Wednesday, October 9, 2013

CAPTAIN BRITAIN PART FOURTEEN -
EXCALIBUR CLASSIC, VOL. 4

"The Cross-Time Caper" continues as Excalibur -- sans Kitty, who was transported back to our Earth during the previous issue's Jamie Braddock story -- travels to an Earth ruled by longtime X-Men foe the Shadow King, in a 2-parter illustrated in sub-standard fashion by Chris Wozniak. Despite his amateurish style, Wozniak somehow becomes the series' regular guest penciler from this point.

Fortunately, Alan Davis soon returns for a 2-parter in which Illyana Rasputin -- Magik of the New Mutants -- corrupted by her demonic powers, rules the Earth (sensing a pattern?). Davis's visuals are as spectacular as ever, but as usual, this installment of "Cross-Time" feels like a waste of paper. Claremont's stories have become less and less inspired with every chapter of "Cross-Time", but mercifully, the story is drawing to a close.

The next issue is, sadly, Alan Davis's finale -- for now -- but he gets to revisit some of the classic a captain Britain canon on his way out. Our heroes arrive at the Omniversal Hub, where Opal Luna Saturnyne still wants to imprison Phoenix (recall the very first EXCALIBUR issue). But eventually Saturnyne returns our heroes home, to their original Earth, just in time to find Galactus about to eat the planet (again).

I suppose every Marvel writer wants to write a Galactus story, but Claremont probably should have left that particular urge unscratched. Then again, maybe Alan Davis could have made it work. But he's gone, and the Galactus issue is drawn again by Chris Wozniak, whose pedestrian art cannot support the metaphysical epic Claremont has written, in which Phoenix drives Galactus from our world.

While all this has gone on, Kitty, also on our Earth, has become the ward of Sat-Yr-9, who she and the world believe to be Courtney Ross. It seems at times as if Claremont has forgotten that Courtney is even supposed to be Sat-Yr-9, as he writes her apparently just as he would write Courtney. What his endgame for this switch was may never be known. He revisited Sat-Yr-9-as-Courtney when he returned to the X-Men in 2004, and wrote her much the same then, as well.

The final Claremont-penned issue in this volume features Jamie Braddock again, warping Excalibur into yet another alternate dimension, this time the world of THE NTH MAN, a recently (at the time) cancelled series which had been written by G.I.  JOE mastermind, Larry Hama. This story serves little purpose beyond Claremont apparently expressing affection for a series he had enjoyed.

The art in the Nth Man issue, however, is astounding. Penciled by Barry Windsor-Smith and inked by Bill Sienkiewicz, both collaborators from Claremont's past, this is one of the few times I've enjoyed either man's work. Windsor-Smith's art, usually inked by himself, is always too light and "stringy" for me, and Sienkiewicz's work is usually too abstract. But for a time I found Sienkiewicz to be a great inker, and his inks here really help to make Windsor-Smith's pencils palatable for me. It's just too bad their talents are wasted on this throw-away story.

Note: There are two fill-in issues in this collection. Neither is written by Chris Claremont, so I did not read them -- which is definitely for the best, since I could barely slog through the ones I did read.

TO BE CONTINUED...

Next: Chris Claremont's run concludes, and I provide my overall thoughts on the Claremont EXCALIBUR era.

2 comments:

  1. He revisited Sat-Yr-9-as-Courtney when he returned to the X-Men in 2004, and wrote her much the same then, as well.

    That was when he made her a member of a revamped Inner Circle, right?

    Was the Shadow King-ruled universe the same universe from which hailed the Dark X-Men that popped up at the beginning of Claremont's New Excalibur series a few years ago? I read the first few issues of that but didn't stick with it.

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    1. Yes, that's the Courtney appearance I'm thinking of. It's possible I'm misremebering (it has been almost ten years, now) -- but I seem to recall there was no mention of Courtney being Sat-Yr-9 in those stories. She was just an especially devious Courtney.

      I don't believe the two Shadow King universes are the same. In the NEW EXCALIBUR issues, the original five X-Men from that world showed up as well, while in the world shown during this storyline, I believe some of them are dead.

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