Excalibur (1st series) #5

Issue Date: 
February 1989
Story Title: 
Send in the Clowns

Chris Claremont (Writer), Alan Davis (Penciler), Paul Neary (Inker), Glynis Oliver (Colorist), Tom Orzechowski (Letterer), Terry Kavanagh (Editor), Tom DeFalco (Chief), Claremont and Davis (Creators)

Brief Description: 

Courtney Ross, who was kidnapped by Arcade last issue, finds herself still trapped in Murderworld. She’s deposited in the midst of a group of people who appear to be the Crazy Gang, but really they are the members of Excalibur whose bodies were switched with the Crazy Gang’s. She runs away into the game, and tries her best to survive. Kitty, who has kept her own body, and Lockheed drag Arcade into the game. Then Kitty reprograms the game’s computer with a program she wrote with her friend Doug Ramsey. Eventually the teams all end up in the same room. Brian, inhabiting the body of Tweedle-Dope, gives Courtney a device that will return everyone to normal. Kitty instructs Courtney on how to use the gizmo and then helps Rachel, as Phoenix is the only one left still not herself. The police arrive and take care of the criminals. As he is led off by Dai Thomas, Arcade insists that they all admit that they had fun playing his game. Days after her ordeal Courtney still retains her excitement and admits that the murderer was right, she did enjoy herself. As she is preparing for a date with Brian, she is interrupted by an intruder – Sat-yr-9 - who points a strange device at her. There’s a bright flash of light and Brian Braddock, who’s in the Flying Finish Pub in another part of London, feels a chill. Kurt Wagner is there in the pub with Brian, trying to talk to him about Brian’s love life. Brian excuses himself to go off to meet the woman he believes to be Courtney. They embrace in her apartment and as they do a shadow on the floor becomes more recognizably that of a human silhouette.

Full Summary: 

Courtney Ross, Vice President of Frazer’s International Bank, and former girlfriend of Captain Britain, was kidnapped by ‘the pinball wizard assassin’ Arcade and brought to his British Isle version of Murderworld. She falls through the trapdoor that Arcade opened last timeand finds herself on a long slide where mechanical hooks remove her white Playboy-bunny costume and she falls into a blue and white Alice in Wonderland dress before sliding out into a garden at the feet of what appears to be the Crazy Gang with the members of Excalibur standing nearby.
Courtney wonders why Brian and the rest of Excalibur are just standing around and not helping her against three members of the Crazy Gang who are threateningly close. What she doesn’t know is that all of Excalibur, save for Kitty, exchanged bodies with the Crazy Gang. Meggan, in the Knave’s body, stands worrying because she thinks Courtney is beautiful and that Brian will choose this woman over her. Captain Britain, in Tweedle-Dope’s body, tries to make himself understood to Courtney through his garbled speech. Nightcrawler, in the Jester’s body, tells him not to bother, as even if Ms. Ross could understand him she wouldn’t believe him.
The Jester is happy to be inhabiting Nightcrawler’s body as he finds it as agile as his old one. The Knave is less pleased with Meggan’s mercurial, flesh-rather-than-steel body. Rachel, wearing a green robe and wielding the axe of the Robot Executioner, stands with Captain Britain’s body and the Red Queen. A signpost points in three different directions the ‘way to die’ and another sign warns travelers to ‘keep off the path.’
The Red Queen commands ‘Orf wiv their ‘eads!!’ and Rachel, in an apparent trance, obeys her. Courtney recognizes her as Phoenix and wonders what is going on as Tweedle-Dope, who she refers to as ‘Slug-body,’ pushes her out of the way. Brian as Tweedle-Dope is surprised as he is bitten on the rump by his own body. Kurt as the Jester apologizes to Brian as he kicks Captain Britain’s body in the face. Courtney and Excalibur exit stage left followed by a combination of their cavorting and distressed pursuers.
Meanwhile, Arcade, Miss Locke, and Mr. Chambers are watching the events in the control room. Miss Locke accuses Arcade of being bored and he threatens to put her in the game, to which she, unfazed, replies, ‘if you dare.’ Arcade continues to complain that all the time he’s been waiting to get even with Cappy and his pals and now he isn’t having any fun, at which point Shadowcat and Lockheed phase through the computer console. Kitty promises to ‘liven things up a bit’ for Arcade as she drags him into the game below. The main board of the computer is shorted out and Lockheed remains behind, cackling to himself, as he guards the two henchmen.
Excalibur and the Crazy Gang are caught by surprise as the sets of Murderworld begin to change, folding up and turning over. Ms. Ross thinks to herself that she wouldn’t put it past Arcade to ‘betray his friends as well as his foes.’ She finds herself beside a church-like set, under a sign that says ‘Ford’s Follies.’ Just then Phoenix, exclaiming ‘Death!,’ appears and Courtney makes it through the unlocked door of the church just as Rachel swings her axe into the floor where Courtney just was. Ms. Ross manages to shut and lock the door behind her.
Shadowcat drops Arcade into nearby part of the game and seems to enjoy getting her revenge as she phases away through the wall just as the possessed Rachel raises her axe and Arcade’s eyes widen.
Courtney is barricading the door with furniture when she is startled by Arcade, who is now missing a sizable swath of red hair from his scalp, crashing in through the stained glass window. He is closely followed by Rachel the Executioner who won’t obey his orders. Courtney makes some smart comments and then decides to run for her life. She thinks that the possessed Rachel is moving awfully slowly, and is saved as Meggan as the Knave crashes through the ceiling on top of her pursuer. Courtney pauses to note how fitting it is for ‘one Crazy to flatten another.’ A grinning shadowed face appears upside down in the broken window behind her and she is surprised as she is suddenly strangled by a blue, spade-tipped tail.
Kitty, loose in the wiring of the giant computer, installs a program that she and Doug Ramsey aka Cypher wrote together, after Kitty and Colossus ere kidnapped by Arcade the last time. It is meant to alter the game-world to make it more survivable, turning it into Kitty’ playground rather than Arcade’s.
As she phases through a wall she giggles to herself thinking how she wishes Douglas had lived to see his creation come to life. The room she is passing through contains a tea party where two Confederate Officers (One seated next to a gray hat that says CSA and stroking an orange cat) discuss tactics for an American Civil War that involves superheroes, such as Captain Confederacy. Penfold, the talking mouse in the teapot, squeals at the mention of robots. ‘Oh nnooo!’
Kitty continues through the walls until she finds Arcade who she sees is adapting. He’s now wearing a red plumed Caesar style helmet and is armed with a dagger and several guns and is smoking a cigar. He yelps as Kitty sneaks up behind him and phases a hand through his chest. He shoots and curses at her as she phases through the floor.
The Jester in Nightcrawler’s body ties Courtney to an assembly line table with a rotating saw at the far end. Ms. Ross wants to know why Nightcrawler isn’t behaving like a hero and what happened to his German accent. Just then the real Nightcrawler in the Jester’s body appears in the window, brandishing two swords. The Jester as Nightcrawler kicks a container of hot coals at his own body and his body manages to leap over it. The true Jester, as Nightcrawler, grabs two swords off of the wall, and the two start sword fighting. Courtney finally realizes that Excalibur has switched bodies with the Crazy Gang.
The real Nightcrawler is completely preoccupied with the real Jester as the Jester uses a third sword, controlled with his new tail, to slice the tip of hair from the head of the body Nightcrawler is wearing. Neither seems to notice as that the board that Courtney is tied to has brought her skull perilously close to the saw blade.

Fortunately she is saved just in time as Arcade arrives and cuts through her ropes. Courtney looks stressed by the close call as Arcade asks her for a ‘smooch’ as a reward. Nightcrawler and the Jester continue to swordfight in the background, not reacting to any of this. Courtney punches Arcade in the face, noting how her hand hurts but ‘Brian makes it look so easy.’ She slips on marbles that Arcade knocked over when he fell, triggers another trapdoor and finds herself rocketing away astride a missile. Now Nightcrawler as the Jester, notices ‘Fraulein Ross,’ but he is prevented from going after her by the real Jester.

The Scottish Mr. Chambers dons a fireproof suit and shield and runs through Lockheed’s flame as Ms. Locke looks on. When he gets close enough he uses a fire extinguisher to spray directly into the little purple dragon’s mouth. As Lockheed coughs and sputters Mr. Chambers raises a mace. Ms. Locke covers one eye as the sound of a fight commences. Mr. Chambers is sent fleeing, suit in shambles, and he declares that they need an army. Ms. Locke doesn’t agree and strikes a pose as she calls Lockheed’s name in a seductive voice.

Meggan is fighting the Knave who is still having trouble controlling her body. Courtney rockets past them ducking just in time under Rachel the Executioner’s axe as the Red Queen looks on. As Courtney enters the Space Wars room, she realizes that she is riding a replica of Dan Dare’s spaceship, Anastasia. Captain Britain’s body intercepts it, but is caught up by a flying machine that Brian as Tweedle-Dope has constructed. As the claws of the machine haul the Captain’s body away the body retains hold of the spaceship and pulls it up vertically. Courtney tumbles out into a Black Hole.

Courtney finds herself on a stage that is similar to the one on which she was forced to do a comedy routine. But this time the audience is composed entirely of custard pies. They have little arms and legs and wear red noses and fixed smiles as they talk about splatting her. Doug Ramsey’s and Kitty Pryde’s program appears to be working as Kitty’s favorite band, Cat’s Laughing, appears on stage. The lead singer, tries to pacify Courtney, but Ms. Ross is wary of trusting anyone in Arcade’s Murderworld. Just then Captain Britain and Tweedle-Dope fall through the ceiling. Brian as Tweedle-Dope is clutching a similar machine to that which switched everyone’s bodies. They fall into the audience squashing the pies. Their landing is accompanied by custard pies exclaiming in horror expressions like ‘Alack poor Horace’ and ‘Oh – the humanity!’

Cat’s Laughing continues to play as the rest of Excalibur falls, splattering the audience. Meggan informs the Knave that her body can fly, so he doesn’t have to fall. Nightcrawler and the Jester are still sword fighting and exchanging insults. Arcade quotes Julius Caesar as he reflects how Murderworld has turned on him. The singer calls the ‘Cream Commandos’ into action, telling them to splat or be splattered. Some custard pies fling themselves into the air, others are skewered, and still others panic from the ‘horror, death, and mutilation’ that surrounds them.

Courtney Ross reflects that this is no place for her as she is attacked by a kamikaze pie. One custard pie agrees with her as he runs by waving a peace sign. A weak, garbled voice calls out Courtney’s name from beneath the mess of squished custard. Courtney, referring to Brian as Tweedle-Dope as her love, takes a ‘gizmo’ from him. Before she can make sense of what to do with it though Captain Britain’s body appears and begins beating on Tweedle-Dope’s body. Courtney is joined by Shadowcat who tells her to use the gizmo to place everyone back in their rightful bodies. Courtney has to be the one to do this because Kitty’s powers are scrambled and she’s afraid of inadvertently destroying the machine. Courtney wants to find Brian first, but Kitty says to save him for last in case anything happens and they need Tweedle-Dope’s ‘idiot savant’ powers again. Both women hit it off immediately. Courtney admires Kitty’s spunk and Kitty is impressed that Ms. Ross is taking all of this ‘in stride’ and that she really cares for Brian.

Meggan is closest to Courtney, so she and the Knave switch back into their rightful bodies first. After Meggan recovers enough to reclaim her customary form she knocks the steel-coated Knave back into the remaining custard pies. She’s upset because the Knave’s inability to control her powers had caused drastic changes to the way she looked. Surviving pies leap out of the way and cover their eyes.

Kitty yells words of encouragement to Courtney and holds back the Captain in Tweedle-Dope’s body. Courtney decides to try switching the bodies of four people at once. It works, and Nightcrawler, in his own body again, kicks the Jester in the face. Brian is upset because he doesn’t get the chance to hit Tweedle-Dope, since the slugbody is unable to stay conscious in his own body that was heavily damaged from his own attacks on it.
Courtney next moves to use the gizmo on Rachel, who is occupied slashing a wide arc through half a dozen pies at once. But when she does, nothing happens and exclaiming ‘Death!’ Rachel as the Executioner swings around and the axe slices towards Courtney’s neck. The axe passes right through an astonished Courtney. Kitty breathes a sigh of relief as it was she who phased the green-robed creature just in the nick of time. It turns out that Rachel was possessed by the executioner, she didn’t switch bodies like everyone else did. So, Kitty decides to phase inside of Rachel’s body and open up her own mind to Rachel’s telepathy. Rachel is able to come back into herself and does so with a flash of Phoenix flare wings, spraying custard cream everywhere. There are no pies left intact. A confused Rachel then stands on a clean patch of floor next to a likewise clean Kitty. Everyone else is covered in pie filling. Kurt remarks that ‘Katzchen’ is loving this. Kitty certainly does seem to be enjoying herself as she calls Kurt, ‘fuzzy-elf’ and spiritedly agrees with him.

The appropriate authorities arrive, an ambulance and the police led by Commander Dai Thomas. Rachel tells Kitty that the stunt she pulled to bring Rachel back could have gotten Kitty’s brain fried. Kitty replies, ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained,’ then proceeds to yell at Lockheed for letting Ms. Locke and Mr. Chambers go just because ‘that hussy’ rolled her eyes and shook her ‘bad girl booty.’ Rachel holds the Crazy Gang aloft telekinetically in her Phoenix claw. Captain Britain makes sure that Courtney wraps up snug in a green blanket. Meggan stands nearby with her arms to her chest, still anxious as she tries to rationalize that Brian is just being polite, after all, she’s impervious to cold unlike Courtney. Kurt looks on, sighing to himself because he at least notices the damage Brian’s behavior is doing to the couple’s relationship.
Courtney and Arcade have an exchange as Captain Britain stands with his hands on her shoulders. Arcade tries to make everyone admit that despite his having tried to kill them, they all enjoyed themselves and had fun.

A few days later Courtney is dancing around her apartment in a white nightie and white dressing gown. She is still thrilled by her experience in Murderworld. She admits that while she loathes Arcade, he was right, she did have fun. She feels very alive, as though reborn. Tonight she has a date with Brian, thinking of that as the ‘ultimate icing on the cake.’ At this point she notices that the door is ajar even though she is sure that she locked it. She stands in the dark room thinking, ‘not again!’ Then she asks whoever is there to step into the light. Courtney exclaims, ‘You!?’ as she is confronted by a woman who in many respects is her spitting image. The intruder has alien style hair and is wearing a purple robe, orange gloves and carrying a colander helmet. She points a device at Courtney. There is a zap and a bright flash is visible from outside the apartment window.

Inside the Flying Finish Pub in London, Brian and Kurt are talking over drinks. Brian reminisces about visiting this pub during his university days. He then exclaims that he felt a chill and Kurt accuses him of ‘avoiding the issue.’ Brian wants to know why any of this is Kurt’s business, and Kurt replies it is because Brian and Meggan are his friends as well as his teammates. And he doesn’t want to see anyone hurt. Brian says he doesn’t want to see anyone hurt either, but he doesn’t know how to avoid it. He can talk to Courtney and he can’t talk to Meggan. He also shares a background and interests with his old school friend. Brian admits that he appreciates that Courtney is independent and ‘her own woman’, unlike Meggan who needs him ‘completely and desperately.’ He doesn’t want the responsibility of being the focus of Meggan’s life. Kurt tells him that ‘want it or not, its yours.’ Brian plays with a full pint the entire time he stands at the bar. When he leaves, he pushes it back, still full. Brian is carrying roses and is dressed up in a tie and overcoat. Kurt is disguised in a brown furry jacket and gloves, a red plaid hat and oversized sunglasses. Kurt steps out of the pub, watching after Brian as he flies away. Kurt cautions to himself that Brian had better be careful, because sooner or later he’ll have to deal with the consequences of his decisions. He thinks that when that day comes they’ll find out if Brian is as much of a man as he is a hero.

Brian walks into Courtney Ross’s apartment. It’s dark and he lets himself in through the still open door. He looks around, sniffing, commenting to himself that there is the scent of burning in the air. When he turns around and sees who he believes to be Courtney he is startled because he realizes for the first time that she could be Saturnyne’s twin. Brian nervously cautions her about leaving the door unlocked and then comments that she isn’t dressed. As the blonde woman reaches up to kiss Brian and tell him she is dressed ‘for what’s important’ she reveals a dagger tattoo on her thigh. Brian drops the roses and doesn’t notice the shadow on the floor at their feet that is more obviously shaped like a crime scene silhouette of a woman holding her hands up to fend something horrible off.

Characters Involved: 

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


Courtney Ross
Chief Inspector Dai Thomas (of Scotland Yard)

Police force

Ms. Locke, Mr. Chambers (Arcade’s hench-… er, people)
Executioner, Jester, Knave, Red Queen, Tweedle-Dope (all Crazy Gang)
Opul Lun Sat-yr-9 (Courtney’s mysterious, alien attacker)

simulations in Murderworld

Ford, Will, Penfold, and pet cat, Cats Laughing, Audience of Custard Pie Cream Commandoes

Story Notes: 

The back cover is a pin up of Captain Britain standing on the edge of a cliff. There is a circle of stones in the background and the sky behind him is streaked like shafts of light.

Courtney Ross was kidnapped last issue in Excalibur #4, she first appeared in this series in issue #1 and will not appear again as she was murdered by Sat-yr-9 this issue.
Since Courtney’s death isn’t really as obvious as it was intended to be, the editors of the letters page, SwordStrokes, had to point out the issue and page number where the shadow appeared as evidence of her death. This was in response to numerous letters that requested Brian and Courtney get together as a couple. The editor’s reply was that Captain Britain would not be interested in pursuing a relationship with a pile of ashes.
The Saturnyne that Brian refers to is Opal Luna Saturnyne, Omniversal Majestrix and a recurring character from the previous Captain Britain Series. She like Sat-yr-9 whom Brian too has met and mixed up with the other Saturnyne) is a version of Courtney Ross from an alternate earth. The consequences of this switch won’t be addressed again until Issue #55.
The Flying Finish is a pub where Brian and Courtney spent a lot of time as university students (as seen in Captain Britain (1st series)). A picture kept by Courtney, shown in Issue #2 (on page 18), shows the young couple posing under the sign.
Brian struggles with alcoholism throughout the Excalibur series.
Rupert Halloway, a UFO hunter, appears in Issue #3 (page 14 and 15). He walks through Widget’s portal into a world where Sat-yr-9 is being held prisoner. He is shown wearing the same clothing, complete with the colander hat and strange device, that Sat-yr-9 is wearing when she attacks Courtney Ross.
Douglas Ramsey, the mutant Cypher, was a friend of Kitty’s in the Uncanny X-men and later part of the New Mutants. He died in New Mutants (1st series) Issue #60.
Kitty and Colossus were kidnapped by Arcade in Uncanny X-Men #197 (though the note footnotes in the issue mistakenly give #199 as the issue)
Dan Dare – Pilot of the Future - was a British comic book hero created by Frank Hampson in 1950 for Eagle Comics.

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