretch plot-wise, but I'm fine forgiving it since it gives her something important to do other than hanging on Brian's arm. Brian's still a douche btw. I'm waiting to start liking him and getting the feeling that won't be happening any time soon.
The letters column in # 88 has the following to say about this:
"One of the first characters Excalibur's new writer, Warren Ellis, wanted to work with was Meggan. We never saw Meggan as a blonde bimbo, as you say, but as more of a naive, child-like young woman, a bit unsure of herself, yet full of potential. Now, with an awareness and exploration of Meggan/s powers over nature, Warren's taking her in some surprising and exciting new directions. We sincerely hope the beautiful Meggan will retain her sense of wonder as this shape-shifter gets a little more comfortable in her own skin."
Age of Apocalypse
It's clear that the "X Office" is trying to tie Age of Apocalypse into the main reality as much as they can. One method here is by introducing Sugar Man as having something to do with Genosha. Guess what? This is dumb. First of all, Sugar Man is a terrible character. Why would we choose him to bring back? Also, he's sophisticated enough to be pulling strings in Genosha? Get out of here. You're trying too hard, thank you.
There is also a comment about Nightcrawler holding back from teleporting a soldiers heads off. This is meant in jest, as our Kurt would never do that, but it's a clear reference (and reminder) that the other Kurt would, and did do that.
Pete Wisdom is introduced by Warren Ellis in this run. Pete is a mutant with the ability to shoot psychic knives (or something) out of his fingertips. He is portrayed as a wizened veteran, currently working for Black Air, which is the replacement for W.H.O. but really seems more like a British CIA.
With this now being "the European X-Men," it makes sense to introduce a character who has actually lived in Europe all his life (he's British). He carries a lot of baggage due to the missions he's gone on and clearly killed people in his past. He is a bit of a curmudgeon, but where this could easily be annoying, I seem to like him so far.
At this point in his arc, he is kicking off a relationship with Kitty and appears to be formally joining Excalibur.
Is Kitty going to be relevant again!? You all know how much I love Kitty, but none of the previous Excalibur writer's have been interested in making Kitty...well, interesting. Perhaps that's going to change here. She gets the most screen time in this arc alongside new recruit Pete Wisdom.
While we do see a romance brewing between her and Pete, she still has plenty of agency as it's clear that she doesn't need his help (and conversely saves his life more than once), as well as continuing to show how smart, heroic, and independent she is. I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.
Nightcrawler and Amanda Sefton (Daytripper)
Kurt and Amanda aren't given much to do in this arc, except remind us that they are still dating. I was happy to see that Ellis is continuing to advance Amanda's story by showing her struggle with guilt over giving her mother the Soul Sword (as covered in the Soul Sword Trilogy). She keeps that a secret from Kurt (and the whole team) as well as glimpsing into Rory's future to see that he becomes Ahab. Will her secret lead her astray? I'll be tracking this.
Meggan may be gaining relevancy again as well. She isn't a central figure of this plot, but you can tell Ellis is going out of his way to give her unique things to do. He seems to be learning into the casually mentioned idea of her being a "mutant" with a connection to nature by exploring new powers, such as jump starting the Midnight Runner (their airplane) with her connection to ...electricity...or nature?
Brian Braddock (Brittanic)
Brian is clearly getting less annoying as his "visions" seem to be lessening and he is speaking more straight forward and less in riddles like before. It seems that Ellis isn't interested in continuing whereever weird place the Britannic character was going before under Lobdell.
Douglock is barely in this arc at all. In fact, at one point I wondered if he was even still on the team. He is, for the record.
Ellis seems interested in continuing the Ahab storyline, in fact he has put his foot on the gas. Rory is starting to get a little unhinged and even lost his leg, putting him even more on the path to become Ahab.
Moira gets a lot of screentime in this arc, actually more than Douglock, Nightcrawler and Amanda. She is focused on coming to terms with her having the Legacy Virus. I KNOW this isn't the case, but it's revealed that she is the only human who contracted the virus. Could it be...that it's because she's a mutant?
It appears as though Wolfsbane will be joining the party.
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