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161: Warren Ellis Excalibur Retrospective

What’s in the Run?

Excalibur # 83 - 103, X-Calibre # 1 - 4, Pryde and Wisdom # 1 - 3

Breaking Down the Arcs

Excalibur # 83 - 85: The Soulsword Trilogy

To be honest, I think Ellis started off pretty slow. He really likes Trilogies. It was fun to see him start down a road that would continue to follow Amanda Sefton, but more importantly her and Kurt's mom, Margoli Szardos. While Ellis eventually proved to have a pretty decent hold on continuity, I was really bothered by how many facts he got wrong about the Soul Sword.

Age of Apocalypse: X-Calibre # 1 - 4

Before he even had a chance to establish himself, Ellis was forced into the Age of Apocalypse. It didn't help that this was my least favorite of all the ongoing stories. This team shot from above came from X-Calibre # 4 because the "team" didn't even come together until one final fight in the 4th issue. It was fun to see what life could be like if Kurt was close to his real mom.

Excalibur # 86 - 90: Enter Pete Wisdom

*Wolfsbane and Pete Wisdom join the party!

Ellis will probably be best remembered for creating the character Pete Wisdom. Ellis introduces us to Wisdom as a member of Black Air, a new rendition of the Wierd Happenings Organization and a group that will be very prominent throughout his run.

He establishes a new status quo for the team as more of "Europe's X-Men" and strikes an X-Files tone, most heavily felt in the Dream Nails Trilogy (# 88 - 90).

Pete and Kitty start dating during the Dream Nails Trilogy and these two will continue to take center stage for the rest of the run.

Wolfsbane joins the team to be with Moira, but she's never really given much to do throughout the run.

*Colossus crashes the party

This is a chunk of one off's, oddly breaking from the trilogy connection. Each of these has a very different tone. #61 is like a Claremont/Lobdell classic slow issue with the whole team going to a bar and getting drunk, trying not to think of Moira dying of the Legacy Virus. Colossus shows up and literally beats the shit out of Kitty's new boyfriend, Pete Wisdom. Wolfsbane finds out that Reverend Craig is actually her dad. Brian has his own Days of Future Past (Tense) flash forward and it's pretty trippy. And then, Excalibur contributes to a small Nate Grey crossover.

Excalibur # 96 - 100: London Hellfire Club

Ah, here we go. Back with the connected stories. This time a 4 parter that brings all of his plotlines home. Black Air goes big and evil and is brought down. Kitty and Pete confess their love. Margoli Szardos officially outed as the big baddie of this arc.

Excalibur # 101 - 103 : Pryde and Wisom

The last few Excalibur issues are really just slow post Onslaught Issues. The Pryde and Wisdom mini-series is really just another 3 part story focused only on two characters. Nothing big happens in it.

Closing Thoughts

All in all, Warren Ellis put together a pretty good run. He's probably most remembered for his introduction of Pete Wisdom, his desire to tell a bunch of 3 part stories, and the new status quo of the Excalibur serving as "the European X-Men."


Moira contracts the Legacy Virus during this arc. It's interesting that she was the first and only human to get it. Was this really setting up the big reveal about her from HoxPox?!

Moira is actually much more of a secondary character in this series.


NC gets a new look (buzz cut plus beard) and strengthens his role as the team leader. However, outside of Ellis leaning into the whole Swashbuckling angle, Nightcrawler really doesn't take any steps forward as a character or have many memorable arcs.


Kitty (lol, I'm done pretending to call her Shadowcat) is certainly aged up in this run. I can probably argue with the sliding timeline and tell you how there's no way she can be 18, but since she started out as a 13 year old, I'm happy to see her finally get into her adult years. I don't know if I approve of my precious Kitty dating a guy in his thirties though.

Anyway, I do appreciate that Ellis put Kitty front and center during his run. He even brought back a number of her amazing speeches that no one's really attempted since Claremont. She tells Colossus off pretty well and knocks Pete's ego down a couple pegs.

*Special shout out for Lockheed who is suddenly back, speaking English, and arguing with Pete.

Captain Britain

Brian Braddock doesn't get a lot of screen time, but I think I actually like this version of him the best. I'm guessing Ellis knows that he has been pretty annoying for 100 issues straight. Pretty quickly into the run, he stops with all that Brittanic nonsense. Then, instead of jumping back into his tights, he chooses a non aggressive position working as more of a mechanic than a hero.

Not only does this give him something to do, but it reminds us that he's actually a super smart dude, as opposed to the arrogant buffoon most writers have written him as.


Meggan is another hero who Ellis does a great job of character resuscitation. I'll even go as far as to say that Ellis helps Meggan regain her relevancy, or perhaps even gain it for the first time (depending on your opinion of how she's been portrayed historically).

Ellis doesn't call her a mutant, but he doesn't talk about her being a fairy either. He just takes past hints at her being an elemental and leans into it. She is shown to be a crafty powerhouse.

Similar to Ellis successfully making Brian less oafy by simply making him more neutral, Ellis makes Meggan less impish by giving her a sense of confidence.

Pete Wisdom

I've heard that Pete Wisdom is a personification of Ellis himself. I've heard that Pete Wisdom is a fan favorite. Regardless, Ellis has a type and the snarky, broken, vice laden Pete Wisdom is the prototypical Ellis character.

I have very mixed feelings about him dating Kitty. On one hand, it's a nice story to see a hardened veteran so grounded by a young, confident girl. On the other hand, they are two very different characters with a big age gap. I'm just not sure how I feel about it, maybe it's because I have 3 daughters myself.


While Amanda Sefton gets many more impactful stories due to her mother, Margoli Szardos, being the true Big Bad behind this arc, that doesn't mean she got any more screentime or her character arc was moved forward at all. She's still an overpowered sorceress who is dating Nightcrawler, but Ellis makes that relationship seem right so I'm ok with it.


Man, speaking of Oaf patrol. Someone must have ordered Ellis to add Colossus to the team because Ellis just really didn't seem to know what to do with him, nor did he seem too interested in using him much.


Remember what I said about Colossus? Same goes here. He had no idea what to do with Douglock, so I think he showed up a maximum of 1 panel per issue in this run, with the exception of him serving as a Maguffin in the London Hellfire Club story.


Yep, another character who was probably mandated to join this team and was barely used.


Rory's arc was pretty cool. You see him slowly start to turn evil and lose his leg. I'm interested to see where this goes.


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