Excalibur (1st series) #34

Issue Date: 
February 1991
Story Title: 
School Spirit (or Cheerleaders from Heck)

Chris Claremont (author), Ron Wagner (artist), John Wilcox (colors), Michael Heisler (letterer), Terry Kavanagh (editor), Tom deFalco (editor in chief)

Excalibur created by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis

Brief Description: 

Kitty and the other St. Searle girls put their plan to get money for the school in a cheerleading contest into action. Coincidentally, Mesmero is called to the same stadium where the contest takes place to meet his blackmailers, who are revealed to be Fenris. “Mesmero” reveals himself to be the hypnotized Meggan and she and the also hypnotized Captain Britain and Phoenix attack Fenris. Kitty notices her teammates and leaves the other girls in the middle of their routine to help her team. After some debating the other girls decide to help – in effect it is they and their hockey sticks that take out Fenris. Thanks to Courtney Ross, the school is saved by offering training facilities to the football team and Kitty decides to return with Excalibur.

Full Summary: 

Greville-by-Ealing station near St. Searle’s school for young ladies. Ms. Rutherford and sports teacher Reeve are waiting for the train. With them are Phoebe and Kitty and the other older girl, sitting bored in the background. Despite Reeve’ doubts, Miss Rutherford plans a trip to London to appeal to former student Courtney Ross to help the school with its debts. Big if, Reeve remarks, considering the hard times. And even if she succeeds. Won’t they be exchanging one mountain of debts for another? Merely postponing the inevitable. In the end, they will still have to pay or close.

Agitated, Miss Rutherford asks if he’d prefer she do nothing and see their students scattered to the wind? To homes where they are not wanted and parents who couldn’t care less? St. Searle’s is the only stability many of these children have, their only chance to make something fine and decent of their lives. And she shall not surrender it or them without a fight. Kitty and Phoebe grin in admiration.

Miss Rutherford calms down and apologizes. By the way, has he been exercising the girls to excess in their athletics? She looks at the tired girls sitting on the bank. Their natural state this past fortnight seems to be one of perpetual exhaustion.

Luckily, that moment the train arrives. With Miss Rutherford gone, Reeve mutters abut an exercise in futility. He doesn’t think she can pull this off? Kitty asks. A better chance was had by the light brigade at Balaclava, comes the reply. Can he offer the two of them a ride back to school? Phoebe replies they had planned on showing Pryde some local sights. Reeve tells them to be back for dinner. Rules are still rules. True enough, Phoebe agrees when he’s gone, but sometimes they are made to be broken.

She whistles for everyone to gather. The girls, including the youngest class, runs down. Phoebe is not happy about their involvement but he girls blackmailed them.

Kitty orders one of the younger girls to give her a cell phone and checks with another older girl if Mr. Reeve is safely out of sight. She learns he’s just driven back to school. Soon as he is safely out of sight, they know what to do, Kitty tells them. They blow up a diseased old tree that now blocks the driveway and cut the phonelines. Meaning, the school is cut off. Kitty praises them. Now it’s their turn.

A station master asks them what they are doing here. Phoebe smoothly explains that they are on a field trip and they hold up written permission slips, plus tickets and reservations for him to see. He walks off, still a bit suspicious.

Kitty then calls British Rail, claiming to have an important message for Miss Rutherford that Miss Ross of Fraser’s Bank has been unexpectedly called to Scotland but would like to meet her there. A booking and first class ticket… Kitty, Phoebe interrupts… are waiting for her at Euston station. Phoebe tells her to hurry. Their train is there.

Does she really think Miss Rutherford will fall for that? She’s desperate, same as them, Kitty replies. It’s a nasty trick, another girl points out. Comes naturally around them, Kitty retorts, but seriously, they have to keep her out of the way.

As they board the train, the other girls worry. They barely had a fortnight to prepare while the other teams probably had ages, long odds. She’s a Cubs fan, remember? They thrive on long odds. She’s done some reading, Phoebe remarks. Kitty’s precious Cubs always lose. She doesn’t, Kitty insists.

Same morning, Salisbury Plain, famed over the world as the locale of Stonehenge and setting for the Beatles’ film Help, but also known as the primary testing and maneuver ground for British military. Mesmero and his dolls in Excalibur are standing there. The also-hypnotized Alistaire Stuart works at his computer station and then informs Mesmero that all is in readiness. Then let the fun begin, Mesmero orders and looks through a pair of binoculars.

He watches flying robot combat units, the Ministry of Defense’s latest toys. He orders his heroes to trash the lot. Meggan, Phoenix and Captain Britain set off to do exactly that. Satisfied he sees they do good work. Whoever’s trying to blackmail him is in for a surprise. He thanks Alistaire, asking if he can call him by his first name. Call me Alistaire, Al replies. How kind. However, can he return the favor? He muses that Alistaire is sweet on Phoenix. Perhaps a post-hypnotic suggestion that she reciprocate…? No, he tells himself. He’s learned his lesson. He’s not playing the villain anymore, no matter how tempting. He’s only hypnotized Alistaire and Excalibur because his life is at stake. Even he has a right to self-preservation.

Hold that thought! comes a newcomer’s voice. Alistaire’s twin sister, Brigadier Alysande Stuart holds a gun pointed at him. Mesmero begins to hypnotize her. Astonishingly, Alysande breaks lose. His power doesn’t work on her. As she tries to attack Mesmero, he orders Nightcrawler to stop her. He teleports her but she isn’t knocked for a loop, still struggling. A tap from Captain Britain and she is out though, leaving Mesmero to wonder how she is immune to his influence when her twin brother isn’t. No matter, so long as Excalibur remain under his control.

Meanwhile, further along the railway line to London in their compartment, the older girls try to practice their moves and the younger girls needle them, especially Veronique. Kitty steps between Veronique and the younger girl Karen, whom Veronique means to slap, but Veronique’s hand goes right through Kitty. Now everyone looks at Kitty.

What is she? Veronique asks. Isn’t it obvious? Kitty replies. She’s a mutant. Part of Excalibur. She goes by the codename Shadowcat.

The younger girls are immediately all star-struck, thinking she is totally cool.

Another train rushes by and they see Ms. Rutherford in the compartment. The woman is not sure if what she saw was correct.

Think she saw them? Kitty asks. Does it matter? Phoebe asks Guess not, Kitty admits, they go on regardless, but she really hates it when a plan starts to glitch.

Phoebe remarks Kitty should have told them, her especially, about what she is. Kitty admits she’s right but, after a while, one gets used to automatically lying to protect one’s secret identity. For what it’s worth, she’s sorry. It’s worth quite a lot, Phoebe admits. But if friendship means anything, don’t let it happen again.

The girls arrive at Wembley Stadium, Britain’s premier football stadium, and are led to a locker room they have to share with another group of contestants, namely the team’s professional American cheerleading squad. The women, all total babes, patronize the younger girls.

The game begins and the girls get ready in their outfits and wigs to disguise themselves. Kitty gives the others a pep talk and reminds them that Miss Rutherford is the only one who cares about them. So, they head out.

Meanwhile, beneath another section of the grand station, Mesmero finally gets to meet his blackmailers. First, a wardroid unit warns him that the slightest attempt to use his powers of ultra-hypnosis will result in his immediate termination.

The bosses reveal themselves as the Strucker twins, going by the name of Fenris. No prob, Mesmero states. He just wanted to get their relationship straight. Easily accomplished, Andreas tells him. They order, he obeys. He should have no trouble accepting such an arrangement, concerning his experience as a flunky.

Probably true, comes the reply, if he had any experience as a flunky, which he doesn’t. If he even was Mesmero, which he most empathically is not! Mesmero turns into Meggan. She bulks up and smashes the Wardroids, intending to go for Fenris next.

In the stadium, the Searle’s girls are announced. The girls are doing their best and are impressing the audience. Perhaps the Americans have better technique but not by much and they can’t even begin to match the girls’ heart. Whoever these plucky girls are, the announcer states, they are turning this contest into a real close race.

Below, Fenris aren’t that surprised at the betrayal. The siblings touch, thus activating their power. Andreas’ force beam smashes Meggan into the ground and Andreas tells Andrea she is Meggan of Excalibur. Andrea remarks she seems to be withstanding his force. Shall they see how well she fares against her disintegrator?

At that moment, Captain Britain and Phoenix show themselves. Cap tells them to surrender before people get hurt. They misunderstand, Andrea tells them. They have no problem with people getting hurt. Especially the likes of them!

The forcebeam hits Phoenix outside up in the air. The girls are momentarily startled at the sight. Kitty, of course, recognizes the Phoenix effect. Excalibur is here on Earth and in a fight. They may need her help! Phoebe tells her they need her. She can’t desert the team! Or the school! There was another school before St. Searle’s, Kitty replies. And another team. With obligations she can’t deny. She apologizes and phases into the ground. The other girls, led by Phoebe, continue their routine.

Kitty phases more or less through solid ground, aware than in this situation she can only stay under for as long as she can hold her breath. She ends up in the sub level dressing room. What she doesn’t count on is it being used by the American players right now. Embarrassed, she apologizes and runs out, phasing through the men. Don’t mind her, she’s just the local ghost!

That moment, Captain Britain is smashed through the wall along with the Wardroid fighting him. One football player tries to shoo Kitty away. This is no place for her. She phases through him, telling him, on the contrary, this is where she belongs!

She tries to phase through the robot battling Cap, but finds it has defense shields that keep her off. Nevertheless, she distracts the robot, allowing Cap to take its head off.

Two of the younger girls from St. Searle’s, Karen and another one, have hidden near the changing rooms to snap pictures of the football players, now they witness the battle. She phones one of the other younger girls, Shelby of the group that are in the stadium and informs them of the situation.

Shelby runs to inform Phoebe and the other older girls, who are still doing their routine. Phoebe shouts at them they are ruining the routine. Pryde is in trouble, Shelby replies. She’s a big girl and can take care of herself, Phoebe replies. They’ve got their school to save. What’s the point if they don’t stick up for each other? Shelby asks. She ran out on them, Phoebe reminds them. To save her chums, comes the reply. Now she needs their help.

The younger girls decide to go on anyway. Phoebe takes off her wig and grabs Shelby’s hockey stick. If there’s dirty work to be done its best done by those who know hot to do it properly. With that, she leads the girls into the fray.

Nightcrawler teleports toward Fenris and teleports Andrea away with him, aware of the fact that the Struckers’ powers only work when they have skin contact.

Kitty holds her head, mumbling never to try that stunt again. Mesmerso and Lockheed show up. What’s the matter, she running out of lives? the villain mocks. She’s Shadowcat, yes? Pleased to meet her. Her friends believe her dead or something. He bets they’ll be glad to see her. For himself, he truly appreciates her lending a hand. Makes him regret what he has to do next. He can’t have her running around, so she’ll join her teammates under his hypnotic thrall. Not to worry, though. He promises not to take advantage. Much.

Lockheed grumbles. And a moment later, Mesmero is way too focused on his burning backside to hypnotize anybody… or keep them hypnotized, meaning Kitty’s teammates wake up.

While they are distracted, the Fenris twins run toward each other, intent to activate their powers again and kill the heroes. That moment, the St. Searle girls and their hockey sticks arrive.

Predictably, very soon the heroes find that the girls have decidedly taken care of the villains. And so, after the villains have been handed over to the far more tender mercies of Scotland Yard, the girls fawn over Cap and Nightcrawler. However, the pro cheerleaders have won the contest. Kitty feels lousy. If the other girls hadn’t quit the file to help her, that might have been them.

If not for her, they wouldn’t have come so far, Phoebe reminds her. Best fun she ever had, Shelby adds. If they gotta go, best go with a proper bang!

“Girls!” a strict voice announces and a very cross Ms. Huntsman demands to know what’s going on. Captain Britain tries to explain, but she cuts him off, stating she asked them, not him.

That moment, Courtney Ross enters, introducing Mr. Pollack, president of the yeoman organization to them. Courtney has suggested a solution to him. Yeoman needs permanent training facilities. The school has space. He’d like to lease it. At a fee which will guarantee St. Searle’s survival.

Miss Rutherford accepts, but warns the girls that this doesn’t square their accounts with her. In the meantime, however, she couldn’t be more grateful. She thanks the girls who hug her, while Kitty whispers to her teammates that she will tell her later she’s returning with Excalibur.

Characters Involved: 

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


Alistaire Stuart

Alysande Stuart

Mrs. Rutherford

Reeve (sports teacher)
Phoebe Huntsman

Ashley, Veronique and other sixth form girls

Karen and other younger students

Andrea Strucker, Andreas Strucker (Fenris)
Courtney Ross / Sat-yr-9

Story Notes: 

This is Claremont’s last issue and so a lot of plotlines aren’t cleared up.

One such subplot is Alysande’s immunity to Mesmero, which was never explained.

Fenris fought the X-Men before in Uncanny X-Men #200.

Issue Information: 

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