|Excalibur (1st series) # 22|| || |
Issue Date: May 1990
Story Title: Shadows Triumphant
Staff: Chris Claremont, (Writer), Chris Wozniak & Al Milgrom (Artists),
Brad Vancata (Colorist), Tim Harkins (Letterer), Terry Kavanagh (Editor), Tom DeFalco (Editor-in-Chief)
Chris Claremont & Alan Davis (creators)
After the death of Jean Grey at the hands of the Shadow, King Rachel has vowed vengeance. Pretending to be Jean, she presents herself as the Shadow King’s slave. Her job is to get Iron Man to the world summit, where he can kill the world’s monarchs. In the meantime, Nightcrawler is a prisoner of WHO, believed to be a Prussian spy, the rest of Excalibur save a Courtney Ross who strangely looks a lot like Kitty Pryde from a group of racist thugs and Crusader X is looking for Jean Grey. Thanks to a sympathetic Professor Stuart, Nightcrawler manages to escape from WHO at more or less the same moment when Excalibur are trying to spring him. They are joined by Crusader X, who quickly enters a one-on-one battle with Captain Britain that neither of them can win. Rachel, in the meantime, has foiled Iron Man’s plan, but discovers that once she takes him out with telepath, his armor is programmed to kill her. She contacts Excalibur and an unwilling Meggan comes to the rescue. Lockheed, in the meantime, breaks up the fight between the two Captains, who rush to Meggan’s help and overpower Iron Man. While the heroes have no means to actually get to Farouk, the authorities are now at least warned of him. On Earth 616, Kitty Pryde visits the four remaining Warwolves in the zoo, unaware that a fifth Warwolf is nearby in disguise, intent on springing the rest of its pack.
Kurt Wagner finds himself in dire straits, as he is in an interrogation room in an alternate world’s London, accused of being a Prussian spy. His interrogators, agents of WHO, are not gentle with him. Nightcrawler assures them he is innocent of espionage. He doesn’t even know what they are accusing him of.
Watching are Commander Dai Thomas and WHO scientific advisor Alysande Stuart. Alysande asks if this kind of rough treatment is really necessary. Thomas explains that they need to ascertain the nature and extent of the threat before the world summit. The monarch of every great power on Earth is in London; they cannot take any risk. Alysande suggests Nightcrawer might be telling the truth, that he is in fact from another reality. She reminds Thomas of “Quiet Pools.” The work of Professor Kube-McDowell… is theory Dai interrupts.
While one of the interrogators turns rough on Kurt, Thomas reminds Sandy that Nightcrawler is one of the Kaiser’s deadliest agents, trained by the Red Skull himself. Sandy asks him to explain the artifacts they found aboard the train then – clear evidence of cross-time transit. Thomas doesn’t buy it. Sandy’s brother Alistaire, Commander of WHO, enters with the usual carefree smile on his face.
Sandy demands he stop the torture. Thomas explains that Nightcrawler proved extraordinarily resistant to their drugs… So they have to beat the truth out of him? Sandy scoffs. She won’t be any part of this. Thomas amends that he called Xavier to help. Alistaire informs them that Xavier along with his subordinate telepaths is out of action while the best of them, Jean Grey, seems to have gone missing. Thomas feels this cannot be coincidence and asks his people to go harder on the prisoner. Under the circumstances, he doesn’t care if they kill him.
Crusader X flew to Xavier’s estate as fast as he could to be greeted by a female Archangel. She escorts him to the grounds, appraising him of the rather grim situation. As the X-Men’s tactical chief, he is welcome to handle it, she remarks. Crusader X turns to Cable, their security chief. Cable isn’t sure of the details yet. A psychic shockwave struck without warning. Archangel makes an excuse and leaves. Crusader asks if she and Cable are still at odds. Cable informs him he can live with her dislike, as long as they can work together.
He continues that defenses were bypassed, not overwhelmed. Mutants with psychic powers were affected more, but everyone was tagged. The epicenter were Sir Charles and Lady Moira. He leads Crusader to the two heavily inured people who are being taken care of and continues that Xavier’s in such bad shape because he was trying so hard to protect Moira. He’d do that, Crusader agrees. Sacrifice himself for someone he loves. He takes off his helmet and sorrowfully looks at Xavier. Cable informs him that, if he hadn’t, Moira would be dead. She will recover. With Charles it is still touch and go.
Cable announces that they have no clue as to the culprit’s identity. Their only lead is that Jean Grey’s car departed the grounds immediately following the incident. She hasn’t been seen nor heard from since. Crusader dons his helmet and recalls that Jean was the service’s liaison with the team handling security for the world summit. He intends to find her with his special tracking ability.
London, Mayfair, outside the address of the infamous Hellfire Club, stands Rachel Summers aka Phoenix, arguably one of the most powerful mutants in existence, yet too frightened to move. The Hellfire Club killed this world’s version of Jean Grey. Rachel swore to make them pay. Big talk, she now realizes.
In her world, the Hellfire Club destroyed the X-Men’s mansion and murdered Professor X himself. Rachel, still a young teenager, only one of the New Mutants, was taken prisoner. She had barely manifested her psi-powers at that point. She was led before the Lords Cardinal, the Black King and Queen and the White Queen. They figured she’d be easy pickings, easy to brainwash.
Still, Rachel showed them that she was Phoenix in fact as well as name, as she attacked them with her powers. The Hellfire lords fell like marionettes whose strings had been cut to reveal the puppeteer behind them – Amahl Farouk – the Shadow King. He laid claim to Rachel, announcing that he had been waiting for this moment since before her parents were born. Rachel fought back, but the more she struggled the more he enjoyed it. History gives way. An older Rachel is fighting for her life against Mojo. Again she is a slave.
Rachel crouches on the ground and desperately reminds herself that she beat them both. She is strong now. She is Phoenix. The bloats can’t hurt her anymore. So how come all she wants to do is run away?
Earth 616, Excalibur’s home dimension:
The lethal Warwolves are now caged at Regent Park zoo, where Kitty Pryde comes to watch and needle them. One of the Warwolves shows her a newspaper headline: Legal action by human and animal right groups to free “Warwolves.” Kitty warns them, reminding them that there used to be six of them. Now only four are left. Maybe they should quit while they are ahead… She leaves, not noticing the small boy who gives the imprisoned Warwolves a thumbs-up sign and winks at them. In the cage, the Warwolves smirk, because death to them isn’t the same. They are certain they will be six again. Then Kitty had better watch out…
Back In Crusader X’s dimension a pretty, conservatively dressed brunette is leaving Merlin’s Mews 1, Crusaders’ home, to head off to work. At the corner, she is accosted by a racist gang, who throw some slurs at her for having a relationship with Bran Braddock, a man from a different ethnicity. Their argument quickly turns ugly, when suddenly Lockheed interferes and threatens the men. They are not too impressed by the small dragon. Watching Captain Britain demolish their van is a different matter altogether and the thugs take off.
Meggan addresses their victim as “Kitty,” for she looks like Kitty Pryde, and asks if she is alright. The woman thanks them but wonders why she called her Kitty. Her name is Courtney Ross!
Back at the Hellfire Club, Rachel pretends to be this dimension’s Jean Grey and kneels down in front of the Shadow King, acknowledging him as her master. He is delighted. Anthony Stark aka Iron Man, on the other hand, is suspicious. He also remarks that she – with short hair and tight leather clothing – has changed too much from her normal appearance. The security people are bound to get suspicious.
Farouk shrugs the change off as an outward manifestation of Jean having become his consort – his Shadow Queen. He orders “Jean” to make it right and Rachel transforms her clothes into a chic costume, surprising even the Shadow King with her telekinetic control. He orders her to take Iron Man to the world summit where all the monarchs are gathered for Iron Man to slay.
At the Tower of London, Nightcrawler is allowed to exercise under Prof.Alysande Stuart’s watchful eyes. Observing his antics, she remarks that she has heard of someone named Spider-Man in the colonies with similar abilities. Same holds true in his dimension, Kurt replies. He has quite a reputation. So does he, replies Alysande, referring to Kurt. He lands in front of her and bows, correcting that this isn’t him, but his doppelganger in her world. He is someone completely different. She demands proof.
There’s the rub, he admits and adds that in his world she was the brigadier and Alistaire the professor. He always saw her in uniform. He never thought of the woman who wore it. More fool he. A pity he will never get to find out here Alysande smiles, charmed despite herself. What does he mean?
Kurt teleports outside with her. The strain leaves her exhausted. He puts her down and apologizes. Nobody was aware of the fact that he possessed this power. He suggests that perhaps this knowledge will help them deal with his counterpart. He tells her goodbye when, suddenly, Captain Britain crashes into the Tower. Nightcrawler grabs Alysande and jumps off the crumbling walls with her, landing elegantly below. He explains that he has to keep his teammates from wrecking WHO’s headquarters.
A booming nose passes them by – Crusader X on his way to stop Excalibur. The next moment Crusader is tossed outside again, followed by his alter ego, Captain Britain. They begin to fight. Thee experience is surreal for both men, as they seem to sense each other’s moves split-seconds before they are made.
Hampton Court, site of the world summit. Posing as Jean Grey, Rachel Summers enters the building. Nearby, Iron Man waits, anticipating the blow he will soon strike for independence. Moments later, he sees what he expects. “Jean” has used her telepathy to take out the guards.
Iron Man flies inside, musing about his fellow Sons of Liberty, especially Captain America. He may be Iron Man’s dearest friend, but he is a fool to think wars can be governed by rules like some gentleman’s game. What matters is winning and the surest road to that victory in a revolution is through terror.
He smashes through a wall to be expected by Phoenix, who informs him that his intended victims are gone and the authorities are alerted to his identity. He’d better call it quits if he has any brains. Then again, if he had any brains he wouldn’t have allied himself wit the Shadow King. Iron Man congratulates her on deceiving the master telepath. But defeating him is a whole other matter. He fires his repulsor rays at her. Rachel evades the rays and fires a telekinetic shot at him. Iron Man finds that his deflectors barely managed to handle the load. Belatedly, he realizes that his foe is not Jen Grey.
In another time, on another world Jean was her mother, a furious Rachel explains. Because of him this world’s version is dead. She hits him mentally, but doesn’t kill. She wants to be better than him.
Rachel can barely believe she managed to beat both the Shadow King and Iron Man. She spoke too soon, as suddenly the Iron Man armor begins to move of its own accord. A taped message intended for Farouk can be heard. Iron Man planned that if Farouk were to try to take him out with a psychic attack he’d retaliate with shifting control over to the armor, which is programmed to carry out his last mission and pay back the sneak attack.
Outside the Tower, Meggan, Alistaire and Courtney are at a loss at what to do. The two Captains are fighting harder than ever. Suddenly, Phoenix contacts them telepathically. Finally decided to call them? Meggan asks snarkily. Rachel asks for help and Alistaire urges the still sulking Meggan to hurry to Rachel’s side.
Meggan quickly reaches Hampton Court to see Rachel standing nearby. Just as Meggan observes that Phoenix seems to have come out of the mess okay, Rachel falls down unconscious. The next moment Meggan sees Iron Man.
Back at the Tower, Alistaire wonders how they can get the Captains’ attention. Lockheed seems to have pretty much the same idea. He flies up to the battling men and roars with all his might.
Surprised the two Captains stop.
A little later, back at Hampton Court, Iron Man has just finished off Meggan. Tough luck for him, as he now has to face two very angry Captains.
Much later at the Hellfire Club, after the armored avenger has been taught a lesson he will never forget, Dai Thomas and Brigadier Alistaire Stuart have had no success in finding the Shadow King. They inform Excalibur and Crusader X. Rachel vows she will find him if she has to tear that building down brick by brick. Brigadier Stuart reminds her of the law. She can’t do that. It’s her word against Iron Man’s.
So he’s free then, Rachel states angrily. Stuart points out that, now at least, they know about him and are ready for his next move. If it hadn’t been for Rachel his plot would have succeeded and they’d be facing a world war. Is that supposed to make her feel better? she wonders. It’s a start, Kurt replies as he hugs her. The villain got away and the good guys won the day. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Captain Britain, Meggan, Nightcrawler, Phoenix III, Shadowcat (all Excalibur)
Alistaire Stuart (chief scientist of WHO)
On Crusader X’s world:
Archangel, Cable, Crusader X (all X-Men)
Dr. Moira MacTaggert
Brigadier Alistaire Stuart (commanding officer of WHO)
Alysande Stuart (WHO’s chief scientific advisor)
Commander Dai Thomas
World summit guards
Amahl Farouk / Shadow King
Back on Earth 616:
Warwolf in disguise
in Phoenix’s memories:
Emma Frost, Selene, Sebastian Shaw (all Lords Cardinal of the Hellfire Club)
Kube-McDowell’s work may be theory in Crusader X’s world, but in ours “Quiet Pools” is a science fiction novel.
Courtney looking like Kitty is part of a long plotline of Courtneys/Saturnynes and Kittys through the dimensions being similar. Part of this is also the subplot of “Courtney” / Sat-yr-9 being so interested in Kitty. However, the plot was never resolved.
The backstory of Rachel and the Shadow King (including such elements as to why he knew her even before her parents’ birth) was supposed to be told in Excalibur Special editions #3 &4, which were, however, never published. The story was eventually published (though probably in somewhat altered form) in the limited series X-Men: True Friends, in which Rachel and Kitty inadvertently travel back in time to the 30ies and become embroiled in a plot by the Nazis and the Shadow King. What makes this somewhat problematic is that it happened in Earth’s 616 timeline and Rachel (and her world’s Farouk logically) is from a different timeline. Perhaps this, as well as several other inconsistencies – such as teenage Rachel already displaying Phoenix powers – can be explained away by the messed-up memories she has ever since escaping from Mojoworld (as explained In Excalibur: The Sword is Drawn).
This Issue has been reprinted in:
Excalibur Classic Vol. 4: Cross-Time Caper Book 2 (Trade Paperback)
Issue Summary written by: Ruth