Tuesday, January 29, 2008

EXCALIBUR #71 – November 1993

Crossing Swords
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Ken Lashley, Darick Robertson, & Matthew Ryan (pencilers), Smith/Elliott/Emberlin/Nelson (inkers), Oakley/Brosseau/Sharpe (letters), Joe Rosas (colorist)

Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Professor Xavier arrive at Muir Island, with a plan to use Kitty Pryde as bait to lure Colossus back to Earth. Xavier feels that Colossus suffered a severe head trauma after his fight with the X-Cutioner and requires surgery. Kitty reluctantly agrees and contacts Colossus, claiming that she wants to join the Acolytes. Colossus arrives on Muir Island, where he’s taken captive and Xavier performs the surgery. Cable teleports to Muir Island for revenge against the Acolytes after Magneto’s attack, but is stopped by Phoenix. The Acolytes arrive to take Colossus back and are easily defeated. Colossus chooses to go back to Avalon in order to teach the Acolytes that Magneto’s message was about more than violence. Excalibur decides to stay on Muir Island to protect the research facility from any further attacks.

Continuity Notes
Phoenix (Rachel Summers) feels a connection to Cable but doesn’t know why. Cable doesn’t understand it, either. The readers know they’re siblings, but it’s hard to figure out what the characters themselves know at this time. By this point, Cyclops thinks that Stryfe is his son, but the connection between Stryfe and Cable was still unknown. Even if Cable isn’t sure if Stryfe is his clone, twin brother, or himself from another timeline, he should have still figured out who his parents are at this point, but the stories are still vague.

The Acolytes are back in Avalon with no explanation after being shipped away in escape pods in X-Men #25. Colossus is shown bowing before Exodus, which doesn’t seem consistent with his behavior in that issue, either.

And now, Excalibur is dragged into the quagmire. The Fatal Attractions storyline is really over at this point, but I guess someone decided that Excalibur should start participating in the X-crossovers, so here we are. Everything about this issue seems like a rush job (how many comics have three artists, four inkers, and three letterers?), and at four dollars, it still feels like a rip-off. Lobdell tries to justify the crossover by using the existing connections between Excalibur’s members and the main X-characters, which is a good idea, but it’s not enough to keep the issue from feeling so unnecessary. I wonder if Marvel instantly rethought the decision to have Colossus join Magneto, because this issue is another backtrack. Immediately after joining Magneto, Colossus let the X-Men sneak into Avalon and stop him. Now, Xavier suddenly decides that Colossus was brain damaged when he defected in the first place. See, Colossus fans? He’s not a villain now; he was just a little crazy when he sided with Magneto. Colossus certainly didn’t appear to be brain damaged at all in the previous chapters of this storyline. He was undoubtedly pissed about the death of his family, but not crazy. It’s the type of retcon explanation you expect to see years after a controversial story is published, not a month later. At the end of the story, Colossus decides to stay with the Acolytes in order to teach them about what a nice guy Magneto could be. Is this the same Magneto who just crashed his kid sister’s funeral and sent an electromagnetic pulse that killed hundreds of people? This can’t possibly be reconciled with the story Marvel had published a month earlier. It’s as if Marvel wants Colossus to join Magneto, but doesn’t want to him be a villain. They want Magneto to be a powerful, bloodthirsty opponent, but they want to remind fans of his compassion and humanity. Which is it?

Bringing Excalibur even closer into the main X-titles, Cable makes a brief guest appearance. Having Cable meet his sister is an obvious way to tie all of the books together, but Excalibur was so far on the periphery at this point that it didn’t even occur to me at the time. Everyone made a big deal about the revelation that Cable was Nathan Summers, but his connection to Rachel Summers never seemed to come up. His place in this story doesn’t amount to anything, and it’s an obvious distraction to the main story. What’s worse, the pages he appears on are printed out of order in my copy, making this issue seem even more disjointed.

With this issue, the team moves to Muir Island, where it would stay for the rest of the book’s run. Nightcrawler, Kitty, and Phoenix talk about the team’s new direction: “cutting deep into the problems that fall between the cracks of the X-Men, X-Factor, and X-Force…”, “we’re hoping we can stop a problem before it becomes a disaster…instead of the crisis management favored by everyone else wearing an ‘X’ on their costume.” Basically, the title is going to be less wacky and just fight the same bad guys the other X-teams fight. Nightcrawler spelling out all of the other X-teams just emphasizes how superfluous this direction really is for Excalibur. It sounds like he’s outright saying that Excalibur will fight the castoffs from the main books. And stopping problems before they become major threats was supposed to be X-Force’s role, even if Excalibur claims to be doing this in a pacifist way (which never works in superhero comics, anyway). At any rate, Excalibur is now officially an X-book.

I’ve heard some people comment that sales on Excalibur actually went up after Alan Davis left, revealing the outright stupidity of the general audience. I don’t know if these issues of Excalibur actually sold better than the Davis run, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I was one of those people who didn’t buy the Davis run but got into Excalibur around this time. In fairness, I couldn’t have afforded another book a few months before this and don’t even remember seeing the second Davis run on the stands. By the time the Davis run was over, I was a thirteen year old with an increased allowance. Seeing Excalibur taking part in the X-crossovers and fighting established X-villains, my completist urges wouldn’t let me pass the book up. I thought the book was garbage until the Warren Ellis issues, but I faithfully purchased each issue during this awkward yearlong phase. The upcoming issues are comics I remember almost nothing about, so I have no idea what to expect when I go back over them.


Anonymous said...

There's no other way to say it ... this one is crap. It's a shame because some of the Fatal Attractions issues are actually quite good.

There's no getting around the fact that the crossover is done at this point. This whole affair seems tacked on and the art is disjointed throughout. The Cable and Rachel scenes feel like they should be important, but they are just a boring distraction.

For some reason, I've always had a problem with the X-Men's plan to trick Colossus and use Kitty as bait to do it.

Austin Gorton said...

I too am one of the guilty ones who jumped onboard Excalibur with this issue (for almost all the same reasons you did).

Oddly enough, I seem to recall really liking Excalibur from this point up until issue 100 or so, considering it at the time one of my favorites of all the X-books (especially once Ellis came on).

I remember being particularly fond of Pirate Nightcrawler (which I know is blasphemy in some parts). Haven't read those issues in years, though, so who knows how they've held up.

Anonymous said...

This is actually the issue where I jumped OFF of Excalibur, having been a big fan of the Davis run. I came back when Warren Ellis came on as writer, but to this day I've never read the rest of the interim Lobdell issues.

Regardless, what Lobdell did to Captain Britain was nigh-unforgivable ("Britannic"? REALLY? Ugh.).

Luke said...

By the time that "Fatal Attractions" hit with #71, the long, slow demise of everything that Claremont and (primarily) Davis had done on the title was already under way. Davis' last issue was #67, the finale of the "Days Of Futures Yet To Come" story which wrapped up the team's story and even revealed the identity of Widget, a mystery dating back to the first issue. By the first page of the next issue, plotted by Lobdell (and scripted by Dan Slott of all people!) Captain Britian is mysteriously lost, Meggan is catatonic, Kylun has gone back to his family, and Micromax has stayed in the US -- and by the end of the first new story, Cerise is gone as well, back to the Shi'ar. I also remember reading and interview with Lobdell in the Wizard X-Men Special where he bemoaned that Excalibur was just a book with some characters who used to be X-Men, and how they had plans to make it more connected to the core group. Which, evidently, meant to toss out everything that made the strip fun and unique, eliminate any character who was not an X-Man at one time, and reposition the title as "X-Men: Europe." A terrible move on pretty much all fronts, I ended up dropping this title right around the time the buildup for the Phalanx started, and I never looked back. Of course, this is why my Ellis run collection is so spotty.

And don't get me started on this issue itself. The brain damage on Collosus was inanely stupid in an era where stupid was the norm. The whole thing was a mish-mashed hodgepodge, and reading it now one cannot help but wonder what could have been done had Davis not left. At least, that's what I wonder.

Anonymous said...

Re: Colosuss & brain trauma:

The immediate retcon is often one of the worst. The description of the Colossus retcon makes me think of the retcon of the secret of Xorn that occurred only 3 issues after Morrison ended his run on New X-Men. If you are going to pitch a retcon at me, at least make it plausible and internally logical, folks!

Anonymous said...

"I’ve heard some people comment that sales on Excalibur actually went up after Alan Davis left, revealing the outright stupidity of the general audience."


The scenes with Kitty and Colossus I always thought were nice, though they probably would have had more impact had they been done by a better artist. However, after being mauled by Magneto just a few months ago (our time), how is Cable up and running and back in top fighting form in such a short time?

Gary said...

Sloppy retcon, and another shot against Cable's origin as Madelyne and Cylclops' son. Rachel and Cable have already met well before this, in the "Days of Future Present" storyline that ran through the X-Annuals a few years earlier. Though that could be swept under the rug by Future Franklin's meddling, I suppose. He was playing it straight with Rachel by the Uncanny annual, though. She should have picked it up, considering how close her mental ties with Nate were back in the day: remember Inferno? Kitty Pryde's nightgown does.

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