Thursday, January 21, 2010

EXCALIBUR #106 - #107, February - March 1997


Previously…in Excalibur: Warren Ellis left and there were a couple of fill-ins.

A Portrait of the Artist

Credits: Ben Raab (writer), Randy Green, Casey Jones, Rob Haynes, & Aaron Lopresti (pencilers), Martin/Haynes/Ketcham/Pinnock/Simmons/Lopresti/Jones (inkers), Araine Lenshoek & Malibu (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Colossus receives a message from the Acolytes, who want him to join Exodus in rebuilding Avalon. He travels with Excalibur to the X-Men’s former Australian base, where the Acolytes are located. After intentionally setting off all of the security landmines, Colossus is locked in a room with Scanner and Unuscione. Colossus tries to convince them not to join Exodus. His words almost sway Scanner, but Unuscione forces her to leave. As Excalibur flies home, Peter Wisdom tries to comfort Colossus.

I Love the ‘90s: Colossus is listening to Prodigy’s “Firestarter” while painting a portrait of Meggan in the opening scene.

Review: Ben Raab’s run begins with this issue, and if I’m to believe the conventional wisdom of the internet, we’re in for a rough ride. Raab was a Marvel editor who began picking up freelance work during this time, and I believe this was his first regular assignment. To Raab’s credit, he has found work with DC and several independent publishers, so clearly he’s been able to convince more than just a few people at Marvel that he’s able to write. I can’t find anything particularly wrong with his work in this issue, aside from a few questionable uses of Moira and Peter Wisdom’s accents. In his first issue, Raab picks up on the idea that Colossus is supposed to be redeeming himself with Excalibur. There’s a nice scene that has him walking through a minefield in order to clear a path for the team, which uses his powers effectively and helps to establish his state of mind. Connecting Colossus’ shame over betraying the X-Men and Wisdom’s conflicted feelings about his black ops work is another interesting angle that could be explored. The Excalibur tradition of multiple artists per issue continues, as four pencilers and numerous inkers are brought in. Green, Jones, and Haynes all meld together fairly well, but Lopresti’s style is closer to Alan Davis or Terry Dodson, which creates an awkward transition at the end.

Focus

Credits: Ben Raab (writer), Salvador Larroca (penciler), Scott Koblish (inker), Kevin Tinsley & GCW (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Following Charles Xavier’s example, Nightcrawler reveals his plans to use Cerebro to locate British mutants. Meanwhile, Moira MacTaggert and Douglock research the Legacy Virus, as Brian Braddock and Meggan visit London. The public’s backlash against the Onslaught disaster, and the satanic attack on London, leads Braddock to renounce his role as Captain Britain. While shopping for an engagement ring for Meggan, Spiral appears, wearing the mark of the Crimson Dawn. She warns Braddock of a threat to his family, the Dragons of the Crimson Dawn.

Continuity Notes: It’s stated repeatedly in this issue that only telepaths can use Cerebro, even though non-telepaths have been shown using it in the past (various stories over the years have contradicted one another on this). My No-Prize explanation for this has always been that telepaths are just better at using it. Even though there are no telepaths on the team, Nightcrawler doesn’t explain how exactly he plans on using Cerebro.

Review: Raab was supposed to begin his run with Salvador Larroca but filled in an issue early, so this is the true beginning of his stint. I don’t know if titling this issue “Focus” was a joke or not, since it mainly consists of unconnected subplots and setups for future storylines. Raab, being an editor on the X-line, is understandably familiar with the status quo of the books, so we get references to Onslaught, the demonic attack in issue #100, Rory Campbell getting a prosthetic leg, and Psylocke’s makeover by the Crimson Dawn. He also revives a few forgotten storylines, such as Moira’s curiosity over X-Man’s genetic similarity to Cable, the hint that Cable could somehow cure the Legacy Virus (Douglock was also supposed to be a key for the cure, so I’m sure it’s not a coincidence he’s used in this scene), and Captain Britain and Meggan’s engagement. This is mostly setup, so it’s hard to offer much judgment, but Raab is able to make a fairly smooth transition into the book. I do have to point out that his British accents are often horrendous, and his characterization of Brian Braddock seems odd. Would he really renounce his role as Captain Britain, which he only regained a few weeks earlier, because of some snotty comments overheard on the street? It comes out of nowhere and doesn’t seem to fit the character at all.

1 comment:

Matt said...

I really had no problem with Ben Raab. He wrote the Archangel/Psylocke Crimson Dawn miniseries, as well as a Hellfire Club mini, and a Union Jack mini -- all of which I enjoyed (and Union Jack was drawn by John Cassaday, so you can't go wrong there!).

I did eventually drop his Excalibur, though, when it became clear that Braddock had once again officially retired as Captain Britain. I've never understood why most Excalibur writers feel a burning need do that! Cap was always my favorite member of the group!