Issue(s): Excalibur #46, Excalibur #47, Excalibur #48, Excalibur #49, Excalibur #50
One of the subplots running through the previous issues was about a hairy barbarian named Kylun. This arc opens with him continuing the fight with the wizard Necrom. Kylun is able to defeat an alternate reality version of Excalibur, but his sorceress partner/girlfriend Sa'tneen is killed, and Necrom flees. Kylun gives chase, but when he passes through a door, he winds up in Excalibur's bathroom. Kylun assumes that Nightcrawler is an agent of Necrom (see References for a detailed reason why beyond the obvious) and they fight.
The odds are stacked in Kylun's favor. Kylun is an excellent swordsman and has magical blades. Nightcrawler isn't a terrible swordsman himself, but he's got a broken leg and is armed with a cane.
The good news is that Kylun's blades were enchanted by a wizard to prevent them from ever harming a good person.
Kylun is then surprised to hear that Nightcrawler speaks English, and he recognizes Widget.
It turns out that Kylun is really Colin, the kid that was being chased by Vixen in the second issue of Excalibur. We last saw him getting teleported away by Widget.
Kylun found himself on a Dungeons and Dragons world, and was raised by an exiled Queen, whose daughter was Sa'tneen. The exiles were fighting a war against Necrom. Nightcrawler realizes that the monster that Phoenix and he encountered (separately) was sent by Necrom, and he realizes that Necrom has been on Earth for over a month even though Kylun just arrived, because time passes differently in the other dimension.
Meanwhile, Rachel Summers and Meggan continue to search for Meggan's family. Instead they find a Neuri, from Alan Davis' Wolverine: Bloodlust graphic novel.
It turns out that Rachel and Meggan's quest was really more about Rachel, helping her heal and regain memories from her disjointed alternate future background.
Back at Excalibur's lighthouse, Kylun's sudden arrival is followed up by another, this one wearing a costume somewhat similar to what Lilandra wore in her first appearance in Uncanny X-Men #97.
And Cerise does indeed turn out to be Shi'ar-like, although that's not explicitly said yet...
...and Nightcrawler doesn't recognize her as Shi'ar.
Notice that the Train Dragon and Technet's Numbers have had babies.
Meanwhile, Captain Britain is still in Otherworld among his many alternate reality counterparts. He meets an older man that tells him that his father was remarkable and that he himself was "intended" to be a clumsy halfwit, by design of Roma, who was trying to keep Excalibur together.
In fact, the old man reveals that many events in the X-Men and Excalibur were part of a design by Roma to get Excalibur together and keep them together (see References). Captain Britain heads off to Roma's floating castle to confront her about this. Roma says that she's actually engaged in designs started by her father Merlin (or Merlyn) before he died. Captain Britain says that Merlin isn't dead, which Roma disagrees with. At this point we find out that Alan Davis has a bone to pick with Excalibur: The Possession (where Excalibur recently saw Merlin), and he runs through a string of reasons why the story made no sense.
Meanwhile, back at the Excalibur lighthouse, more alternate dimension people show up. As Nightcrawler says, this is getting silly.
The Technet members that have been living in Excalibur's lighthouse decide to go along with this alternate version of the mercenaries, getting around their banishment to Earth on the Tech-nicality (sorry) that they aren't Technet anymore.
Before they leave, the mercenaries' psychic says that there's a 98.73% chance that the Earth is going to be destroyed in the next 78 hours.
One member of Technet, Joyboy, can't be found when the others are departing, so they leave without him.
After they leave, Rachel and Meggan arrive, and Captain Britain shows up too. After introductions for Cerise and Kylun (note that we haven't learned Kylun's mutant power yet)...
...they decide to go find Kitty Pryde and Alistaire Stuart, who are in Ireland. Kylun wants to go after Necrom, but conveniently enough that's what Kitty and Alistaire will turn out to be investigating.
Also in Ireland is a monastery where a young boy named Feron is being raised to fight the "Anti-Phoenix".
Meanwhile, the rest of Excalibur arrive at the site where Kitty and Alistaire have located a strange chamber deep beneath the Earth, which is occupied by an individual that can be seen moving around.
Rachel is not using her Phoenix powers, because while they are not in use her memories can heal. But she uses her natural mutant telepathy to help Kitty navigate to the bottom. When they get there, Kitty turns old and dies.
But that's really an illusion created by the Anti-Phoenix. Rachel is able to resist the Anti-Phoenix's attack, in part thanks to having been steeled to this kind of attack thanks to a recent encounter with D'Spayre (more of Roma's plans; see References). So the Anti-Phoenix flies out of the chamber. It's met by the rest of Excalibur (i'm including Cerise and Kylun), who deal with animated stone creatures and the like. Feron and another "Order of the Phoenix" monk join up with Excalibur. Feron is annoyed to learn that Rachel possesses the Phoenix force. He says that she's not worthy of it; it was meant to go to him. The older monk tells Feron to behave himself. The Anti-Phoenix, meanwhile, has escaped, so Excalibur and company (including the monks) go back to the lighthouse to track him. On the way back, we learn what Kylun's mutant power is: the ability to reproduce sound effects.
When they get back to the lighthouse, they find that Widget has been building bodies for itself.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Phoenix joins up with Necrom.
Brigadier "Inky" Blott's federal government unit, which includes ESPers, Mediators (soldiers), and the super-hero Micromax are the first to encounter the combined Necrom/Phoenix. The encounter doesn't go well. The Mediators are drained of their lifeforce, the ESPers are mindlocked, and basically everyone is killed except Micromax, who manages to shrink away in time. He's found by Dai Thomas and his psychic, Miss Witherspoon, who senses that Necrom is on his way to attack Excalibur next.
Meanwhile, back at the lighthouse, it becomes clear that the barrier between our Earth and the many alternate dimensions is getting thinner, and we keep seeing glimpses of alternate realities.
Something weird happens to Captain Britain, too, turning him gigantic.
Necrom arrives, and tells Rachel that he'll spare her world if she releases the Phoenix Force. Rachel refuses to do so, even just to power herself up to fight Necrom. So Feron goes to fight Necrom, with Kylun following for protection. Meanwhile, Cerise says that she detects a temporal shield that is protecting Excalibur from the alternate realities. Cerise says that the field is being generated by Rachel. Rachel says that she never had that power even with the Phoenix Force, but Kitty Pryde notes that Rachel was able to use her powers to send her future self's consciousness back to her present day body (in Days of Future Past), and of course Rachel herself traveled back in time.
Cerise joins Feron and Kylun in the fight against Necrom, and Micromax joins in as well. Meanwhile, the others figure out that Captain Britain has gotten so large because he's absorbing the energy that powers all of the Captain Britain Corp. Shadowcat phases him, Meggan, Nightcrawler, and Rachel all into one body, and they go traveling the alternate dimension stream. Somehow, just flying around in the stream settles the alternate dimension problem (but not the problem of Necrom).
Meanwhile, Merlin shows up (alive) in Otherworld.
He explains to Roma and Saturnyne that he and the original Feron (ancestor of the current one) once studied at the feet of Necrom, who at the time was the Sorcerer Supreme of Merlin's race. Necrom detected an energy source and traveled to "Earth 616", called "the prime Earth", and communicated with the Phoenix. His goal was to compress all alternate realities into a single one, something that regular readers of this site know i wouldn't mind so much. But of course Necrom's goal was more sinister.
Feron stopped Nercron, but Necrom stole a portion of the Phoenix Force, creating the Anti-Phoenix. Feron created the Order of the Phoenix to prepare for Necrom's return, and Merlin formed the Captain Britain Corps to search for similar reasons. Merlin also faked his own death to hide from Necrom.
I have to admit i may not be getting all of this exactly.
The merged Excalibur members wind up on Otherworld, where they confront Necrom directly.
This time Rachel does release the Phoenix Force, even though it means giving up some of her memory.
Excalbur vs. Necrom:
It's really Phoenix vs. Necrom, and the battle takes them into space, near a planet that was once destroyed by the Phoenix. Necrom throws moons at her.
Before their battle destroys the entire universe, Rachel changes tactics and channels the Phoenix Force to him, counting on him not being able to really handle it.
Rachel falls to Earth in Jean Grey's original Phoenix costume (for what it's worth, much earlier it was said that Rachel couldn't fit into her red spikey costume while she wasn't using the Phoenix powers, because it had no zippers).
Then Roma and Merlin show up, and Merlin confirms that he's been manipulating the team.
Merlin's "private power source" derives from the fact that Excalibur's lighthouse was a point of alignment across all the multiple realities (which is why we kept seeing people pop up there and other strange things over the course of the series). So when Excalibur get angry to learn that Merlin has been manipulating them, Meggan drains the excess power from Captain Britain, and uses it to blast the lighthouse, which destroys it across all dimensions. This angers Merlin but Roma convinces him to not take action against them, and indeed we learn that Roma implanted the idea in Meggan to destroy the tower. But it was a "choice" that Roma gave Meggan; it's said that Roma (or Merlin) won't be manipulating them any more, and they will no longer be pawns.
This is a really fun epic, and it's clear that Alan Davis has put a lot of thought into it. There are connections to the earliest issues of this series and throughout, as well as to events in X-Men and Captain Britain's earlier comics. It definitely feels like something that's been well coordinated and not just slapped together. I don't normally love alternate dimension stuff - and that's still true - but the story this time is coherent (e.g. compared to Cross Time Caper), and the characterization and humor and of course great art make it fun along the way, and because of the nature of the story it does feel "important" to the group, and in fact makes sense of a lot of things that have been happening. It also explains and wraps up a lot of the random wackiness that has been going on in this series.
The double-sized issue #50 opens with a title page on thicker paper. The credits say, "based on an idea by Sven Larsen". I assume that credit refers to the illustration only and not the story.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 164,188. Single issue closest to filing date = 126,525.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: As i mentioned in the previous entry, the subplot with Kylun begins directly from last issue, but time passes differently in other dimensions (hence Colin McKay being able to grow up into Kylun, for example, or the fact that Necrom has been on Earth for months by the time Kylun arrives, even though Kylun was hot on his heels), so i'm allowing space between issues to reflect the time passage for Excalibur on Earth.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (7): show
Note that this story seems to imply Meggan is not really a mutant, in contrast to Captain Britain 9, where Gabriel identifies Meggan as a mutant.
Posted by: Michael | January 21, 2016 8:48 PM
Fantastic review! So good to see Alan Davis back on Excalibur.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | January 21, 2016 9:11 PM
No surprise about the sales on Excalibur. It had a revolving door of the worst writing and art of any X-men spin-off title for a long time. I'm glad they eventually brought Alan Davis back for another run.
In my opinion the title was no good again after Davis left the entire rest of its run. I don't even think the Warren Ellis material was anything special.
Posted by: Red Comet | January 21, 2016 9:12 PM
"It had a revolving door of the worst writing and art of any X-men spin-off title for a long time."
I never really connected with Excalibur beyond thinking it had nice art with Davis, but as far as X-Men spin-offs go, I think Awful Flight had the worst writing and art by a wide margin.
Posted by: Robert | January 21, 2016 9:21 PM
While Alan Davis was on Excalibur, it was one of my favorite titles of the day! Without him, it was a real chore to wade thru. After he wrapped up this run, I dropped it and never looked back.
Posted by: Bill | January 21, 2016 10:01 PM
this comic never did it for me even though I loved me some Nightcrawler I have to admit I just didn't "get it". I did like Phoenix when JrJr was drawing her in Uncanny X-Men but the few times I picked up this series I just couldn't figure out what the point was or what was going on. The same continuity issues that every era complains about lol
Posted by: Brimstone: Wrestler, Celebrity, Comics CEO | January 21, 2016 11:37 PM
Davis's solo Excalibur run is one of my favorites on any X-book ever, and this is the high point of that run. It's especially great considering that none of this was planned-- he was wrapping up Claremont danglers from the very first issue of the series, and he was doing it on the fly.
The only thing that makes it not perfect is the way he mucks with the Phoenix mythology. The Feron stuff works in the context of Excalibur, but really isn't a tonal match with what Claremont established about the Phoenix in X-Men. (And I think it has been entirely ignored by later writers.)
Posted by: Ben | January 22, 2016 1:20 AM
The "alternate version of the mercenaries" are the Special Executive.
Posted by: Tony Lewis | January 22, 2016 5:33 PM
I think Wardog should be tagged here, fnord.
Posted by: cullen | January 23, 2016 12:48 AM
I've added Wardog and a few other Special Executive members that have been given names (as opposed to named made up by the Appendix). I do think it's debatable whether they are really the same characters that appeared in the early Captain Britain stories or if they are more alternate reality version (like Kang and others that appear in this story) that Davis was putting in as Easter eggs. It's also worth noting that, according to the Appendix, if it is the same characters, they are time-traveling and if you click on their names they will be listed out of sequence (e.g. the Appendix has them appearing here before Daredevils #5). Which is a common potential problem for time travelers.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 23, 2016 2:20 PM
My... this story seems pretty impressive, admittedly. The way Davis connects the dots set both by him and other writers...
And the art! It's so smooth and sweet...
BTW. Was Cerise always intended to be Shi'ar? I think I've read that this was a later retcon...
Posted by: Piotr W | January 28, 2016 4:13 PM
I suspect she was not meant to be Shi'ar given the way she and Nightcrawler talk. But she sure looks it, so if it was a retcon, it's understandable.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 28, 2016 4:42 PM
This stretch sums up the strengths of Excalibur (almost entirely Davis), but also the marketing problem. I say marketing, because it's not a problem with the book, per se, but its image. Marvel did want you to think of it as an "X-book", and it just really wasn't. But, since it used three former X-Men, people (including me), really wanted it to be an X-book. But really what it is, is an extension of the all the Marvel UK stuff (which of course, most American readers were unfamiliar with, as it had never at that time been printed in the US). It's good stuff, if you know what to expect. But, for those of us who just wanted Kitty and Kurt (probably Rachel as well, but I suspect far more X-fans were like me and were mainly reading it for Kitty and Kurt) to be back in the X-books.
Posted by: Erik Beck | February 19, 2016 6:59 AM
It's maybe worth mentioning that in that final panel where they're claiming they won't be pawns anymore, they're shown walking across a floor of Braddock Manor where the floor is patterned like a chessboard, so the suggestion of the art is the exact opposite of the dialogue. Minor point, only mentioning it because if I'd read your review without reading the issue I'd come away with an impression contrary to what the issue's actually implying.
Also re: the Special Executive, I think the intention is that pretty much all their appearances are out of sequence, as they're originally presented as a future version of Technet, where the exact circumstances under which Wardog recruits Technet away from Gatecrasher are subject to manipulation through time-travel for the benefit of one group or the other. I think this was all explained in Captain Britain (Vol 2) #12, but your review that claims to cover that issue only mentions the Special Executive connection in passing. (It's the same one where Meggan steals the Incan gold that ends up buying Excalibur their lighthouse.)
Posted by: Greg T | October 6, 2016 3:24 AM
Oops, sorry to double comment, but the "tower that's the single constant in all realities" is so Stephen King's Dark Tower - and the third book of that series having come out only months prior to this issue - that it's an interesting coincidence to see it replicated here. Does anyone know if Davis has ever commented on this?
Posted by: Greg T | October 6, 2016 3:28 AM
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