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Jan 11

X-Men: Gold Annual #1: “Cross-Atlantic Caper”

Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

It’s thirty years since Excalibur #1, and with three of the cast currently appearing in X-Men: Gold, it does make sense for the book to do a tribute.  And where better than in an annual, that traditional home of byways and digressions?

The result is… odd.  There’s a nice Alan Davis cover, re-doing the cover of Excalibur #1 with the characters in their current costumes.  The interior art is by Alitha Martinez, and while it isn’t especially reminiscent of Davis, she does a sound job on the character comedy, she sells Meggan’s key scene very well, and she does nicely enough with a brief dimension-hopping homage sequence.

Marc Guggenheim and Leah Williams’ story, on the other hand, is something of a half-formed affair, full of quite promising ideas that never actually tie together.

Brian and Meggan have just had their first child, and Kurt, Rachel and Kitty go to visit them.  This being a tribute issue, the new parents have rebuilt the old Excalibur lighthouse as their new home.  The kid, Maggie, turns out to be hyper-intelligent, and is talking already – though physically she’s still just a baby and has to be carried everywhere.  Then Starhammer attacks (what do you mean, you don’t remember Starhammer?) looking for revenge on Rachel and the human race, but Excalibur press a button on a thingy and give him a way of reaching a world where his people weren’t all killed off.  So he can go and live there, and he does, and that’s the end.

Okay, so.  This is two different stories bolted together to make a pantomime horse.  The first half – well, once you get past four pages of unnecessary set-up about getting the invitation and getting on a plane – seems to be setting up a rather charming story about the old friends getting back together and the oddity of the new and hyper-intelligent child.  Maggie feels like quite an Excalibur sort of idea, and she belongs in an anniversary story.  She demands that people pick her up so she can see what’s going on, and her dialogue veers absurdly from basic questions like “Why am I so small?” to philosophical musings, all of which Brian greets with adoring enthusiasm. Meanwhile, Meggan is genuinely upset at the thought of not getting to watch her child grow up properly, which gets about two pages, but is actually handled quite well.

And then Starhammer shows up and there’s a fight.  He’s a strange choice of villain – Excalibur didn’t have the greatest selection of villains in the world, but there’s always the Warwolves, or the Crazy Gang – but he’d kind-of-sort-of work if he was a token villain who could get beaten by a ludicrously precocious toddler.  And there’s a not in that direction, because Maggie presses the button, but it doesn’t come across as anything more than her pressing a big red button right in front of her, marked “Press To Resolve Plot”.   So it isn’t very satisfying, and it doesn’t tie the two halves together.

Yes, yes, alright, I’m hearing you all saying.  But who the hell is Starhammer?

Well, according to the opening flashback, Starhammer was one of the handful of D’Bari survivors who happened to be off-world when Dark Phoenix destroyed the planet back in Uncanny #135.  He helped to rebuild the remaining survivors, tried to kill Rachel in revenge for the death of his world, and thought he’d succeeded, when in fact she just used her telepathy to make him think he’d succeeded.  He returned home as a conquering hero, only to eventually be exiled in disgrace when everyone realised that Rachel wasn’t dead.  And now he is angry.  A footnote directs us to Uncanny X-Men #387.

If this doesn’t ring a bell, then it might be because Uncanny X-Men #387 is the back of beyond, continuity-wise.  It’s a “Maximum Security” tie-in from the tail end of the second Chris Claremont run, just before the Morrison/Casey reboot.  Starhammer was indeed a surviving D’Bari who attacked Phoenix and got palmed off with false memories.  But he claimed to be the only surviving D’Bari, and the Phoenix he attacked was Jean, not Rachel.  Rachel isn’t in the issue.

(It’s a pretty dreadful issue, incidentally.  It ends with Jean giving a speech about how Phoenix may be a symbol of genocide but it’s supposed to be a symbol of fire, passion and life, and it’s desperately important to reclaim it for that meaning, by using the name “proudly – in order to set things right”.  Apparently, “to do any less would be a denial of everything the X-Men stand for, of everything Professor Xavier taught me”.  Um….)

So… we’ve got a villain who’s out for revenge on the wrong character following his exile from a community that doesn’t exist.

You do wonder how that sort of thing happens.

Oh, and there’s a back-up!  It’s by Monty Nero and Djibril Morissette-Phan, and it’s ten pages of a girl dragging her mother around New York in the hope of getting the chance to meet Storm.  It’s simple, it’s charming (though it wouldn’t hurt to dial back on the meta in a couple of places), and it’s a sweet take on the X-Men as viewed from the outside.  It’s refreshingly optimistic for an X-Men story.  I liked it.

Bring on the comments

  1. Greg says:

    Not a big deal, but it’s the girls aunt in the backup strip. I have to agree that the main story felt like two completely separate issues Frankensteined together and it didn’t work.

  2. Michael says:

    I think Rachel even says as much that she wasn’t the right Phoenix.

    And this raises so, so many questions that need addressing. Like why is Maggie so super-intelligent, and who really thought we needed a repeat of Valeria Richards? Is Roma involved? Is Brian still missing that eye he lost back during the whole Incursion mess, or did it get better? Is the Captain Britain Corps still destroyed or did it get better? What’s with the awful hair?

    Moreover, why just Kitty, Rachel, and Kurt? What about some of their other Excalibur teammates? Admittedly, some are dead/on another world/can’t be arsed, but at the -very- least, you have Piotr hanging about on this X-Team and he was in Excalibur also, so why leave him behind except to reunite the Original 5…

    I much rather would have had a storyline that felt like classic Excalibur.

  3. Chris V says:

    I took it that it was Meggan’s half-Neuri background which led to her having a hyper-intelligent child.
    (Since the Neuri are like the fairy-folk, and that seems like a typical fae attribute.)

  4. Moo says:

    “Moreover, why just Kitty, Rachel, and Kurt?”

    Seems like the point was a nostalgia trip to the Claremont/Davis era of Excalibur. Better to just go with Kurt, Kitty, Rachel, Brian and Meggan, in that case.

  5. Nu-D says:

    Weren’t Brian and Meggan gone by the time Peter joined Excalibur? That’s how I remember it anyhow.

  6. Moo says:

    No, they were still around. Rachel wasn’t.

  7. Brian says:

    “A footnote directs us to Uncanny X-Men #387.”

    A FOOTNOTE!? *does spit take*

    Oh my stars and garters…

  8. Niall says:

    I liked this. The two plots didn’t blend perfectly but when a story is this much fun, who cares!

    It did seem like a bit of a pitch for a new Excalibur book while simultaneously acting as a tribute to an earlier era. If a new series was half as fun as this issue, I’d love a new series.

  9. Moo says:

    Excalibur. Claremont’s shameless attempt to shoo away writers who kept trying to jump into his X-Men sandbox by cross-pollinating it with his Captain Britain work.

    “No, it’s not the X-Universe! Stop calling it that! This is the Claremont-o-verse! See? Captain Britain’s in this book over here! And I’m gonna make his sister an X-Man! Yes, Betsy friggin’ Braddock as an X-Man! Don’t like that idea? Good! Then keep away from MY stuff and go join Layton and Gruenwald in the corner over there!”

  10. Adam Farrar says:

    I wish there was more to it to remind me of actual Excalibur. I presume that Alan Davis was too busy with his Thanos book with Jim Starlin to do more than a cover.

  11. Taibak says:


    When did Brian and Meggan get back together? Last I heard he was running around with MI:13 and she was ruling her own kingdom in Hell?

    And on an unrelated note, anyone else wish we could have gotten something special for this, like an Excalibur/Special Executive teamup?

  12. Taibak says:

    Also – is this a self-contained story, or am I better off waiting for the trade?

  13. Sagatwarrior says:

    First, with Maggie’s intelligence, Brian is a physicist, so it would not surprise me that his child would not be smart. Also, Meggan and Brian were long reunited after she caused a revolt in Hell.

  14. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    For more information, check out Paul Cornell’s Captain Britain and the MI-13, where the reunion happened.

    (Also, it was a very fun series.)

  15. Taibak says:

    Huh. Had read Captain Britain and MI:13, but for some reason had forgotten Meggan had such a big part in the last story.

    Still, is the Excalibur story here self-contained, or am I better off waiting for the trade?

  16. Al says:

    You should be fine – the story’s completely self-contained.

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