Excalibur (1st series) #4

Issue Date: 
January 1989
Story Title: 
Still Crazy After All These Years

Chris Claremont (writer), Alan Davis (penciler), Paul Neary (inker), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Tom Orzechowski (letterer), Terry Kavanaugh (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

Courtney Ross is captured by Arcade and the Crazy Gang as part of a revenge plot to ensnare Captain Britain. While shopping, Rachel and Kitty receive manipulated bank notes and bring them home. Deciphering the notes, they learn that Arcade has Courtney and where he is keeping her. The team hurries to the abandoned factory, where Courtney is doing her best to survive in Arcade’s new Murderworld. The heroes are expected by the Crazy Gang. While usually incredibly incompetent, the villains are given an edge by a device Tweedledope has created that switches their minds with the heroes’ and allows them to capture them. Only Shadowcat and Lockheed remain free. Elsewhere, Moira MacTaggert and Callisto are en route to London on a train to talk to Excalibur. Moira hints that she has found disturbing anomalies in Rachel’s DNA. As the train enters a tunnel, it is teleported away by Widget…

Full Summary: 

Frasier’s Bank, Thameside, London. Courtney Ross wistfully looks at a snapshot showing a younger Courtney kissing Captain Britain with wild abandon. One Pound a kiss for cancer relief. She’d bought out the entire roll, a month’s wages worth of tickets. In his arms, she didn’t care. So young she was. So easily satisfied. Not long after, Brian disappeared. Courtney assumed he’d been slain by one of his many supervillain foes. She grieved and got on with her life.

She stretches and muses about her role as “Ice queen” of the banking world when, suddenly, she sees strange reflections on the surface of her metal table. She turns around to find the Crazy Gang, five strange beings looking like twisted characters from the Lewis Carroll books. Lovely, lovely, he daresay they found their Alice, the Jester announces. “Orv wif her head” the Red Queen predictably orders as the Executioner tries to hit Courtney with his pike.

Dodging the blow, Courtney figures that Captain Britain returns to her life and again she is an easy target. And she’s not even his girlfriend anymore. She shoves the Executioner into the desk but the Queen jumps on her back. Courtney grabs around for any weapon and finds some perfume. She sprays into the Queen’s eyes, which does the trick.

Nervously, the Knave notes she’s winning. That’s not supposed to happen! The Jester had better hit her. Why he? the other being asks. The Knave points out that the Jester is weak. He won’t hurt her. Angrily, the Jester retorts that he is not weak. He’s the brains! He should be in charge. The Boss is in charge, the Knave argues, he will kill her after they bring her to him. If they kill her first, he will not be pleased!

That makes two of them, Courtney mutters and throws the queen into her two teammates. She makes a run for it but in front of her, blocking her way, is the last member of the Crazy Gang, Tweedledope, in a carriage drawn by rats. The wheels are adorned with knives, making it impossible to run past them. Courtney throws her shoes at the rats, which part away from the middle, then runs over Tweedledope and finally makes her way outside.

At nighttime, the street is deserted apart from a police car. Courtney gets inside asking for help to find the drivers are Arcade and his assistant Miss Locke. Arcade happily informs her that the Crazies are working for him and she needn’t worry her pretty little self about his calling Captain Britain to come to her rescue. That’s the whole point of the exercise! Miss Locke zaps her.

The next day, in a city on the West Coast of England. Brian Braddock has set up accounts for all members of Excalibur – and at his old girlfriend’s bank, Kitty observes as she draws some money from an ATM machine, still missing her credit cards. She enters the clothing shop, asking Rachel Summers in the cabin if she’s gorgeous, or what! Wearing a grey business suit, a sullen Rachel informs her it’s definitely “or what.” Is she kidding? Kitty (who wears something similarly conservative) asks. She looks great! She urges her friend to at least give it a try. Brian has a point. The way Rachel normally dresses, it’s hard to keep a low profile for herself or the team.

Sifting through some ridiculously old-fashioned blouses, Kitty suggests one. With an evil smile, Rachel telekinetically changes Kitty’s outfit. Suddenly she’s dressed in a skintight leather minidress, much like something Phoenix would wear, who smugly informs Kitty that turnabout is fair play. While Kitty waffles between sulking and being impressed by the spectacle she is making, she and Rachel attempt to pay at the cashier. However, the cashier asks if this is some kind of joke when she looks at the notes. The notes are different from normal British currency, showing the head of the Cray Gang’s Red Queen instead of Queen Elizabeth II.

Not far away is Excalibur’s lighthouse, where Nightcrawler is currently installing his jungle gym in the cellar. Meggan, dressed only in a bikini, joins him. “Guten morgen, fraulein Meggan,” Kurt greets her. “Wo bist du?” Meggan asks what the point of this is. In reply, he literally sweeps her off her feet and does his acrobatics. Suddenly, he throws her away, intending to rescue her after some spectacular somersaulting. Meggan instead hovers behind him. He’s got some nerve, she chides him. That took no nerve at all, he assures her. This takes nerve! He begins to tickle her. Both of them fall down laughing. Hovering over him, Meggan calls him a beast. He’s much more charming and cuter, Kurt assures her.

Meggan is worried because he teleported. That’s hard for him now, is he all right? It was worth it to bring the spark to her eyes. Meggan begins to shapeshift, turning into a female version of him. Her face comes closer to his; they almost touch when Brian calls from upstairs that Rachel and Kitty are home. There’s trouble! Feeling guilty, Meggan flies upstairs and Kurt berates himself for trying to charm Captain Britain’s lady.

Meggan joins Brian and the returning girls upstairs. Brian asks Kitty if her new looks is what she meant by “trouble.” Diplomatically Meggan adds she thinks that both girls look lovely. Great, that’s both bimbos heard from, Kitty thinks uncharitably, and tells them this is serious. She thinks Arcade has kidnapped their banker, Brian’s friend, Courtney Ross.

Furious, Brian flexes his muscles (so much so that the buttons pop off his shirt). Meggan asks who he is and what that means. Arcade is a lunatic assassin for hire, he explains, fists clenched. He traps his victims in his twisted version of an amusement park called Murderworld and uses the funfair rides and attractions to kill them. They met during his first incarnation as Captain Britain. Then as now, Arcade used Courtney as bait to get him but Cap beat him. He’s the kind who bears a grudge. He should have realized that sooner or later he’d want to even the score.

Agitated, Meggan silently worries that Brian still cares for Courtney. Nightcrawler has joined the group and chimes in that the X-Men have fought him as well. Brian takes off his shirt and gets ready to fly away to get Arcade but Nightcrawer orders Phoenix to stop him. As she does, Brian curses them both. Kurt chides him that none of them can afford to go off half-cocked. Courtney may be the bait but Arcade wants them. Why else send a message? By the way, he thought this address was a secret. Brian explains he told Courtney. Arcade must have forced it out of her. Meggan wonders whether he told her anything else. Brian and Courtney used to be lovers. Did they only talk?

Kitty points to the bank notes, realizing there is a pattern. Each denomination shows pictures of Courtney’s suffering of different threats, being attacked by a killer white rabbit, about to be run over by a train… but the reverse of all bills is the same, showing an old derelict industrial site. This might be where he is holding Courtney. Or where he wants them to look, Kurt muses.

Strangeways, said property, formerly the pride of north England, responsible for forging the steel that made the ships that kept this island safe and the cities and railways that helped make it great. But the company is bankrupt. Now the Genoshans do it cheaper. And then some loony Yank bought the place and means to build an amusement park that’ll supposedly outdo Disneyland. The “loony Yank” part at least is right…

Courtney Ross wakes up, dressed in a skimpy white rabbit outfit and tied to a wheelchair. Arcade’s grinning face hovers above her, telling her to rise and shine. After all, she doesn’t want to miss a minute of the last day of her life. Trey trey gauche, doesn’t she think? What she thinks isn’t printable, Courtney retorts. Arcade sarcastically apologizes for the way the new help extended the invitation. But he’s sure she’ll bear with his Crazy Gang. What does she think of the new place? Like the people, it’s state of the art. He confesses the years have been kind to her. Who’d ever have thought that gawky college cherub would turn into such a fine figure of a woman? It’s almost a shame to kill her… “Then don’t!” she replies simply.

He can’t do that, he replies while the screens behind him show scenes of past battles between Arcade and the X-Men, Captain Britain and Spider-Man. This caper ain’t business. It’s personal. She and Cap and the X-Men are pretty near the only ones who ever beat Murderworld. And he can’t be the best if they are better! Pardon him a moment. Time to check up on a previous guest. Definitely business. She can consider him her warm-up act. The screens now show a man, also dressed in a bunny outfit, looking even more ridiculous. He stands on a stage in front of several monsters trying in vain to entertain them with his jokes. They boo and hiss at him and finally he literally gets the boot as a giant boot comes from above and squishes him to the cheers of the audience.

Courtney tells the laughing Arcade this is as obscene as is he. All he had to do was make them laugh, he tells her, same as her. He tells her, she is the damsel in distress, the poppet in peril and when her precious Captain Britain and his pals rush to the rescue he’ll nail them.

Suppose they don’t? she asks. In her shoes, he’d pray they hurry! he retorts and shoves her down a doorway entitled “doorway to destiny.” She falls and lands on the same stage the man was on. “Jokes!” the crowd demands. Get stuffed! she tells them. They throw knives as her and she quickly changes her mind.

Elsewhere, the midnight special train races from Scotland to London. Alone in the first class carriage are Dr. Moira MacTaggert and her self-appointed bodyguard, Callisto. Moira notes Cal is edgy. She replies she’s taking her cue from Moira. Moira explains she has made mediscans of Excalibur. There are anomalies about Phoenix’s file she wants cleared up.

As the train is about to pass a tunnel, it instead disappears, courtesy of Widget and another of his gates.

In Arcade’s command center, he juggles some balls, bored, waiting for the heroes to finally come, while Miss Locke stares transfixed at the screen showing how Courtney is doing. Bored, Arcade asks if she’s gone splat yet. “See for yourself”, Miss Locke suggests. He looks at her surprised that his dragon lady is smiling. Soon, he understands why. Courtney has the crowd in stitches. “The Ice Queen” is actually funny.

Outside, the Crazy Gang are waiting, obedient to their new boss in the hope they will finally become big time criminals. By standing about? the Knave asks. That makes no sense. That’s because he isn’t a big brain and extreme genius, the Jester retorts. He understands perfectly! However, he comes up empty when the Knave asks him to explain.

Excalibur, in the meantime, is hiding in the rubble behind them. Rachel can’t find out much with telepathy: they have utterly basic role-directed though patterns. In their own way, totally alien to theirs. To comprehend them she’d literally have to become one of them.

If they can’t telepathically pry Courtney’s whereabouts from them, Cap sees no reason to play stealthy any longer and swoops downward, lifting the Crazies up and flying into a warehouse with them where he starts hitting. The others are not happy. Cap’s too used to playing solo and that kind of strength and arrogance is dangerous.

Tweedelope attaches the device he created to Cap’s back There’s a flaring light and the two have changed minds. Cap’s body stands there like a drooling moron, then he grabs the Tweedlope body with Cap’s mind inside and swats him away right into Meggan.

Kurt helps her up and they wonder why Brian uses his powers so carelessly, not aware of the bodyswap. “Cap” holding the device as well, as the Knave and the Jester come running out. “Cap” uses the device to switch Meggan and Nightcrawler with his two teammates. The Jester is happy in his agile new body while the metallic Knave is disguted with his new shapeshifting, malleable flesh.

Kitty tries to warn Rachel but “Cap” flies up towards her and uses the device. Before she can make a move to defend herself, she hears a scream, a cry from her baby brother Nathan, Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor’s son, calling for help.

That moment, the device overwhelms her, her power engulfs the electronic Executioner and it explodes. Arcade, however, is sure it’ll work out while Miss Locke reminds him he underestimated Miss Ross as well. Arcade tells her to make herself useful and scan for Shadowcat and Phoenix.

No need for the latter though. Empty-eyed Rachel takes up the Executioner’s robe and scythe, apparently completely subsumed into his role.

Arcade opens a trapdoor beneath Courtney to move her to the main event in Murderworld. While the Crazy Gang, in their new bodies, take their prisoners inside Arcade, on a screen warns Kitty he hasn’t forgotten her…

Characters Involved: 

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


Courtney Ross

Moira MacTaggart


Widget (unnamed)


Ms. Locke

Executioner, Jester, Knave, Red Queen, Tweedledope (all Crazy Gang)

in picture:

Captain Britain

Courtney Ross

Story Notes: 

Arcade had kidnapped Courtney Ross before in Marvel Team-up (1st series) #165-166, the story that marks Captain Britain's first appearance in a US comic.

The Crazy Gang originated in previous Captain Britain stories by Marvel UK. They are beings created by the godlike but utterly insane mutant James Jaspers.

While the subplot of Moira having found anomalies in Rachel's DNA was never picked up again, writer Chris Claremont mentioned that he had meant to eventually reveal that Rachel was an anomaly insofar as she didn't have a father and was simply a child of Jean Grey and the Phoenix force.

The back cover is a pin up of Meggan.

Actually, Kurt said “where are you?” instead of “how are you?”

The screams Rachel senses has to do with the Inferno storyline (X-Factor (1st series) #35 & Uncanny X-Men #241) and will be picked up again in issue #6.

Rachel created a psilink with her baby brother in Uncanny X-Men #201.

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