Credits: Keith Giffen (writer), Bryan Hitch (penciler), Paul Neary w/Bryan Hitch & Robin Riggs (inkers), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Ariane Lenshoek & Malibu (colors), based on a story by John Acrudi
Summary: Even after viewing Doug Ramsey’s corpse, Kitty Pryde remains convinced that Douglock is Doug. They travel to a pizzeria the New Mutants used to frequent, where Kitty is stunned to learn that Douglock doesn’t like Doug’s favorite pizza. Meanwhile, the Mutant Liberation Front continues their assault on Muir Island. Moira and Nightcrawler try to close the vault doors that guard the Xavier Protocols, but are unsuccessful. When Nightcrawler teleports away to fight the MLF, Moira shuts down the forcefield that’s keeping the villains outside. Nightcrawler is forced to abandon the fight when the MLF use Meggan and Captain Britain as hostages. As the MLF approach the Xavier Protocols unit, the lack of security makes them suspicious. They throw the unconscious bodies of Meggan and Captain Britain in front of the unit as test subjects. Moira reactivates the forcefield, now that the entire team is inside its range. Moonstar, looking for a way to botch the MLF’s mission, declares that Excalibur now has the advantage and orders the team to teleport away. Elsewhere, Kitty visits Doug Ramsey’s home. When she sees that Doug’s parents have turned his bedroom into a den, she realizes that he really is gone. She returns to Doug’s grave to say goodbye, finally accepting the truth.
Continuity Notes: This issue raises the question of why Douglock takes Doug Ramsey’s form, but doesn’t give an answer. I don’t recall the initial Phalanx storyline explicitly spelling this out, but I’m fairly certain it ties into the early appearances of the Phalanx, which had them mimicking the forms of deceased associates of the X-Men (like Archangel’s dead girlfriend, Candy Southern). Douglock was their version of Doug Ramsey, yet he managed to break free of his programming in his earliest appearances in this title.
I Love the ‘90s: The letters page in this issue solicits responses in the form of email, which is the first time I’ve seen that happen in an issue I’ve reviewed. They don’t actually give an email address, though, they ask people to submit letters through the “Marvel: Online” site (without telling anyone how to actually access the site).
Review: The filler issues continue, as Keith Giffen is brought in to finish last issue’s story. It is an improvement over last issue’s script, as Giffen manages to give the characters personalities and write a few sharp lines. It’s a little too jokey in a few places, but it’s definitely preferable to the generic, dull script of the previous issue. I’m not aware of the behind-the-scenes circumstances that lead to Giffen finishing off another writer’s story, but he actually seems to be enjoying himself. When an emotional Kitty accuses Douglock of planting the body in Doug’s grave, Giffen has Douglock check off all of the reasons why her allegation is ridiculous. Rather than dwelling on it, Kitty acknowledges that she acted like a jerk and the characters move on. Kitty’s portrayal in this story is a tricky thing to pull off, since discovering Doug’s body is the most definitive confirmation of his death you’re likely to find, yet she still has to stay in denial until the end of the issue. Giffen manages to make Kitty appear more desperate than truly delusional, and uses the story to make the broader point that Kitty has a hard time letting go of the past (she’s shocked to learn that an employee at the pizzeria is gone, even though she hasn’t visited in over a year).
There are some plot points that bother me, such as the two most powerful members of the team getting easily knocked unconscious by the MLF, the MLF totally forgetting about last issue’s plans to steal Moira’s Legacy Virus research, and the nonsensical scene that has Moira dramatically ripping out the forcefield’s wiring, yet being able to just turn it back on a few pages later. The issue has its flaws, but it’s an enjoyable read, and it’s much better than I remembered it being. This turned out to be my final issue of Excalibur, as my local newsstand vendors dramatically reduced the number of comics they ordered. I visited the comic shop in a nearby town every month or so, but was so disenfranchised with the direction of most of the X-books, I made no effort to search the back issue bins for any of the titles I had been regularly buying.