Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Note: EXCALIBUR CLASSIC volume 2 contains the 1989 EXCALIBUR SPECIAL EDITION comic, "Mojo Mayhem".  Even though it's written by Chris Claremont, I did not read that story as part of this marathon, due to its negligible contributions to the series' ongoing continuity.

The six issues in EXCALIBUR CLASSIC volume 2 comprise two main story arcs.  The first is EXCALIBUR's segment of the 1988 X-Men crossover, "Inferno".  With New York overrun by demons, Rachel senses that her baby brother Nathan is in danger and takes off to find him, and Excalibur pursues their teammate.  In New York, the demon infestation affects each member of the team in a different way.  Meggan is corrupted and becomes the Goblin Princess, with Captain Britain acting as her bodyguard/slave.  Kitty manages to free the two of them with the use of the Soulsword, a demonic blade which once belonged to her friend, Illyana.

The "Inferno" crossover gives us some potentially interesting character development, but overall it feels like a time-killer -- a case of the title participating in a crossover because it must, not because it has anything interesting to contribute.  This seems especially odd considering Rachel's connection to Nathan and Kitty's connection to Illyana, as both those characters are integral to the main crossover event in UNCANNY X-MEN, X-FACTOR, and NEW MUTANTS.  Doubly peculiar is that Chris Claremont, one of the masterminds behind "Inferno", wrote the EXCALIBUR segment and could easily have given the group a larger role in the proceedings if he had so chosen.

Of additional note regarding "Inferno" is that Cap's uniform is shredded beyond repair during the crossover.  According to Alan Davis, the costume was proving too difficult to color, owing to the muscle deliniation of Cap's brawny physique being confused with the lines of the suit.  I didn't notice any particularly glaring color mistakes on the costume for its brief period of use in EXCALIBUR, but I suppose if a well regarded veteran colorist like Glynis Oliver says she's having trouble with the outfit, then it's probably the truth.

As a result, Cap spends the next several issues without a proper costume.  Initially, he wears an old yellow and black X-Men uniform when Excalibur travels to the ruins of the X-Men's mansion following the Inferno.  It seems Cap's powers have been failing him since the team's arrival in America, and so he tests them in the Danger Room complex beneath the mansion's remains.

Elsewhere, while Excalibur has been in the United States, a train carrying Dr. Moira MacTaggart of the Muir Island Research Centre and her bodyguard Callisto, former leader of the mutant Morlocks, has vanished into a dimensional warp, to be replaced by a train from a parallel Nazi Earth (but not the neo-Nazi world Sat-Yr-9 hails from; this seems to be a world where the Third Reich won World War II).  Dai Thomas, investigating the swap, meets Dr. Alistaire Stuart of the Weird Happenings Organization -- "WHO" -- a group which has replaced the RCX for purposes of investigating unusual phenomena in Britain.  The leader of WHO is Alistaire's sister, Brigadier Alysande Stuart.

So Excalibur is called in to help straighten out the mess, and they commandeer the presumed-deceased X-Men's Blackbird jet to return to the U.K.  But the alternate MacTaggart's dimension has sent that world's version of Excalibur, called the Lightning Force, to rescue her.  This leads to two issues, illustrated by guest artist Marshall Rogers -- possibly best known for a definitive run on Batman in DETECTIVE COMICS back in the 70s -- in which Excalibur must battle their alternate selves.  Davis leaves us with a great visual gag featuring Cap in his original costume, which is now far too small for him, and Rogers runs with it for the following installment.

There are certain artists, and certain artistic teams, which can have one well-known run and then never look as good again.  The team of Rogers and inker Terry Austin is one of those cases.  The Rogers/Austin Batman is astounding work, bursting with atmosphere and excitement.  Nothing they ever did together afterward could live up to that -- not even their return engagements on Batman.  In the case of EXCALIBUR, the work looks painfully phoned in.  The layouts are pedestrian, the figures somewhat sloppy, and the lines scratchy.  There is no weight to the art -- though this is a complaint I've had about the majority of Austin's inking post 1985 or so. It's like he totally changed his style, and not at all for the better.

The story, at least, does a good job of setting up EXCALIBUR's first major epic storyline -- the "Cross-Time Caper", which begins in EXCALIBUR CLASSIC volume 3.  The final issue in this volume presents the return of our Moira and Callisto, as the parallel versions, along with the Lightning Squad, return to their home dimension.  Excalibur is exploring the dimension-hopping train after the trade, when they find the weird little creature called Widget -- which promptly teleports the train and all aboard into a different dimension.


Next: The Cross-Time Caper begins!


  1. The "Inferno" crossover gives us some potentially interesting character development, but overall it feels like a time-killer

    It definitely seems like Claremont used the Nathan/Illyana connections as little more than excuses to get the team involved, rather than using them to jumpstart a significant involvement in the storyline by Excalibur, which is what he should have done. A shame, and a wasted opportunity.

    It seems Cap's powers have been failing him since the team's arrival in America, and so he tests them in the Danger Room complex beneath the mansion's remains.

    Is this leading to the revelation that his powers weaken the longer he's away from England (or something like that), or had that already been established?

    1. I'm still not positive about the whole "Cap getting weaker" thing. I know that weakening while away from Britain has been listed as one of his official weaknesses for many years, but then so has Mr. Sinister's vulnerability to Cyclops's optic blasts, despite his explaining in a later appearance that it was a hoax.

      I don't believe I saw anything in either the Claremont or Davis EXCALIBUR issues to firmly clarify that Cap loses his powers away from the British Isles. In this case, I believe the eventual reason is simply that his costume amplified his natural power, and without it he's weaker. Something similar happens later in the Davis run, too.

      I could be mis-remembering, but I think that's what happened, anyway.