Issue(s): Excalibur #37, Excalibur #38, Excalibur #39
Art on these issues is by Mark Badger. Badger previous did some mystically themed stories (Gargoyle, Dr. Strange), where his stylized abstract figures served him well. This story mostly takes place in Magik's Limbo, so you'd think his art was a good fit here as well, but this story also features the super-heroics of both Excalibur and the West Coast Avengers, and they can only be said to look atrocious. In a series associated with Alan Davis' clean bright pencils, Badger's art feels like a symbol of how far the book has fallen. That's not entirely fair to Badger, but between that and the unrelenting flippancy of early Scott Lobdell's writing (this is his first multi-part story), this arc is pretty dire.
It really is Dr. Doom that has come calling for Kitty Pryde.
Kitty is willing to meet him; he is the guy that saved her life, after all. And that's also why, when he tells her a story about how Magik's Limbo has a rare substance called Promethium, which has properties that can solve the world's energy problems, and he wants to provide that for free, she believes him. He gives his word, and despite him being a bad guy, Dr. Doom's word should be bond.
But it isn't, in this story. Oh, he does keep his word in a very lawyerly way (even then it's a bit of a stretch), but he does not act honorably here. That's another objection to add to these issues.
For now, he lets Rachel Summers scan his mind, where she gets a sense of his history but detects no evil.
So Kitty goes out and pulls the Soulsword, and transports herself and Doom to Limbo.
The rest of Excalibur follow, using Widget to open a dimensional portal. Alistaire Stuart, who also happened to be around, remains behind (Captain Britain tells him to feed the lighthouse while they're away, and Alistaire's not sure if he's serious). And we see another entity that is not too happy about Excalibur's actions.
She turns out to be the Lady of the Lake, and she goes to Iron Man, who happens to be with the West Coast Avengers, for help.
Meanwhile, Dr. Doom turns on Kitty Pryde pretty much immediately.
Notice that the armor that Kitty had when she was holding the sword disappears when Doom takes it, but he doesn't get any (extra) armor.
Doom also tells Kitty that the dimension isn't even really Limbo, which he says isn't timeless like true Limbo. And regarding his promise to give Prometheum energy to the world for free, he now says that it will be free up until the moment when all of Earth becomes dependent on Latveria and then they'll have to swear allegiance to him.
It turns out that when Dr. Doom let Phoenix read his mind earlier, he was also setting up to attack her with an "encephalo-hologram" that disables her now.
A more positive - if completely arbitrary - development is that when Nightcrawler tries teleporting inside Dr. Doom's personal forcefield, it cures the teleportation problems that have been plaguing him since Mutant Massacre.
But Doom is able to lock on to Nightcrawler's electro-magnetic signature and use it to control where he teleports for now, using that to knock out Meggan. So that leaves Captain Britain to fight Doom. The fight is played for comedy.
Doom ends the fight by summoning the demons of [the dimension formerly known as Limbo]. Since he now controls the Soulsword, the demons' appearance is subject to his whims, and he makes them look like the super-heroes of Earth.
So that's obviously a situation ripe for a Misunderstanding Fight once the West Coast Avengers show up, but amazingly it doesn't happen that way (note that based on this, Iron Man should have the ability to disable telepaths once he gets them to read his mind).
Oh wait, forgot about Captain Britain.
But that's short lived. There's something about five locations or whatever, so the groups split up into pairs, one person from each group, and run around doing whatever they have to do. One nice bit is Nightcrawler and Scarlet Witch bonding over speaking German.
Although it goes on a bit long.
And by the way, i use the word doppelganger all the time (between D&D and comic books, you'd be surprised how often it comes up) but don't expect me to speak any German.
Note that Nightcrawler doesn't acknowledge being Excalibur's team leader (and yeah, i really just wanted to post this Punisher scan).
There is one demon who doesn't look like a Marvel super-hero, and who has real pain that Meggan's empathy can detect.
That turns out to be the long forgotten Darkoth, who has somehow wound up here.
Darkoth's super-power is the ability to have light purple dialogue on black word balloons, making it impossible for anyone to make out what he is saying.
Darkoth has been posing as a regular Limbo demon, but he now attacks Dr. Doom. Darkoth's fight with Doom winds up destroying Doom's armor.
It turns out that Doom had been suppressing the armor that was due to him as wielder of the Soulsword. Now that his regular suit of armor has been destroyed, he allows it to manifest. And it looks a lot like the armor that he will have in Fantastic Four #350.
Darkoth is still miserable about the fact that Doom turned him into a demon (way back when) and Doom tells him it's time for him to stop whining and sulking. Doom manages to destroy the "heart" of this dimension, which we are now calling Otherplace. And then he leaves, expecting Otherplace to blow up.
That's it for Doom, who, it sure seems, heads back to Latveria with his new armor to take it back from Kristoff.
But that's not the end of the story. S'ym suddenly shows up, reaching for the Soulsword, and Darkoth stops him.
Darkoth swallows S'ym, planning to kill himself and end Otherplace and S'ym with it.
But Meggan convinces Darkoth to give up his grief and not kill himself. Gaining (emotional) control of himself turns Otherplace into a clean environment.
Darkoth sends the others back (Lockheed was injured so they can't stay long) but he chooses to remain behind, despite Meggan asking him to go with them.
Well, i certainly never expected this arc to end with us getting closure on Darkoth. For that, at least, Scott Lobdell should get some credit from continuity fans, although i don't know how satisfying it would have been to Excalibur fans not steeped in 1970s Fantastic Four lore. In general Lobdell is doing thankless fix-it work, curing Nightcrawler, closing off Limbo and getting rid of the Soulsword, and maybe even saying "No no, Dr. Doom wasn't really a Doombot for all of his appearances". And he's using his stand-up comedian background to bring some pep to it all. I find the humor unbearable but it is admittedly not unusual for this book. And, as i said above, Mark Badger's artwork isn't so much bad as it's in the wrong place. Still, this is not a good Dr. Doom appearance and it's really not a good story at all. No idea what the West Coast Avengers are doing here, and i can't really tell you exactly what was going on with the heart of "Otherplace" or whether Doom accomplished what he wanted to or not.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The fact that Quicksilver is with the West Coast Avengers suggests that this takes place before the line-up change in Avengers West Coast #69, or at least before he leaves in #70. Not that he couldn't return for a barbecue if he wanted to. Lockheed will be in surgery at the start of next issue, although that leads into a story that ends with a scene showing the new (government affiliated) version of X-Factor, so maybe some time passes before Excalibur realizes they need to bring in the surgeons. I've placed this before Fantastic Four #350 for Dr. Doom.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): show
The idea that whoever wield the Soulsword has power over S'ym makes no sense. Yes, it's been previously shown that Limbo's environment reflects its ruler's wishes. But if whoever holds the sword has power over S'ym, then why did Illyana have trouble controlling him? If the idea is that her will wasn't strong enough, then why didn't she just give the sword to someone else temporarily? Why didn't Kitty just order S'ym to stop the Inferno when she got the sword in Excalibur 7?
Posted by: Michael | September 17, 2015 8:36 PM
I liked these issues because it teamed up Excalibur with the West Coast Avengers, my two favorite teams as I read these in real time. The art, while I wasn't crazy about it, didn't bother me because of most of the story taking place in Limbo/Otherplace. Also, knowing Alan Davis was coming back lent excitement to the title (for me, at least).
Posted by: Bill | September 17, 2015 10:37 PM
I suspect that the X-Factor picture in issue 41 may need to be taken thematically. Because there's also a call to the mansion at the end, answered by Cable. Awfully hard to square him still being there after X-Factor 70.
Posted by: Matt | September 18, 2015 1:25 AM
But at the same time, it makes no sense for Cable to say that the X-Men are available in issue 41 unless issue 41 takes place after the Muir Island Saga. It's explicitly stated in X-Men 273 that Betsy and Brian haven't seen each other since X-Men 227. And there's no point between X-Men 273 and the end of the Muir Island Saga where it would make sense for the X-Men to be available. We'll just have to assume that Cable went back to the mansion at some point.
Posted by: Michael | September 18, 2015 7:48 AM
When Scarlet Witch answers to Nightcrawler in German, every word except "mein" is misspelled... So I guess she isn't as fluent in German as she thinks she is. :)
Posted by: Tuomas | September 18, 2015 9:17 AM
@Michael: why not between UXM 272 and 273? The X-Men, the New Mutants and the original X-Factor are all at the mansion in 273. Or even during 273, late in the issue. I mean, maybe there's no good break, but it seems awfully weird to have Cable there after the Muir Island Saga.
Posted by: Matt | September 18, 2015 4:12 PM
Yeah, the art in this is appalling. Especially bad since Davis had been on the book and was about to come back. In that opening splash, is Meggan mimicking Brian's legs? Or what is the deal with that?
Posted by: Erik Beck | December 15, 2015 11:50 AM
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