Characters Appearing: Alistaire Stuart, Alysande Stuart, Andrea Strucker, Andreas Strucker, Captain Britain, Colonel Alexei Vazhin, Dai Thomas, Debra Levin, Lockheed, Meggan, Mesmero, Nigel Frobisher, Nightcrawler, Opal Luna Sat-yr^9, Rachel Summers, Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde)
Issue(s): Excalibur #32, Excalibur #33, Excalibur #34
That starts right away with a weird dream sequence, a full five pages worth, that as far as i can tell has nothing to do with the rest of the story. It features an alternate reality, gender-switched Excalibur fighting Nazis.
This turns out to be a dream of Margaret Thatcher, who is getting psychological "treatment" from a disguised Mesmero.
Mesmero himself winds up getting sucked into the B-plot that will merge with the Kitty Pryde story at the end. He's forced into service by Fenris...
...and will be launching an attack on the rest of Excalibur.
But the main story is about Kitty at the finishing school that she agreed to go to in Excalibur #24 when Courtney Ross (really Opal Luna Sat-yr^9) was trying to get her to move on after Excalibur was lost during the Cross Time Caper. She's having trouble fitting in at the school, although she is bonding (in more ways than one?) with the headmistress.
Typical Claremont scripting at this point, totally ignoring the art. The headmistress is weirdly kissing Kitty, and all Kitty can think about is mutant persecution.
For whatever reason, Kitty's powers don't work on school grounds. But she's still a Claremontian ninja badass supergenius. She keeps getting picked on by the "cool girls" and gets into trouble when she fights back until she figures out other ways to do it.
Another area where we see Claremont furthering subplots is with Vixen/Nigel Forbisher (Jamie Braddock changed Nigel's body into Vixen's in Excalibur #27). Vixen/Nigel seems to be able to change change back and forth between bodies. We see Vixen engaged in a crime (with a gang member wearing a costume that goes back to the earliest mentions of Vixen, circa Captain Britain #8). Excalibur shows up and gives chase.
But Vixen turns into Nigel, giving Excalibur the slip.
And Claremont even brings in Colonel Vazhin and Debra Levin to talk about the Shadow King.
But the main plots are Kitty's school stuff and the Mesmero/Fenris stuff. Mesmero mesmerizes Excalibur, hoping to use them to fight against Fenris' control. One interesting thing to note is that Alysande Stuart is immune to Mesmero's powers, even though her brother Alistaire isn't.
Meanwhile, Kitty and the mean girls make friends when they hear that their school is having financial problems, and they get into a cockamamie Bring It On scenario where they decide to compete as cheerleaders for prize money.
But that gets interrupted when the fighting between Fenris and Mesmero/Excalibur attracts attention and Kitty leaves the competition to help out.
It's actually Lockheed that takes care of Mesmero.
And Kitty's girl school cheerleading friends help defeat Fenris, and yes i wrote that.
The school is saved thanks to an arrangement set up by "Courtney Ross", but Kitty decides to go home with Excalibur.
Kitty being forced to deal with normal human stuff is potentially interesting, and there's a decent scene where the other girls learn that she's a mutant and don't think it's a big deal. But the story mostly feels like filler and devolves into teenagers showing their underwear in cheerleader outfits. The ease with which Fenris is defeated here undermines their menace in recent X-Men issues (and seems completely divorced from that).
I do wonder about Colonel Vazhin's appearance. A footnote just points us to an upcoming X-Men story and therefore makes the scene feel like a non-sequitur. But that footnote could have been added after it was determined that Claremont wasn't coming back and so Excalibur wasn't going to be part of the Mutant War / Muir Island Saga storyline.
Overall it's kind of a shame that we don't get to see Claremont on this book after Cross-Time Caper and Kitty rejoining the team. This book felt like it had a lot of potential early on but the Cross-Time Caper completely derailed it, in my opinion, and Claremont is leaving right when the book had a chance to get back on track. Instead we've got a relatively short run by Scott Lobdell coming up before Alan Davis returns as writer/artist.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Kitty Pryde returns to Excalibur in this issue, for the first time since the Cross Time Caper. That has implications for various Excalibur appearances elsewhere, including Marvel Comics Presents, graphic novels, and guest appearances (e.g. Thor #427-429).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
I wonder if Alysande Stuart's resistance to Mesmero's powers is a callback to her namesake Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart, who on DOCTOR WHO was one of the few earthmen with the willpower to resist the hypnotic powers of the Doctor's archnemesis the Master (something in play as recently as last season's finale, come to think of it...)
Posted by: Gary Himes | July 21, 2015 5:35 PM
Excalibur was a comic that started out fun and showed lots of promise, then was quickly derailed and spent what felt like FOREVER floundering about aimlessly until Alan Davis came back and it became a lot of fun. I think it goes to show how not all comics need to survive without the original creative team (McFarlane's "Spider-Man" also comes to mind).
Posted by: Bill | July 21, 2015 6:35 PM
Debra Levin is a reference to the character in Larry Hama's Nth Man. Hence the references to the "writer of GI Joe" in this story.
Posted by: Michael | July 21, 2015 7:52 PM
Lesbian kisses, mind control and cheerleader butt shors.
Late period Claremont really just wanted to write creepy erotica.
Posted by: Bob | July 21, 2015 8:58 PM
In Comics Interview #98, Claremont said this story "just didn't work" as he didn't gel with Ron Wagner(he thought he could work well with him due to Wagner's work on "Nth Man"). He also clarified that he left Excalibur because the book "wasn't fun anymore" and he just had no synergy with any post-Alan Davis artist.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 11, 2015 9:46 PM
Why was Kitty rendered powerless while at St. Searle's?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | July 11, 2016 9:37 AM
St. Searle's is a reference to the British 'St Trinian's' film series, based on cartoons by Ronald Searle, about a girl's school full of hellcats whom the police, hardened male criminals and even the army all go in fear of. The ending of this seems less left-field to those familiar with them as similar things happen frequently there.
Posted by: AJ | January 24, 2017 10:16 PM
The stuff about Kitty winning acceptance from the other girls reminds me of the school stories that were a staple of British girls' comics.
The title Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is after a play by Tennessee Williams.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | January 24, 2018 7:35 AM
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