53: Excalibur #1-5

What’s Covered?

Excalibur 1 - 5, Excalibur Special Edition: The Sword is Drawn


Roster Watch

Creators

Excalibur was created by Chris Claremont and the legendary Alan Davis.


Claremont himself gives a pretty good overview of the Excalibur comic, as told in Comic Creators on X-Men:

“X-Men was sort of grim and gritty and I thought it would be fun to do a cosmic comedy caper book. No deep philosophy, just more fun than you can shake a stick at. Also, we had more X-Men than we could fit in the book and we needed to find somewhere for them to go.”

X-Men was the # 1 comic and editorial wanted more. It just so happened that the number of X-Men were growing so Nightcrawler, Rachel, and Kitty were all selected to break off and headline their own comic. With Alan Davis pegged to be the artist, it made sense to tap into the characters he had developed (with Claremont) for the British Market, Captain Britain and Meggan. This created a comic that was essentially pegged as X-Men in Europe, however it never really followed that mantra until years down the line.


The tone was also consciously different than X-Men. As mentioned by Claremont himself, the X-Men were grim and gritty. New Mutants gave him the chance to write stories for younger kids and Excalibur was designed to with more of a whimsy, slapstick tone.


In a 1991 Marvel Age interview, Alan Davis commented on his surprise about coming back to Marvel and these characters:

“When I left working for Marvel UK I thought I’d waved goodbye to Captain Britain… it was only when Chris – Claremont – offered me Excalibur that I started to work on him again.

Synopsis



Excalibur Special Edition Volume 1: The Sword is Drawn

(This issue is not on Marvel Unlimited, so it's not going to get the screenshot treatment). This issue is the special edition that brings everything together. We start with Kitty (thrilled that she is the first one featured) having a dream about Rachel being stuck in the Mojoverse. The last time we saw Rachel, she was walking away with Spiral heading into the Body Shoppe (as covered in 41: UXM 205 - 209 (Bye Rachel)). Rachel's escape from the Mojoverse and return to Earth is not only the catalyst for this story, but the central theme of the first few issues.


We see that Brian Braddock, AKA Captain Britain, is hitting the bottle hard due to his depression over the recent revelation that his twin sister, Betsy has died (or so he thinks). Meggan (Brian's lover/girlfriend) sets out to find the X-Men to help. We last saw her and Brian staying with the X-Men in their 11th Annual (as covered in 46: UXM 215 - 219 (Longshot, Havok, Dazzler)).


There aren't many X-Men left, but we see Nightcrawler is trying hard to get into shape after spending much of the last few months in a coma after the aftermath of the Mutant Massacre (as covered in 43: The Mutant Massacre.))


Two characters from the Captain Britain universe show up, with Opal Luna Saturnyne sending Gatecrasher and her group of misfits (Technet) after Rachel. This pushes Brian and Meggan to team up with Kitty and Nightcrawler. A battle takes place and the issue ends with the 5 heroes (now including Rachel) deciding to create a new Super Hero Team, Excalibur!


Excalibur # 1 - 2: Escaping the Warwolves

The first two issues are mostly focused on closing a plot thread introduced in the Special Edition. After Rachel escaped from the Mojoverse, the Warwolves are tracking down Rachel to bring her back. We see early on that they have the creepy ability to kill people, then wear their skins like a coat.


The series focus on whimsy is brought forward by these warwolves haphazardly draping their skins on hangers and sitting around drinking beers between hunts.

Early on there is a hostage situation where Excalibur decides to answer the call. This is a nice low level threat that gets to show both the city of London as well as the readers how Excalibur works as a team.


This set of panels was the first example that this is still the Kitty I know and love. She throws a blanket over her hear and pretends to be a ghost as they takes down the thugs.

Rachel has more of a direct approach by taking the thugs down with Brute Force.

Kitty and Rachel had things pretty much locked up before Captain Britain even got through the door, showing him that these young ladies can handle themselves.

We see here that Meggan has invited N.C. Rachel, and Kitty to live with her and Brian in the Lighthouse, however she hasn't asked Brian about this yet. Nightcrawler knows this could be a bad idea, but Meggan in her youthful ignorance isn't concerned with that.

Nightcrawler steps into a storage closet and is transported to another dimension. When him and Meggan come back later, this doesn't happen, however this won't be the last similar situation to take place in the Lighthouse.

Kitty has the genius idea of dressing up like Rachel and walking around London trying to lure the Warwolves out of hiding, however she doesn't tell anyone else about her plan.

After a lot of searching, the rest of the team finds Kitty and the warwolves and defeats them in battle.

In a confusing situation, Kitty had been eaten by a warwolf, but then managed to crawl out of it later on. Lol, I really don't understand what happened here. Was she not digested because she can phase or something? Regardless, it's more weirdness this comic line is clearly establishing.

To further the weirdness, Kitty suggests putting the Warwolves in a zoo instead of jail or sentencing them to death.


Excalibur # 3: A familiar face

A villain named Vixed (who is probably be saved for a future issue) is trying to break someone out of jail (we don't know who), but runs into Juggernaut who she sets free as a distraction. I like continuity here because the last time we saw Juggernaut, he was arrested while on Muir Island after fighting Dazzler, so it makes sense that he would be somewhere in Britain.

Rachel offers help but Cap says he wants to take him on solo. While I like that we are getting some good characterization here, it is clear that this is no Captain America. Brian is full of faults and has a lot of room to grow to become a great leader.

I had to show this because it's more Kitty goodness. To stop a car full of convicts from getting away, Kitty allows them to drive through her, then phases them out of the car. She then scares the crap out of them (using Dragon Fire) and forces them to quit on their own. Classic Kitty.

Meggan shows us her shapefiting power by matching Juggernaut punch for punch after Cap is felled.

Ultimately it's Rachel who takes him down by delivering a psychic attack.

The rest of the issue is focused on the team moving into the Lighthouse.

Kitty has her own odd encounter, running into a different version of herself. Like with N.C., she disappears and it's dismissed as her imagination. There is something going on here, but I still don't know what it is.

The team agrees to work better as a team moving forward!


What's Brian been up to privately?


As mentioned in my Special Edition coverage, Brian has a heavy drinking problem at the moment, trying to cope with the loss of his sister Betsy.

We are introduced to yet another character from Captain Britain's previous comics, Courtney Ross. Courtney is a former girlfriend and current "friend" of Brian's.

It's clear that Courtney feels strongly about Brian, but she hasn't made any romantic overtures yet.

Brian is still struggling with Betsy's death and enjoys talking to Courtney about this.

As more evidence that Brian has a lot of flaws, he is questioning whether or not he wants to continue being Captain Britain. He's complaining about how he was never really given a choice. (slightly more backstory available in my Captain Britain crash course).

We also see that Brian is questioning his relationship with Meggan. Due to her youthful ignorance, he can't talk to her like he can Courtney. He also poinst out that Meggan is overly devoted to him, which concerns him sometimes.

Here we see an example of Meggan being a little too quick to forgive Brian.

While moving into the Lighthouse, a fire started and Rachel decides to throw out all of Brian's whiskey. Brian is pissed, but called out by Rachel on his drinking problem. Meggan says that it hurts that he turns to the bottle instead of her when he's hurting.


Elf-eared connection?

This is the first little scene (from Issue # 1) that caught my attention. Meggan barges into the bathroom while N.C. is naked in the bath without any idea why it would be wrong to see him naked. N.C. mentions that it might be innocent, but her big strong boyfriend might see it differently. So at this point I'm thinking "Ok, this is a cute scene showing Meggan's innocence. No big deal."

So then we get another interesting panel. After being hurt by Brian, Nightcrawler is the one that comforts Meggan. He makes this comment about her being beautiful in both appearance and in heart. Ok....Ok he's probably just being nice. I mean, this is Issue # 3 and we were just introduced to Brian and Meggan. Would they really create drama here like this right off the bat? Nah.

Meggan walks up to N.C while he's working out in a bathing suit. She's being innocent and he comments about her "looking well." Interesting...

Oh snap. Nightcrawler is busting out his teleportation tickles. He used this on Rogue once and ended up getting punched. But he is clearly flirting now, no denying that...Are they really doing this?!

It seems that the tickle attack worked. Yup, yup, they are really doing this. Meggan shapeshifts into a blue elf and goes in to kiss him before they are interrupted.


Ok...I have a lot of thoughts on this. I don't love Brian so far as he's really only acted like a dick, so I don't really feel like he deserves Meggan. But this is a brand new team and Kurt is already putting himself in the middle of the couple that welcomed them into their house. Seems like a very poor choice.


Also, I'm getting a Cyclops vibe from Brian. He's the leader, but kind of a dick to those he "loves."

Alright, this panel almost makes it all ok. This is a very normal reaction. Kurt obviously has some feelings for Meggan, but realizes how dumb this was. He's disappointed in himself. Ok, I could see how this would happen. I guess I'm quite invested in this.


What's up with Widget?


I know NOTHING of Excalibur, but it doesn't take an expert to figure out that this Widget character is important, so let's follow him.

In the beginning of Issue # 1, we see that the Monkey guy from the Crazy Gang (he is too silly for me to bother looking up his name) is building something.

It looks as though whatever was built and tossed aside, is alive. I believe this thing is called Widget.

A young mutant boy named Colin is being chased.

It appears as though Widget transformed itself into a gateway where Colin escaped to. Where they went is another question.

More evidence that Widget is alive and saved this Colin boy.

Widget later teleports some guy to the bedroom of Opal Luna Sat-Yr9. It's implied that she then crosses into our world.


Excalibur # 4 - 5: Ugh, Arcade


Anyone who has been following my blogs know that I don't share the general love that is out there for the Villain Arcade. If you want to see all the twists and turns of Murderworld, you should pick up the comics. I'm going to zip right through it.

A silly, British group called the Crazy Gang has been hired by Arcade to kidnap Courtney Ross.

When Brian hears about this, he gets enraged and tries to fly off on his own to save her. While she may be innocent, Meggan picks up on his feelings for Courtney.

N.C. convinces Captain Britain that she should go as a team. Meanwhile, Meggan wonders what other secrets Brian has shared with Courtney. Brian is DEFINITELY not acting as the wise leader, will that actually be N.C.?

Brian punches one of the bad guys straight into Meggan. There's Nightcrawler on the side pointing out reasons why Brian is not treating Meggan the right way. The Crazy Gang uses a device to mind control each of the team-mates, other than Kitty.

Courtney goes through an Alice in Wonderland Murderworld challenge. Pretty routine Arcade stuff.

Kitty implements some code her and Doug (poor Dougie and poor Kitty) used to take over Arcade's system.

Of course, the team saves Courtney and defeats Arcade.

Alright, I'm going to be a bad narrator about this. I don't know much about the backstory here, but it appears as though Courtney's counterpart from another dimension is Opal Lun Sat-Yr9. She appears to be a villain?! I think this character is differently from Saturnyne, who we saw in the Special Edition and clearly appears to be a good character. Maybe another version of Courtney from a third universe. I could probably Google all this and explain it better, but since I want to learn naturally with my reading, this is the best we get right now.


It almost looks as though Courtney is killed here, but I find that hard to believe. We'll have to see. She's definitely replaced.

Brian admits openly (to Nightcrawler, could be a mistake) that he's not sure if he can handle being the center of Meggan's universe.

I think Brian is openly planning on cheating here. He's talking about not wanting to be the center of Meggan's life, and then he flies off to see Courtney with flowers in his hand.

So when Brian shows up, it's clearly the other Sat-Yr9 impersonating Courtney. She throws herself at him and he doesn't seem to be fighting it. I think it's implied that they sleep together.


Is that an ashen outline of a dead Courtney on the carpet!? Crap I never noticed that until right now (not even when I wrote the paragraph above). Lol, maybe the girl is truly dead. That sucks.




My Connections


For those of you following along with me, you'll know that I've been way too excited for my own good to get to Excalibur in my comic reading journey. I am actually going to do something interesting and do a write up BEFORE and AFTER I start reading to help compare my expectations vs. reality.


Before


One of the reasons I'm so excited to dive in to Excalibur is because of how new the stories will be to me. While X-Men is amazing and the stories are mostly new to me, I have a pretty good idea of where each character will end up and have a rough idea of the major plot points. Whereas I have NEVER read an Excalibur comic before so I don't have a clue what will happen in these pages. That's exciting! It's also written by Chris Claremont. While Claremont has his fleas, overall his work is outstanding and I know the quality will be high. The best way to preview this comic is by talking about my expectations for the individual characters.


I've already written about my knowledge of Captain Britain in my Captain Britain Crash Course post, but I'll recap a few points about him and Meggan. First, from what I understand this is the book that explores magic, other dimensions, and weird more than any other "X titles." I'm down with that. I also know a lot of comic enthusiasts who rave about Captain Britain, so I'm pumped to dive in and get to know them myself.


Kitty! If you've read any of my past blog posts, then you know I've become the world's biggest Kitty Pryde fan. She's barely been in any comics I've read for the past few months since recovering from her wounds in the Mutant Massacre. I'm really interested to see if she is still as compelling of a character with a different cast surrounding her. Will they still lean in to her youth? Will she still show those flashes of being a future leader? How will her genius be written? Can't wait to see.


Nightcrawler is the next guy to talk about. You may have also heard me talk about how I thought Nightcrawler was my favorite X-Character, until I actually started reading him and saw he was largely neglected. With him taking on a more prominent role in this title, will they do better with him? Will we learn more about his connection to Mystique? Will they continue the story beats of him being religious and/or a field medic? Let's find out.


And then there is Rachel. If you've read anything by me, you know that I can't stand her. Will she do better here? I'm just going to cross my fingers and hope that she's less whiny in this title.


After


Ok, so did the comic compare to my expectations!? Captain Britain is definitely the primary protagonist of this series, at least so far. At this point in the series he is distraught over the (believed) death of his twin sister Betsy (Psylocke). He is an interesting character and we get to meet a lot of peripheral characters from his past comics, but I think we'll need him to get past his drinking problem before we get a true measure of him as a character.


Kitty! I'm thrilled to announce that this is definitely the same Kitty I have grown to love. She's still the young, genius, whitty, braver heroine I've come to know and love. While Cap gets the most screentime, the other characters still get way more of a focus than individuals ever got in X-Men, so for Kitty that's a great thing.


Extra screentime for individual characters is just what the Dr. ordered for Nightcrawler as this may some of his characterization. I never realized how much he was overshadowed by Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops, and Kitty, but it's great seeing him stretch his legs (and tail) in this series.


Rachel isn't terribly annoying so far. She's still slightly annoying, but since I'm less annoyed than I was in X-Men, this is a large improvement. They are also leaning into her friendship with Kitty, which helps her a great deal. I can sign off on Rachel for now.


The last character to touch on is Meggan. I can see it now, Meggan is going to end up being my favorite non Kitty character of this series. I can't say that I love her at that level yet, but I have a feeling that's her trajectory. I love how they portray her as a powerful adult with the literacy and experience of a young child, obsessed with watching TV. There's also a funky thing going with Nightcrawler that I feel very invested in.



Character Beats


Captain Britain


Let's talk about Brian for a second. I'm about to go on a soapbox, so buckle up. Something is happening here that I HATE. Remember how Cyclops chose to leave Madelyn, but then she was kidnapped so the story was more like "Oh, Poor Cyclops, he wants to find his wife but she was kidnapped." But if she wasn't kidnapped, the narrative would have been very clearly "Cylcops ditched his wife and son for an old flame and took weeks before deciding to go back to her." I haven't forgotten! This is similar. The narrative now could be "This wasn't the real Courtney, Brian was seduced by a villainous doppleganger." But let's not forget what's happening here. Brian was at the bar talking smack about his girlfriend Meggan, then flew off with flowers to see another woman. He was about to cheat on Meggan with the real Courtney. I won't forget that, buddy!


In a 1991 Marvel Age interview, Alan Davis says:

"Although he’s an intellectual, Captain Britain’s very quick-tempered and slightly arrogant in his own knowledge.
Nightcrawler on the other hand, he’s equally intellectual, although its more hidden behind his bravado. At the same time his bravado supplies his swashbuckling nature that allows him to be a gentleman."

I recall that Brian Braddock is an intellectual in his British comic series, but he really isn't portrayed that way at the beginning of this Excalibur run. I've heard people really like this character, but I find myself going the other way here at the start.


Checkin' in on Kitty

While unpacking her things, Kitty comes across photos of both the X-Men and Doug. It's a reminder that she is still dealing with their deaths. Doug's death is real, but not the rest of the X-Men. I also like that Kitty keeps focusing on Doug and that we haven't forgotten that the two of them were close friends before he joined the New Mutants.

Kitty also brings a bunch of software to the Lighthouse and can continue being a hacker!


Rachel

There isn't a whole lot of Rachel solo scenes, but we do see her continuing to have nightmares or visions of her time with Mojo. I'll give her a pass since that was probably traumatic, but I'm really hoping she's not always whining!


Nightcrawler

Nothing huge, but I found it humorous that N.C. was doing backflips in his room and it was keeping Brian up while he was trying to drink and sleep in peace.


Meggan

Meggan is obsessed with watching TV. I think I love this character. Kind of ignorant in a fun way like Longshot.

We also see that Meggan's shapeshifting is quite handy. In addition to becoming as strong as Juggernaut earlier, she transforms herself into a wolf form to do some tracking too.


My Rating - 6/10


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