Excalibur (1st series) #103

Issue Date: 
November 1996
Story Title: 
Bend Sinister Reprise

Warren Ellis (Writer), Carlos Pacheco (Penciler), Scott Koblish & Bob Wiacek (Inkers), Ariane Lenshoek (Colorist), Richard Starkings (Letterer), Paul Tutrone (Assistant Editor), Matt Idelson (Editor), Bob Harras (Editor in Chief)
Special Thanks to Jaye Gardener

In Memory of Mark Gruenwald

Brief Description: 

Kitty, Nightcrawler and Colossus awake to find themselves in a small village filled with nobody but parallel versions of themselves. They encounter their various alternates as they try to find a way out of the reality. Kitty realizes that these alternates are darker versions of themselves, the sides that they try to keep contained and repressed, and after a final encounter, where Kitty, Kurt and Piotr realizes what it is that makes themselves different from their darker selves, they return to Muir Island, knowing also that it was Belasco who set this up. On Muir Island, they are reunited with their teammates and Wisdom admits to Kitty that he loves her. In Limbo, Belasco was watching the X-Men, in this test he created to see how much they had grown since he last fought them, and trapped in a small cage is Margali Szardos, whom Belasco captured during a moment of weakness.

Full Summary: 

Kitty Pryde, a.k.a. “Shadowcat”, X-Man and founding member of Excalibur slowly wakes up. She is a morning person and doesn’t need an alarm clock, for she has woken at the same time every day since she was thirteen years old. Looking around the room, she sees a mess on the floor and smiles, ‘Heh. Untidy git’ she says. Git of course being a word she learned from her British boyfriend, Pete Wisdom who is just across the hall from her. Kitty gets out of bed and yawning, she stretches as she walks over to the window and wonders how the world looks from Muir Island today – however, this day, it looks like no other day.

For Kitty Pryde looks out from her bedroom window in Muir Island’s medical research center, located off the coast of Scotland – but she isn't looking out on Muir Island, instead, she sees a cobbled street lined with English-style houses. ‘My room! Not on Muir!’

Kitty runs from the window, calling to Pete, she tells him to get out of his room as they have trouble. But as she opens the door to her boyfriend’s room, she sees not Pete – but Piotr, a.k.a. Peter Rasputin a.k.a. “Colossus” – a former boyfriend. But as she takes a closer look, Kitty discovers that this Peter is old, and balding, and with cold eyes he turns to Kitty, can calling her “Katya” he tells her that she looks so young, but that she is dead – they are all dead.

Kitty realizes it is Colossus, but not Colossus, in Pete’s room. She turns and runs back to her room – but sees that the corridor is all wrong! ‘I refuse to cope with weirdness in my nightshirt’ Kitty declares as she bursts into a room, telling herself to get ‘the colors’ on and then start coping. She finds a uniform and as she changes into it she wonders where Pete went, and what is with the infinite number of doors in the corridor? ‘Slow down, he’s fine, he’s fine’ she tells herself.

When she is fully dressed, a knock sounds at the door, and she tells herself to get into position, to let whoever it is come in and then kick them in the head - but as Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner, Exclaibur’s leader enters the room, he asks Kitty if she has left the room. Kitty starts to ask him if he realizes how close he came to being kicked in the head, but is cut-off halfway when Kurt sternly asks her the question again.

Kitty replies that she has, and that it was a big mistake, and asks Kurt if he has seen what it across the hall – it looks like Piotr, sort of, but when he spoke he was different. Kurt tells Kitty that that was nothing, as someone who looked like her tried to kill him five minutes ago, adding that they are definitely not on Muir Island anymore. Leaning out the window, Kitty tells Kurt that he better come and look, as it gets worse.

Pointing down to a courtyard, Kitty tells Kurt that it looks like he missed sword fighting practice this morning, as the rest of him are there, and down in the courtyard are several other Nightcrawlers, each somewhat different from the other, all holding up their swords.

Motioning to another part of the street below, Kurt points out that there are several of Kitty, all taking what looks to be a morning walk, and elsewhere there are some more Piotrs, none of whom look very happy, and just like the Nightcrawlers, the Kittys and Piotrs all look different.

Kurt mumbles that if he had a normal life he would quite cheerfully go mad and fall over right now, but as he has led an utterly ridiculous life, he has to say that they are apparently surrounded by alternate timeline versions of themselves. Kurt points out that as they see echoes of themselves and Colossus, it would be safe to assume that theirPiotr is here also, but the question is how do they find him.

The question is answered when a small earthquake is felt, and Kitty phases, while Kurt teleports into another room, where they see their Colossus fighting another. Piotr tells his counterpart to speak and tell him what he has done with Muir Island and the others. The other Colossus spits back ‘Bombastic representative of the petty bourgeois philistine’ as Kitty calls to Piotr, telling him to stop strangling the other.

Colossus gets up and looking at his longtime X-Men teammates declares that they “feel” right, where nothing else in this place does. He asks his friends to forgive him for his violence, as sometime earlier a version of Kitty tried to gut him with a set of strap-on Wolverine claws. Kurt suggests to his friends that they get outside, as he wants to take a look at this place.

Walking together, Colossus is amazed at how everywhere they just see reflections of themselves, and Kitty points out that their other-selves barely even notice them, and that it must be a logic trap. Walking past some graffiti spray painted to a wall that says ‘Katie loves Father Rasputin’, Colossus asks his former girlfriend to explain. Kitty asks where the logic is in dropping them in a village full of variants of themselves and nobody else. There must be a point to this, a logic that currently escapes them. If they logic it out, find they point and they should be able to extrapolate a way out.

Looking over at some alternates of himself, Piotr points out that the theory is fine as far as it goes, but that he gets the impression their variants have been here longer than they three have and wonders why they have not logicked it out. Walking past a version of herself that has merged with the Phalanx, Kitty declares they should go and find out.

Kitty, Kurt and Piotr come to several alternate versions of themselves. Firstly, a leather-clad dominatrix Kitty complete with her own cat-of-nine-tails whip, and naked leased servants in Kurt and Piotr informs the heroes that it doesn’t matter where they are, for the place is never important, but it is the time and deed that are important. ‘Da, you are wise and lovely and terrible’ whispers the slave Colossus.

Next they come across three homeless versions of themselves, the alternate Piotr revealing that they woke up one night after a night “on the rocks” and found themselves here. The alternate Kitty calls Piotr “baby” and tells him that if they haven't got drinks then they need to shove off. The drunken version of Kurt tries to say that what his friend is saying is that they just appeared here, but that there is no way out, so they shouldn’t worry. He extends his brown paper bag-covered drink and tells them that a drop of paint stripper is not so bad after you throw up once or twice.

In another part of the mystery reality, is a church, and in it the “Father Rasputin” frowns, declaring the newcomers to be sinners, as he can smell it on them. The Priest, Kurt, apologizes to the heroes, simply telling them that they cannot aid them. Kitty’s alternate boasts that they were delivered here, far from the distractions of the mundane world, for here they may be pure, and she asks if they would come pray with her.

Sometime later, Kitty, Kurt and Piotr sit on some steps, and Kurt points out that they have spoken with many of their counterparts, and wonders if the “point” has escaped him, or if there is none. Kitty stands up and declares that none of their variations know why they are here, they just adjusted. She asks the others if it really sounds like them, and Kurt points out that it doesn’t. Kitty agrees, and opening the door to “Olde Curiosity Shoppe” and reveals that she thinks none of the people here are real, that they have been created just for this place.

Entering the shop, Kitty addresses the shopkeeper, who is a version of herself and tells her that she would like to buy a map. The alternate Kitty smiles and reveals that there is no need for money, that everything is free, all you need is curiosity. She hands Kitty a scroll, and unraveling it Kitty and the men see nine circles. Kurt admits he doesn’t understand, but Kitty thinks she does. Piotr asks her if they have to read her mind or will she tell them, and Kitty asks her parallel for a map with more detail.

The parallel complies, and unravels another map - but this one is completely empty, as Kurt points out. But Kitty informs him that she doesn’t think so, and turning to the shopkeeper version of herself, she asks her what makes the two of them so different? ‘I became my own person? I never ever gave in to my bad side? I became the best I could?’ and with those words, the other Kitty disappears.

Nightcrawler asks where it is that the other Kitty has gone, and Kitty points out that there was something in all of her alternates, some aspect of someone else or of her horrible temper that she is always trying to keep hold of, and that she thought what would she be like if she didn’t try or if she ever gave in.

Looking at the map with the circles on, Kurt points out that the three outside circles have all gone, and bursting through the shop windows, an alternate Colossus declares that there are six left. Colossus strikes his counterpart and wonders what it is that makes him so different to his alternates. A policeman alternate strikes Piotr and tells him that he has the right to remain silent and the right to fall over. Piotr admits that he has grown uncomfortable with authority figures over the years and that he certainly cannot see himself becoming one.

Nightcrawler declares that the fighting Piotr’s are brining the house down and grabs Kitty’s hand as he teleports out. When the rubble clears, Colossus can be seen fighting with another counterpart. He tells this one that he has a dreadful costume and that he reeks of alcohol. Colossus doesn’t know what happened to this version of himself, but what he does know is that not fighting and not lashing out is not giving up – it is simply finding a better way to live. ‘For myself’.

All of the alternate Piotrs are gone, but the trio’s struggle is not quite over, as all of the parallel Nightcrawlers rush towards them. Kurt points out that his counterparts all seem rather murderous, not to mention miserable. ‘And many of them have long pointy swords Kurt. Think fast. Differences’. Kitty mentions to him.

Kurt doesn’t think he knows, although he has had miserable times lately, for being a team leader in these times has not been conductive to mindless joy. Kitty reminds him that he used to be happy, and Kurt points out that he used to have a lot less responsibility, but now he has had to preside over such horror. Kitty grins and asks her friend ‘Like what, answer carefully, they’re listening’.

‘Oh come on’ says Kurt as he goes on to reminds Kitty about Genosha, Black Air, X-Man, the Devil under London and the Soul Sword trouble, where he almost killed her! Kitty reminds Kurt that it wasn’t deliberate, and besides, she ‘kicked your furry butt’.

Kurt begins to laugh, and all of his counterparts start to clap, before disappearing. ‘That’s it? Now what?’ asks Piotr. Kitty declares that they have two options – ‘we get killed, or…’ but she is cut off by Colossus who tells her it looks like it is the “or” option as the reality starts to fade out. Kurt quickly turns to Kitty and asks her if she worked out who was behind this. Kitty reveals that the nine circles were the nine circles of Hell, then blankness, Limbo – which means they have just been tested by…Belasco!

‘Good grief, that took them long enough’ mumbles Belasco himself, sitting beside a pit of flames in Limbo, the part of Hell that he rules. He remarks at how much the three former X-Men have all grown since he last met them, particularly Kitty, compared to the time she spent with him in Limbo. He turns to a naked woman, held captive in a small cage dangling above the fire and addresses her as Margali, and declares that he thought it best to test them now, for sooner or later their search for her will turn up the possibility that during her moment of weakness she and the Soulsword were taken by the blades original owner – him. He jokes that when they finally come for him, it might be fun and he can hardly wait.

Muir Island, really, where three other members of Excalibur – Captain Britain, Meggan and Pete Wisdom are worrying about their three missing teammates. Wisdom admits that this is driving him mad, not to mention that there is nothing on the security tapes. Meggan tries to calm him, suggesting that they cannot simple vanish, when at that very moment reality blinks and the missing heroes return, with Colossus informing Meggan that they actually did. Kurt remarks that they are back now and that spontaneous displays of affection would be appreciated.

Meggan and Brian go over to Kurt, as Kitty and Wisdom embrace. Wisdom tells Kitty that there is something he has been forced to admit to her, and he tells Kitty that he loves her, just as she kisses him, and says ‘I love you too, you stupid git’. The others watch the happy couple, Piotr congratulating Brian, who convinced Wisdom to tell Kitty he loves her, and Meggan smiles at how sweet she thinks it is. ‘Wait, it gets better’ grins Kitty as they continue to make out.

Characters Involved: 

Captain Britain, Colossus, Meggan, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, Pete Wisdom (All Excalibur)

Alternate Reality versions of Colossus, Nightcrawler & Shadowcat


Margali Szardos

Story Notes: 

Longtime Excalibur Editor, Suzanne Gaffney finished her tenure on the title in Excalibur (first series) #102 as she started working at Marvel Online. With this issue Matt Idelson takes over.
This is the last issue written by Warren Ellis.
The village seems to be a homage to the cult TV “The Prisoner”, where a secret agent, after he quits, gets whisked away to a lovely but mysterious Village, where people have numbers instead of names. The symbol of the Village is the penny farthing bike, which can be seen on the shop sign in this issue.
The events that Nightcrawler refers to are: The Genoshan Incident [Excalibur (first series) #86,87], the Black Air debacle [Excalibur (first series) #88-90], the encounter with X-Man [X-Man, #12, Excalibur (first series) #95], and the Devil Under London which was seen across Excalibur (first series) #96-100.
Kitty, Colossus and Nightcrawler, alongside several other X-Men, first faced Belasco in Uncanny X-Men #160.
During the Soulsword Sage [Excalibur (first series) #83-85] Nightcrawler was possessed by the sorcerer Gravemoss and attacked Kitty for ownership of the Soulsword.

In Excalibur (first series) #100, Margali mysteriously disappeared, as revealed this issue she, in her moment of weakness, was captured by Belasco. However, this actually may be her daughter, Amanda, in her mother’s body, as “Amanda” quits Excalibur in Excalibur (first series) #108. We know this was Margali in her daughter’s body because in X-Man #26 (which takes place the same day) Amanda was acting very out of character. The exact time Margali switched bodies is unknown, but the most likely time was in Excalibur (first series) #102, when Daytripper, Colossus and Wolfsbane went to Margali’s caravan to look for her, only she wasn’t there. Margali was held prisoner by Belasco of course, however after hearing Margali laugh, Amanda called the search off, possibly because it was no longer Amanda…. The Amanda / Margali / Belasco storyline concludes in X-Men Unlimited (first series) #19.

Captain Britain had a flash-forward of a horrific future in Excalibur (first series) #94, and revealed to Wisdom in Excalibur (first series) #101 that to avoid that possible future he had to admit to Kitty that he loved her, which he does this issue, hopefully avoiding the possible future.

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