Monday, May 19, 2008

EXCALIBUR #83 – November 1994

Bend Sinister
Credits: Warren Ellis (writer), Terry Dodson & W. C. Carani (artists), Jon Babcock (letterer), Joe Rosas (colorist)

While visiting Cairo, Amanda Sefton discovers her mother, Margali Szardos, living on the streets. Margali explains that she is in a period of lowliness on the Winding Way, which is meant to teach magicians humility. She tells Amanda of a magician named Gravemoss, who is warping the Winding Way in order to extend his period of empowerment long enough to find the Soul Sword. In London, a sorceress senses low-level activity of the Soul Sword. Every time the sword is drawn, she feels incredible pain. She plans on using her magic broach to find the sword and make sure it’s never drawn again. On Muir Island, Kitty Pryde receives a shipment of clothes from Jubilee. As she walks back to her room with the boxes, she beings to act strangely. Meanwhile, Meggan has a violent reaction to the evil hanging over Muir Island. Kitty rummages through Moira’s belongings, taunting her for keeping her dead husband’s clothes. After assaulting Moira, Kitty pulls the Soul Sword from out of her stomach. Nightcrawler overhears the commotion and teleports, but is intercepted during the fraction of a second he spends in an adjacent dimension while teleporting. Inside that dimension, the magician Gravemoss possesses his body.

Scott Lobdell is given an “original idea by” blurb, but not a plotting credit for this issue, which makes me comfortable enough to call this the beginning of the Warren Ellis run. Ellis’ run is one of the few from this era that fandom in general still holds in high regard (if Marvel hasn’t put out an Excalibur Legends-Warren Ellis book yet, I’m sure they will soon enough). After a year’s worth of issues that range from mediocre to outright horrible, he’s certainly a welcome sight on this title. This is mostly a setup issue, giving cryptic introductions to a few new characters while briefly touching base with the regular cast. The idea that Kitty would inherit the Soul Sword from Illyana goes back to old New Mutants continuity, but there’s no explanation of any of that in this issue. Ellis paces the story slowly, without dumping too much exposition on the reader. There’s a dark mood to the entire story, but it’s appropriate given the Soul Sword’s past, so it doesn’t feel as if Ellis is unnaturally inserting his sensibilities into the title. The confrontation with Kitty and Moira is handled very well, making Moira feel more like a real character than she has in months. Terry Dodson’s art is also impressive, even though I didn’t care for it when I first saw this issue. Dodson’s smooth, curvy work didn’t fit into the standard look of the X-books at all at this time, and I didn’t understand why he started to show up on fill-ins during this era. At fourteen, I would’ve been happier with a Roger Cruz fill-in. Once again, it seems like the art I deemed too soft and dull has aged a lot better than the popular styles of the time.


Austin Gorton said...

I also remember not liking the Dodson's fill-in art around this time.

To this day, it still makes me chuckle when I think about how a lot of today's "big name, superstar" artists like the Dodsons and Bryan Hitch did nothing for me as a kid because they were filling in for a Jim Lee clone I preferred. Ah, the ignorance of youth...

I loved the Kitty/Ilyana/Soul Sword connection Ellis built on for this arc. I have to wonder if maybe that was Lobdell's credited idea, since it references a fairly minor continuity point that, looking back, I wouldn't expect Ellis to be all that familiar with.

I also really liked his notion of the Winding Way, certainly a very Ellisian idea.

Jank Styles said...

Didn't Muir Island just get blown up at the end of the Phalanx crossover?

Continuity.....who needs it?

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