Excalibur (1st series) #72

Issue Date: 
December 1993
Story Title: 

Richard Ashford (Writer), Ken Lashley (Penciller), Randy Elliot & Cam Smith (Inkers), Pat Brosseau (Letterer), Chris Malthys & Garrahy (Colorists), Suzanne Gaffney (Editor), Bob Harass (Group Editor), Tom DeFalco (Editor in Chief)

Brief Description: 

Most of Excalibur adjust to their new home on Muir Island with Dr. Moira MacTaggert, but it is not long before they are back saving the world, this time, the workers of an oil rig that has mysteriously exploded. However, they learn that it was just a distraction, as an assailant has gone to Muir to attack Moira MacTaggert. The assailant is Siena Blaze, who working for the Gamemaster, who is working with a mysterious associate want the DNA matrix of Moira’s dead son, Proteus. While Rachel saves the oil rig workers, Kitty and Nightcrawler return to Muir, only for Siena to meddle with Kurt’s teleportation, causing him and Kitty to materialize in solid rock, instead of Moira’s lab. Meanwhile, Dr. Rory Campbell is one step closer to Muir Island, all he has to do is find a boat to charter, only he is told that no boatmen will go to Muir.

Full Summary: 

The Gamemaster’s lair, where the rules of the day are being set - with two players, one pawn and the odds against the British super heroes of Excalibur. The Gamemaster informs his colleague that their plan seems to serve both of their goals, he gains another level of gamesman ship to focus on, while his associate gains a physical force to carry out his machinations of which no one will be able to trace back to him. ‘Games, pah!’ mutters the Gamemaster’s associate, holding up a photo of the famous Dr. Moira MacTaggert and her now dead son.

The Gamemaster tells his associate that they all play games, it is how people learn to manipulate to get what they want, and he has just upped the ante - he plays with the whole world. The mysterious man points out that Moira MacTaggert was mother to the most dangerous mutant to stride the Earth, Proteus, and though her son is no more, he has been told that his DNA mapping exists, and he must have it.

The mysterious man tells the Gamemaster to fulfil their bargain and he will stake out he and his Upstarts to the ultimate game. He informs the Gamemaster that Moira MacTaggert is based on Muir Island, where he will not encounter much resistance. The Gamemaster replies that he already knows this, and reveals that he has just the player in mind for the task.

Many things have changed since Kurt Wagner, Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers, three former members of the uncanny X-Men who make up three-quarters of Excalibur’s current roster, have last been on Muir Island. Case in point: The Proteus Room, where, in the hope of teaching her son control over his rampant reality-warping powers, Moira MacTaggert created a constantly changing mindscape, a counter-balance to her son’s anarchic creations. The room now provides a very different service.

Kurt, Kitty and Rachel are all hooked up to virtual reality program, where Moira tells them it is time to run them through their paces. Moira reveals that she has been working on combining virtual reality with Shi’ar technology, plus a little of what she learned from treating her son. Moira begins to say that she hasn’t brought anyone here since her son died, but instead declares that it pleases her to think that some part of her son’s legacy can be used to help others.

Moira thinks to herself ‘how does it feel to be having permanent house guests, apart from the tiny research team that come and go?’ She knows she has been pretty isolated as of late, what with the cursed Legacy of Stryfe that is killing many mutants, it is taking all her time and energy. Moira admits that she does need help, and can only hope that the man Charles Xavier is sending her, Rory Campbell, is as good as Charles says he is. Moira has read Rory’s work on genetic research, but there is something about the name that is familiar, yet she cannot place it.

Moira turns her attention back to Excalibur, informing them that the monitors are RV feeds, direct from the computer, it creates the programs based on a mind scan of the subject. Moira explains that the computer then devises a course that will high-light what the subjects think are their weaknesses - they have to fight something they fear they cannot beat. Rachel Summers declares that something is forming in front of her, as Nightcrawler comments that it seems strange, that it is not like any Danger Room sequence he has experienced, but doesn’t think it could be that bad. Kitty points out that she is not really in the mood for this, as all she can think about is Illyana.

Suddenly, Jean Grey appears before Rachel, in her virtual scenario. ‘No! It can’t be! Mom?’ cries Rachel before the comely Jean Grey replies ‘You’re no daughter of mine!’ Shocked, Rachel declares that this is all wrong, as she thought Jean finally cared about her. But Jean tells Rachel that she is an abhorrence to her and out of time. Attacking Rachel with telepathic and telekinetic fury, Jean exclaims that she can now wipe all traces of her clingy “daughter“ from her life. Rachel’s torment mounts.

In his own scenario, Nightcrawler finds floors exploding all around him, but it is not a problem for the man who puts the “B“ in Bamf. He tells himself that he didn’t think it would be this real, everything is here - sound, smell and heat. He wonders why he is so surprised, as the brain can always trick the body - and the heart - into believing. More explosions, and suddenly, Kurt finds himself in the most impossible scenario - he has teleported into solid rock, and cries out with the immensity of his pain.

Kitty grits her teeth and mutters that she feels like she is walking through a low budget remake of Dark Shadows. Kitty finds that while she has materialized, she cannot touch anything and wonders if this is what she fears - to lose control of her powers again and become a ghost. ‘No, Kitty!’ exclaims Colossus as he steps out of the shadows, telling Kitty that she thought no one could touch her, and smashes his fist into her as she declares that she phased and he shouldn’t be able to hurt her. Colossus tells Kitty that he has always been able to touch her, they are “family“. He tells her that she called for him, asked him to take her with him, that she believed in Magneto’s way, as he does now - but then she betrayed him. ‘Now you must die like the rest of my family!’

The Gamemaster moves his playing piece to the forefront of the game board, the Upstart known as Siena Blaze. The red and yellow clad young woman enters the Gamemaster’s lair, telling him that he had better have a good reason for calling her, as she was watching reruns of 90210, as she needs to get her Jason fix. The Gamemaster gets Siena to cut her uppity act by telling her he is giving her the chance to get ahead of her fellow upstarts, to which Siena tells the Gamemaster not to say anymore, as the James Dean look-a-like was getting too retro.

As Siena puts on her visor, the Gamemaster reminds Siena that she recently proved unequal to the task of killing three X-Men, to which Siena declares that the cheated by ganging up on her, for no matter what she did, they wouldn’t die. ‘I call that bad manners!’ she mumbles. The Gamemaster informs Siena that this time she will only have one person to deal with, Moira MacTaggert, who is not even a mutant, but a close friend of Xavier’s.

The Gamemaster reveals to Siena that Moira had a child, to which Siena jokes ‘Yeah, I see how close!’ but the Gamemaster corrects her, informing her that the child was not Xavier’s, that Moira and Xavier had separated, that the father was a non-mutant. The Gamemaster informs Siena that the mutant son of Moira came within moments of annihilating the world as they think of it, and reveals that they would like a copy of his DNA, for after his death at the hands of the X-Men, his body was destroyed along with all samples of his cells.

However, as the Gamemaster explains, Moira kept computer records of her son’s DNA structure. Siena asks her employer how he knows all of this, to which the Gamemaster reminds Siena Blaze of what he first told her when she joined the Upstarts - he knows everything - the deepest thought, the guiltiest secret, and the more one tries to hide it, the easier it is for him to sense it.

The Gamemaster reveals that Moira has never stopped thinking of her son, and while her rational mind acknowledges that she could not save him, in her heart she believes otherwise. Siena mutters that this is getting complicated, before the Gamemaster informs her that Moira is now redundant. Siena asks if she gets any points for killing non-mutants, to which the Gamemaster replies that he will count killing Moira as killing a potential mutant. ‘Cool’ exclaims Siena.

Back in the Proteus Room on Muir Island, Nightcrawler calls to Moira and asks her to turn the program off, asking her how she can do this to their minds. Kitty adds that this was the strangest ”Danger Room“ she had ever used, as it felt like it was reading her mind. Rachel however feels that it as if the program looks into your very soul, tainting and twisting what it finds. Moira tells the three mutants that she doesn’t know what they are saying, as she didn’t do any of this. She reminds them she built the room when her son first developed his power to distort reality as she was trying to find someway to help him, to counter the changes and to make him develop a firmer grip on the real world. Kurt thinks to himself that it is almost as if in some nightmarish fashion, Proteus has reached from beyond the grave to touch them once more, before Moira apologizes, saying it was a bad idea, ‘It’s just…the wee bairn broke my heart’.

Later, Moira, Kurt, Kitty and Rachel sit in a small cottage kitchen, certainly a comedown from the splendour of Braddock Manor, or the lofty heights of the Lighthouse. Leaning back on a chair, Kurt tells Moira that her generosity as a host makes them all feel very welcome, and asks how they can repay her. Moira smiles and tells Kurt that the chair he is swinging on has lasted fifty years, and asks if he thinks it could last another five minutes without him breaking it. Looking at the fruit and porridge on the table, Kitty declares that this is so cute and asks if the next time they have to go save the world can she be left at home.

Rachel thinks to herself that it has been such a short time, and yet she feels like she belongs on Muir Island with Moira, as if she has found everything she is looking for. Rachel recalls that she has had to fight for so long to get the little bit of attention she had gotten from Jean, she had forgotten what it was like to be wanted.
Kurt mentions that he loves porridge as Moira asks Rachel if she would like some. Rachel thinks to herself that porridge reminds her of the slop she used to get fed in the dens when she was a mutant-hunting hound for Ahab. Just the thought of Ahab and his cursed pens makes her sick.

Kitty notices Rachel’s solemn look and hopes that they are not bringing up too many painful memories, before Kurt brings up the Proteus Room. Kitty supposes that the whole event must have been horrible for Moira, and reminds everyone that she wasn’t with the X-Men when it happened. Moira declares that she cannot see her son as Proteus, or as Mutant X, the world’s greatest threat with the power to change the world with just a thought. ‘The X-Men saved the world, I could not save my son’.

Moira declares that she brought him into the world, raised, cared and loved him - and was cursed with seeing him die before her. Moira informs Excalibur that she tried to keep her son apart from the world outside, hidden away in a secure cell - that is until the X-Men’s battle with Magneto freed him, severing the energy supply keeping him fed. Moira explains that soon Kevin was ravenous, absorbing and possessing body after body, progressively more confident and sure of himself and his abilities.

Finally, Kevin possessed his own father, the very man who had attacked and brutalized Moira those many years ago. ‘He was insane, out of control’. Moira knows that it was either her son or the world, but that didn’t make it any easier, and still doesn’t. Moira turns from Excalibur as she declares that her son’s loss is a black hole, a gaping wound that she cannot seem to heal. Nightcrawler remembers that by the time the X-Men encountered Proteus, he was evil incarnate.

Kitty tells everyone that she is up to the ceiling in half opened boxes so she feels like some unpacking, adding that Lockheed has made his home somewhere, but she just cannot seem to find him. Nightcrawler thinks to himself that it is good Kitty changed the subject as Rachel suggests to Kitty that she put some food out, then Lockheed is sure to come running. Kitty replies that Lockheed is a dragon, not a cat.

Dusk now, Moira, Kitty, Kurt and Rachel have the chance to both witness a fiery Northern sunset and walk off a home-cooked meal. Kurt remarks that there is such a different feeling to being here, such an openness, desolate but not depressing. He adds that with so many souls in the world, it is good to stop and appreciate the beauty of this quiet little island.

But suddenly, a loud noise fills the peaceful air, and the telepathic Rachel Summers declares that people are dying out to sea, she can hear their death screams. Moira exclaims that it must be the deep sea oil rig, and they soon sea a large cloud of smoke begin to rise on the horizon. Moira heads back to the Center to radio for assistance, as Rachel flies herself and Kitty toward the trouble, while Kurt teleports himself there. Rachel tells Kurt that they will see what they can do on the rig, and asks him if he can teleport the survivors out of the sea. Rachel remarks that she can hear so much pain - people near death, over exposure, drowning…. ‘And I was looking forward to an evening in’ jokes Kitty.

Kurt can feel the burning heat from the oil rig as the fires consume hundreds of gallons of petrol. The oil rig was scheduled to change shifts, men waiting impatiently on the deck, looking forward to returning home. The helicopter was moments from a safe landing when disaster struck - no time for a mayday - no time to shout or cry out - no time to make peace with whatever Gods they have. But today, their prayers have been answered - in the form of a blue-tailed demon-looking savior.

Kurt teleports to the helicopter, thinking to himself that if he teleported straight in to the copter he may have materialized in the middle of the fire. Kurt calls in the copter, asking if anyone is alive. Kurt enters the chopper telling the men he is here to help, as one of them asks what he is, another declares that he thinks his leg is broken. Rachel telepathically contacts Kurt, telling him that it looks bad. Nightcrawler replies that the chopper is about to sink, the entire oil rig is about to blow up and the three of them are all that stands between ten injured people and an ocean that currently resembles a deep-fryer. ‘I would say “bad“ covers it’.

On the oil rig proper, Kitty informs Rachel that she also received Kurt’s speech telepathically, and agrees that they have to move fast. Lucky Kitty Pryde’s mutant ability allows her to walk intangibly through the fire. She learns that Rachel has telepathically checked this level and there are no survivors. Seeing the emergency rescue panel, Kitty thinks that if she can manually release it, they should be able to get the rafts in to the sea, but she knows she has to materialize to flip the switch, and hopes that it works first time, or else she is going to be overcome by smoke and flames and wont get a second chance. Rachel telepathically urges Kitty on, and lucky for Kitty she manages to flip the switch first try, she is thankful for all her weight training. Kitty watches the rafts inflate automatically and fall into the water, before walking back through the fire and muttering that she is going to smell of smoke for a week.

For some, this night will last a lifetime, but for Excalibur, it has been less than five minutes. There is little time, the seas are beginning to rage and roll, it as if nature was wounded and is striking back. Rachel tells herself that everyone is off the rig, and using the power of the Phoenix she smothers the flames by enhancing her telekinetic powers to keep the structure standing until they can clear the area. Rachel then seals off the oil well, as she doesn’t want the sea anymore polluted.

Rachel remembers seeing tapes of Jean using her powers, and thinks that for her it seemed so effortless, but for Rachel, the strain is unbearable, as if the force is draining the energy from her. Rachel realizes that there is something unnatural about the explosion, and telepathically contacts Kurt and Kitty, telling them to get back to Muir as she can handle clearing up from here. Rachel reveals that she fears Moira is in danger, as she is picking up some stray thoughts, heavily screened, but definitely hostile.

Rachel lifts all the oil rig workers to safety, but she is hurting. Whatever is going on with the Earth’s eco-structure is taking it’s toll on her also. She hopes Moira is okay, but she knows it is her duty to stay and make sure these people - these strangers - are okay, even though her heart is really on Muir. Kurt suddenly notices someone heading back to the Island, he knew the explosion was too sudden, too total. He figures that whoever is flying towards Muir must be responsible for it all.

Nearby, on a dock where the Lullapool to Stornway ferry travels, it has seen some strange comings and goings, but none stranger than Rory Campbell, fresh off the boat. He is a man with a purpose and a passion to help others. Rory realizes that this is as far as he can get by public transport, but hopes that arrangements have been made for him. He approaches a dock worker, informing him he has come to pick up the boat hired by a man named Xavier, as he is heading for Muir Island.

The dock worker looks shocked and tells Dr. Campbell that he couldn’t pay any of the boatmen enough to take him to Muir, as it is cursed. Rory smiles and asks what if he were to double the rental, would that offset some of their superstitions?

The damage is irrelevant, Siena is casually oblivious to the gaping electro-magnetic scar she has left in her wake. All that matters, is that the distraction has served its purpose. Muir Island, and its secrets, are now hers for the taking. Suddenly Kurt and Kitty bamf back onto Muir, Kurt revealing that Rachel has located the intruder on the lower levels. Looking up at the sky, Kurt declares that the storm is incredible, and hopes that Rachel can handle the survivors, as Kitty exclaims that they have to get to Moira.

However, Moira MacTaggert is not generally the type of woman who needs saving. The intruder has been coolly tracked by Muir Island’s sophisticated computer net, analysed and identified via her power signature. Counter measures are already being assembled. It is just a matter if time - time Moira no longer has! The good doctor turns as Siena enters her lab. Moira asks the Upstart what she wants, to which Siena declares that she will just help herself to Moira’s son’s DNA matrix. Moira tells Siena that she will only be doing that over her dead body, to which Siena tells her is so obliging, and exactly what she had in mind.

Nightcrawler realizes that the storm has a high electro-magnetic content, he can feel it through his body, like a muscle spasm. It is hard for him to concentrate he tries to picture Moira’s lab and bamf.

Siena informs Moira that something just moved itself through the E.M. field, out of normal time and space, and cruelly declares that she wonders what would happen if she played around a little, just in case it comes back through.

Nightcrawler bamfs both he and Kitty, and finds that he has overshot - they are merging into solid rock! Even though only a slight overshot, in a room five hundred feet deep and surrounded by solid rock. ‘slight’ can kill.

Characters Involved: 

Nightcrawler, Phoenix III, Shadowcat (all Excalibur)

Dr. Moira MacTaggert

Dr. Rory Campbell

Siena Blaze (Member of the Upstarts)

The Gamemaster

Mr. Sinister (hidden)

Oil Rig workers

Dock worker

In Phoenix III’s virtual reality

Phoenix III

Jean Grey

In Shadowcat’s virtual reality



In Photograph

Dr. Moira MacTaggert

Kevin MacTaggert

Story Notes: 

Moira’s son, Kevin, was the mutant Proteus, whose sage takes place in Uncanny X-Men #125-#128, resulting in his death. He was briefly brought back to life (sort of) in the Kings of Pain crossover.

Excalibur’s very diminished roster - Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, Meggan and Phoenix III - moved to Muir Island from Braddock Manor in Excalibur (1st series) #71.

Shadowcat is preoccupied with Illyana, one of her best friends, who died in Uncanny X-Men #303, and Colossus, Illyana’s brother and Kitty’s former boyfriend, who defected to the Acolytes in Uncanny X-Men #304.

Dark Shadows was a horror/thriller soap opera that ran from 1966-1971 and spawned several spin-off, sequels and remakes. A recent attempt to have a remake picked up by Warner Brothers failed.

The television program Siena says she was watching in its full title is Beverly Hills 90210. The star she was watching it for was Jason Priestly who played Brandon.

The father of Moira’s son was Joe MacTaggert. While Moira and Xavier do not have a child together, Xavier has a son, Legion, to Gabrielle Haller.

The Muir Island Research Center is Excalibur’s third and final base [Excalibur (1st series) #71-125]. They first lived in a Lighthouse with gateways to other dimensions, [Excalibur: The Sword is Drawn - Excalibur (1st series) #50]. Their second base was more short lived, in Braddock Manor, England. [Excalibur (1st series) #50-71]

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