Monday, October 14, 2013


Note: This collection includes three fill-in issues and an original graphic novel titled "Weird War III". None were written by Chris Claremont, so I did not read them as part of my marathon.

Chris Claremont's finale on EXCALIBUR is a lackluster three-parter titled "Girls' School From HECK" in which Courtney Ross (who Claremont may or may not remember is actually Sat-Yr-9 posing as Courtney) sends Kitty to the finishing school she (Courtney, not Sat-Yr-9 -- but who knows at this point?) attended as a teen.

Kitty makes a rival in Phoebe Huntsman, but the girls put aside their differences to become cheerleaders for England's first American football team and save the school from going bankrupt. Yes, you read that right -- Chris Claremont's graceful exit from EXCALIBUR was apparently re-tooled from a teen farce movie script he couldn't sell back in the eighties.

(To be fair, he may have intended the story to come across as an homage to those types of films, but it's played so straight that it doesn't really come across that way.)

Oh, there's a plot involving old-school X-Men villain Mesmero hypnotizing the rest of Excalibur as well, but it plays a pretty distant second fiddle to Kitty's antics at the school. In the end, of course, Claremont reunites Kitty with her teammates, putting all his toys back in their box for the next writer -- who, after several fill-ins, will turn out to be none other than Alan Davis himself!

I should note that art for "Girls' School From HECK" is provided by veteran penciler Ron Wagner, best known -- to me, at least -- for his work on G.I. JOE. Wagner is possibly somewhat past his prime here, but he does a competent job. Which is to say he's definitely no Alan Davis, but thankfully he's no Chris Wozniak, either.

So that's it. Claremont's start to EXCALIBUR was quite promising, but he sabotaged himself with "The Cross-Time Caper" and never quite recovered. Claremont has always been someone who writes to his artists' strengths, and Davis clearly had a ball drawing "Cross-Time", but that wasn't enough to salvage it. None of the worlds visited by Excalibur had me anxious or excited, even when beautifully rendered by Alan Davis. And when the fill-in artists came along, there was no saving the already boring and bloated storyline.

And speaking of fill-ins -- as Claremont's run progressed, the fill-in issues became more and more common. There was much going on behind the scenes at the time, with Claremont struggling to keep control of UNCANNY X-MEN as editorial pulled it out of his hands. So fill-ins are understandable. But they positively killed any momentum Claremont may have had in his favor (which, after "Cross-Time", was not much in the first place).

But fill-ins for the writer were not the only problem that plagued EXCALIBUR. Alan Davis has never been a speedy artist. Fill-ins were needed for him throughout the run (or the book should've been bi-monthly -- which probably would've been a better solution for all concerned except that I don't believe Marvel published any bi-monthlies at the time), but most of the artists chosen were either phoning it in (Marshall Rogers) or clearly amateurs (Chris Wozniak, Dennis Jensen). The only decent fill-in artists the series saw penciled one single issue each -- Rick Leonardi and Barry Windsor-Smith.

What went wrong with Chris Claremont's EXCALIBUR? He lost focus and momentum, he was paired with sub-par fill-in artists, and by the end it truly seemed his heart was not in it. Fortunately, few of these issues are present in Alan Davis's run as writer, as we shall soon see...

Next: Alan Davis! Again!


  1. Yeesh, you're not making me too excited to read this stuff for the first time for my blog. ;)

    Things like that 80s teen movie homage/parody/whatever sound like exactly the kind of thing that kept me from reading this title back in the day: I don't need my superheroes to be super serious all the time, but I need their world to be relatively grounded. Too much whimsy/outward farce just turns me off (the one exception I can think of offhand is Slott's She-Hulk, but I suppose that was less farcical and simply more willing to play with the fourth wall a bit).

  2. Maybe I'm just focusing on the negatives. There's some good character stuff in Claremont's EXCALIBUR, it's just marred by some poor plotting and sub-standard fill-in art.

    Agreed on Dan Slott's SHE-HULK, though I like John Byrne's better.