Excalibur #1 (1988, October)
Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Excite! Today’s an awesome comic! By Claremont, Davis, Neary, Oliver and Orzechowski, “Warwolves of London.”
We start in the Scottish Highlands, an abandoned Gateway Technologies building. Tweedle-Dope, a member of the Crazy Gang (a criminal group from Captain Britain’s comics, they’re amazing but I’ll talk about them some other time) is fiddling with some junk, which he then tosses away as he leaves. But it’s alive!
Meanwhile, in London, Excalibur is dealing with a hostage situation. Well, Kitty and Rachel deal with it, while Captain Britain stands outside with curmudgeonly police officer Dai Thomas. While this is happening, a cop gets attacked by a Warwolf, in a pretty brutal scene.
That is harsh. He just sucks the life right out of Ray and leaves just his skin. Nasty. But awesome. Ray’s death hits Rachel with psychic backlash, and passes out, leaving Kitty to deal with the hostage-takers herself. Luckily, we’re talking about Kitty Pryde, who doesn’t know how not to be awesome.
It actually works pretty well, and Rachel finishes off the rest, just before Captain Britain smashes in. And now we meet another recurring character.
I love Captain Britain’s line there. Good on you, Brian. Rachel tells the others she sensed someone’s death. A little later, it happens again, with another Warwolf eating someone. Another night, Kitty is in Brian’s old workshop, at one of his houses in the city, grieving the X-Men, and Doug. Brian comes down to talk to her, about their mutual love of science. It’s a good scene. A nice reminder that they’re both legitimate geniuses. I wish we would’ve seen them bond over that more often. It comes up now and then, but not often enough.
Elsewhere, Meggan takes Nightcrawler to see the lighthouse she and Brian own. Meggan suggested the whole team move into it. Nightcrawler opens one door, which opens into a running subplot.
When he tries to show this to Meggan, the door just opens into the storage cellar. This will be a running gag/sub-plot that will take a few years to actually be resolved. In London, Rachel is at Fraser’s Bank, and you’ll never guess who’s there. Nigel! The secretary he’s chatting with thinks”pig” after literally every sentence she says to him. She’s cool. Nigel tries to flirt with Rachel. Unsuccessfully.
This moment is one of the stand-outs of the whole issue. It’s so awesome. Rachel’s great. Brian is meeting with Courtney Ross, his old girlfriend. Back in the old Captain Britain comics, Courtney had brown hair, but here, she’s blonde, and she says she used to dye it to better fit in. Brian thinks her blonde hair looks great. What a shock that the blond likes blondes. I kinda wish that had been commented on, actually.
Back at the house, Kitty’s finished the device she’s been working on. It gives her Rachel’s mutant signature. She’s ready to go hunting Warwolves, just as soon as she puts on a disguise.
Meanwhile, Nightcrawler tries to take a bath.
Meggan was raised on TV. So her worldview has been very much shaped by that. And yeah, on TV, if someone is in a bath, they’re going to be talking to someone, and privacy won’t be a concern. I also really like Kurt’s tail holding the mug. That’s a cute bit. After he gets out of the bath, he finds her watching TV. He asks what’s on, and she lists 6 different shows. She’s also crouching about two feet away from the screen. And actually, it’s interesting that she’s crouching, not sitting. A real person wouldn’t be able to do that for long, but of course, she doesn’t know she shouldn’t be able to do it, so she can. That’s just part of how her power works.
Anyway, Kurt heads downstairs into the workshop, and reads Kitty’s notes to figure out what she’s been doing. And then Kitty’s found by the three Warwolves. And they can attack her despite her phasing. Rachel’s rescue attempt goes poorly, and the Warwolves escape with Kitty. Oh no!
This is great. It’s a fantastic debut to a fantastic story. There’s a looooooot of subplots being dropped here. There’s the strange metal head blinking awake. There’s the mystery of the lighthouse’s storage room. There’s Nigel Frobisher. There’s Brian meeting with Courtney Ross. And there’s the friendship between Kurt and Meggan, which will turn romantic. These are all things that will burn for a while before coming to anything. The main plot, for this opening arc, is the Warwolves, and they’re more menacing than ever, with the whole skinsuit thing. That is terrifying. That’s serial killer stuff, but taken to an even more frightening level. It’s great.
The characters are all written really well, naturally. They are Claremont’s characters, after all. Captain Britain, Kitty and Rachel were all created by Claremont, and Kurt only had one appearance before Claremont took him over. Meggan is the one exception. She was Davis’ character . . . which makes it handy that he’s involved with the book, too. But he does make sure each character is very distinctive, in terms of personality. One thing I find interesting is just how much initiative Kitty takes here. By the time she left the X-Men, she was growing confident, and more independent. But now, she takes that even further. Kurt’s going to be the official leader of the team, but Kitty will always end up being the most independent member, the one most prone to doing her own thing.
And Alan Davis. Man. Alan Davis is amazing. His art is so good. Neary’s inks are a perfect match for his lines, as well, as they’ve worked together enough to really gel. There’s great body language, great facial expressions, a great sense of fabric, and, unusually for comics, a really good understanding of fabrics. Clothes look like clothes. Characters aren’t just nudes with body paint, they’re actually wearing clothes that function the way they should (more or less). And, of course, Davis does a great job with the fashions. It’s very ’80s, of course, but it was the ’80s, so what do you expect?
Excalibur was such a great series, at least for the first half or so of the series, and this issue gets it off to a really fun start.