Excalibur V1 # 96 - 100 (February - June '96)
Excalibur # 96 - 100 (London Hellfire Club)
Writer - Warren Ellis
Pencils - Carlos Pacheco (96), Casey Jones (97 - 100), Randy Green & Rob Haynes (100)
The entire arc of #96 - 100 is a single story, however it begins in a few different places before it converges. There is also a significant portion of the final chapter (Issue #100) which is directly connected to the Onslaught event, so I just cut it out all together and will include that portion of the story in an upcoming Onslaught blog.
London Hellfire Club
Shinobi Shaw calls up Brian Braddock and asks him to infiltrate the London Hellfire Club (LFC). Ok, hang on, I'm going to stop here. How do Shinobi Shaw and Brian know each other? Ok, let's pretend for a second that they did, Brian is a hero and Shinobi is a villain, so why would he even listen to him!? Oh, for plot reasons? Ok.
So back to the story. Shinobi tells Brian that the time traveling Mountjoy (from Bishop's timeline) is impersonating one of the LFC and that they are up to no good. Brian agrees to check it out and barges into their Inner Circle and demands to be part of the group since his father was one of them. Once again, Brian is a pretty well known hero so why this group of villains would so easily welcome him is a big question, but again...plot. Brian becomes the Black Bishop.
Half of the LFC is insignificant, but the other half is very significant. First, the Black Queen is actually Damask from the Age of Apocalypse, and at one point we see that she is in direct contact with Onslaught (because every villain is). Also, the Red Queen is a sorceress. She'll be pretty significant, but I'll hold the reveal for now. (I guess I should have said that the female's are significant, the males are not.)
A scribe tells Brian that the Red Queen is leading the LHC to attack London for...villain reasons.
Allistaire Stuart and Black Air
Kitty leaves to pick up Allistaire Stuart, who we haven't seen in quite some time, as he is supposedly under attack by Black Air. He explains that when Black Air took over the Weird Happenings Organization (WHO), they killed all the Warpies and are now after him.
There is a lot of badass fight scenes in this arc and we are first treated to a really cool one where Nightcrawler and Meggan take down some Black Air helicopters.
Megan disrupts their electricity and Nightcrawler teleports into the cockpit.
At this point, all of the separate stories start to converge together as we bring this arc home. First, some housekeeping items. Kurt is spending some time worry about Amanda, who has been missing for the first few issues but will soon show up and have a big role to play. Second, Douglock is spending time focusing on how he wants to be a single person, as opposed to a hybrid of Doug, Warlock, and the Phalanx. As he's pondering this, he is speared through the stomach and take away by a Black Air helicopter.
This is where it's revealed that Black Air's evil doings have been funded and influenced by the London Hellfire Club all along. Oh, no! Pete tells them of one location where Douglock might be, and this leads to another badass fight scene where there are some really great displays of their powers and Nightcrawler is doing a great job of leading. It turns out that DL's not there, so they steal some files and burn the place to the ground (badasses).
All is revealed at this point when Amanda shows back up and explains that the Red Queen is actually her mother (and Nightcrawler's adoptive mother), Margoli Szardos. Ever since being given the Soulsword (at the conclusion of the Soulsword Trilogy), Margoli has killed all of the sorcerer's ahead of her on the winding way and become near omnipotent. Her plan is to use Douglock to tap into the power of a demon who is locked away below London (don't ask) to increase her power and attack London.
Trying to manipulate a demon rarely works out, and the demon starts turning the people of London into crazed lunatics (much like the Season 4 finale of Westworld), all of which going on a killing spree.
A few things happen in quick succession. The Black Queen (Damask) kills the Black King for a reason I don't fully understand. Mountjoy is revealed to be the Scribe who told Brian about Margoli's plan. I don't know why Mountjoy was even needed in this story, to be honest This prompts Brian to put the Captain Britain suit on for the first time in a while.
Excalibur infiltrates the LHC and they are given a task one by one. Nightcrawler gets in a cool sword fight. At the end, Kitty hacks Doug to free him, Nightcrawler teleports them to the demon's tomb, Wolfsbane (Yes, she's around, so is Colossus) hacks at his connection to free him, and Amanda creates a new hex to keep the demon at bay. She's a sorceress, she can do anything!
If you've been following my blog from the beginning, then you know that I've been up and down regarding my opinion of Nightcrawler. Before I my X-Men journey, I considered him my favorite, but after seeing how he was portrayed by Claremont, especially after Dave Cockrum left, I realized he wasn't too great of a character. He then came to Excalibur and it took him a long time to officially become team leader (interesting, that happened shortly after Claremont left).
Well, in addition to there being a bunch of really cool action scenes (which I usually don't get too excited about), there were two great speeches by Nightcrawler. Here's most of his first one:
Here, NC is talking about how the team is been pretty reactive. This is clearly Warren Ellis talking directly. I'm trying to think if I understand where this is coming from. X-Force is supposed to be the more proactive team. I didn't think that Excalibur seemed to passive, however it does make sense that they don't really seem to have much of a purpose other than responding to threats. Maybe that's all there is. Regardless, it's great to see him get fired up and basically being like "You messed with my team, now I'm going to fuck you up."
This was another great speech prior to the big, final battle. It makes me realize how common it is in movies to give a big speech before a battle, but it almost never happens in comics! This is a pretty good way and it's a great mentality about how they have a job to do, but they can't get carried away by killing people. Good stuff! This issue may make an appearance in my fave comics. Probably hard to crack my top ten of all time, but this is definitely in my top 10 since 1995. Easy.
Pete and Kitty
There's a few things here. First, Pete and Kitty are still going strong, as you can see here with them having an emotional goodbye before the big, final battle. This is another thing that's common in movies, but surprisingly absent from comics.
Nightcrawler even says:
"you really do like him, don’t you? I don’t think I’ll ever understand that“
It is kind of true. Kitty is a goody two shoe (spelling?) so it's surprising she would fall for him, but that's also what makes it fun.
There is a whole fun dynamic between Pete and Lockheed.
First of all, Lockheed doesn't like Pete. This is cute because Lockheed probably loves Kitty (as a friend) and doesn't like sharing his attention. He's constantly stealing his cigarettes and scarves.
Second, Lockheed starts talking as you can see in the image above. It's funny because I immediately thought to myself "I didn't know he can talk," and then later on Kitty tells Pete that he's lying because Lockheed doesn't know how to talk. So I'm sure this is just a fun little thing, but I wonder if we'll find out that he can truly talk now or if this is in Pete's mind or something.
Third, while this was a pretty amusing dynamic by itself, it actually had a big payoff where at the end Pete is about to be killed and Lockheed shows up at the last second and saves his life with some fire breath. I love it.
Nightcrawler gets a buzz cut and new outfit. The outfit is dope, the haircut is terrible.
Meggan apparently got plastic surgery to fill out her new booby outfit.
Brian has been trying to stay out of the superhero gig and remain as a civilian, but he may be back at it in his Captain Britain suit.