Review by Ian Keogh
How did Excalibur devolve over four books from a spirited superhero comedy drama with a great artist into the mess presented here? The only conclusion to be drawn is weak or incompetent editing, and Terry Kavanagh is the credit given. On the basis of this and the previous volume he appeared unable to tell the difference between the superior storytelling of Alan Davis and the lack of so many fundamental artistic skills on Chris Wozniak’s part. Kavanagh further either didn’t notice or care that Chris Claremont kept introducing new plot elements without resolving so many danglers from earlier, that his stories repeated the same theme, or that so much of his dialogue is just not necessary. Yet Claremont is by some distance the best writer presented here.
A possible selling point is that in addition to six standard issues of Excalibur the standalone graphic novel Weird War III is incorporated. See Excalibur visit a world run by Nazis and gasp at content by Michael Higgins, Tom Morgan and Wozniak (credited as Justin Thyme) that transcends unsavoury to generate offence. Higgins and Wozniak also contribute a story where Excalibur members yet again encounter different versions of themselves. How many times has that occurred over the previous collections?
Several new creators are introduced here, with artist Dave Ross head and shoulders above the remainder. He lays out a story in exciting fashion, has no problem with full figures, and brings some character to the cast. Dana Moreshead writes his first contribution, and by virtue of a coherent plot consistent characterisation and well placed gags it’s among the best of the material here. Ross also illustrates Scott Lobdell’s detailing of Nightcrawler’s holiday. It fills the pages, but is hardly memorable.
Those with long memories will recall at the end of the last collection Kitty Pryde had been sent to a girls school, and if any proof was needed that Chris Claremont was no longer interested in Excalibur, here it is. The tongue in cheek premise has legs. Claremont satirises British girls’ comics, exposes the horrors of British public schools, and throws in a few in-jokes. With a sympathetic artist picking up on the cultural references it could just about have worked, but Ron Wagner (sample page) wasn’t that artist. Plus Claremont has to involve the rest of Excalibur so throws in mind-controlling mutant Mesmero for yet another plot where reality is twisted. Someday someone will have the willpower to calculate just how many times Claremont resorted to that plot when writing Excalibur. This effort is again dragged on too long over three chapters, and the way in which the plots merge? Really?
The final insult is that these stories are titled Classic. Is it too late to expect the usage will be clarified?