Excalibur #1 : Reviews Of Old Comics

We’re back with an new review of an old comic, Excalibur #1. This time we go back to the late 80s when Marvel started spinning off its popular Uncanny X-Men title. Wolverine’s regular series came along about this same time. After the X-Men had apparently died in their own title, a few of the team members left behind joined with Captain Britain to form Excalibur, complete with a new series written by Chris Claremont and drawn by a fan favorite artist who just happened to have a history with Captain Britain, Alan Davis.

excalibur1coverEXCALIBUR #1

October 1988

SYNOPSIS:
Tweedle-Dope, the inventor savant for the criminal Crazy Gang is assembling various garbage into a metal shell. Instinctively, he smashes a portable radio into the shell. He discards it when the head-like shell doesn’t do anything. However, after he leaves, the head’s eyes blink to life.

Three members of Excalibur are assisting with a hostage situation. Captain Britain assures police commander Dai Thomas that Shadowcat and Phoenix can assist capably. The two ladies leave a police officer behind on the roof where he is attacked and killed by one of the Warwolves, who destroy their victims, leaving only their skin behind to wear as camouflage. The death of the officer stuns Phoenix into unconsciousness, leaving Shadowcat to attempt a rescue by donning a painter’s drop-cloth  and imitating a spirit haunting the nightclub where the hostages are being held. Phoenix comes to, taking down the gunmen before Captain Britain can storm in.

The Warwolves attack a couple killing them for their skins, which Phoenix senses again from the apartment she’s sharing with Shadowcat. Shadowcat and Captain Britain compare notes on Rachel’s “seizures”with Shadowcat getting an idea of doing something electronically to trace the cause. Nightcrawler and Captain Britain’s girlfriend Meggan explore the Captain’s lighthouse as a possible headquarters for Excalibur. Nightcrawler goes through a door to find himself in an alien world. He teleports away, but when he takes Meggan back through the door, it’s just an empty room. They telepathically compare notes with Phoenix until an overly-amorous banker hits on her, prompting a threatening telepathic display from Phoenix.

Captain Britain meets with an old girlfriend, Courtney Ross who now runs one of London’s largest banks. That night, Shadowcat disguises herself as Phoenix and goes out with a device that mimics Phoenix’s brain patterns, hoping to lure out whatever’s responsible for Phoenix’s attacks, just as Meggan and Nightcrawler return. Nightcrawler is embarrassed by Meggan walking in on him in the bath, mostly because he fears Captain Britain getting the wrong idea and losing his temper. Nightcrawler ventures into the workshop and discovers Shadowcat’s equipment in use and alerts Phoenix telepathically. Phoenix contacts Shadowcat just as she is attacked by the Warwolves, who scramble Shadowcat’s powers, freezing her in a tangible state. Phoenix is delayed from assisting her by a chemical goop. Confused by the appearance of another Phoenix the Warwolves flee Excalibur with Shadowcat as their captive.

REVIEW:
This has all the feel of a blend of a super-hero comic with the pathos of one of Chris Claremont’s X-Men stories. It’s odd to see any of the X-Men being treated with respect from the police, but with Captain Britain, it’s obvious that they get some respect by association. It’s nice to see after so many years and stories where everyone, including the authorities treat them as a menace. Claremont gets his share of pathos in there, recapping what led to Shadowcat and Nightcrawler into being in London.

Alan Davis has a very clean style that is well suited to the flatter colors of the 1980s. Glynis Oliver was one of the top colorists at Marvel, and she was capable of some nice effects with the limits of the technology of the time. Alan Davis and Paul Neary adapted their art for this, and given how Alan Davis’s style has changed with modern coloring, I don’t know how as traditional a story as this would look with modern shading and effects.

This was a great introduction to a new series and set a very optimistic tone, setting it apart from the other mutant books at the time. It seems much more innocent, so if you’re only knowledge of comics comes from today’s very grim and dark storytelling, as best illustrated by the “New 52” era over at DC, then you’re not the the ideal candidate for this series. If you’re very fond of the Marvel Cinematic Universe then you might be more receptive to this series.

NOTES:

This issue has been collected in trade paperback, most recently as The Sword Is Drawn. It’s also available digitallythrough Comixology. If you absolutely must have the original comic, then don’t spend more than ten bucks for a Near Mint copy. You can probably get a copy in quality condition from a bargain box. If you come across a run of the first few issues, at least get the second issue, too since it’ll complete the story started in this issue.

FINAL RATING: 8.5 (out of a possible 10)

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