Monday, October 7, 2013


Issue number 12 of EXCALIBUR begins a storyline called "The Cross-Time Caper" -- labelled on the cover as part 1 of 9. "Cross-Time Caper" ends in issue #24. Even with one inventory issue along the way (#20), that still means this supposed 9-part storyline actually clocks in at twelve parts! Chris Claremont is known for "writing to the moment" and abandoning his established plans when an apparently better idea comes to him. Presumably, that's what happened here to lengthen "Cross-Time".

Unfortunately, the result is a story which long overstays its welcome. Never mind that sending the heroes of a relatively new series off on an extended trains-dimensional romp, away from their supporting cast and home environs, before they've even hit a dozen issues, is probably not the best-conceived idea -- making that story about two times longer than it probably should've been only exacerbates the problem.

I'll try to sum "Cross-Time" up as succinctly as I can: it begins with Excalibur -- plus Alistaire Stuart -- transported from parallel Earth to parallel Earth, where along the way they rescue princesses, meet "comical" versions of our favorite Marvel characters, liberate enslaved citizens, and generally engage in all manner of adventures that do little to keep a reader invested in the story.

Along the way, Captain Britain winds up with a new uniform, which had previously belonged to a deceased member of the Captain Britain Corps from one of the world's visited by the team -- a plot point which will become important later on when Alan Davis writes the title solo. And speaking of Davis -- if nothing else, "Cross-Time" is a great excuse for him to stretch his artistic muscles. He draws all the bizarre universes Claremont requests of him, and the results look fantastic. He particularly sexes up some of these parallel Earths, which is always a welcome development from his pencil.

Meanwhile, as Excalibur is dimension-hopping, back on our Earth, Sat-Yr-9 (as Courtney Ross) hires the Technet to rescue Cap's brother, Jamie, from Doctor Crocodile, as last seen in Cap's solo U.K. series. In a shining example of Claremont's inability to leave well enough alone -- Jamie's well-deserved fate was fine as it had been -- Jamie is revealed out of the blue to have mutant reality-warping powers, though he believes he is living a dream, and doesn't know he's actually manipulating anything. Courtney's aide, Nigel Frobisher, takes Jamie back to England following his liberation.

This leads into a particularly painful issue, in which Excalibur finds themselves on an Earth inspired by what was, at the time, known as "Japanimation," but which we now call anime. Unfortunately, the story takes its cues from the most obvious and tired cliches of the form -- though admittedly perhaps those "jokes" were not so overplayed in 1989 -- and the art by fill-in penciler Dennis Jensen, attempting to mimic the "Speed Racer" look, does the lackluster story no favors.

On top of that, Claremont's penchant for writing "how he feels" is on full display here as well. He had apparently recently discovered the anime series DIRTY PAIR, because the story features a painful "tribute" to the main characters from that show.

Cap's new, easy to to color uniform 
(X-Men Series II trading card, 1993)
Thankfully, the next issue is a vast improvement. Claremont runs with Jamie's mutant powers, and even though the idea of making him a mutant is ill-conceived (previously the Braddocks had a single mutant child; now they have two -- and the one who isn't a mutant just happens to be a mystically empowered superhero), he does produce an interesting story in which Jamie manipulates Excalibur from our Earth while they're stuck on another. Jamie is eventually thwarted by Kitty, who winds up in her home dimension while the rest of her friends continue their odyssey.

Of special note in this issue is the fantastic artwork by guest penciler Rick Leonardi, a frequent Claremont collaborator -- though somehow never on a regular series basis -- and the stunning colors by Brad Vancata, a name I'm unfamiliar with, but who I wish had colored a lot more comics in the eighties. Their work makes the issue look tremendous, and Leonardi's art is a much better substitute for Alan Davis than was Jensen's.

There is one more issue in this volume of EXCALIBUR CLASSIC, but I did not read it as it is a fill-in inventory issue not written by Chris Claremont.


Next: "The Cross-Time Caper" comes mercifully to an end!


  1. Ah, that X-Men trading card brings me back. I'm going to have to do posts on those at some point. They were a huge part of my early comic book fandom.

    I had no idea the Cross Time Caper sprawled on for so long. It's one thing to change plans midstream, and quite another to print "Part 1 of 9" on the cover, then just add on three more issues. Do the later issues feature "Part 10 of 9" or "Part 10 of 12", or is the number just dropped?

    1. No, the "Part X of X" is quietly dropped a few issues into the storyline.