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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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05/25/2004 Archived Entry: "Marvel Comic review: Excalibur #1"

Excalibur #1
Forging The Sword, Part 1 of 4
Story: Chris Claremont
Art: Aaron Lopresti
Publisher: Marvel

Reviewed by Chad Denton

The new "Excalibur" is somewhat the odd duck in the new x-Men line-up launched under the heading "Reload" (yes, this is about the fifth 'revamping' the X-books have gotten in the past decade, although, after the experimentalism of the past few years that's now coming to a crashing halt, "Reload" is more properly described as an 'un-vamping'). True, it's written by Chris Claremont, the writer who helped make Uncanny X-Men a Marvel flagship title back in the 70s and who established the notorious, soap opera-esque formula that would be followed faithfully for about the next three decades in team superhero books across the board. However, first off, it has nothing to do with the original "Excalibur," a superhero team title started in 1989 by Claremont and Alan Davis that, depending on what year you were reading it, was either a British superhero title that just happened to have a few members of the X-Men roster starring in it or was an X-Men satellite title. Despite the title, though, this book is actually about Professor Xavier, who has, despite being a key element to the X-Men mythos, has always been a bit of a peripheral character, when writers weren't sending him off into extended vacations in outer space (and who can blame them? It can't be easy to write a character who's both a supreme pacifist and a near omnipotent telepath.) Finally, the premise is rather unusual: so far it seems it's going to be about Professor Xavier's efforts to rebuild the mutant nation of Genosha, which was obliterated during the course of Grant Morrison's "New X-Men" run.

There aren't many mainstream superhero comics out there that devote themselves to the story of efforts to rebuild a nation devastated by genocide and the character of Charles Xavier is one that has deserved a spotlight for years, so I really want to like this, even though Claremont hasn't been at the top of his game since 1986 (in my opinion; go to your local comic book shop if you really want lengthy debates as to when Claremont jumped the shark). Yet I had heard from reliable sources that a few of Claremont's recent stories for the X- books had been quite good and, hey, fond memories of his work in the 70s and early 80s still echoed in my head, so I came at "Excalibur" with fairly high expectations.

No offense, Chris, but I want my optimism back.

Following Marvel's policy of super-condensed storytelling, the entire issue features...Charles (who is crippled again, mind) dragging Magneto's coffin after events in a recent issue of "Uncanny X-Men". Exactly why he's been left completely alone with Magneto's body isn't too clear, even to those who have read the issue in question (and I have), since you'd think Xavier's pupils and devotees would have more respect for him than to leave him alone in a wasteland with the corpse of his archenemy, but whatever. Anyway, along the way he has a conversation with a hallucination of his late love Moira McTaggert (who, disturbingly enough, presents a couple of T&A shots, which kind of kills any serious, mournful effect Claremont might be trying to achieve) and runs into two new mutant students who have either survived the attacks or returned to Genosha. One's a boy named Freakshow who can turn into a monster, which is fine, the other's a Goth girl named Wicked who can conjure up ghosts, which is, well, downright horrible. You would think that, if you were living in endless ruins where "not even the cockroaches have survived," food and shelter would be higher priorities than being able to deck oneself out in Goth jewelry, leather shorts and top, and fishnet stockings, but, again, whatever. It's at least good to see that Claremont is in sync with the trends of last decade.

Oh, and there's a plot twist at the end which will probably irritate people who have read through Morrison's run. Frankly, it was coming sooner or later, but I sort of dread where Claremont's going with this and whether or not it's going to make confetti out of Morrison's story.

Luckily, the art takes up the slack. The cover art is gorgeous, while Lopresti's art is quite good, especially considering that it was apparently a last-minute job. The barrenness of Genosha is effectively depicted and rescued from being the monotonous background it could have been. His characters, especially his Xavier, are meticulously detailed down to the slightest facial expression, although Wicked still looks like a video game character.

I feel like I might follow this series for a little while, because it really does have a fresh and promising premise, but this is not a promising start.

***

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