Monday, September 30, 2013


From Captain Britain's perspective, EXCALIBUR picks up with our hero deep in sorrow over the apparent death of his twin sister, Betsy, now known as Psylocke of the X-Men.  Brian Braddock has turned to the bottle for solace, and Meggan is unable to snap him out of his alcoholic funk.  Deciding she needs help to get through to Brian, Meggan travels to the Muir Island Research Centre in Scotland to enlist the aid of Kitty Pryde, who she apparently met behind the scenes during Cap's recent encounters with the X-Men.

Soon, Opal Luna Saturnyne sends the Technet to capture Rachel Summers -- Phoenix, who she views as a threat to all reality.  Kitty and her other former teammate, Nightcrawler, team up with Meggan and eventually Cap and Rachel, to best the Technet and a group of creatures called the Warwolves, sent by Mojo to capture Rachel for his own reasons.  In the aftermath of their team-up, Cap, Meggan, Nightcrawler, Kitty, and Rachel choose to honor the memories of their loved ones by banding together as a new super-group: Excalibur.

All of the above takes place in the EXCALIBUR: THE SWORD IS DRAWN graphic novel, by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis.  Like all Marvel original graphic novels from this time, the story has fantastic production values and outstanding color.  It's almost a let-down to move on to the regular EXCALIBUR ongoing series, with the standard flat colors of the era.

Further, Claremont has a decent handle on Captain Britain and Meggan, even though -- aside from those two annuals we touched upon last week -- he hasn't written the former in close to a decade, and he has never touched the latter.  He is clearly a fan of the Marvel U.K. material by Davis and his collaborators, and as we shall see, he draws heavily upon that continuity to inform his work on EXCALIBUR.  He does seem to have perhaps dumbed Meggan down a bit from her original appearances.  She was an illiterate television junkie back then, but never quite so naive as Claremont presents her here.

The artwork by Alan Davis and Paul Neary, meanwhile, has not missed a beat since Cap's solo series ended.  It may be a cliche to say this, but that doesn't make it any less true: Captain Britain is the character Alan Davis was born to draw.

In the first few issues of the ongoing series, we are reintroduced to Dai Thomas, still on good terms with Captain Britain, as well as Brian's college classmate, Courtney Ross, who is now an executive vice president at Fraser's Bank in London.  Lest we forget, both of these characters were originally created by Claremont in the 70s.  Courtney, now a blonde, reveals that she had dyed her platinum hair brown in college so as not to stick out, which will become an important tidbit later on.  We also meet Nigel Frobisher, a new character who works for Courtney at the bank, and who has an unhealthy crush on Rachel.
Clash of the titans.
Furthermore, Claremont also brings back the Vixen, a character we will recall Claremont name-dropped in the very earliest Captain Britain stories, but whose characterization and appearance were ultimately developed by Alans Davis and Moore.

Along the way, the newly-formed Excalibur has a rematch with the Warwolves, followed by a scuffle with the unstoppable Juggernaut.  As a Claremont comic from the 80s, the stories are especially dense, with several sub-plots circling the main action.  We learn that Courtney has feelings for Brian.  Brian himself nearly leaves the fledgling team when he is called out for his recent heavy drinking.  Nightcrawler and Meggan nearly share a kiss when she subconsciously shapeshifts to have features similar to his own.  A strange metal creature called Widget teleports a boy named Colin to some unknown destination, and then later sends a UFO hunter named Rupert to the dimension where Sat-Yr-9 is imprisoned.  The first of these incidents will be paid off some forty or so issues later, while the latter will be revisited much sooner.

These earliest adventures of Excalibur culminate when the Crazy Gang -- now working for Arcade -- kidnap Courtney.  Arcade uses her as bait for Captain Britain -- again -- this time on his own time rather than as a hired gun, to get revenge for that time Cap bested him previously (weird how he never went after Spider-Man again, despite multiple threats to do so).  Excalibur infiltrates Euro Murderworld to rescue Courtney, and our heroes even manage to incarcerate Arcade, which I believe had never happened before up to this point.

Afterward, Courtney returns home to prepare for a date with Brian.  Brian himself confides in Nightcrawler that he is unsure if Meggan is truly the one for him, then heads to Courtney's apartment.  This stuck out to me as an interesting development, because Cap is essentially cheating on his girlfriend here.  They aren't "on a break", at least not that we have been told.  Yes, Meggan nearly kissed Nightcrawler earlier, but while that was in the heat of the moment, Brian us premeditatively seeing another woman behind Meggan's back.  Not something you typically expect from a forthright superhero, but regardless of the skeeviness of it, this certainly serves to further humanize Cap.

However, as Courtney prepares for her date with Brian, Sat-Yr-9 teleports into her apartment and, in possibly one of the most shocking and saddening scenes Chris Claremont has ever written, disintegrates Courtney and immediately takes her place, just in time to seduce Brian when he walks in the front door.  It seems that until this very moment, Cap had never noticed that Courtney is our dimension's counterpart to Saturnyne, just as Sat-Yr-9 is in her own world.
Sat-Yr-9 seduces Brian right above Courtney's charred remains.

Next: Excalibur gets caught up in "Inferno" and then battles their Nazi Earth counterparts!


  1. Yikes! I had no idea Captain Britain went that far in terms of cheating on Meggan. As you say, that's a pretty big development in his character.

    Meggan travels to the Muir Island Research Centre in Scotland to enlist the aid of Kitty Pryde, who she apparently met behind the scenes during Cap's recent encounters with the X-Men.

    Presumably this would have been shortly after the '87 annual - I'm pretty sure the X-Men were on Muir Isle at one point in that story.

    The first of these incidents will be paid off some forty or so issues later

    By Alan Davis, right? Have you ever gotten any indication that Davis' reveal was at all informed by Claremont's original intentions for the character?

  2. Yeah, post '87 annual is my best guess as to when Kitty met Meggan, too. It just seems odd to me that in the issue Claremont acts like we should've known that they've met. But I guess not everything needs to happen on-panel.

    It is indeed Alan Davis who follows up on Colin's disappearance. I'm not sure that Claremont intended anything for him other than to be an introduction for Widget. According to Davis, he was not privy to Claremont's notes or plans when he took the series over, and he just brought things to the best conclusions he could come up with.