Thursday, June 19, 2008

EXCALIBUR #86 – February 1995

Back To Life
Credits: Warren Ellis (writer), Ken Lashley (penciler), Tom Wegrzyn (inker), Jon Babcock (letterer), Joe Rosas (colorist)

After killing everyone in a secret military base in Thailand, Peter Wisdom decides to quit British Intelligence. Meanwhile, Britanic has a vision of Wisdom in Genosha getting shot by “biting” bullets. Moira MacTaggert enters, distressed that Britanic has turned her hovercraft into a high-tech hypersonic jet. Government agents, using the frequency once used by the Weird Happenings Organization, land on Muir Island. They represent Black Air, a division of British Intelligence that deals with paranormal activity. Britanic is shocked to see that Peter Wisdom is a member, believing that his visions might be coming true. Black Air informs Excalibur that the Genoshan economy has collapsed after the Mutates were released from slavery. Fighting has broken out again, and humans are using special ammunition to kill the Mutates. The government believes that the ammunition originated in Britain, but doesn’t have proof. Excalibur is pressured into going to Genosha with Wisdom to collect evidence. Douglock asks Rory Campbell if he’s going with the team, but Rory fears that any attacks by mutants could lead to him becoming Ahab. Nightcrawler confronts Moira about her Legacy Virus infection, but she wants him to concentrate on Genosha. The team takes Britanic’s new plane, the Midnight Runner, to Genosha. The plane’s cameras broadcast the horrific conditions on the ground. Suddenly, the plane is attacked by rockets, as reality begins to crystallize and shatter.

Continuity Notes
This is the first Marvel appearance of Peter Wisdom, who apparently showed up in some of Ellis’ small press work. He’s not revealed to be a mutant yet and doesn’t really play a large role in this issue.

The Black Air agents claim that they’ve replaced the Weird Happenings Organization. WHO made quite a few appearances in the earlier issues of this series, but they’re dismissed pretty casually here. I know that Ellis mentioned online at this time that he purposefully avoided reading the post-Marvel UK material, so it’s possible that he downplayed continuity he was unfamiliar with and just created new characters to fill the role.

Like a lot of the X-writers this month, Ellis also has one issue to fill before the crossover begins. Rather than wasting time, however, he continues the ongoing character arcs and begins a new storyline. Previously, it looked as if Ellis was going to dismiss the horrific Britanic storyline without any explanation, but he tries to get some material out of it in this issue. Having Brian Braddock reclaim his personality and put the Britanic persona behind him is actually used as a genuine character moment, which at least offers some payoff to the absurd storyline. Reviving Brian’s physics background and genius-level intellect and contrasting it against the buffoonish Britanic persona works pretty well. The only remotely interesting aspect of the Britanic concept was his flashes of the future, which Ellis sensibly salvages while correcting the rest of the mistake. Rory Campbell’s anxiety about turning into Ahab is another storyline Ellis inherited, probably the only ongoing thread that fit in with Ellis’ darker writing style, so it’s not surprising that he’s able to get some material out of it. Ellis even seems to have a decent take on Douglock, using him as a naïve voice for some rather cynical observations. The rest of the issue is mainly setup for the Genoshan storyline. The structure of the AoA crossover didn’t require most of the books to move their casts to a specific place, so Ellis uses the freedom to start a new story that will be completed once the crossover is over. The exposition is thankfully brief, and the new characters introduced to get the story moving have actual personalities and feel like more than just plot devices. Even though the Genoshan storyline will be interrupted for four issues, this is at least a strong start.


Chris said...

I re-read Ellis' EXCALIBUR run about a month ago, and it still holds up as one of my favorite runs on an X-title. I shudder whenever other writers (like Chris Claremont) try to write Pete Wisdom, because he really was Ellis' mouth-piece for this team.

And three cheers for the return of Brian Braddock (stupid, stupid Britannic storyline...)!

Luke said...

The more of your Ellis Excal posts I read, the more interesting his run sounds. I still don't think I am going to start seeking it out any time soon, just because of current tastes and such, but it is good to know that the title didn't exclusively suck after Davis left.

Teebore said...

Huh. I always knew Wisdom was one of Ellis's pet characters, but I never knew he had previously existed in some of Ellis's small press work. That's kinda cool.

mudança said...

really very good!!

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