Excalibur (1st series) #27

Issue Date: 
August 1990
Story Title: 
Reel People!

Chris Claremont (writer), Barry Windsor-Smith (penciler), Bill Sienkiwicz (inker), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Tom Orzechowski (letterer), Terry Kavanagh (editor), Tom deFalco (editor-in-chief)

Claremont & Davis (creators)

Brief Description: 

Jamie plays around with his toys and meets with Nigel Frobisher aka the new Vixen (thanks to Jamie). Having his TV set on, Jamie finds something interesting. A little later, Excalibur are called to Pinewood film studio to help WHO with a mysterious woman named Dr Candy Goodstroke, who apparently comes from another reality and believes they are all just manifestations of some all powerful being called Alfie. While Meggan and Cap look for Goodstroke’s trail, Nightcrawler tries to cheer up the dejected Phoenix. His attempts backfire, however, as she has a panic attack and the Phoenix power teleports them to Dr. Goodstroke’s world, leaving in their stead two more people from that other world: Alfie’s childhood friend John Doe aka the Nth Man and KGB assassin Vavara Novikova. While the two warriors make their way through the film studio and tackle Captain Britain and Meggan, Kurt and Rachel find themselves in another world’s Washington DC, facing all powerful wannabe Galactus Alfie, who manages in record time to aggravate Phoenix, leading to a battle between the two of them. Kurt on the other hand notices the influence of a mysterious TV set, apparently controlled by Jamie Braddock, who watches the whole show. Using the remote control, Kurt learns that Phoenix will get out of control, killing them all unless he stops her. Using the cancel switch, he sets reality back from before the teleported away and prevents Rachel’s panic attack and hence the switch. They don’t quite remember what happened, but Dr Goodstroke is gone. Unknown to them, Jamie decides to hold a tighter rein on his “toys” in the future.

Full Summary: 

Jamie Braddock, as crazy as he is powerful, sits in his armchair, watching the world go by, believing that he created all of this and applauds himself for his imagination. Jamie believes himself to be asleep, and everything else his fantasy.

Boinking his head against the chair, he cries out in pain. Worried, Emma Collins comes in, asking if he is ok. He had a thought, Jamie announces with solemn gravity. Isn’t that nice, Emma replies as she serves him his tea and favourite biscuits.

The real Emma Collins had been a good kind soul, one of the few things he missed when he left home. He didn’t like coming back to discover she died. So he fixed it and brought her back just the way he remembers her best. Seemed only fair. His dream after all. Why shouldn’t everything be just the way he wants it?

On the other hand, the unexpected does make things much more interesting. Case in point: Nigel Frobisher, big-league banker wannabe entering to inform Jamie that Excalibur has returned. Jamie pretty much ignores him while Emma keeps on dusting. Jamie accuses Nigel of scaring his pet fox, who used to be the crimelord Vixen. Nigel remarks that Excalibur could be major trouble. Au contraire, Jamie announces, they are the key to Jamie’s ultimate triumph. Nigel calls him demented for believing he is a match for them.

Emma offers Nigel a cup of tea, adding it can help sort things out. Not in the mood for homilies, Nigel slaps the cup out of her hand and insults her. The hot fluid spills over her. Emma doesn’t seem to mind. Jamie on the other hand is furious. Nigel apologizes, but too late. Jamie pulls Nigel’s strings and recreates Nigel as the Vixen, in a leather suit.

Angrily, Nigel remarks that Vixen doesn’t dress like this. He has a summit with some of the crime chiefs of South England that night. How is he supposed to be taken serious? Not his problem, Jamie shrugs. What about Excalibur? Nigel inquires. Easy, replies Jamie, as he turns on the TV remote. They can watch them as he does everyone on the telly. As he turns on the remote, there is a blinding flash of light. Never done that before, Jamie remarks interested, as he stares at the light. Let’s find out what it means…

Pinewood Studios, outside London, last bastion of the once thriving British film industry. Excalibur has come here at the request of Brigadier Alysande Stuart of WHO and the as usual dour Commander Dai Thomas of CID. Sarcastically, he greets the heroes as the returning prodigals. Captain Britain remarks that in Thomas’ case at least absence hasn’t made the heart grow fonder. Did he just crack wise, Thomas asks disbelievingly. That’s their Captain Britain, Phoenix chimes in, just full of surprises.

Brigadier Stuart counts only four members and asks where Shadowcat is, to which Nightcrawler explains they lost Kitty during their recent cross-time-caper. Thomas clearly states his disapproval. She was a kid and never should have been a part of this. Alysande protests that it was her free choice and she doubts anyone could have stopped Kitty. Does that make it right? Thomas asks. Alysande doesn’t know, but suspects the members of Excalibur are already judging themselves far harsher than Thomas possibly could.

She thanks the team for answering her call so promptly. Something strange happened earlier this evening, which demanded the involvement of the Weird Happenings Organization. What they have is evidently a woman who hails from another dimension. Not again, moans Cap. Sounds as nuts to him, Thomas remarks. That’s not the problem, Nightcrawler explains, but they themselves have only just returned from a journey to more alternate earths than any of them ever dreamed existed.

Stull suffering from guilt, Rachel mutters that all of this, including Kitty’s disappearance – is her fault. Thomas seems a bit disbelieving, after all he wasn’t there, and Kurt adds that variations of Thomas were there quite often. Makes his flipping day, Thomas retorts and leads them to a petite woman with curly black hair, holding a mug of tea. He introduces her as Dr. Candy Goodstroke. According to her I.D., she is a consultant to the Pentagon. Only Washington has never heard of her.

Looking at them, Dr. Goodstroke loudly muses that, of all the manifestations of Alfie’s psychosis, this one takes the proverbial cake. The superheroes are consistent with his primary fantasy structure. But were did this “Excalibur” come from? She doesn’t recall any reference to them in any of his literature. Alysande explains that Goodstroke thinks that they are all figments of this “Alfie’s” imagination.

Phoenix telepathically probes Goodstroke’s mind and explains that she is indeed from another dimension. An Earth currently in the midst of a non-nuclear World War III, courtesy of a self-styled “all powerful, all-compassionate” super-being named Alfie o’ Meagan. Dr. Godstroke’s brief was to try and psych him out of his megalomania. There was a flash of light and she found herself in Pinewood. Too disoriented by the transition to pinpoint exactly where and, since she has no clue how she got there, she knows of no way to send her back.

Rachel steps outside and Alysande voices some concern to Nightcrawler. Is she all right? Kurt admits he doesn’t know. Rachel has been under an awful lot of stress lately. It’s taken more of a toll than she is willing to admit. He decides to tag along and suggests Meggan could use her tracking sense to follow Goodstroke’s trail to wherever she originally materialized.

Rachel walks to forget. Suddenly, Nightcrawler, dressed in a white tuxedo and top hat Fred Astaire style calls her from a ramp, jokingly asking what a nice girl like her is doing, wandering unescorted. Rachel commends the suit but shouldn’t he be helping the others. Teleporting to her side, Kurt remarks he borrowed the tux from the wardrobe and, if anything, comes up that Cap and Meggan can’t handle alone, which is very little indeed, they will give a yell. Meanwhile, Rachel is his job. And a most pleasurable one it is, too.

He asks her to dance and begins to exclaim in surprise that she has finally cracked a smile. As they begin to dance up the ramp, Rachel asks where the music is. They’ll make their own, he jokes. Rachel blurts out what’s on her mind, namely that they will never find Kitty. Kurt retorts that what is done is done. Kitty knew the risk more so with Excalibur than with the X-Men when she joined. They must simply hope for the best; that some day somehow things will turn out all right.

How can he say that, she wonders. In her lifetime, the history yet to come, most of them are killed. How can one have hope when you know what’s coming? Patiently, he points out that she said it herself. They know what’s coming. There is still a chance to make a difference. He makes it sound so easy, she sighs.

Suddenly, she screams in horror, believing that standing before her is Spiral not Nightcrawler. She’s been dancing up a spiral ramp just like when Spiral tricked her before. This is a trap!

Meanwhile, Meggan is following Dr Goodstroke’s scent, while Cap is following her and an annoying film crew is following him. The scent leads them to the ramp where they are just in time to see the Phoenix effect following Rachel’s panic attack.

Rachel and Kurt feel like they are being twisted inside and out and, a moment later, standing there in the heroes’ clothes are John Doe aka the Nth Man and Colonel Novikova of the Spetsburo. Somehow, the beautiful KGB assassin remarks wryly, she thinks they aren’t in Kansas anymore.

Rachel and Kurt find themselves in similar straits. Kurt, suddenly bare-chested but now having a katana and a gun, remarks that this isn’t Pinewood anymore. What happened to them? Rachel, sporting a tight lowcut dress with garter and stockings retorts that she just got here herself. Kurt ponders that Rachel cried out about Spiral. Somehow, their dance must have triggered a traumatic flashback about her and that villainess and then her power created an energy surge to send them here.

What is really odd, though, is the huge TV screen in front of them. On the TV, he recognizes the person waving madly at him, Brian’s older brother, Jamie. Kurt recalls the team fighting a super-powered version of him. Why is he waving? Can he possibly see them? he asks out loud.

Rachel is looking at another problem. A huge young man, dressed in a Galactus suit. Angrily, the man exclaims who they are and what they have done with the Nth Man and Colonel Novikova.

Back in Pinewood Captain Britain and Meggan fly towards the Nth Man and Novikova. The KGB agent expresses hope that this is another of Alfie’s games. Does it matter? John Doe replies. Fantasy or reality, whatever that is these days, one wrong move’ll still punch your ticket.

Novikova exclaims in shock as she sees the heroes can fly. The KGB’s powers of observation never fail to amaze him, John remarks wryly. Angrily, she orders him to do something. Making jokes about how retro that demand is, he begins to gesture and chant and Cap and Meggan find that for them gravity is reversing. As they begin to run for it, Novikova explains John’s action away with hypnotism. Whatever works for her, he shrugs, but the effect won’t last long.

As he begins to run, he complains about the clothes he is wearing. The shoes only have two toes. He has problems? she asks incredulously. She keeps poking herself with the suit’s silly spikes and there are no zips. How can she take this costume off? The Nth Man suggests she count her blessings. Looks like there is nothing underneath but her. He is a pig, she announces.

Cap and Meggan have gotten their bearings again and wonder what happened to Kurt and Rachel.

In another world’s Washington D.C., the pseudo Galactus has grabbed Nightcrawler and Phoenix, who is trying to calm him, telling him they don’t want any trouble. Trouble is what she’s got, he retorts, with a capital T for terminal unless he gets some answers. Her patience at an end, Rachel slugs him with her telekinesis. Kurt falls to the ground hard. The next moment, the Galactus wannabe Alfie falls to the spot where Kurt is.

Rachel panics, worrying that he was crushed, wondering a moment later whether this guy is really Galactus. The outfit is right, but he is such a wuss. Alfie protests why she is mad at him. She knocked him down after all. Rachel lifts him telekinetically, threatening that after a few more times, maybe he will learn some basic courtesy.

Worried, she calls out for Kurt if he is okay. In all but dignity, he replies. His trousers weren’t designed for a tail. Could that be the “Alfie” Dr Goodstroke spoke of. The giant replies that he is Alfie, the great and powerful, omnisciently compassionate Alfie O’Meagan. Kurt realizes that the same agency that brought the Dr. to their world must have brought them here.

Rachel lets go of Alfie, who falls in front of the TV set. From inside the TV, Jamie Braddock comments on the landing. Alfie is surprised. No way is that one of his manifestations. Perish the thought, Jamie replies. He is a whole different network altogether. Jamie Braddock, esquire. Not quite at’cher service. Utterly flabbergasted, Alfie refuses to believe. He is unique. No one is like him. Only one word to say to that, Jamie threatens: Mgubgub. But he had the same feeling about himself. Imagine his surprise. He is sitting in his living room chair and watching the ongoings on Alfie’s world on TV.

This nonsense is making his head hurt, Alfie complains. Jamie helpfully suggests he blow his brains out. Works for him. Alfie gets furious. Pulling together his Galactus gear, he announces he has had enough. No more trespassers. Unimpressed, Rachel asks if he wants to make something of it. That much is obvious, Kurt sighs.

Back at Pinewood studios, the Nth Man and Colonel Novikova are making their way through the scenery of a Vietnam War movie. Not aware of this being a film studio, the Nth Man wonders how there can be evidence of a battle, when the landscape isn’t as devastated as it should be. Novikova points out this is an illusion, to which he replies that all life is an illusion. She retorts that she is fed up with him and his epigrams. How is what he does possible? The next moment she shouts in pain, having managed to hurt herself with the costume’s spikes again.

Inside the helicopter, they find it is merely a mock-up. Perhaps a training base. He also recognizes the costumes they are wearing, as belonging to the characters of Phoenix and Nightcrawler. Fed up with their situation of being Alife’s toys, Novikova searches through a box full of explosives.

The Nth man considers that this might not be altogether Alfie’s doing. He bets Alfie is going to be very surprised when he crosses the folks who belong to these suits. Good, he needs a lesson Novikova agrees, regretting only that she won’t be the one to teach him.

John reminds her that they have troubles themselves when the chopper suddenly goes airborne and the other members of Excalibur attack, warning them to surrender. Novikova asks the Nth Man to stall Captain Britain while she jury-rigs the explosives. Doubtful of that course of action, John nevertheless follows her lead, remarking to Excalibur that they were merely defending themselves. As they are doing now, Novikova adds as she tosses the explosives at Captain Britain. As the chopper explodes, Novikova and the Nth Man (still arguing) jump out and on the ground the director is getting angry as someone is messing with his props.

In the other world’s Washington, Phoenix is putting the pressure on Alfie with Nightcrawler looking for some way to rein her in. As ever the voice of reason, Jamie mocks from the TV. If he asks him, sanity is an overrated concept. Kurt asks him to stop this. Jamie informs him that this is TV which means conflicts have to be solved in a dynamic and visually stimulating manner. Sure, both sides could behave like rational beings, but where’s the fun? And just to egg Phoenix on, let’s give her Nightcrawler’s tragic demise to avenge. Jamie’s hand reaches out of the TV to grab Kurt who teleports to safety.

Back at Pinewood, the studio director has impatiently ordered Novikova and the Nth Man down. Novikova already thinks on how she can use her suit to commit the perfect murder on him while Meggan is upset at being criticized.

Back in the other world, Jamie reaches out of the TV set to grab Nightcrawler, knowing that the mutant is weak after a teleportation jump. Kurt notices Jamie’s intimate knowledge of them and wonders whether Jamie is from their world. Does this television allow him to spy on them? Jamie hits rewind on the remote control and vanishes. Hoping he isn’t falling for one of the oldest tricks, Kurt decides to see what’s happening on-screen.

And on the TV set, Kurt sees what happened to lead to these events. There’s Alfie in his Galactus suit, talking to Doctor Goodstroke. Suddenly, a flash of light emanates from the TV along with the words “Do not adjust your set” and Dr Goodstroke disappears to manifest on Earth 616. Here’s also Jamie watching TV along with a woman Kurt recognizes as London’s version of the Kingpin of Crime: the Vixen. There’s a switch which somehow suggests the televisions are somehow in sync creating a window between dimensions.

While Kurt pieces things together back at Pinewood, the director is throwing his weight around both towards the exiles from the other reality. At the same time, Captain Britain and Meggan with both Cap and Novikova are hatching murderous thoughts.

Back on the other world, Kurt realizes that Rachel is about to go out of control. She fights Alfie, ignoring both Kurt’s shouts and Alfie’s cries for mercy. Kurt uses the remote to fast-forward and sees Washington DC destroyed by the Phoenix power.

Back at Pinewood, Captain Britain refuses the Nth Man’s offer at help, informing him that Excalibur is a little more experienced in cross-time transit. Doe replies sarcastically and tells him to get real. There is no time for patience; there may be no more time for anything. He just knows!

Back in Washington, Kurt is working on the problem. Realizing the set is an extension of Alfie’s being, so long as it’s linked to Jamie it is out of Alfie’s hand. He figures that using the cancel switch will void all previous commands. But will it put things together the way they were or eliminate them altogether?

Back at Pinewood, the director asks Novikova if she ever considered a career in films. Step into her arms, she offers, and she’ll show him a love scene he’ll never forget.

Kurt decides he has no choice and presses the button.

A moment later, he and Rachel are back on the ramp, dancing. Before Rachel gets her panic attack, Kurt tells her there is no Spiral, only him. No need to be afraid, she is among friends.

While the film crew annoys Captain Britain by filming him, he, Dai and Meggan find their two teammates. As Rachel returns to the others she muses that she dimly remembers something happening, as though someone was living in her skin. Kurt agrees, but they can’t recall events. Everything seems normal enough, and their visitor is gone. Cap suggests the crisis is past then, as he demolishes the camera. Unless he counts her report to the prime minister, Alysande Stuart deadpans.

Rachel apologizes to Kurt for freaking. She is what she is because of a specific future. Only she came back to make sure this era won’t exist. But if that succeeds what happens to her? And if she ceases to b e how can she make those changes? Kurt replies that he can’t speak for the future, only for the present. She is here and real. She exists. That’s what matters. The rest is up for grabs.

As they walk away, they don’t see a n issue of the Nth Man comic lying on the ground. The cover shows Phoenix fighting Alfie. Jamie picks it up commending Nightcrawler on his tactics. He takes the comic book with him. Can’t play with other realities, he decides. Has to make his own. Can’t have his dreams be too uppity or his toys slipping from his grasp. Demanding lives of their own. The nerve. He gets them again, he’ll get them for good. That’s the picture!

With a gesture, he changes the comic, its cover now displaying the member of Excalibur strung up as his marionettes.

Characters Involved: 

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

Brigadier Alysande Stuart

Commander Dai Thomas
Jamie Braddock

Nigel Frobisher

Vixen (changed into an animal)
Emma Collins (reanimated / recreated by Jamie)
Film crew
From the Nth Man’s reality:

The Nth Man / John Doe

Colonel Vavara Novikova

Alfie O’Meagan

Dr Candy Goodstroke

Story Notes: 

The real Emma Collins died off-panel following the last issue of the 2nd Captain Britain series.
The Nth Man was a somewhat off-beat title by Larry Hama and Ron Wilson taking place in a different reality published by Marvel at the time. Off-beat and fun it sadly only lasted 16 issues.
Excalibur “lost” Kitty in #19. They are not aware of the fact that she is back in universe 616 as well. Though you’d think that with Alistaire being her brother and fellow WHO officer Alysande would already have been debriefed on that fact.
Rachel’s traumatic memory of Spiral is from Uncanny X-Men #209.
Excalibur fought an avatar of Jamie (not realizing that he was steered by their world’s version of Jamie) in issue #18-19.

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