Excalibur #8 (1989, May)
Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). OK, the last two comics were pretty weak, but now it’s time for a good one. By Claremont, Ron Lim, Rubinstein, Wilcox and Orzechowski, “Excalibur’s New York Adventure.”
Brian wakes up to an empty hotel room. He’s slept in late, which is understandable, he would be jet-lagged. He finds notes on a mirror. Kurt’s gone to get the Blackbird, Kitty’s gone to Xavier’s School to get some stuff, Rachel’s gone to see her baby brother. No note from Meggan, but Brian remembers that she’s barely literate, and figures she might have been embarrassed. He can’t shake a feeling that something’s wrong, and considers getting a whiskey, but decides he doesn’t want to be a drunk. Good on him for that, actually. He’d been drinking a lot earlier in the series, but he’s realizing he made a mistake with that, and it’s really good to see. Anyway, he goes flying, and the people below see him.
Meggan’s at Coney Island, thinking of what happened to her during Inferno, and wondering if she’s evil or just so easy to shape. She’s crying, and she’s found by a group of young women, a friendly multi-ethnic group who think she was either attacked or dumped, and either way, they decide she needs friends. Up at the school, the New Mutants are sorting through the wreckage, and Kitty shows up. She yells at them for letting Doug die, and Rahne runs off crying, and Illyana yells at Kitty and runs off after Rahne. It’s a really sad scene, and shows how much everyone’s still hurting about Doug. While Kitty crossed a line, I think it was a line she needed to cross, for her own sake. She needed to get it out of her system. But hey, at least it ends on an even sadder note.
It occurs to me that Kitty never really bonded with any of the New Mutants, aside from Doug and Illyana, and she knew them before they joined the Mutants. It’s kind of a shame. I think she could’ve had good relationships with all of them. She and Dani strike me as being very similar people, both independent girls who refuse to be weak links, even when their powers aren’t the most combat-effective. I wish we’d gotten more interactions between the pair, as friends. Or that we could get more now. Bring Dani back to the X-Men, as part of Kitty’s team. It doesn’t matter that she’s not a mutant any more. She’s still awesome. So anyway, yeah, I really like this scene, and this moment between Kitty and Dani.
Meanwhile, Brian stops a car that was about to run over a woman and her son, but gets hurled aside by the impact. His outfit’s wrecked, too, so he buys a new outfit, and it’s a good outfit, clearly.
Then he finds he can’t fly, so a friendly cop grabs him a taxi. I also want to note that this cop is great.
Meanwhile, the girls have gotten Meggan a new outfit of her own, but she’s not sure how she feels about the whole thing. She’s torn between doing what they want, and trying to figure out what she wants. They go to a movie theatre, but given it was a movie theatre where she tried to get Brian to kill Kitty, she starts to freak out, until a cute guy grabs her and takes her dancing. Meanwhile, Kurt steals the Blackbird. Back to Brian, who’s spent the day searching for Meggan, and asked a female cop and she apparently took his question to wrong way and started to arrest him for soliciting. He tries to convince her he’s a superhero, by lifting the taxi.
The cop is so unimpressed that she walks off. In the background, Spider-Man fights Dr. Octopus, and it’s such a weird thing to throw in but I love it. Back to Meggan, who’s still with the cute guy, who starts kissing her and telling her he knows she wants it, and to stop thinking for herself. He’s a dick.
Men: Don’t be this guy. Don’t pressure women. If she says no, immediately take a big step back. Don’t try to tell her what she wants. If a woman says no, and you keep pushing her, and refuse to take “no” for an answer, you are a rapist. If you pressure her until she says yes, you’re a rapist, pure and simple.
Anyway! Rachel! Up on Ship, Jean is talking to Nathan Christopher. She feels that he’s her child, even if she didn’t bear him. Which is interesting, she tends to hate when things are forced on her, but here, she accepts Nathan. Rachel’s outside the window, talking to Nathan telepathically.
Back to Meggan. She’s watching a friendly neighbourhood basketball game. One of the guys sprains his ankle, so Meggan takes his place. Which is where Brian finally finds her.
In the cab back to the hotel, she talks about what a great day she’s had, and he talks about how he’s been looking everywhere for her, worried sick, and that his powers are weakening. He also realizes his wallet was stolen, so Meggan pays the cabbie with the money she made from the basketball game, and feels quite proud of herself.
This is a good issue. A good downtime issue. No threats to be defeated, just pure character work. We get a new sub-plot with Brian’s powers getting weaker. It’ll take a little while for that to be explained, but it’s not exactly a deep mystery. For this issue, it means he gets to be the butt of jokes, as usual. It’s the role that fits him. Almost getting arrested for accidentally soliciting a cop is a definite highlight. Meggan’s powers seem to work fine, though she repeatedly shifts her features to match people around her through the issue. I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with her repeatedly changing skin colour. That seems a bit sketchy. Not sure that was the wisest creative decision. But we do get a bit of a nice journey, through the issue, of her learning to assert herself. It’ll still be an ongoing journey for the next little while, but she does steadily become more independent, which also strengthens her relationship with Brian. They do become one of the great Marvel couples, because she stops needing him, and he stops being an asshole.
Kitty and the New Mutants was another nice scene, as she finally gets a chance to really express her grief about Doug’s death. And she also learns about what happened to Illyana, which is bittersweet, as she knows it’s better for Illyana, but it also means she’s lost her best friend. Another best friend. It really has been a rough time for Kitty, between the X-Men seemingly-dying, Doug dying, and Illyana being reverted to a child. And also yelling at her. Illyana remembers when Kitty used to tell her stories, which is a sweet callback. And I love how much Child Illyana cares about Rahne, too. Rahne and Illyana had become very close friends in New Mutants, and Rahne’s been very protective of Child Illyana. Plus, seeing Rahne cry is never easy. She’s such a good, pure person, it’s like kicking a kitten, it’s just cruel.
Lim’s art is disappointing only because it’s not Alan Davis. Davis (and Neary, of course) had been defining Excalibur’s look from the start, so any time he’s not drawing an issue, it’s disappointing. But Lim is pretty damn good as a fill-in. This was before his career-defining work. Not that he hadn’t already made a name for himself by this point – he was drawing Silver Surfer, and he’d done other stuff – but he hadn’t yet started his collaboration with Jim Starlin. His work with Starlin would become the biggest work of his career. But this issue was before that. But he was still a talented artist, and it was pretty clear he had the chops to be a huge deal. The issue looks great. Fairly house style, but very competently done. It still does a good job with tone and mood and expressions. Characters look phenomenal. The whole thing just looks so good that it’s easy to get over it not being Davis. I will say that an Excalibur where Lim was the regular artist would have been a very different book, much more conventional, but still a great read. So, yeah, great comic.