Tuesday, March 11, 2008

EXCALIBUR #74 – February 1994


In the Name of Love
Credits: Richard Ashford (writer), Ian Churchill (penciler), Candelario/Smith/Elliott (inkers), Pat Brosseau (letterer), Garrahy/Matthys (colorists)


Summary
Captain Britain, lost in the timestream, contacts Phoenix for help. She pulls away from him, because he’s pulling her into the future as he’s going back into the past. Meggan continues to devolve into a bestial state, apparently due to her separation from Captain Britain. Phoenix knows that she could probably bring Captain Britain back to this timeline by trading places with him, but doesn’t want to give up everything she’s gained in this era. Rory Campbell senses her grief, and the two talk and become closer. Meggan transforms again, becoming stronger and more out of control. When she grabs Phoenix’s throat, Rory sedates her. Phoenix doesn’t believe that Meggan would have harmed her and snaps at Rory. Meanwhile, Mr. Sinister prepares to punish Siena Blaze for failing to capture Proteus’ DNA, but once he learns that she scratched Phoenix, he’s content to take a sample of her DNA from Blaze’s fingernails.


Continuity Notes
Rachel Summers’ power, as defined in her very first appearance, is the ability to send her consciousness through time. She gained telepathic and telekinetic skills later on, and then became the second Phoenix. Captain Britain is using her ability to send her consciousness through the timestream to contact her.


It’s implied that Rory Campbell will become Ahab in the future, a storyline that sticks around for a few years.


“Huh?” Moments
Excalibur’s version of the Danger Room, a “gift” from Moira McTaggert, is called the “Proteus Room”. Proteus is the name her deranged son took before he went on a killing spree and had to be killed by the X-Men. You’d think that Moira would never want to hear the word “Proteus” again.


Siena Blaze brags about scratching Phoenix, and Mr. Sinister collects the DNA from her fingernails. Blaze is wearing gloves throughout this entire scene (it’s not just a coloring mistake either, because she’s also not drawn with any fingernails).


Creative Differences
The Bullpen Bulletins description of this issue reads, “Meet the Russian version of the Sentinels!” I wonder if this issue was returnable due to its lack of Slavic robots.


Miscellaneous Notes
According to the Statement of Ownership, average sales for this year were 123,792 with the most recent issue at 100,785. When you consider the other X-books were selling between 400,000 to 700,000 at this time, it’s not surprising that Marvel wanted to go in a different direction.


Review
The last issue of Excalibur was almost unreadable, so this one is at least an improvement. Rachel’s given an ethical dilemma that’s handled fairly well, as opposed to last issue’s extremely poor fight with Siena Blaze. A lot of time is spent on building up a relationship between Rory Campbell and Rachel, which seems strange when you consider the fact that she’s being written out of the book in the next issue. It’s not hard to see where they’re going with this; Rachel falls in love with a man who will later become her slave master in the future. It’s the type of soap opera you really only get in the X-books, but a decent writer could’ve done something with it. However, with Rachel being written out of the title in the next issue, you have to wonder why they even bothered to set this up. Without Rachel as an emotional connection to the Days of Future Past, Rory’s struggle not to become Ahab also loses a lot of its weight, so his introduction into the book is already looking pointless. I can only assume that Rory was introduced into the title with the assumption that Rachel wasn’t leaving, and that writing her out of the book was perhaps a last minute decision. The fact that the Bullpen Bulletins had a description that didn’t match the contents of this issue at all is evidence that some last minute rethinking was going on.


The title continues to build bridges to the main X-books, starting with the cover. Mr. Sinister is only in three pages of this issue, in an unrelated subplot that I don’t think was ever resolved, but he gets the cover. Rachel and Nightcrawler spend a few pages reflecting on Scott and Jean’s wedding, with Nightcrawler’s scenes also reviving the mystery about his parents (soon to be resolved in a notorious issue of X-Men Unlimited). Ian Churchill provides the fill-in art, combining the house style of the X-books with a McFarlane influence. He drew a back-up in the X-Men annual a few months before this, so this might be his first full issue of a series. His characters look rubbery and awkward here, but I do remember warming up to his stuff as a teenager when he took over Cable. He briefly penciled Uncanny X-Men in 2001 during the Grant Morrison/Joe Casey relaunch. He seemed like an odd fit for Marvel's new direction and didn't last for very long. He does a lot of work for DC these days, fitting in with their desire to mimic the mid-90s Image look.

6 comments:

PaperbackReader said...

Man, I really miss the cross-time caper. I didn't read Excalibur until very late in its run, and I think I read the first 60-70 issues all over one weekend. No series before or since has given me an X-Family like the one that lived on Muir Island. They were more intertwined, and cared more about each other than any other X-team.

Scott Church said...

I remember loving this issue when it came out because I loved Sinister and anytime he was in anything, I had to have it.

I had gotten into Excalibur with issue 71 because of the crossover, my local shop didn't even normally carry Excalibur.

Yeah, the last few issues sucked and this one actually sucks, I remember seeing that with Blaze and the finger nails when it first came out and it didn't make sense to me.

Phoenix was my favorite character at the time, so it made me mad when she left the team in the next issue.

By the way, how can you tell if someone has re-lettered and issue, I know I've never noticed that, so how can you tell that?

From what I understand it happened all the time in the 90's.

Also, if you find that Spider-man blog, let me know.

Luke said...

This is an issue that when I read it originally, I thought had some potential. The Ray-Rory stuff seemed like it might be interesting, and that maybe Excalibur would be fighting a proto-Ahab in the present day, which seemed like a cool direction to go in. Of course, that never happened. I never liked the continued devolution of Meggan, but I figured that Ray would bring Cap Back, and we'd have the original team together once again. And once again, that never happened. And the removal of Rachel always seemed like a bad idea, and considering that it came no less than 4 issues after the "new direction" began, one can only come to the conclusion of some sort of editorial disagreement or what have you.

It was stories like this that soured me on the title and sent my screaming away from it, to the point where I never checked it out again -- which is why I have exactly one (1) Ellis issue in my collection.

G. Kendall said...

That Spider-Man blog can be found here:
http://ericteall.blogspot.com/

It's not hard to notice the re-lettered balloons once you start looking. Just look for the ones with handwriting that doesn't match the rest of the balloons. Often, this dialogue is clarifying plot points or offering some type of exposition. Sometimes the new dialogue don't even match up to what's going on in the art. Sometimes entirely new balloons are added, and they're usually in a odd shape because they've had to be crammed in.

Scott Church said...

Interesting, I'll check out the Spider-Man blog.

I'll have to look harder for these word changes, do they happen often these days? I noticed a recent book where the full last page was lettered with different sized balloons and words, I wonder if they were required to re-do it, I think it was a recent Dark Horse Star Wars book - the one with Cade Skywalker in the future.

Peter David has said that all the re-lettering is one reason he left X-Factor and that Marvel would re-do full books, I'd love to see the original ideas and what was intended.

G. Kendall said...

Now that the books are lettered with computers and not by hand, it's impossible to notice the lettering changes. However, I seem to recall an issue of X-Factor in the '90s that was lettered with a computer, but had hand-lettered word balloon corrections. It looked awful.

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