Comics written by Chris Claremont tend to be much more plot-heavy than many comics - and I don't think that's necessarily a bad or a good thing, it depends strictly on how interesting the plots are - so it's a smart move for Marvel to preface EXCALIBUR #2 and #3 [$2.99 each] which a page of "previously" information. Since it has been several weeks since I reviewed EXCALIBUR #1 [7/21/04], let us begin with the summary from issue #2...
PROFESSOR CHARLES XAVIER, founder of the mutant super hero team known as the X-MEN, has left the X-Men and his New York home for the island nation of GENOSHA following the death of his onetime friend and frequent enemy, MAGNETO. Once a prosperous, technologically advanced country populated almost entirely by mutants, Genosha was recently decimated - along with all 16 million mutants who called it home. Its destroyer was none other than Cassandra Nova - Xavier's twin sister. Now, it is nothing but rubble and a few refugees who hide among its ruins.
Xavier finds that not everybody on Genosha is happy he's there - for instance, UNUS THE UNTOUCHABLE and his gang, who threaten him. But to his defense comes two young mutants - WICKED and FREAKSHOW. Xavier learns he has both friends and enemies on Genosha.
When Xavier reaches his dwelling, he is greeted by his new housemate, a man the entire world believes to be dead...
"Decimate" is a frequently misused word. A strict definition of its use here would mean that only 10% of the island nation was destroyed. That doesn't seem to be the case.
The summary also states that all Genosha's 16 million mutants were decimated which, by strict interpretation, would mean 14.4 million of them are still alive. Likewise not the case.
The death toll and destruction clearly amounted to much more than 10%. We've seen few people, mutants or otherwise, roaming the island. If it's not too late to tweak the situation, I would love to learn that the survivors number a million or more. Dealing with and helping that many people would be an intriguing challenge for Xavier and his new team.
Oh, yeah, and given the cover of EXCALIBUR #2, I don't think I need to keep secret that the "housemate" mentioned in the summary is Magneto. Which brings us, at long last, to my actual review of the issue and the issue following it.
"With a Little Help From My Friends" began with a long chat between Xavier and Magneto. It touched on some fascinating bits of mutant lore which, as a lapsed X-Men reader, I hadn't been aware. Secondary mutations. The obvious notion that mutants are still an evolutionary work-in-progress. It also established the characters of the two friends/enemies. Though the sequence was well-written and well-staged by penciller Aaron Lopresti, it could/should have been trimmed a bit or, even better, included more hard information on the current state of Genosha and the survivors of Nova's attack on the island.
(I wouldn't presume to insist Claremont write my story - i.e., the one *I* want to read - but I find survival and nation-building more interesting themes than the "humanity hates the mutants" stuff which usually consumes the X-Men books.)
The issue picked up with the reintroduction of Callisto, once the chief of the Morlocks. Her new look and her easy acceptance of it came as a pleasant surprise. This may be the first time I have ever been interested in the character.
The issue also gave us the delightful resolution of the Unus-Freakshow battle of the previous issue, the expected "team shot and vow to make things better," and, on the last page, the introduction of two new characters and a coming menace. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm getting bored by these last page come-ons for the next issue. A legitimate cliffhanger is fine and dandy by me, but this felt like an ad page to me.
I liked EXCALIBUR #2, albeit not as much as I liked the first issue. It gets a respectable three Tonys.
EXCALIBUR #3 starts to lose me. It begins with Xavier being attacked by an Omega Sentinel who is actually a figment of his own powerful mutant mind, a premonition triggered when he inadvertently taps into the mind of Hack, one of the young mutants introduced on the last page of the previous issue. Another figment, that of his dead lover, talks Charlie out of the situation. Five pages wasted on a battle that didn't happen.
Most of the rest of the issue concerns the two new mutants, a third friend of theirs, Genoshian "magistrates" from before Magneto ruled the island, and the Omega Sentinel of Chuckie's mind-spasm. I'm not sure what an Omega Sentinel is - half human, half Sentinel, is my guess - but this one is in suspended animation. Before the end of the issue, we get a mid-air explosion with the three mutants escaping certain death. For the end, we get an army of murderous magistrates descending on Genosha in search of the Omega Sentinel. I've seen this stuff before.
I admit my displeasure with this third issue stems mostly from the lack of what I enjoyed in the previous two issues.
I liked the original five members of the team and wanted to see more of them. I didn't warm up to who I assume are three new members of the team.
I want to see Xavier's team making things better for whoever remains on Genosha. I don't want to see them fighting old enemies. The revenge/defense motif in super-hero comics bores me. What does that have to do with you and I?
EXCALIBUR #3 disappointed me. Maybe that's my fault, but, at the end of the day and of this column, I'm the guy handing out the disembodied heads. On my scale of zero to five, the issue gets but two Tonys. I hope Claremont and crew can improve that score with the final issue of their initial story arc.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
Please send material you would like me to review to: