The first collection of Alan Davis’ Excalibur material was a tour de force. A great superhero story, great art and a great sense of humour without ever denigrating the cast. This is nowhere near as good, primarily due to including the work of too many creators other than Davis. He wrote and pencilled the entire previous book, but here he both writes and pencils three episodes from nine. He completely writes another three for other artists, and toward the end of the book it’s Davis plotting, Scott Lobdell providing the dialogue and Joe Madureira pencilling. Two stories are written by Lobdell alone, his second with half a dozen artists. It’s all nowhere near as satisfying as Davis exclusively.

Many of the other artists used would go on to considerable success and acclaim, among them Doug Braithwaite, Jae Lee and Will Simpson, but at this stage in their careers (early 1990s) they were very much still learning. Good enough to be employed, but not to stand out. Divorced from the big picture of the previous book, Davis’ plots also drift a little to begin with. His newer characters are sidelined, and the early concern is how to heal Rachel Summers after her torrid experiences. The three issues Davis writes and pencils are a step above the remaining content. They look back on Captain Britain’s old enemies the Crazy Gang and two others, deliberately concealed. All are dealt with in exciting fashionoffering some unique visuals. While with one exception none of Davis’ writing on other material is substandard, it really benefits from the synaptic fusion of his art. It’s Madureira who’s the nearest in spirit. Some of his distorted bodies induce a wince, but he has a sense of spectacle and style about his layouts. Unfortunately Davis’ tale of trolls beneath the streets of London isn’t a career highlight even with the X-Men thrown in. The ending’s good, though.

Lobdell’s plots take a look back at Captain Britain’s earliest days in his original costume, teamed with Spider-Man, and then someone attempting to impress Doctor Doom. Lobdell feeds into the theme of alternate worlds and realities that characterised Excalibur from the earliest days by pitting individual members of the team against individual members of the earliest incarnation of the X-Men, the twist being that this in some form of alternate Earth. While the idea is good it lapses into predictability, and the art varies from really not very good to interesting, with the best of it being from the combination of Rick Leonardi and Al Williamson.

Of the three Excalibur Visionaries books collecting the work of Davis, this is the least by some distance, but the quality shoots back upward with the final volume.