The First 10: Excalibur

No Comments

Long-running comic book series are miracles of sorts. It's so hard to find a readership, and it’s so easy to be cancelled that every comic book that makes it past its tenth issue should be celebrated. But what is it about those ten issues that marks a book for success? If we were to go back to a successful comic and look at those first ten issues, what would we find? Well, let's take a look, starting with the British-based X-Men spin-off Excalibur.  Facts: The comic ran 125 issues (126, if you count the -1 issue) in total, and lasted from October 1988 to October 1998, ten years to the month. But let’s take it back to the beginning.


1. Warwolves of London

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Alan Davis

This may be the first issue of Excalibur, but it isn't the first appearance.

Predating this is the 1987 Excalibur special that introduced the team, which I read before starting this column. It introduces the team, and sets them up to fight the Warwolves. Issue 1 has our cast of characters go on a hostage-rescue mission. It goes okay, but Phoenix suffers a psychic seizure in the process.

Later, the team have some R & R, and Kitty Pryde decides to disguise herself as Phoenix to lure out whoever it is that’s after them. The Warwolves appear, and she tries to use her phasing against them. It doesn't work, and they wind up capturing her. Of note in this one are the Warwolves which are"¦absolutely horrifying. They drain people down to just their skins and then wear the skins. It's the scariest shit ever, and I hate looking at it.

It's a decent start, and it sets off an ongoing story, but it’s not as action-filled or excitement-heavy as some first issues.


2. A Warwolf Possessed

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Alan Davis

Here we go. To be honest, this issue and the first issue probably should have been combined into one issue.

I know we talk about decompression a lot now, but you can see it all the way back here. So Kitty's been captured, and Excalibur heads off after her. She and Nightcrawler survive the Warwolves long enough for the team to show up and beat them up. As I said, this issue is a lot more fun. And most of that is owed to the Warwolves. They are a**holes. And it's great.

Seriously, once they start talking, they spend all their time being sarcastic, snarky jerks to each other. They're really funny. Also, the art looks phenomenal. Alan Davis is always great, but here, it's Captain Britain that draws out his real talents. That costume is fantastic, regardless, but it looks especially good under Davis's handling. Also, the ending is just hilarious.

If that's the tone we're gonna get from this book going forward, I'll be thrilled.


3. Moving Day

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Alan Davis

Nothing like a good old downtime issue to get the blood flowing. Unfortunately, Juggernaut is only in the first scene, despite appearing on the cover.

If there's one thing the series is lacking so far, it's villains. We spent two issues on the Warwolves, who may have been funny, but they weren't especially memorable. And this one gives us a couple pages of sweet, sweet Juggernaut action before it transitions to a slower paced, character-driven piece. It honestly feels like this was an attempt to do a Marvel version of Justice League International.

In the issue, Excalibur stops Juggernaut's outbreak before moving the team into Captain Britain and Meggan's lighthouse home. There are some growing pains, and Brian Braddock (Cap'n Britain) bombs off to decide whether he actually wants to be a hero. He decides that he does, and comes back.

Here's the thing: Captain Britain is a total jerkhole in this issue. He better get his act together.


4. Still Crazy After All These Years

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Alan Davis

Hey, remember how I said this book was sorely lacking in the villain department? ARCADE, MF-ERS!!!!!!!

That's right, we're rolling out an all-time great X-Men villain. In this issue, Captain Britain's former love and current friend Courtney is kidnapped by Arcade and his weird Alice in Wonderland gang. Turns out that Arcade is still mad at Captain Britain and the others about when the former teamed up with Spider-Man, and the latter were with the X-Men, and both groups beat the living s**t out of Arcade and his dumb suit.

Honestly, this one was just so much fun. Oh, and in Personal Drama Land, Captain Britain's feelings for Courtney are growing stronger, and Meggan and Nightcrawler almost kiss.

I feel like the book has settled into its tone of being way more fun and lighthearted than other X-books of the time. It's kind of a blast, and I'm excited for what comes later.


5. Send in the Clowns!

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Alan Davis

More Arcade is always appreciated. And this ish is downright wacky.

Excalibur enters Murderworld, only to have their minds switched with Arcade's evil crew. They have to fight back and save Courtney before she's killed. Meanwhile, Shadowcat is bouncing around, screwing with the programming of the land to get to Arcade himself.

Kitty dropping Arcade in the middle of Murderworld is hilarious, and watching him do battle with his own deathtraps is incredibly fun. I feel like the team is starting to coalesce for the most part. Kurt, Kitty, and Captain Britain are old favorites, and I'm growing attached to Phoenix.

The only one who isn't meshing for me is Meggan, whose deal I just can't get a grasp on. But with the issue's end, maybe we'll not have too much more of her. Captain Britain seems to be falling into the arms of Courtney, who is a far more interesting character.


6. Goblin Night

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Alan Davis

Well, folks, I'm pleased to announce that Excalibur is officially an X-Men comic. Because this is our first major crossover.

Welcome"¦to Inferno.

Madelyne Pryor, the Goblin Queen, attacks New York City with her army of demons. All of the Marvel books had to deal with Demons for a few issues. If you ever wondered how the Hobgoblin became a weird demon, this was how. For Excalibur's entry into the crossover, Pryor's presence draws Phoenix to the city, and the rest of the team follow. They fight some demons, and the team members are slowly possessed by demons and turned evil.

Look, this is like the third story so far in which members of the team are controlled and turned evil, and I'm kind of done with the idea. Like, I wanna see Captain Britain do something other than be mind-controlled or body-snatched. But hey, let's see what next issue brings.


7. Goblin Morn!

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Alan Davis

Excalibur's Inferno Adventure continues, as Kitty and Kurt have to free the others from demonic control. Captain Britain is the most fun, as he's been sucked into a movie theater and is clearly having fun, first as a stereotypical action hero, and then as a Freddy Krueger parody.

On the other hand, Kurt runs afoul of a talking truck, and then meets a very nice gargoyle. Kitty uses Magik’s sword to save Brian from himself, and everyone’s back to normal. The gargoyle is also a highlight, and its conversation with Kurt is really playful. Honestly, playful describes this whole series pretty well. It's a big swashbuckling adventure comic that dips its toe into the greater X-Men Universe, but it mostly feels like its own thing. I mean, there's a reason they didn't call it X-Calibur.

As crossovers go, this two-parter was fine. We got to see our cast of characters face off against a huge threat, and have their own adventure. But I would have liked to see them interact with the main plot or the characters of Inferno a little more heavily.


8. Excalibur’s New York Adventure

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Ron Lim

After the big crossover action in the last issue, we’re now treated to a downtime issue with some nice art by guest penciller Ron Lim, and it looks great. I love Davis, but if you have to replace him for an issue, Lim is a great choice.

The team members separate and have their own adventures. Meggan loses herself in the city, and meets some people who help her overcome the horrors of her possession in the last two issues. The costume-less Brian also loses his powers as he searches for his bride. Nightcrawler bounces off to pick up the Blackbird so the squad can have better transport than the flyers that just carry everybody. Kitty goes to the destroyed Xavier Mansion to catch up with the New Mutants, and Rachel sneaks over to X-Factor HQ to see her baby brother.

This one is full of cameos. We have Kitty flipping out on the New Mutants (undeservedly so); Jean Grey taking care of a baby who will grow up to be Cable; and, when Captain Britain flies off, two very familiar-looking reporters who call each other "Clark" and "Lois" comment on it. Sneaky one there, Claremont.


9. The Two-Edged Sword!

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Alan Davis

Is it bad that I forgot Lockheed existed until just now?

Anyway, this new arc kicks off as a new team raids the Excalibur lighthouse. The team? It appears to be a Nazi version of Excalibur known as Lightning Force, and includes Nazi Nightcrawler, Nazi Meggan, Tortured Slave Shadowcat, and leader Hauptmann Englande. Meanwhile, back at what's left of Xavier Mansion, Captain Britain is testing his abilities only to find he and Meggan are both slowly losing their powers.

The team gets word of Lightning Force's appearance, and heads back to England to fight them. On the way, Captain Britain grabs his old Marvel Team-Up Era costume, and we end as he squares off with Comrade Englande. This issue really displays some of the imagination that Excalibur would relish in during The Cross-Time Caper.

Shadowcat's mirror duplicate on display as a victim of Nazi rule is quietly haunting, and the mystery of why Lightning Force doesn't have their own Phoenix is an interesting one.


10. Widget

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Marshall Rogers

And here we are, the final issue we'll be discussing today. We started with Issue One, then tracked it all the way here.

Sadly, we're going out on what I'd call an art downgrade. I like Marshall Rogers as an artist, and there's nothing wrong with his work here. But his rougher style doesn't match up with Davis' the way Lim’s did. It just feels a bit jarring when presented in context.

As for the story, Excalibur takes a beating from Lightning Force for a while, before they can turn the tables through strategic use of Meggan. Unfortunately, it’s decided that Lightning Force and the evil Moira MacTaggert will go back to their universe, because"¦um"¦not sure? They’re Nazis? Literal Nazis? I'm gonna take an extremely controversial stance here, and say that all Nazis should be imprisoned or killed, especially all Nazis with superpowers, who are from a Nazi universe, where the Nazis win. Ugh. Whatever, hell of a note to end on.

And there you have it. The first ten issues of Excalibur, all read and discussed. Overall, it’s a fun time. Nice two-issue arcs with one-shots sprinkled throughout. When viewed in its entirety, it provides a picture of one of the more fun X-Books of the time. By the end of these ten, I certainly re-affirmed my love for Kitty and Cap, and gained a new appreciation for Rachel Grey, aka Phoenix. Meggan is still taking some warming up to, but I'm getting there. And hey, I'd love to do a feature like this again. Aaaand…coming up soon in my to-read stack is the first year of that post-Annihilation Nova series.

Previous Post
Which Star Wars Movie is the Best?
Next Post
Top Ten Marvel Comics Characters/Teams You’ll Never See in the MCU – I Would Bet Money on It!

Log In

Forgot password?

Forgot password?

Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.

Log in

Privacy Policy

Add to Collection

No Collections

Here you'll find all collections you've created before.

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By agreeing you accept the use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.

Privacy Settings saved!
Privacy Settings

When you visit any web site, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. Control your personal Cookie Services here.

These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

In order to use this website we use the following technically required cookies
  • wordpress_test_cookie
  • wordpress_logged_in_
  • wordpress_sec

We use Google Tag Manager to monitor our traffic and to help us AB test new features.

Decline all Services
Accept all Services