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Nostalgia November Day 07 — Excalibur #75

Each day in November, I will read and review/discuss/whatever one comic taken from a box of some of my childhood comics. Today, it’s Excalibur #75.

The Nostalgia November archive can be found here.

excalibur1988series75Excalibur #75 by Scott Lobdell and Ken Lashley was released either the same month as X-Men #30, the issue where Scott and Jean got married, or the month after and it begins with Rachel Summers insanely happy, because her parents are finally married, meaning there’s a good chance that she will be born. Of course, this being a comic book, her being happy means everything is about to go horribly, horribly wrong. And it does. Apparently Captain Britain has been missing for a few months — now, he’s coming back and he wants Rachel’s body. She tries to deny it, but the team finds out and Kitty takes her back in her memories to her time as a hellhound and Rachel decides to sacrifice herself and… oh, it’s just not good, people. The whole thing culminates in Rachel swapping places with Brian, but, at the end of the issue, it’s revealed that it’s not Brian at all… technically. Sure, it looks like him, but he’s wearing a different costume and has crazy eyes and wants to be called Britanic! Talk about twisting the knife! Rachel sacrifices herself on the happiest day of her life and it doesn’t work the way it was supposed to! Goddamn, man.

Since this was issue 75, it’s double-sized and the story doesn’t really go anywhere after the premise is introduced. I do love how Rachel not wanting to give up her body is portrayed as a bad thing initially — like she’s being selfish. Like she should sacrifice her existence for Brian. I hate superhero comic morality. It’s one thing to sacrifice yourself in the middle of a fight, acting on pure instinct. It’s a whole other thing when someone tries to take over your body and it’s suggested that you should willingly give it up, because that’s the right thing to do. No, it’s not. Brian Braddock and his wife Meggan? Total assholes here. And, what’s weird, is that when they finally try and rescue Brian, he doesn’t want Rachel to sacrifice herself for him! What the fuck, dude? Forcing yourself on her and trying to take her place without consent is okay, but when she’s willingly saying ‘Here, take my place in this reality,’ you suddenly want to play the big man and say that that’s okay, you’re fine, that would be wrong? Seriously, what a douchebag.

The scene where Kitty and Rachel travel into her memories is rather lame. For those unaware, Rachel is the daughter of Scott and Jean from the “Days of Future Past” story. As a young adult, she was a hellhound, a mutant used to hunt down other mutants. Her keeper, Ahab would execute mutants and, during that time, leave the door wide open, daring his mutant slaves to try and escape. So, Kitty is all “Let’s go see what’s through that door!” as if it holds strong meaning… because, I must ask, if Rachel never went through that door, how would she know? And, if she doesn’t know, wouldn’t there be nothing when they tried to walk through given that the entire environment is recreated from her memories? (Also, while I’m on the subject, how come, whenever we go into someone’s memories like this, they can see themselves? How do they know what they looked like at the time really? Shouldn’t they be sort of vague, not totally complete blurs?)

Really, the only thing I found kind of cool in this issue is the moment whe they’re trying to rescue Brian and, in the timestream, they see visions of various mutants and the narrator of the issue, Rory Campbell, sees a vision of himself — and it’s Ahab! This guy is the asshole who imprisoned and used Rachel in the future! (Did that revelation ever get a pay off, by the way? Reading the Wikipedia entry, I see that it did… in a horribly lame way.)

Lashley’s art isn’t too bad. It’s a little stilted and overly posed/polished at times — and less detailed at others. But, overall, it tells the story and doesn’t get in the way, even delivers a few rather nice panels.

There’s also a really, really, really bad back-up strip by Jim Krueger and Tim Sale. Gorgeous Sale art, horribly written Krueger story about Nightcrawler feeling sorry for himself that ends with him realising that the X symbol, when rotated 45 degrees… is a cross. Oh yeah. Because he’s religious. So, it’s like a sign or something. Like Jesus loves mutants. Take that, you bigots!

I got this comic when I was 11 because it seemed big and important. 15 years later, did it actually have any impact on anything going on still? No, really. Did it? Because I sure hope not.

Tomorrow, you get a double dose of Nostalgia November as I dive back into the box and also do a reread review of World Without a Superman.

40 Comments

Man, I totally remember this crappy comic after reading you thoughts on it. It was bad. But then again, pretty much everything Scott Lobdell did in the X-Universe was bad. This issue had to come out not too long before I dropped the entire X-line, after buying nearly every title for years. The books had gotten to the point where the story from every issue of every comic ran into each other, so it was basically constantly a crossover. But at least with a crossover the number the chapters. With the X-books you were never really sure which one you were supposed to read first, or if you missed an integral part of the story that was in Marvel Comics Presents or some other unrelated comic. Wow, I’m getting annoyed just remembering it. To this day I still avoid the Mutant corner of the Marvel U, and it traces back to all of this.

To give credit where credit is due, I also thought the Rory was Ahab reveal was a neat and interesting idea. Didn’t an annual at one point try to hint that Ahab might have been Gambit? I liked this idea better. I didn’t stick around long enough to see how it played out, though.

Impacts on stuff going on today (plus some “important” later stories:
1) Rachel ends up 2000 years in the future (give or take), and founds the Askani, which results in Cable.
2) Then after that is retconned due to Ages of Apocalypse, this becomes how she ends up losing the Phoenix force (before Cable brings her back to the current era).
3) Because the team is reduced to almost no members, the end up adding Pete Wisdom to the team. Years later this gives us Captain Britain and MI13.

Otherwise I can’t think of too much else that’s still significant.

Peeeee-yew, that one sounds like a stinker alright. But, hey, is that some sort of shiny chromium background on the cover? Hey–shiny!! :-)

The most painful thing about this issue is that IIRC it was the first issue following Alan Davis’s fantastic run. Lobdell took less than an issue to obliterate all of Davis’s good work (not literally – I mean Davis’s comics are still there – but for the purposes of serial storytelling, Lobdell’s work was incredibly destructive).

Man, I hated this issue so much. Took one of my favorite Marvel characters and wrote her off into limbo for the next ten-plus years. And for what? A short-lived Captain Britain revamp? To give Cable even more cumbersome backstory? Such a stupid waste of a great character.

My copy, for the record, is the regular cover… though, I think that’s because my dad didn’t want to spend the extra money — and I can’t blame him.

Andy — Actually, it was a few issues later. Davis’s last was #67; #68-70 were a horrible three-parter that wrote out Captain Britain, Cerise, Kylun, Feron, and Meggan, so that with #71 there was a new official status quo of just Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, and Phoenix.

Which, obviously, lasted all of four issues and then got redone with #75 so that Phoenix was gone, and “Britainic” and Meggan were back in the cast. Ugh. Talk about going from feast to famine.

Oh man, I miss Cerise, Kylun, and Feron. They were all-new, all-different and interesting! It sucked how they left. Not that they just left, but because it was so stupid how it happened. No more scenes by the waterfall, EVER.

The last time I read Excalibur was the Alan Davis run where he wrote and drew the the book. (unless Claremont teamed up with him on that run – I think it was around issues # 60). It wasn’t a particularly long run, it was more to do with tying up some loose ends from the first 25 issues (I think).

Am I wrong?

Is my memory going? ;-)

The lesson here is that characters from alternate futures NEVER have happy outcomes. Rachel, Bishop, the Legion of Super Heroes (depending on the iteration and how DC is handling them that week)…so many characters whose stories have been screwed with because they aren’t supposed to exist.

Please. Read some comics from MY childhood instead.

Issues 42-52, 54-56, & 61-67 are excellent (mostly). 83-102, the Warren Ellis run, was pretty good. Everything between them… ouch.

I should probably offer at least a modest defense of the Lobdell Excalibur, or at least three issue of it, since I own the three-part “Promethium Exchange” story (37-39) and consider it a pretty good effort. Thoughtful use of continuity, entertaining if a bit slapstick-y.

Of course, these are basically the only 3 issues of Excalibur I’ve ever read, so if the story was retarded in context, I wouldn’t necessarily know.

I never understood why they kept giving all the mutant books to Lobdell. Couldn’t they tell he was screwing everything up? Aside from some of the Generation X stories, and the occasional rare issue like Uncanny #303 (good, but depressing. By the way, how did Illyana manage to come back alive and teenage after that story?), everything I’ve ever seen or heard of by Lobdell was awful.

You should do some Nostalgia stuff about books from the ’80s. If you weren’t around yet then, you can borrow someone else’s memories. (Kitty and Rachel can show you how.) The ’90s was just such a bad decade. (Unless you’ve got some New Warriors to talk about.)

I never understood why they kept giving all the mutant books to Lobdell. Couldn’t they tell he was screwing everything up?

Sales increased on pretty much every book he was writing.

Ah, the 90s weren’t all bad in comics. A lot less of your “defining runs” than the 1980s, with its Claremont/Byrne X-Men, Simonson Thor, Miller Daredevil, Byrne FF, etc. By the same token, though, much of that material has been revisited and revisited time and again.

1990s comics do include a few gems amongst the foil and holograms, though. As for the bad stuff, well, that may be just as much fun to consider in retrospect, at least in small doses. :-)

i remember that issue too well and how thought it was stupid that rachel had to sacrifice her self to bring brian back from his limbo instead of maybe excalibur borrowing like a time machine. not to menticon the reveal that Rory is Ahab. the whole thing was a bad story and a waste of brining captain britan back at the cost of rachel

How the hell does a “X” form a perfect cross? Is Nightcrawler stupid?

Wow that’s one heck of a cover. Eeewww haha

I really liked that Krueger/Sale Nightcrawler story at the time. I was getting religious myself, and am a huge Nightcrawler mark, so that probably helped. Also, Tim Sale makes everything he does a lot better (insert “Jeph Loeb sucks” comment here). Rachel ceasing to exist was a bummer, but hey, she did get better (and didn’t come back with that awful mullet).

Yeah. That Nightcrawler story was really great.

1) Was there ever an X-book more superfluous than post-Claremont Excalibur? I don’t think anyone could’ve made this book mean anything – not Lobdell, not even Warren Ellis (who, I believe, referred to his run as “beating the crap writing” out of himself).

2) The Nicieza-Lobdell run of the X-Men books makes up the bulk of my collection, and while I have the standard Fond Childhood Memories, it’s only thinking about it now – Joseph, Onslaught, pointless Shiar stories – that I realize, “Oh my god – those stories were probably terrible!”

3) As a high school student, I got the opportunity to interview Mark Waid, and I asked him what he would’ve done different about his X-Men run. His response: “First, I would have killed Scott Lobdell and buried him in my back yard. Second…actually…everything would’ve been fine after that.”

When I read things like this I am ever and ever more grateful that the comics of my childhood were made by Kanigher and Kubert and Kirby.

Jeff, yes, Joseph and Onslaught were terrible. Onslaught actually was largely responsible for me dropping comics altogether for 5 or 6 years.

And I have to wonder how much of the rise in sales on the Lobdell books were because of the fact that at that time you couldn’t read just one X book. You had to read all of them to make any sense of the story. What little sense there was, that is.

“The most painful thing about this issue is that IIRC it was the first issue following Alan Davis’s fantastic run. Lobdell took less than an issue to obliterate all of Davis’s good work (not literally – I mean Davis’s comics are still there – but for the purposes of serial storytelling, Lobdell’s work was incredibly destructive).”

Man – is THAT ever quoted for the truth! I remember picking up Lobdell’s first book after Davis’ – with Meggan all emo kinda…merging…with the waterfall and thinking…’the hell?!’ We find out PRIOR to the issue being held that some kinda disastrous time thingie happened off camera allowing Lobdell to obliterate EVERYTHING Davis had established and allowing the 90’s X-madness to creep into an otherwise awesome book.

Craptacular.

And the artwork segue wayed into the bad 90’s over crosshatched and weirdly over muscled heroes. Everything that Davis did to make each character unique and distinct had been heaved over for the hot new look. ARGH.

Ok…that felt good. I’ve waiting nearly 20 years to vent that. LOL!

I am SOOO grateful that Marvel is reprinting Davis’ stuff in their Visionaries trades.

I guess Onslaught might’ve been partially responsible for me dropping comics for a decade, as well.
I had largely stopped by 1995 because of money and low quality, but I hadn’t stopped buying them completely. But then the local store closed down (this was around the time the market collapsed, I guess), but ordinarily that would’ve just stopped me temporarily, and I would’ve continued buying them whenever I had a chance.
But then I read in a newspaper that Marvel was erasing their history and starting over from the beginning, and that just upset me completely. Of course, they only did that with the Fantastic Four and Avengers, following Onslaught, but as is usually the case, the newspaper writers got some of their details wrong, so I thought all of Marvel’s history was gone. I had already abandoned DC when they’d done that back in the ’80s (Of course, I hardly ever bought any DCs by that time, so it wasn’t as though everything changed for me when that happened. And I knew they would continue to have good stories at least some of the time, but I never could get into DC again, although I have read some here and there since. I just didn’t want to go through the hassle of learning all the characters and history all over again, especially since my funds are always limited so I have to be very choosy about what I get anyway.)
It wasn’t until about 2004 or 2005 that I found out that Heroes Reborn-thing had been temporary, and that Marvel history was still (mostly) intact. And I didn’t actually start buying new books until 2006 (I’d been buying some old stuff, though, ever since the new store had opened a couple of years earlier.)

I wonder how many other readers Marvel or DC have lost because of stuff like this.

(It’s a miracle I continued reading Spider-Man after One More Day. I guess since it was the only series I was buying regularly at the time, I just didn’t have the heart to abandon it. And of course, after a few issues it was obvious that it was better than it had been in years, and that they were keeping the history as intact as Quesada would let them, so I wasn’t too upset then.)

This should be a lesson to all publishers to avoid major re-boots.

You dropped comics after Onslaught? Man, that’s when everything got GOOD again! A year later, we had Busiek Avengers & Iron Man, Jurgens/Romita Jr Thor, Waid’s Cap, Kelly/McGuinness Deadpool…and I think everything was still under two bucks.

This should be a lesson to all publishers to avoid major re-boots.

Maybe, but as you already said you had dropped most of the books you were buying. The readers that have been lost to major re-boots could only be a fraction to the slow attrition of readers due to apathy. At least major re-boots get new readers in, even if they don’t stay. I’m willing to bet that Marvel would do another Heroes Reborn if they thought they could get 90s sales again.

Ah, Britannic…

I don’t know which ignoramus came up with that concept, but it may mark as the lowest attempt to make a character new and hip for the nineties ever. Thank goodness Lobdell would be off this book in a matter of months.

-“Sales increased on pretty much every book he was writing.”

It was the 90’s. Comics were selling for all the wrong reasons. And the market almost collapsed as a result.

Man, I’m glad I dropped reading the X-books about this time (I realized that not only had things gotten too messy, but they were NOT going to get any simpler) because Excalibur #75 sounds like crap. Man, what a shame, because this used to be one of the best Marvel books of the time; the Davis run embodied FUN for its own sake, unlike today’s emo writing everywhere. Meh.

Adam, let’s not forget Marvel’s interim books, like Ostrander’s Heroes for HIre, Waid/Kubert’s Ka-Zar, and a little book called Thunderbolts.

AND, so this isn’t a total lobdell/x-bashing thread, I thought the “Operation: Zero Tolerance” story was actually pretty good – though for the life of me I can’t make heads or tails of Bastion’s origin (revealed WELL after the character lost prominence in the stories), or who the hell killed Graydon Creed, or…Huh. Maybe “Operation: Zero Tolerance” wasn’t all that good, either.

Yeah, the interim books were great too. I hate when people refer to “the 90s” as awful. Really, it was the period from late 1990 (I’d say the launch of X-Men #1) to mid 1996 (the end of Onslaught) that was the crapfest. And that’s just where Marvel is concerned. For DC, the definitive improvement would be the launch Morrison’s JLA, but there were definite signs of recovery with the Return of Superman and everything post Zero Hour.

I remember reading this and thinking “Don’t be silly, X-Men annual 14 made it obvious Ahab is Cable”. My word it was a mess….

“The most painful thing about this issue is that IIRC it was the first issue following Alan Davis’s fantastic run. Lobdell took less than an issue to obliterate all of Davis’s good work (not literally – I mean Davis’s comics are still there – but for the purposes of serial storytelling, Lobdell’s work was incredibly destructive).”

Um, yeah, I also have to agree with this quote. Alan Davis did some amazing work on Excalibur, picking up Chris Claremont’s loose ends and crafting some amazing stories. Then he abruptly left, and it was all downhill from there. The year between Davis’ departure and Warren Ellis coming aboard was pretty dire, aside from a couple of semi-decent stories by Richard Ashford… well, I liked the Annual he wrote. But, yeah, #75 is smack dab in the middle of one of the lowest periods of quality on Excalibur.

[…] annual #15 Nostalgia November Day 05 — Transformers #57 Nostalgia November Day 06 — TaleSpin #7 Nostalgia November Day 07 — Excalibur #75 Nostalgia November Day 08 — Marvel Team-Up #148 The Reread Reviews — The Death of Superman The […]

That Alan Davis run was so well thought out, too. Alan Davis incorporated every single previous story (fill-ins included) to create the best run of the whole series. Ellis’ run was good too but Alan Davis stayed true to the original concept and tied up every loose end (Widget) while telling an incredible story. By the time Ellis got to it, EXCALIBUR was a completely different book.

The first issue after Alan Davis left made me cringe and the issue reviewed here provoked the same reaction. I couldn’t believe that after all Alan Davis had done to make this book readable (and it was at the top of my read pile while he wrote it) that editorial allowed for it to be completely deconstructed (in between issues, no less).

I also loved Davis’ solo run on Excalibur, and promptly dropped it when I saw EVERYTHING he did was wiped away.

Just a few years ago I unloaded/donated all my Excalibur issues…except for any done by Davis! :-)

I would love it if one day Alan could come back and do Excalibur again, w/the same team line-up. Hey, if they can bring back the original Alpha Flight and New Mutants, why not this?!?

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