Excalibur (1st series) #121

Issue Date: 
June 1998
Story Title: 
With Friends Like These…

Ben Raab (Writer), Trevor Scott (Penciller), Andrew Pepoy (Inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Kiff Scholl (Letterers), Kevin Tinsley (Colorist), Jason White (Assistant Editor), Frank Pittarese (Editor), Bob Harras (Editor in Chief)

Brief Description: 

Excalibur arrive in Israel where they meet with Sabra to help investigate strange goings-ons involving whom they suspect to be Legion, however when they arrive at the location of the destruction, they learn it is Legion’s three personalities, hovering between life and death. Excalibur and Sabra do not really get on, as she already knows plenty of personal information on them after reading up on them, and challenges Nightcrawler’s leadership. By the end of the battle though, Sabra appreciates Excalibur’s cohesiveness and team work, while Meggan convinces the personalities to pass into the other side. Sabra gives Excalibur a disc of information on a “mutual friend” and they part as new friends Colossus and Shadowcat, who sports a new uniform, also share a moment of friendship. Sabra re-tells the adventure to officials at the Mossad who want to know if Excalibur would be sympathetic to their cause, and get concerned when Sabra mentions she promised Excalibur information, assuring the officials she never gave it to them. Meanwhile, on Muir Island, Moira MacTaggert informs the Beast and Cecelia Reyes that her quarantine has ended and she is taking a sabbatical from her research into the Legacy Virus, while Wolfsbane tells Douglock that she will never forgive him for ending the quarantine.

Full Summary: 

The Muir Island Genetic Research Center on the coast of Cape Wraith, Scotland. ‘You’re WHAT!?’ exclaims Dr. Henry “Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast of the X-Men via a communications monitor. Moira cleans her glasses and points out that it is just a small sabbatical, to which her long time friend and colleague points out all the long hours in the lab, all her research…his voice trails off. Moira replies that it will still all be here when she gets back, and that she needs to get out of the lab, stretch her legs a bit and enjoy a little human contact. ‘Indulge in some “me time”, surely there’s no harm in that?’ Moira asks.

Suddenly, the relatively new X-Man Dr. Cecelia Reyes declares that she begs to differ. ‘You’re a doctor and the Legacy Virus is killing people. You have a responsibility to help them!’ she exclaims. Moira doesn’t look at the monitor as she replies ‘Ye’re absolutely right…Dr. Reyes…isn’t it?’ I do have a responsibility!’ Moira continues, remarking that as a physician, and friend, to many of the mutants whose lives were ruined by that awful curse. But, being one of the people afflicted with the disease also means she has a responsibility to herself, a fact she has been painfully intimate with, yet staunchly denied, every waking hour for the past several months. ‘A fact I need not be reminded of, thank ye very much!’.

This shocks Reyes, who was unaware that Moira, a normal human, is Legacy-positive. Hank tells Reyes that it is back to examining the X-Men for her, and tells Moira to enjoy her vacation, adding that her place on the front lines is secure with him. Beast asks Moira to give his regards to Kurt, Piotr and Kitty, as they miss them. ‘I will, Beast. Muir Island out!’ Moira exclaims as she ends the communication, while thinking ‘All the best to ye, old friend - ye’re gonna need it. Fighting the good fight against the Legacy Virus is a full-time commitment’.

Moira tells herself that if it wasn’t for Douglock breaking into the quarantine room, then she would probably still be hunched over a microscope analyzing yet another culture sample - no closer to the cure than she was the day before. ‘Obsessed to death. My entire life slipping away from me - a victim in more ways than one!’ Moira tells herself as she hangs up her lab coat and pulls out the novel Moby Dick. ‘Just like poor old Captain Ahab. Sorry Cap’n, I’ve had my fill of chasing white whales. Time for this sailor to get on with her life!’ Moira exclaims as she tosses the book into a trash can.

In the residential quarters of Muir Island, the techno-organic member of Excalibur, Douglock, taps of Rahne “Wolfsbane” Sinclair’s door, asking her if they can at least talk about this. Rahne shouts back that she has nothing to say to him. Douglock asks Rahne if she doesn’t understand why he did what he did, and tells her that he did it for her, because he is her friend, and asks her to forgive him.

Rahne pulls her door open and Douglock falls into her room angrily asking Douglock if he wants to know what he did when he disrupted her Mum’s quarantine. ‘Ye likely signed her death warrant! That’s what ye did, ye silly alien! And for that? I’ll NEVER forgive ye!’ Rahne shouts, slamming the door on Douglocks’ face. ‘Great. Some “friend” I am’ Douglock mutters, slumped down in the hallway.

Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv, Israel, at the headquarters of the world’s most feared and respected intelligence network: The Mossad. ’Tell us more, Sochenet Bat-Seraph!’ asks a trio of high-ranking officials. ‘Tells us about this “Excalibur”!’ the ask. The woman known as Sabra stands before the men and asks ‘What else is there to tell, sir?’. A man with an eye-patch declares ‘The reason behind your insubordinate decision to involve foreigners in Israeli internal affairs!’

The man with the eye-patch remarks that they have enough terrorist trouble within their borders without inviting the “mutant menace” into them. ‘You have a problem with mutants…sir?’ Sabra, a mutant herself, asks. A different man quickly exclaims ‘Present company excepted, of course. You know that, Ruthie’ he remarks, pointing out that Israel’s policy towards homo superior has always been magnanimous, that they are valued members of society. ‘So long as they serve their purpose’ Sabra mutters, remarking that their government’s participation in Operation: Zero Tolerance taught them that lesson too well.

Continuing, Sabra remarks that she had hoped Excalibur would prove useful in their own right. ‘And were they?’ one of the men asks. Sabra addresses him as General Tal, and replies that at first, she was seriously doubtful. Sabra informs the officials that she and Excalibur were to rendezvous on Har Maggido, the prophesied site of the biblical “Apocalypse”, which is the place where their current predicament began. ‘They were late’ Sabra remarks, before telling the officials that no sooner had the question ‘Where are they?’ had escaped her parched lips, when Nightcrawler, Excalibur’s leader, arrived….

…Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner greets Sabra in his native German as he bamfs in front of her. Startled, Sabra leaps at Nightcrawler, pinning him down with her wrist against his neck, warning him that if he does that again, she will kill him. “Klar”? she asks. ‘Ja, crystal’ Nightcrawler replies. Kurt gathers himself while Sabra remarks that he surely cannot have teleported all they way here from Scotland, and asks where the Midnight Runner is. ‘If any of the surrounding Arab nations detected its approach…’ she begins, but Kurt tells Sabra that she need not worry about attracting any undue attention. ‘When the need for a low-profile arises…Excalibur are no strangers to stealth!’.

Using that as their cue to reveal themselves, the rest of Excalibur, inside the Midnight Runner, fade into view. ‘A cloaking device. Ingenious!’ Sabra remarks as Kurt motions to his teammates who have disembarked the Midnight Runner. Kurt is about to introduce them, when Sabra exclaims ‘Meggan, the elemental empath’, and remarks that Meggan is affianced to Brian Braddock a.k.a. Captain Britain, and that Meggan is extremely powerful, but also emotionally unstable. ‘I am not “unstable” hmph!’ Meggan exclaims.

Sabra then turns to Kitty “Shadowcat” Pryde, remarking that she is able to manipulate her molecular density as well as those with whom she is in physical contact with, and that Kitty calls this talent “phasing”. Sabra adds that Kitty has extensive martial arts skills as well as superior intellectual capacity, and was once romantically involved with former Black Air operative, Peter Wisdom, now recently estranged.

‘Like that’s any of your business!’ Kitty snaps back. ‘If it concerns my people, little girl? I make it my business!’ Sabra declares. Kurt whispers to Meggan and Kitty that Sabra certainly did her homework, to which Sabra tells them that, like it or not, mutants are one another’s keepers, and remarks that they of all people should know that. ‘Thank God she said nothing about Kitty’s new costume!’ Kurt adds, while Sabra asks where their other “comrade” is. ‘Here he comes now…as yet blissfully ignorant of the verbal abuse awaiting him!’ Kurt remarks, motioning to Colossus who exits the Midnight Runner.

Sabra remarks that Piotr “Colossus” Rasputin is a former Siberian farm boy turned reluctant costumed adventurer and that his parents were murdered by the KGB, while his mutant brother and sister are both presumed dead, adding that Colossus is gifted with super-human strength and a nigh-invulnerable organic steel hide. ‘A powerhouse with a poet’s soul’ she calls Colossus, before deciding that the core members of Excalibur are a motley bunch indeed.

Time is of the essence though, so they have to act quickly, while Sabra informs Excalibur that Israel’s troubles began here, the site where David Haller - the schizophrenic son of Israel’s foreign ambassador Gabrielle Haller and Professor Charles Xavier - mysteriously vanished some months ago. ‘Or so we thought’ Sabra remarks, revealing that reports have been filtering in of supernatural events elicited by a being with abilities matching Legion’s, but the problem is, then don’t know when nor where he will strike next. ‘Oh, so you’re keeping tabs on us just fine, but you can’t capture one missing mutant?’ Kitty snaps, before suggesting that Sabra concentrate on making that her “business” instead of other people’s personal lives.

Sabra replies that they would, only if Legion wasn’t manifesting in simultaneous, multiple locations, as it prevents them from pinning him down. Kurt remarks that is impossible, pointing out that Legion is a pyrokinetic, telepath and telekinetic, but not a teleporter. Sabra replies that they should not rule out the possibility that Legion has developed a fourth talent, and adds that Tza’Hal is formidable, but that even the Israeli defense forces are no match for such an unpredictable threat, which is why she asked the four of them here, as members of their “mutual friend’s” Mutant Underground, they are supposed to help each other.

Colossus tells Sabra that is precisely why they came to help her, ‘We help you…you provide us with some information as recompense for our aid’. Nightcrawler remarks that the information is to be specifically about the whereabouts of their “mutual friend”, to which Sabra grins and slaps him on the back, jovially telling him to save his haggling for the market place. ‘Oww! Can I take that as a “yes”?’ Kurt asks….

….’And exactly what “information” did you promise them?’ one of the officials at the Mossad asks Sabra. ‘None, sir. It was merely a ruse’ Sabra replies, explaining that she had to insure Excalibur’s unflagging support on the mission. One of the officials smirks, and asks Sabra to continue with her story….

….In the Midnight Runner, Kurt and Sabra plot strategy en route to the location of the most recent phenomena, while Meggan uses her powers to reconnoiter ahead, for if she can register any excessive emotional upheavals or atmospheric disruptions, they would know exactly where Legion had appeared. Sabra has optimism about the mission, Kitty Pryde however, has a complaint, and whispers to Colossus ‘Who the heck does that woman think she is? “Jane Bond”? Big whoop, she’s part of the Professor’s Underground. Who gave her access to the gory details of m social life?’ Kitty wonders, before asking ‘And what’s with that name? Sabra. What kind of national hero names herself after a fruit!?’.

Colossus tells Kitty that, Sabra’s brusque demeanor aside, her hostility towards Sabra surprises him. Piotr points out that Kitty and Sabra share a common heritage, so he figured they would have much to talk about. ‘You mean because we’re both Jewish?’ Kitty asks as she pulls her symbolic necklace out from under her costume, remarking that she supposes they both do share a certain cultural bond. ‘If only she wasn’t so annoying!’ Kitty whispers, before remarking that it feels like it is “open season on Kitty” these days, that everyone is getting under her skin.

Colossus tells Kitty that he knows the feeling well, remarking that as hard as it is for he and Meggan to reconcile their differences, he is sure it is nowhere near as difficult as it is for Kitty and Wisdom. Piotr tells his former girlfriend that he is truly sorry things did not work out for her and Wisdom. Kitty plants a kiss on Colossus’ cheek, to which Piotr asks what that was for. ‘For being my friend’ Kitty replies. Colossus smiles.

Sabra reveals to Nightcrawler that Professor Xavier suggested she actually join Excalibur on numerous occasions, as he felt her experience as a soldier and Mossad intelligence agent could offer something to the team. ‘Personally, I felt you could’ve stood some improvements in the way of leadership. A bit more “grace under pressure”’ Sabra adds. ‘You don’t say’ Kurt mutters, before Sabra confirms that she has reviewed the team’s files, especially Kurt’s, as she wanted to see whose toes she would be stepping on if her arrival wasn’t well received. ‘And…?’ Kurt asks. ‘Let’s just say it would have been no competition’ Sabra replies.

Sabra turns their attention back to the mission and brings up Kurt’s strategy, telling him that she is amazed - Kurt interrupts, ‘Well, I have been team leader for a while now, I do know a thing or two about the job -’ he remarks - ‘Amazed that you failed to see how vulnerable that approach would leave us. A fine stratagem…if you have a death wish!’ Sabra concludes. Kurt just pouts, when, suddenly, Meggan announces that she senses something, North of here and closing. ‘Something very peculiar’ she remarks, before screaming, as half of her image shifts to reflect Legion’s appearance, ‘Fear! Confusion! Anger! Hatred! DEATH!’ she shouts.

Sabra asks Kurt what is happening, to which Nightcrawler explains that it is Legion, and tells Meggan that she put on a good show. Meggan touches her face to check that her features have returned to normal, and replies that it wasn’t just him, just Legion, but them! ‘”Them”?’ Kurt exclaims, before Sabra asks whereabouts. Kitty and Colossus look out the front of the aircraft and Kitty remarks ‘Umm…not far now!’ Everyone looks outside at a breathtaking and blood-curdling sight. Jerusalem, the beautiful city of silver and gold besieged by super-natural forces.

Excalibur watch in horror as they descend, their search at an end, though the madness has just begun. Sabra exclaims that they were mistaken in assuming Legion was responsible for tormenting Israel, when the blame, in fact, lay not with the boy himself, but with the spectres of his fractured personality. Jack Wayne the telekinetic, Jamail the telepath and Cyndi the pyrokinetic. All three currently tormenting a troop of security enforces at the holiest, most disputed, site in the world, which was now under the trio’s control.

Inside the Midnight Runner, Nightcrawler tells Kitty to use evasive maneuvers, but Kitty replies that they can’t, as they are telekinetically hooked. Outside, Jack Wayne motions to the Midnight Runner and tells his cohorts that it seems they have more company. ‘It’s gonna be a hot time in the old town tonight!’ Cyndi exclaims as she unleashes a blast of flame upon them….

….’Cut to the chase’ one of the Mossad officials tells Sabra, pointing out that she still hasn’t answered his question: ‘Is Excalibur useful?’ he asks again. Sabra replies that she was just getting to that….

….Jack Wayne motions to the “Kotel” and remarks that he heard folks put messages in this “Wailing Wall” hoping God will read them and answer their prayers. ‘Well, here’s my message - catch!’ he exclaims as he tosses a heavy jeep at the wall - which Colossus catches just in time. ‘Fiend! You dare desecrate sacred ground?’ Sabra exclaims angrily, ready to attack, while Colossus tells her to wait, pointing out that they must co-ordinate their attack and strike as a team. Even if Sabra could hear Colossus’ warning, it is unlikely she would have heeded it anyway, as she has grown accustomed to fighting alone. However, even Sabra knows that she should have listened to Colossus, as Jack Wayne uses his powers to force a series of debris at her, and in an attempt to evade the debris, a large chunk of rubble smacks her in the head.

This gives Jack Wayne the advantage, as he hovers a large chunk of rubble above the weary Sabra, ’See ya, sister. Wouldn’t wanna be ya!’ he exclaims, only for the rubble to shatter against the ground as it literally passes through Sabra, surprising the stunned heroine. Sabra assumes that her body is tingling due to the force of the blow, only realize that it was Shadowcat’s impeccable timing. ‘Sit back and watch how the pros do it. Maybe you’ll learn a little something about team work!’ Kitty exclaims as half of her body rises from the ground.

Nightcrawler teleports around the soldiers, quickly taking their weapons from them so they cannot be telepathically influenced to harm each other, before passing them to Colossus who snaps them all in half, ‘Wouldn’t want these soldiers falling victim to “friendly fire” under Jamail’s telepathic influence’ he remarks, to which an intangible Shadowcat exclaims that there is nothing friendly about ‘this punk’s fire that’s for sure!’ referring to Cyndi, as she lets the flames pass through her. ‘Fry, girl! Why won’t you burn?’ a frustrated Cyndi shouts, to which Kitty remarks that you cannot burn what you cannot touch.

Meggan agrees, as she uses her control over the elements to snuff the flames, while remarking that all they need to do is return these three to where they belong. To Sabra’s surprise, Excalibur prove to be as refined a fighting unit as any she has ever seen. Cyndi calls Meggan “Elfie” and tells her that it is too late to send them back, as David is dead, and they are finally free to do what they want, when they want, and no one can stop them.

Cyndi unleashes another burst of flame, which Nightcrawler quickly dodges, thinking to himself that if Legion is truly deceased, then how can his fractured personalities remain? Suddenly, Jamail’s image appears before Nightcrawler, telepathically answering Kurt’s question by revealing that they are disembodied spirits, ghosts poised for the journey into the hereafter. Jamail reveals that he is prepared to give up his ghost to Allah, but Jack and Cyndi are not. Jamail explains that sorrow overwhelms Cyndi and Jack, who cling to the last vestiges of their meager existence, denying their fate.

Kurt realizes that until Jack and Cyndi accept that it is time to pass on, none of the three can go to the nest life, but he knows that the question is how they can convince the other two. ‘The empath holds the answer!’ Jamail exclaims. ‘Meggan! Of course!’ Kurt shouts, before teleporting over to his friend, urgently asking her to calm herself. ‘A rather peculiar request at a time like this, Kurt!’ Meggan replies. Kurt exclaims that he is serious, urging Meggan to focus her empathy and extend it outward, to let it flow from her like a wave of pure placidity.

‘Mmmmm…like this?’ Meggan asks, crossing her arms across her chest, closing her eyes, and literally personifying calmness. Sabra finds what happens now hard to explain, but she too feels a radiance, warm and utterly welcoming. Sabra alludes the feeling to the “light at the end of the tunnel” commonly associated with near-death experiences - something Sabra didn’t herself ever expect to experience. But clearly, neither did their foes. ‘Whoa! Ain’t that a feeling!’ Jack Wayne exclaims. ‘It’s soooo beautiful! So inviting!’ Cyndi adds.

Jamail clasps his cohort’s hands, and white cloud appear all around as he exclaims ‘That, my friends is the destiny awaiting us on the other side. Come. Let us leave this world and all our sorrow behind that we might finally live forever in tranquillity…and peace’. And with that, Excalibur and Sabra watch as the three personalities of Legion simply vanish.

Sabra tells Nightcrawler that he had no idea that would work. Kurt confirms this, to which Sabra remarks that he took a risk. Kurt replies that he prefers to think of it as “grace under pressure”. ‘Touché’ Sabra agrees, smiling, before handing Kurt a floppy disc, telling him to consider the two of them square, not just as fellow mutants, but as friends. Meggan, Colossus and Kitty head back to the Midnight Runner, while Nightcrawler informs Sabra that Excalibur is short a member since Wisdom’s recent departure, and tells Sabra that they could always use another pair of hands, perhaps even a co-leader.
‘Tempting’ Sabra replies, before declaring that her first responsibility is to her people, the people of Israel. ‘And as I said before…there is no competition’. ‘Touché’ Kurt remarks, before kissing Sabra on the hand. Sabra watches her newfound friends depart in the Midnight Runner, ‘Farewell, my friends. Until we meet again’ she exclaims in her native Hebrew….

….In the Mossad, one of the officials slams his fist down and declares ‘Let me speak as slowly and monosyllabically as possible so you’ll understand!’ he exclaims, before being interrupted by his fellow, who tells Sabra that what General Etzion is getting at, is now that she has assessed Excalibur’s capabilities, would they be sympathetic to their plight here in the Middle East. ‘Were we to call on them again, would they answer that call?’. Sabra replies that all she can say for sure, is that with friends like Excalibur, she not only fears for her enemies, but for theirs as well….

….and in the Midnight Runner, as Excalibur head home, Nightcrawler looks at the disc Sabra handed him, hoping it contains the answers he so desperately seeks.

Characters Involved: 

Colossus, Douglock, Meggan, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, Wolfsbane (all Excalibur)

Dr. Moira MacTaggert


Beast & Cecelia Reyes (both X-Men)

Cyndi, Jack Wayne, Jamail (all personalities of Legion)

General Etzion, General Tal and other official at the Mossad

Israeli soldiers

Story Notes: 

Moira was revealed to have contracted the Legacy Virus in Excalibur (1st series) #80. She put herself in self-imposed quarantine in Excalibur (1st series) #115, but was released from it by Douglock in #120 as he wanted to impress Wolfsbane.

Israel’s involvement in Operation Zero Tolerance can be seen in X-Men (2nd series) #65-68.

Legion vanished during the Legion Quest as seen in X-Men (2nd series) #41.

Kitty’s comment about Sabra being named after a fruit is reference to the Hebrew name used in Israel to describe the prickly pear cactus. The term Sabra can also be used though for a native-born Israeli Jewish person.

Kitty and Wisdom broke up in Excalibur (1st series) #120, and Wisdom subsequently quit the team. This was an editorial decision to split the two up, as the new editors thought that Wisdom was too old for Kitty, but also, had to make it easier for Kitty (and Nightcrawler and Colossus) to return to the X-Men, as it had already been decided that Excalibur (1st series) was to be cancelled.

According to a footnote, the Kotel is the last remaining wall of the Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 BCE.

Issue Information: 
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