Excalibur (1st series) #23

Issue Date: 
June 1990
Story Title: 
Here Comes the Judge

Chris Claremont (writer), Alan Davis (penciler), Paul Neary (inker), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Tom Orzechowski & Kevin Cunninghman (letterers), Terry Kavanagh (editor), Tom deFalco (editor-in-chief)

Claremont & Davis (creators)

Brief Description: 

An alternate Kitty Pryde, who is a successful mob boss has her partner, Illyana, magically entice Excalibur to come to their world, her goal being to have Excalibur help her against this world’s police force – the Justicers. However, Illyana betrays her during the arrival of Excalibur’s train – which coincides with a Justicers’ raid of the building – and tosses Kitty off the skyscraper. Captain Britain instinctively tries to help but is shot in the back by the Justicers, whereas Meggan’s sensitive nature allows the world’s poisoned atmosphere to almost kill her. Justicer Bull arrests Nightcrawler – an obvious mutant – for being a superbeing or freak is against the law in this world, but Illyana manages to save Alistaire Stuart and an exhausted Phoenix for reasons of her own. She intends to use them to make her rulers of this world. After being speedily judged (and found guilty) Kurt ends up with several other freaks, where he meets this world’s version of Meggan, still stuck in her were-shape. The two of them manage to escape, but not before Meggan is fatally shot, just as she comes into her powers. Elsewhere, the dying Kitty has asked Captain Britain and a recovered Meggan to avenge her. The heroes meet again at Kitty’s place. They, along with the Justicers, prove no match for Illyana’s Darkchilde side, until help arrives in the form of the High Lord Justicer and his sister – alternate versions of Captain Britain and Psylocke. The two captains keep the Darkchilde busy, until Psylocke has restored Phoenix who can then exorcize Illyana. The High Lord Justicer explains that he created this system after a war amongst superbeings, but the Justicers went too far. Bull concedes that a change may be needed and allows Excalibur to leave.

Full Summary: 

The members of Excalibur glumly sit in their train, unaware of being watched. They are desperate. Their situation was grim enough before, being bounced from parallel reality to another with little chance of ever finding their home, but now they have lost their teammate Kitty Pryde – possibly forever.

The woman who is watching them in her scrying pool, an alternate Illyana Raputin dressed in Dr. Strange’s costume, remarks that Hades itself couldn’t provide a more vicious torment. Coming from Illyana, that’s quite an acknowledgement, her partner observes. Barring a miracle, they’ll never know what happened to Kitty, she remarks, stepping into the light. How happy will they be then to see her, Illyana replies to her friend, an alternate Shadowcat.

That moment, a man enters excitedly. Calling Kitty “boss,” he informs her of a Justicers’ raid. It’s Justicer Bull! Kitty orders him to delay them and tells Magik to go to work. Annoyed by her tone, Illyana creates a simulacrum of Kitty and sends it on its way to bring Excalibur to them.

Crosstime in Excalibur’s train. Professor Stuart has reached the end of his patience, as he accosts the mysterious Widget, wondering what makes it work. Widget reacts by giving the scientist an electric jolt. Phoenix uses her telekinesis to rein Widget in, while the others help the stunned Alistaire. Rachel reads Widget the riot act, reminding him that they all miss Kitty, but that’s no reason for any of them – and that includes professor Stuart – to behave like such a brat. That moment, the Kitty simulacrum appears before hem and Widget automatically forces them to teleport after it.

The Justicers’ world, a place where urban development totally got out of hand. Doug Ramsey, attorney-at-law, protests against the Justifiers trying to raid Kitty’s building. Justicer Bull is unimpressed and informs Doug he should have stayed dead. It was a legal resurrection, Doug defends himself. Unlike this search. Bull warns him that his boss may live in the highest tower in the land, but she is about to learn the hard way that nobody is above the law. They have irrefutable proof linking every major criminal enterprise n the realm right to her doorstep.

That very moment, there is a flash and Excalibur’s train smashes in through the huge windows. Phoenix desperately tries to brake the train, but after a jump she only has a fraction of her ordinary telekinetic strength. Nevertheless, it is enough. The train may stick out at both ends of the tower room, but it has stopped - barely.

Bull orders one of her men, Cadbury, to log multiple violations of statues: operating an illegal flying vehicle, operating a railway vehicle in restricted airspace, reckless endangerment…

While the Justifiers are busy, Kitty, who was almost run over, tries to drag herself up from the ground, until somebody shoves her out of the window. Captain Britain hears her scream and recognizing her as Kitty, immediately dives after her, ignoring the Justifiers’ order to stop. As a result, he is hit by a stun-gun.

Meggan flies after her falling lover and Kitty, but once outside the building she finds the air is so foul that her skin burns. She too tumbles down helplessly.

Inside, Nightcrawler has yet to recover from the strain of the jaunt. He is dragged to his feet by Justifier Cadbury. Both men are in for a shock, though, as they find that – apart from the fact that Cadbury is normal – they look totally alike. Kurt uses the other man’s shock to disarm him with his tail. A battle begins, which Nightcrawler is about to win, when Bull shoots him in the back.

She orders the other Justifiers to arrest Rachel and Alistaire as well, when Illyana intervenes and gloatingly informs them that the search and seizure are illegal. Their warrant specifically mentions Kitty. With her gone, outside of the obvious mutant Nightcrawler, they have no authority to arrest anyone. Bull is seething, being stopped on a technicality…. Cabury talks sense to her though and they leave. Illyana smirks when Alistaire thanks her. She’ll think of some way for them to repay her…

Meanwhile, Captain Britain and this world’s Kitty are still falling. Brian finds he can’t focus enough to brake their descent and the ground is coming up. He silently apologizes for failing Kitty and prays that dying won’t hurt so much this time. He hopes that this time death will last. Surprisingly, though, the ground isn’t solid at all, but that black mess is actually the ocean, consisting mostly of liquid toxic waste. Seeing monstrous creatures and plants, Brian wonders how big this world’s equivalent of London is.

They have barely reached the surface again when he sees a burning Meggan tumbling down as well. Her fall sets the surface ablaze. Brian swims straight through the flames to grab her and then looks for a safe stop above ground. Her red skin showing boils, Meggan weakly announces that the whole world is poison. Captain Britain realizes that Meggan’s affinity to the biosphere has made her more vulnerable to all of this. He knows that both women need help, but has no idea who to turn to. And, in the meantime, monstrous scavengers are coming closer…

The Old Bailey, the central criminal court where Kurt Wagner is judged by the Lord High Chief Justicer and his Chief Examining Magistrate, both of them remaining in shadows. Kurt protests – he has done nothing wrong! How can he be expected to know their laws as a stranger?

Bull just adds violation of immigration states to the list of his crimes and remarks that ignorance is no excuse. He a can leave once he has served his sentence. He hasn’t even been found guilty yet, Kurt protests and he is already condemned.

Bull informs him that his very existence is a violation of the law. A guilty verdict is a mere formality. After genetics modification to reconfigure him in conformity with established physiognomical norms and a term in punitive stasis, he’ll be returned to society to resume his life.

As Kurt is being dragged away, he shouts that his life has nothing to do with their society. He demands an appeal to the highest authority. Denied, Bull decides. He was fairly arrested, fairly tried, fairly condemned. What could be more… just?

Could be worse, Cadbury “comforts” Kurt, as he kicks him into a holding cell, if he had been found to have superpowers. Well, that makes him feel better, Kurt states sarcastically as he gets a look at his surroundings, a cell filled with lots of misfits. One of them informs him not to get comfortable. The transfer shuttle lifts within the hour.

He notices that from a comes a cry for help and he attacks the men who are bothering a woman, a woman he recognizes as a feral version of Meggan, this world’s version who never had a chance to come into the full potential of her powers.

Back down below Captain Britain is defending his Meggan and this world’s Kitty from the scavenging monster, wondering whether these are people sliding down the evolutionary scale or creatures climbing up. He’s giving his all but they keep on coming. It’s been ages since he was able to cut loose. He’d feel better though, if he weren’t losing!

Suddenly, Meggan cuts in, now sporting a powerful metallic/lizard body. She explains that her shape-changing power gave her the body she needed to survive here. Together, they manage to drive the scavengers off for some time.

Kitty, in the meantime, is dying. Furiously, she tells them that Illyana sold her out and asks them to make her pay. Brian holds her dying form. When he looks up, Meggan is gone.

Back in Kitty’s tower Alistaire has made a makeshift bed for the ailing Rachel and examines her. She’s not well, he states, causing her to feebly joke that he must be a scientist to know these kinds of things. He tells her that she needs proper rest. Even she doesn’t have unlimited strength reserves and she is burning herself up. Yet, without her to provide Widget the power to make his jaunts they don’t get home.

As Rachel falls asleep, Illyana suggest they stay. She can make it worth Alistaire’s while. Displaying her Darkchilde form, she announces that she knows he has the hots for Rachel. She brings him to his knees as her outfit changes to Rachel’s spiked leather costume. She promises him Rachel, if he helps her use Rachel’s power along with his scientific knowledge to make Illyana absolute mistress of this reality and any other she might fancy. Deal?

In the meantime, Nightcrawler and the other misfits all chained together are to be led into a sky-car. Kurt addresses Justicer Cadbury, reminding the man about he said about Kurt not having superpowers. Guess what? Kurt teleports out of his chains and takes out Cadbury. Using the man’s gun, he breaks Meggan and the others free. He takes the hesitating Meggan to a Justicer airsled. This is madness, she complains. Giving her a peck on the cheek, Kurt assures her that sometimes the world needs a little madness.

He is unaware of the fact that a Justicer is about to fire at him. However, as he does, Meggan throws herself between him and the lethal shot. Nightcawler starts the airsled, promising he will get her a doctor. Meg explains that none will take her since she is an outcast and there is no healing for a “ripper” shell anyway. Guaranteed kill every hit. Heartbroken Kurt apologizes, but the girl snuggles up to him. She’d rather die fighting and free than live forever in a cage. He showed her that. Suddenly, she marvels aloud, as her body begins to change turning into the beautiful girl Nightcrawler knows from his reality. With a smile on her lips, she passes away.

Meanwhile back at Kitty’s tower Alistaire refuses to be part of Illyana’s machinations, much to her amusement, She is a demon sorceress, he is just a guy whose love for Phoenix is his undoing. It gives Illyana a clear run straight to his soul. She remarks that, with some minor alterations, he’ll only be too eager to do all he can to help. A wobbly Rachel gets up, announcing Illyana should pick on someone her own size. Hate to disillusion you, red, Ilylana retorts wryly, but you ain’t it. She uses black magic to easily ward off Rachel’s telekinetic attack and entangles her in ebony tentacles, adding that strung-out and frayed as Rachel is, she doesn’t even come close!

Suddenly, a Justicer’s aircar breaks through the glass dome into the building. As Illyana still complains about this being illegal, Nightcrawler attempts to jump her from behind. Unfortunately, the sorceress doesn’t fall for the diversion and entangles him with crimson magical ties.

However, through the hole in the wall she sees more Justicer aircars approaching, one of them being flown by Bull. Hot pursuit of a felon is cause enough to enter a dwelling. With that in mind Illyana cover her prisoners in magical shadow and returns to her human self.

Illyana informs Bull and Cadbury that the car crashed through the wall, but kept on going. If that fugitive were here, she’d turn him over immediately.

Suddenly someone behind her shouts “liar!” Illyana turns astonished to see Kitty Pryde pointing an accusing finger at her. “Kitty” announces that Nightcrawler is there and that Illyana won’t succeed in enslaving him or Phoenix or Professor Stuart any more than she did in murdering her, so she could gain control of her empire.

Firing a magical blast at her, Illyana screams that she built that empire and Kitty hogged all the credit. Cadbury and Bull draw their weapons, pointing them at Illyana and firing, hitting the girl. With an evil grin she turns around, asking if this means they aren’t pals anymore. With clawlike fingers, Illyana tears at her face, revealing the shape of a demon. Too bad for you the Darkchilde doesn’t die quite like everybody else. The Justicers keep on firing, but in vain.

Then they’ll just have to try harder, Captain Britain announces, as he flies in and hits the monster in the back. Surprised, Bull addresses him as the Lord High Justicer, but recognizes the uniform a moment later. That’s the superbeing she shot when he tried to escape! Looking outside, Cadbury remarks that there is good news and… less good. They have reinforcements - the Lord High Justifier and his sister, the Chief Examining Magistrate… only he’s flying too!

The Lord High Justicer is revealed to be the spitting image of Captain Britain, just as his sister is of the X-Man Psylocke.

Still struggling with the Darkchilde Cap is knocked for a loop by the fact that his doppelganger is in charge of this Gestapo, not that he’s in any position to be choosy about help.

While the two Brian Braddocks battle the demon physically, Elizabeth Baddock reveals her powers as well. She realizes that she is no match for the Darkchilde, but her psionic abilities can restore the strength of Phoenix, who is. Revitalized, Rachel faces the Darkchilde. Getting closer, she remarks that she doesn’t know if Illyana was possessed or if this was a manifestation of a part of her turned bad, but now that power’s gone for good. Illyana is turden human again.

Cap thanks his doppelganger for the help. The Chief Justicer graciously remarks he only did what had to be done. As must she, Bull announces, as she trains her weapon on her superior and announces that they are all under arrest.

Annoyed, Captain Britain points out that, if the Lord High Justicer and his sister hadn’t revealed their true natures, Bull would be dead and this world under the Darkchilde’s dominion. Bull retorts that he was merely fulfilling the obligation of one Justicer to another. And she is beholden to the law, which he has betrayed.

Alistaire chimes in: it’s illegal to be a superbeing, correct? What exactly constitutes one? Bull rattles off the last: a skintight costume, marked with an identifying logo, that showcases and enhances the subject’s inhumanly spectacular physique, a mask that hides the facial features and is intended to intimidate any foes and of course parahuman physical or mental abilities. With a smirk Alistaire concludes that this description also covers the Justicers.

Were that the case they’d have no choice but to arrest themselves, Bull protests. Brilliant solution, Kurt points out wryly. How did such a silly law get enacted in the first place?

The Lord High Justicer begins to explain that this world was almost destroyed by war between its superbeings. He was one of the few survivors, but for all his abilities he wasn’t enough to deal with the others. So he created a force of specially chosen and trained operatives to bring them to justice. And it worked too well, because now for the good of the state the innocent find themselves condemned simply for existing.

Bull muses that the law is absolute, but not immutable. Perhaps it is time for a change. But that in no way absolves the strangers from their crimes. Nightcrawler tells her to stretch a point then. Give them a chance, they’ll be on their way for good and she’ll never see them again.

With a smile Bull informs them that she has a lot of paperwork to catch up on which should keep her busy until about sundown. After that, if she sees hide or hair of them, they are hers.

Characters Involved: 

Captain Britain, Meggan, Nightcrawler, Phoenix III (all Excalibur)



Alistaire Stuart (chief scientist of WHO)

On the Justicers’ world:

Alternate Kitty Pryde, Illyana Rasputin and Doug Ramsey

Justicers Bull

Justicer Cadbury and other Justicers
High Lord Justicer

Chief Examining Magistrate
Alternate Meggan


Story Notes: 

Douglas Ramsey died in the Marvel Universe proper at well at the end of the Fall of the Mutants crossover.

Captain Britain died twice: at the hands of the White Rider in Hulk Comics (UK) #21 and at the hands of the Fury in Marvel Superheroes (UK) # 388.

Justicer Bull is a parody of popular British comic character Judge Dredd from the magazine 2000 A.D.

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