Issue(s): Excalibur #4, Excalibur #5
The story opens with Courtney Ross looking at an old photo of her kissing Captain Britain at a charity event. Not sure if it's an actual reference.
She is then attacked by the Crazy Gang...
...and manages to do surprisingly well against them.
However, when she escapes into a waiting police car, it turns out to be occupied by Arcade and his assistant, Miss Locke.
Excalibur are notified of the kidnapping thanks to an ATM machine that Arcade has rigged. Previously, Captain Britain was concerned about Rachel Summers' style of dress, so she and Kitty are out clothes shopping.
But when they go to pay, they find that the money from the ATM isn't legal tender.
While they're heading back to the lighthouse to tell Captain Britain, Nightcrawler and Meggan continue to develop a relationship under Brian's nose.
Notice that Nightcrawler performs multiple teleports in quick succession. Meggan does say that it's "hard for you", but he's clearly recovered quite a bit from his lingering injuries circa the Mutant Massacre.
Claremont continues to developing the fault lines in the Meggan/Brian relationship, a bit less subtly than i expect from him, while the others decipher the message on the bank notes.
Arcade's latest Murder World is set up in a factory that used to produce steel, but now "the Genoshans do it cheaper" so Arcade was able to take over the abandoned building. While he's waiting for Excalibur to arrive, he dresses Courtney up in a bunny suit and forces her to perform a comedy act for (i assume?) robotic monsters.
And she's apparently a natural.
When Excalibur do get there, they're hit with a device by the idiot savant Tweedledope (he's the one that repaired Widget in issue #1, remember) that causes them to switch bodies.
While Tweedledope (in Captain Britain's body) is attacking Phoenix, she at that moment feels a psychic call from help from her alternate universe brother, the son of Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor.
In the confusion, her intended body swap partner, the Crazy Gang's Executioner robot, is destroyed, but she winds up possessed by its intelligence anyway, and she dresses up in its costume.
The only Excalibur member to avoid the body swap is Kitty Pryde ("Hrmmmpff!" Ok, Kitty and Lockheed are the only members to avoid the body swaps), who had snuck off to infiltrate Arcade's control area. That also means the Red Queen remains in her regular body.
Issue #4 is setting all of that up. Issue #5 is a more traditional Murder World romp, albeit with the characters not in their proper bodies. I'm generally not a big Arcade fan, but he's a good villain to fit the tone of this series.
I guess another variation is the fact that Shadowcat does manage to short-circuit and hack the control panel and leave Lockheed guarding it...
...and she phases Arcade into the deathtrap area as well. So it's an out of control Murder World that everyone's facing.
The various weirdness on display gives Claremont the opportunity maybe to plug a band that he knows called Cat's Laughing?
Eventually Kitty gets Courtney Ross to use Tweedledope's device to fix the body swapping problem (Kitty can't hold it due to the fact that her regular state nowadays is phased). The two also develop a mutual admiration.
Arcade is taken away by police lieutenant Dai Thomas, but his assistants Miss Locke and Mr. Chambers managed to escape after Locke charmed Lockheed.
When Courtney gets home, however, she's zapped by Sat-yr^9 (holding the helmet of the UFO hunter from issue #3).
The rest aren't aware of that, of course, so, after Nightcrawler makes a futile attempt at telling Captain Britain to stop toying with Meggan's emotions, Brian heads over to Courtney's place and is seduced by the identical looking Sat-yr^9.
Quirky, silly fun with nice art from Alan Davis, but also with some real character development going on, especially in the relationship(s) for Meggan.
Also in these issues, we see Moira and Callisto on a train...
...that goes through a tunnel bordered by the robotic Widget...
...and we see that the tunnel doesn't come out the other side.
Callisto is now apparently Moira's self-appointed bodyguard. Loyalty for the help Moira gave to the Morlocks during the Massacre, i guess with the idea that the Marauders might attack? Note also that Moira has noted an anomaly in the mediscans of Excalibur; she's talking about Rachel Summers, but we don't find out anything more about that here.
By the way, i always got a kick out of the cover to issue #4, although it's somewhat troubling to see the distinction between "heroic" males and "erotic" females so formalized there. Yes, it's satirical, but the joke is that it's a dead-in description of what's happening in the story.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: I've placed this after X-Factor #35 and Uncanny X-Men #241 thanks to the footnote given for the cry for help from Nathan Summers. Those issues actually don't take place concurrently and we'll see further complication about the timing of these issues vs. Inferno when we get to the next Excalibur arc (actually, as Michael notes, the issue is that Courtney says it's been a "few days" since her Arcade experience in the end scene where she's killed by Sat-yr^9. It's possible the footnotes are merely promotional and not describing a specific incident so much as a general call for help from Nathan, or alternatively i wonder if the fact that timeless Limbo is overlapping with Earth is affecting the flow of time.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): showArcade, Callisto, Captain Britain, Courtney Ross, Dai Thomas, Executioner (616 Crazy Gang), Jester (616 Crazy Gang), Knave (616 Crazy Gang), Lockheed, Meggan, Miss Locke, Moira MacTaggert, Mr. Chambers, Nightcrawler, Opal Luna Sat-yr^9, Rachel Summers, Red Queen (616 Crazy Gang), Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde), Tweedledope (616 Crazy Gang), Widget
Courtney Ross is not only zapped but killed here. Not sure if that's worth a historical significance point or not.
Posted by: Uncanny Michael | August 25, 2014 3:04 PM
I've added a point and mentioned that. Thanks. She's had barely any appearances in US comics but probably her death will seem more significant after i cover the early Captain Britain issues during my next back issue add.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 25, 2014 3:53 PM
Man, I just love the Alan Davis art! Excalibur and the West Coast Avengers (especially after John Byrne took it over) were my favorite titles at the time.
Posted by: Bill | August 25, 2014 6:04 PM
Body-swapping is another of Claremont's, er, tropes, along with mind-control, and we'll see a lot more of it in the course of Excalibur. (Power-swapping is a variant.). Note that the actual body-swaps brought about be Tweedle's device are foreshadowed by Kitty and Rachel swapping clothes-personas. Come to think of it, Meggan reflects this theme as well, with her automatic adjustment to the body type of her attraction.
I'd almost recommend a fan fix for Rachel: Mojo and Spiral must have done to her what they'll soon do to Psylocke, because she's grown a lot more, er, pneumatic since her return from the Mojoverse and she was never a sexy dresser before her disappearance from the X-Men. Far from it, actually.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | August 25, 2014 7:42 PM
As a kid, I had no clue what the Crazy Gang were because Claremont couldn't be bothered to explain it. I assumed they were robots created by Arcade. Would it have killed Claremont to throw in a line "They're figments of the imagination of a madman who could warp reality?"
Posted by: Michael | August 25, 2014 10:45 PM
I wasn't a big fan of Excalibur back in the day, but it was certainly a welcome breath of fresh air among all the gloom and doom of the mutant books of the time. This was Kitty Pryde's finest hour by far.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | August 25, 2014 11:32 PM
I just now noticed that Moira is using continuous stationery. That of course is reasonable for 1989, but would be odd these days. To think it has been 25 years since.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | August 25, 2014 11:35 PM
@Michael: I was surprised when I learned that Claremont created Captain Britain. Having first read the character in Marvel Team-Up, I did not think Claremont had a very good grasp of him.
I guess Cap is a bit like DC's John Henry (Steel): a fairly good character, at least when not handled by his creator.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | August 25, 2014 11:39 PM
Claremont does an excellent job of developing Courtney here into a really interesting and likeable character that the reader can latch onto...and then immediately kills her off. Cruel, but well executed!
Posted by: Dermie | August 26, 2014 12:25 AM
I was in denial for a long time that Courtney was dead. I liked her too as a character. It was cruel, but not done as well as killing of Guardian or Phoenix. Never having seen her before, I think readers should have been given at least another year or two of development before the killing would have had real impact.
Posted by: Chris | August 26, 2014 11:23 PM
Alan Davis...and John Byrne.
It seems like Claremont loved working with guys who like to do needless cheesecake drawings.
It was the Happy Perverts Club over at the X-titles.
Posted by: Dar | April 8, 2015 2:04 AM
@Dar: Re: the cheesecake, hey don't knock it (says the teenager inundated with Silvestri, Davis and Lee - high times;)
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 8, 2015 3:26 AM
As a teenager at the time these issues were coming out, I certainly had no complaints about any "needless cheesecake drawings".
Posted by: Bill | April 8, 2015 10:12 AM
Who would win in a fight between Silvesti's Storm, Rogue, Betsy and Dazzler against Davis' Rachel, Megan and Kitty?
Posted by: ChrisW | April 8, 2015 2:37 PM
Claremont may not have bothered to explain any of the Marvel UK characters, but thanks to the Smiths, I at least knew what Strangeways was!
Posted by: Erik Beck | August 18, 2015 11:33 AM
Like a lot of commentators, as an American and because Claremont was footnote-aphobic, Excalibur just seemed really, really weird.
I wonder a little bit if that was intentional? Kitty and Nightcrawler -- and, to some degree Rachel, though I think Claremont's changed her personality significantly enough that she's almost a different character than in her X-Men stint -- serve as the reader's avatar into a world that's topsy-turvy, where the rules we're used to don't make sense... Like Alice down the rabbit hole?
And, quickly, in this arc, we're shown that though it's more fun it's just as deadly as the very serious political situations we've seen across the pond. The creative team does a good job in these early issues setting a tone to differentiate it from the X-Books (even though we're about to get tossed right back to New York by Excalibur).
Posted by: FF3 | September 21, 2015 10:54 AM
When did Lockheed become an actual part of the team? Obviously he fights when a villain or a monster shows up or when the heroes get taken to a weird place. He's always been useful/funny as Kitty's pet (somewhat less useful/funny as Illyana's, I always thought) but it's always been odd when the team chooses to bring him along on a mission or not.
"We're going to Murderworld to rescue Courtney, let's bring Lockheed!" "We're going to New York to rescue Rachel's baby brother, let's leave Lockheed behind!" "We're going to invade Cheyenne Mountain to rescue Banshee, let's bring Lockheed!" "We're going to fight whoever's killing the Morlocks, let's leave Lockheed behind!"
Posted by: ChrisW | June 21, 2016 9:28 PM
Sat-Yr9 is not only carrying Rupert Holloway's colander helmet, she's wearing his clothes. Note that when she encounters Rupert, she might actually be in prison (there are bars on the window), and before turning up in Excalibur, Sat-Yr9 was last seen being taken down by Captain UK.
I do t think Claremont intended Courtney to be dead: disappearing in a flash of light, even with some ashen remnants behind, is consistent with comic-book teleportation. My guess is that Sat-Yr9 sent Courtney to take her place in jail on Captain UK's world.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | November 27, 2016 4:17 PM
Walter, when the letters page was asked about Brian and Courtney's relationship, they said "it's hard to have a relationship with a pile of ashes". Now granted, they could have been lying, but still...
Posted by: Michael | November 27, 2016 4:36 PM
We're certainly meant to think she's dead, my point is just that we've seen comic-book fakeouts like this before -- when the Hulk gets nuked in the Ground Zero storyline, for example, leaving nothing but ash -- and we'll see another when DeFalco kills off Doom and Reed Richards in the FF. And the Excalibur letters page has been unreliable before, telling us that there's no leadership conflict between Kurt and Brian, for example. None of this means that Claremont didn't intend for Courtney to be well and truly dead, but if he had other intentions, it's easy to see at least one way an alternative might have played out.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | November 27, 2016 5:12 PM
Chris Claremont let the Courtney / Sat-Yr-9 mystery dangle for so damn long, it's not surprising that most readers, myself included, got confused about what was actually going on.
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 27, 2016 7:04 PM
Both titles are from popular songs.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | November 27, 2016 11:04 PM
I probably come down on the side that says Claremont didn't need a strong editor, and all the problems were with Claremont himself. That said, I don't think it was until I found this site that the Sat-Yr-9 switch with Courtney was made so explicitly clear. Alan Davis did a great job of making it clear, but for anybody who doesn't already know these characters, Davis' efforts are unrewarded. The reader doesn't know what's going on, and there's nothing specific to let us know what's going on. Courtney's dead and Sat-Yr-9 has taken her place. Easy to ignore because if we have any interest in the characters, Brian is cheating on Meggan with Courtney. That's a lot more interesting than the former Omniversal Majestrix whom we've never heard of.
And then "Courtney" entraps Nigel and sends him to bring back Jamie and the Crazy Gang. At least we know who the Crazy Gang are, but this is far off the rails as far as coherent storytelling goes. At least we have Alan Davis art to show for it.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 29, 2016 12:40 AM
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