Thursday, February 5, 2009

EXCALIBUR #103 – November 1996

Bend Sinister Reprise
Credits: Warren Ellis (writer), Carlos Pacheco (penciler), Scott Koblish & Bob Wiacek (inkers), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Ariane Lenshoek & Graphic Colorworks (colors)

Summary: Kitty Pryde wakes up and discovers that Muir Island is gone, and her room is in the middle of a small village. Leaving her bedroom, she discovers an elderly, despondent Colossus. Nightcrawler finds her and reveals that an alternate version of Kitty just tried to kill him. They look out of the window and see hundreds of alternate versions of Kitty, Nightcrawler, and Colossus. Colossus smashes through the wall, defeating one of his doppelgangers. The trio walks around the town, trying to discern what’s happened. After Kitty discovers what makes one of her alternates different from her, the doppelganger disappears. The trio confronts their alternates and makes them vanish by revealing which aspect of their personality they represent. After all of the alternates are gone, Kitty, Colossus, and Nightcrawler are sent back home. Belasco tells his prisoner, Margali, that he’s been testing them in preparation for their future confrontation. Back on Muir Island, Peter Wisdom confesses to Kitty that he loves her.

Continuity Notes: Belasco boasts that he has the Soul Sword now that Margali is his captive. Issue #101's revelation from Captain Britain that Peter Wisdom has to tell Kitty he loves her in order to change the future is undermined by a one-line joke. Captain Britain says, “He fell for it” when Wisdom confesses his love. Whether or not everything Captain Britain told Wisdom was a lie in the last issue is unclear. I’m relatively certain that he no longer had any flashes of the future after issue #100.

Creative Differences: Wisdom’s clothes are scattered around Kitty’s bed, even though the narrative caption claims that he’s sleeping across the hall. There were rumors for years that Ellis wanted to make Kitty’s relationship with Wisdom more explicit, but the editors wouldn’t go for it.

Miscellaneous Note: According to the Statement of Ownership, average sales for the year were 160,838, with the most recent issue selling 166,510 copies.

Review: Warren Ellis’ run on the title concludes with this issue. It’s not as strong as most of his previous issues, but it’s still fun. Having the cast meet alternate versions of themselves is a nice idea for a one-shot story, and the ending manages to tie everything back to Ellis’ early issues of the title. Ellis has always been able to give the cast distinctive voices, so it’s disappointing that the three major characters all speak in similar, sarcastic speech patterns for the entire story. The method used for vanquishing the duplicates isn’t fleshed out very well, and it leads to such rushed resolutions as Colossus realizing that he doesn’t have to give in to violence and Nightcrawler finally laughing again. However, the mystery of the story is executed well, and the setup gives Carlos Pacheco several cool things to draw. Not only are previous alternate reality renditions from this series and the Age of Apocalypse revived, but Pacheco also creates dozens of new takes on the three former X-Men. They’re reinvented as drunks, S&M freaks, priests, amongst other designs. My favorite is Colossus as a 1980s Communist officer. Overall, it’s a light read, but it has its moments.


Jack said...

This was the beginning of the end for me for a long run of reading the X-Men line.

I started reading the X-Men books in 1975 or so, back when it was Claremont and Cockrum on the book. While there were breaks in buying them-I missed 1981, some of 1994, and post AoA 1995 and post-Onslaught 1996-I kept up with the books, even as the line grew to such a massive size and the crossovers took over. But I was really worn out by the constant dropped story lines, the lack of payoffs,the obvious editorial influence, that by late 1996 I regularly read one title from the X-books: Excalibur, solely for Warren Ellis' writing.

Well, Ellis left, and you'll shortly get to the godawful Ben Raab issues that followed. And it was then, at long last, that I finally began to lose hope. I summoned up everything I had for one last attempt to connect with the X-books in 1997, but a handful of issues after Zero Tolerance ended I gave up, and stopped paying attention.

The X-Books had become unreadable to me, and when I look back on the period from 1996 to 1998, this was the last X-related story I genuinely liked without reservation. I honestly don't know what happened from the end of Zero Tolerance to the arrival of Grant Morrison, other than Claremont coming back and apparently really sucking. That's how bad it got for me.

I will say this blog has reminded me I liked a lot more of the 90s than I remembered. But man, from here on out, I didn't like much.

Brendan said...

The colossus as commie design was my favorite too

Brendan said...

also it's amazing how many people just stopped reading x-men comics at this point. good to know i was also pretty much done with them after onslaught. I hated it at the time because i was always adverse to blatant marketing schemes and it was nothing but that. It is interesting how you mentioned that it was good for Marvel. It's funny how things happen like that sometime.

It's amazing, but not surprising that the Ellis run is regarded as the high water mark by a few fans in the x-continuity at this point and one of the reasons is that he actually finished storylines and didn't leave dangling plot elements. Most of the major continuity effecting changes were *positive*, corrections of dumb things done by Harras and Lobdell (Colossus, Captain Britain), tying up of dangling plot elements that weren't his design (I think the Ahab thing had closure since I was pretty convinced he'd become the bad guy that Rachel knew, as well as the dangling Soul Sword thing that the editors probably forgot about when they killed Ilyanna) and introduced a new character that wasn't overpowered and retconned into everyone's lives already. Honestly, even though perhaps the issues moved a little slowly this is a really neat, tidy run wrapped in a nice bow. Even if it's not nearly as good as his later work on Transmet and the Authority it's pretty amazing what a stunningly neat package his run is in an era where everything was a complete fucking mess.

I'm surprised that there's no reviews for the Pride and Wisdom 3 issue L.S. Ellis and Dodson did. I actually enjoyed the hell out of it and the only major problem I had was that it was good enough to at least have a longer story arc but was jammed into 3 issues.

ray swift said...

You missed one interesting creative difference: On the picture with the alternative Kitty, Kurt and Peter as priests, Kitty is holding a symbol which clearly was a cross originaly edited into some weird mix with a star of david added.
Apparently someone, who might be Ellis or the artist, must forgotten Kitty is Jew, and the editor noticed that, but they couldn't change the entire drawing so they left her with some imagined new religion. :)

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