Wednesday, September 25, 2013


I tend to write my posts here assuming some pre-existing comic book knowledge on the part of the reader, but at the same time I don't want to confuse anybody.  So, as I did last week with TRANSFORMERS, I'll be tossing out little nuggets like this one before starting a new review series (or in this case continuing one that has moved into the pages of a new title).  If you're already an Excalibur Expert, please feel free to skip the below, though I would advise reading at least the final paragraph.

Art by Alan Davis and Paul Neary

In 1986, Marvel published the very first X-franchise crossover, "Mutant Massacre". The story shook up the X-Men's status quo considerably. One major change to come out of the event was the crippling of two X-mainstays, Kitty Pryde (a.k.a. Shadowcat) and Nightcrawler. Both characters were sidelined for the better part of a year, until the debut of a new team, Excalibur, in their own 1987 special, which saw the pair team up with Captain Britain, Meggan, and another former X-Man, Rachel Summers -- known at the time as Phoenix.

The EXCALIBUR special led to an ongoing series by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis, which ran for several years. Claremont and/or Davis, sometimes together and sometimes solo, combined to guide the series for roughly half its run.

But Captain Britain had not been dormant in the couple years between the end of his U.K. series and the premiere of EXCALIBUR. He popped up in 1986's NEW MUTANTS annual when his sister, Betsy, was kidnapped by the cross-dimensional media mogul, Mojo. Written by Claremont and illustrated by Davis (with Marvel U.K. stalwart Paul Neary on inks), the story saw Betsy's vision restored via a set of bionic eyes provided by Mojo.

Following the NEW MUTANTS annual, Betsy remained at Xavier's school to get a better handle on her psychic powers and, in an issue of UNCANNY X-MEN guest-penciled by Davis, she officially joined the X-Men under the code name Psylocke. Betsy has been intertwined so closely with the X-Men ever since, that her relationship to Captain Britain has become a minor footnote in her character's history.

A year after his appearance in NEW MUTANTS, Captain Britain again dropped in on Xavier's school, this time with Meggan, to visit Betsy in 1987's UNCANNY X-MEN annual. In this largely forgettable story, again by Claremont and Davis, Cap plays a laughably minor role alongside the X-Men to battle a demon named Horde. Cap's appearance in this tale is so superfluous that one wonders if he was only included because Davis was drawing it.

Betsy as Psylocke
Shortly before the debut of EXCALIBUR, Marvel ran another X-Men crossover, the "Fall of the Mutants". This storyline culminated with the internationally televised "deaths" of the X-Men, leading Nightcrawler, Kitty, Cap, and Meggan down a road of mourning which would soon unite them, along with Phoenix, as Excalibur.

I should note than I will break down my EXCALIBUR reviews by trade paperback volume, meaning there will be a total of eight: EXCALIBUR CLASSIC volumes 1 through 5, and EXCALIBUR VISIONARIES: ALAN DAVIS 1 through 3. Additionally, I will cover only issues by Claremont and/or Davis. There were several fill-ins in EXCALIBUR during its early years, and I did not read them for my recent marathon. Lastly, as this is a Captain Britain retrospective, I will cover mainly the story aspects relating to Cap in particular, while painting the rest of the action with very broad strokes.

Now, on with the series!

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