Excalibur (1st series) #8

Issue Date: 
May 1989
Story Title: 
Excalibur’s New York Adventure

Chris Claremont (Writer), Ron Lim (Guest Penciler), Josef Rubinstein (Guest Inker), John A. Wilcox (Colorist), Orzechowski & Mas (Letterers), Terry Kavanagh (Editor), Tom DeFalco (Chief Editor/Tour Guide), Claremont and Davis (Creators)

Brief Description: 

Brian Braddock searches New York for his missing girlfriend, Meggan. As he moves around the city, stopping a getaway car and almost getting arrested in two separate instances, he realizes that his powers are greatly weakened and steadily growing worse. Meggan, meanwhile, is having a crisis of identity as she regrets her behavior during Inferno when she became the Goblin Princess and attacked her teammates. She’s found crying under a pier by some teenagers and automatically shape-shifts to fit in with them. Meggan continues to shift personas during her day in the city. First she leaves her friends, who have taken her shopping, to dance with a young man at a street fair. Then she becomes an African American woman and wins a basketball game in Greenwich Village. She has stabilized in that last form when Brian finally finds her and picks her up in the cab he’s been riding around in all day. When they arrive back at their hotel Brian discovers his wallet is missing. Meggan saves the day by paying the fare and tip with her ‘share of the pot.’ The rest of Excalibur are running their own errands. Kitty goes to the ruins of the Xavier Institute where she confronts the New Mutants and finds out that Illyana has reverted to a seven-year-old child. Kurt goes to visit Lockheed’s advanced aerospace research facility to rescue the X-Men’s Blackbird plane from the engineers who are eager to take it apart. Rachel pays a covert visit to her ‘mom,’ Jean Grey and baby brother Nathan Christopher.

Full Summary: 

It’s the day after Excalibur helped to save New York City from Inferno. At the Plaza Hotel, where the team is staying, Brian Braddock, wearing a pair of striped pajama bottoms, runs into the common room of his shared suite calling out Meggan’s name. She’s missing, and apparently, so is the rest of the team.
Getting a grip on himself, Brian realizes that it is broad daylight and he’s slept later than he thought. He goes over to a full length mirror in the room and sees that each of his teammates has left a note. Nightcrawler’s gone to California to recover the X-Men’s ‘old stratojet.’ Kurt refers to his mission as a ‘milk run’ and mentions that Meggan was still there when he left. Shadowcat’s gone to Westchester to the Xavier Institute to get some of her things. And Phoenix has gone off to visit her baby brother.
There isn’t a note from Meggan though, and Brian wonders why until he remembers that she’s ‘barely literate.’ He thinks she might have been too embarrassed to attempt a note and thinks to himself that he should maybe do something to help her with that.
Brian tries to convince himself that Meggan is a grown woman and a super-being and can take care of herself in the city. But he’s still worried. He doesn’t want to look foolish by raising a false alarm or to act like he’s ‘her keeper.’ Considering between going after her or sticking around and having a whiskey to settle his nerves, he decides he’d rather ‘play the fool than the drunk.’
As he walks out onto his room’s balcony, Brian can’t help feeling something is wrong. Though he can’t be sure if the problem is with him or with Meggan. Since Captain Britain’s uniform was destroyed the previous day when demons from Limbo took over the city, he wears ‘gym togs’ that were given to him by the hotel. He realizes that they are a poor substitute. As Brian leaps from the hotel balcony and flies off he reflects that he’s going to have a difficult time finding one person among the millions in the city, assuming that Meggan’s even there.
City-dwellers walking the street below react to the flying person with distinct New York accents. “Look, upunnasky! It’s a boid! A plane! It’s a guy!” Clark Kent, in a blue suit and tie, walks with Lois Lane among the crowd and also reacts to the super hero. He says, “It’s almost as though you can’t turn around without bumping into some hero or other!” Lois tells him to “Be real! If you’ve seen one hyperthyroid, egomaniacal exhibitionist in skintights – you’ve seen ‘em all!”
Meggan is on Coney Island, an amusement park located in Brooklyn where the subway trains end and whose glory days are long past. She sits on the peaceful, beautiful beach that is still there, but her mind is far away recalling the events of the past few days. She remembers Excalibur flying over the Atlantic from their lighthouse home to arrive in Manhattan where Inferno brought out the ‘demon in her soul.’ She turned on her teammates and became the Goblin Princess, enslaving Captain Britain and making him attack Shadowcat. And when she attacked Kitty herself, Kitty stabbed her with Illyana’s Soulsword. She feels as though she died.
On the beach near the pier, Meggan rocks back and forth on her toes, hunched over, sobbing and thinking about how much she hurts, how awful she feels. She feels guilty about what she did to her teammates, especially Brian, and wonders how he can still love her. She also wonders how the others can still trust her and how she can trust herself. She questions her nature, is she evil or just the reflection of other’s desires? Meggan is startled by a group of people who spot her under the pier. She doesn’t want them to see her and considers running. But she doesn’t know who to turn to and she decides that she deserves whatever harm they may have in store for her.
The people turn out to be a group of five teenage girls who decide to comfort Meggan. They want to know what she’s doing hiding in the dark. They see that she is crying and assume that someone’s hurt her. Maybe ‘Luis an’ his Rocketeers.’ They consider calling the cops but Meggan doesn’t want the police involved. As Carmen, one of the girls, sits close to her, Meggan’s skin transforms to match her darker skin tone to fit in with this group better. Meggan tries to apologize but the girls don’t let her. As they walk her off the beach there is constant chatter as they discuss her accent and consider whether or not she was mugged on the way home from the gym. On the way up the steps to the boardwalk, the group introduce themselves, inform Meggan that right now what she needs are friends, and offer to buy her some ‘decent clothes.’ Ones that ‘won’t give the boys ideas.’
Meanwhile, at the ruins of the Xavier Institute, the New Mutants survey the damage. Cannonball flies overhead and observes that the place has been “smashed t’ bits.” Sunspot, who is powered up and lifting a large chunk of rock on his shoulder replies, “Quick on the uptake, Cannonball… as ever.” Wolfsbane, in partial wolf form tells him to stop being mean. Mirage, in the background, brushes her winged horse Brightwind. Warlock has transformed his arm into a crane, and the small form of Illyana is visible in the background.
Wolfsbane is thinking out loud about how the Institute was their home and where will they go now when she senses an intruder. She does a backflip and transforms into full wolf form as Shadowcat rises out of the rubble in intangible form. She says she’s hardly an intruder and comments, ‘how quickly some forget.’ Warlock confirms her status as friend and the New Mutants gather around to greet her. Rahne transforms back into the form of a girl and apologizes for ‘snarling.’ Kitty tells her it’s okay, considering the circumstances. And then adds that from the looks of the place, the X-Men could have been there since that brand of destruction is ‘pretty much their style.’ She asks if the ‘X-babies’ are ‘having fun stripping the carcass.’
Roberto tells her that is uncalled for, the mansion was their home too. Kitty replies “Mine long before you lot showed, bub.” Sam joins in and asks her if she thinks that all of this is their fault. Kitty says that the mansion’s destruction may not be, but they should have listened to their headmaster, Magneto. She also accuses them of pretending to be X-Men. Sam tells her to back off and reminds her that Dani and he are both older than she is. Kitty tells them that they don’t act older and as they’re both supposed to be the leaders, they should ‘know better.’ Roberto tells her that the mansion was only a house and can be rebuilt. Kitty says that Doug Ramsey can’t be resurrected and Rahne, dissolving in tears, tells her that it was her, Rahne’s, fault that Douglas died and as she runs away adds that if she had been a truer teammate then Illyana might not have become the Darkchilde. Seven year old Illyana breaks in to shout, in Russian, for Kitty to stop being mean to Rahne and to say that because of Rahne, she is herself again. She remembers that Kitty used to tell her stories and that she thought that Kitty was her friend, but really, she isn’t. She runs off to where Rahne is standing, alone in the distance. Kitty tells little Illyana to wait, she didn’t know…
Dani steps in then, telling Kitty that they’ve all lost something precious with the house, but that Sunspot is right and it can be rebuilt. She reminds Kitty that what is important is Xavier’s Dream, the one the X-Men and the New Mutants are fighting for. She adds that the people they care for are still there. Kitty adds, “Some of ‘em anyway.” Mirage asks Kitty if she wants them back, Doug and Illyana, as she remembers them. She forms two illusions of the missing friends, side-by-side with just a gesture of her hand. She says they are “As real as life, as true as mind and heart and soul can make them…for as long as you wish.” Kitty reaches out her hands to the two and they speak. Doug says, “Slap five, Pryde. What’s the program?” And Illyana says, “Kiddo, we’ve got to stop meeting like this. Ain’t healthy.” Kitty agrees that it isn’t. She is shaking as she tells Dani to please break her spell, and ‘let ‘em go.’
Dani tries to console Kitty by telling her that Illyana chose to sacrifice herself. Kitty thinks that she should have been there, since she was Illyana’s best friend. Dani tells her that Illyana won a second chance at a happy childhood, like she wanted. Does Kitty begrudge her? Kitty says that she doesn’t and adds that she had a look at the underground complex of the mansion and it ‘checks out fine.’ The self-repair systems will fix the place up and it will be as good as new. She mentions that Moira MacTaggert is ‘executrix’ of the estate and wants to know if they are going to relocate to Scotland, with Moira. Dani says they’ve been invited to stay with X-factor and tells Kitty that she is more than welcome to join them. Kitty, tearing up, tells her that she appreciates it, but it wouldn’t feel right. Dani puts a hand on her shoulder as Kitty goes on to say that the X-Men were her team, but they are dead and her friends in the New Mutants were Doug and Illyana. She knows what happened to Illyana is for the best, “It’s a miracle happy ending she more than deserves.” And she ends emphatically, as she turns to hug Dani, “But she was my best friend…and I miss her so much!”
Brian Braddock, meanwhile, is flying over Manhattan. He thinks that this way of searching for Meggan is ‘fruitless,’ but can’t think of a better way. He also still thinks that something is wrong, and is starting to feel tired when he hears the sound of gunshots from below and spots a robbery. He’s happy at the chance for action and descends in front of the getaway car just before it runs down a mother and her young son who are crossing the street. Brian is able to stop the car, crushing in the front end as it collides with him, but unexpectedly is thrown through a shop window himself, nearly avoiding the two people he just saved.
The police arrive to arrest the bad guys and take care of the situation. The boy’s mother mentions that she’s never been saved by a superhero before and the officer replies that it “Happens alla time onna midtown beat.” But, usually, the super-types wear ‘tougher outfits.’ Brian thinks to himself that he is unhurt but that the impact from a mere car shouldn’t have thrown him. Just then the little boy observes that Brian has lost his pants. Brian blushes and the helpful cop lends him a blanket that he asks him to return because it’s city property and points him to a sporting goods store.
Brian emerges from the store with new ‘gym togs’ and wonders why everyone is staring at him as this costume isn’t any tighter than his old uniform. He thinks how fortunate it is that he brought his wallet with him. As Brian raises his arms to fly back to the hotel, because it is starting to rain, he realizes that nothing is happening, he’s unable to take off. While he’s distracted a whistling thief with a tie and hat picks his back pocket, making off with the wallet. The same police officer as before helps out again by stopping a taxi. He doesn’t blame Brian for being tired after the hit he took from the car. The cop introduces Brian to the cabbie as a ‘sooperheroic whatchamacallit what ain’t doing so great,’ and they hold up New York traffic as they talk.
Meggan, meanwhile, is in Chinatown, a part of the city where it isn’t raining. She’s still with the teenage girls and is wearing new clothes, a short skirt, pink striped top and blue jacket. Some of the girls comment that Meggan looks great and Monique comments that “Now nobody’ll look twice at any of us!” Meggan tells them that they’ve been kind and Carmen tells her that “gals gotta stick together.” Meggan wonders what is wrong with her, and debates to herself how she ought to be feeling. She feels the friends she’s found are ‘lovely,’ so why shouldn’t she do what they want. As she thinks that maybe she wants something different she berates herself as a ‘selfish cow’ for thinking of herself instead of how she should repay their generosity. Meggan wishes that Kurt were there to help her understand what all of her ‘strange feelings’ mean. The other girls become excited because they are approaching the movie theatre, an opportunity for movies, boys, popcorn, and soda.
As Meggan stands outside the theatre she remembers that it was in a cinema that she, as the Goblin Princess, tortured Brian during the Inferno Crisis. As she stands outside, not wanting to go in, she’s afraid that the Inferno isn’t over and she might change again. Just then she does change, shifting to pale skin, slanted eyes and long blue-black hair. She is grabbed at the elbow from behind by a young man with similar coloring who she at first thinks is an attacker. But soon she sees that he is flattering her and offering to escort her to the street fair. Meggan immediately acquiesces to his desires and they ‘delight’ the crowd as well as themselves by dancing and twirling together ‘with a vengeance.’
Meanwhile, on the west U.S. coast, at an advanced aerospace research facility known as ‘Skunk Works,’ that is part of the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, experimental plane designers admire a suped up version of “Kelly” Johnson’s original SR-71 Blackbird design. They discuss how no one ‘corporate, government, or military,’ knows anything about the plane and they can’t wait to take it apart. Especially since the owner has requested its return and they have to work fast.
Nightcrawler, who overhears them talking as he teleports inside the jet, thinks to himself that the ‘owner’ is no longer willing to wait. He also thinks about how difficult it is for him to teleport these days. His heart’s beating too fast, as if he’d just run ‘a score of wind sprints.’ He decides that his new limit is to ‘jaunt’ only once a day. He also thinks that this is a cross he will have to learn to bear, as there has been no sign of improvement despite him being physically in ‘excellent’ condition. Kurt preps the X-Men’s old Blackbird, starts the engines, and to the surprise of those standing below, takes off. He thinks to himself that he feels ‘foolish’ taking the plane because it is “essentially [his] own property.” He wishes that it could be with the X-Men, but since they are dead, “Excalibur will have to do.”
Back in New York, New York, Brian is still driving around the city with his cabbie, looking for Meggan. He gets stuck in traffic, encounters mimes and gets in a shouting match with a sidewalk Evangelist. He experiences frustration as everywhere he looks he gets no leads. It’s hard to hear above the noises of the city and the bars that he searches can’t help him out. By the end of the day he is tired and rather tactlessly asks a question of a policewoman from the backseat of the cab. Not having had the best of days herself, Officer Barbi McAllister arrests him for soliciting. She gets him out of the car as admiring ladies watch and the cabbie steps out of the car to shout that she can’t do that because the man’s a ‘sooperhero.’
With his hands behind his head, Brian tries to convince the officer that he really is looking for his missing ‘lady friend,’ and that he really is a superhero. She’s doubtful because he isn’t in costume. He says he had an accident. She asks him to prove that he really has powers, saying she’s never met a superhero before. He offers to lift up the cab. The cabbie worries that Brian will break something, and Brian assures him that the cab will be fine. He tries and tries, but in front of the officer and the gathered crowd, he can’t budge it. In the background Spiderman and Dr. Octopus fight above their heads, unnoticed. The crowd disperses and the officer doesn’t believe him. Brian wonders what happened to his powers, first his flight disappeared and now his strength. The cab says aloud that Brian is a ‘looney.’ Brian refuses to be bested by a ‘lifeless hunk of metal’ and makes the supreme effort to lift the cab. He does so, impressing the cabbie, but by then everyone else is gone except for a little dog who is shown piddling on Brian’s leg.
Meanwhile, Meggan and her dance partner are walking arm and arm from the street fair. Meggan mentions that she has never enjoyed herself more and her new friend tells her that’s because she’s with him. Away from the crowd, he pushes Meggan up against a door and when she asks him what he is doing he tells her that they ’made beautiful music out there’ and now they can do even better. Meggan protests and he tells her not to fight him, that he knows what she wants better than she does herself. Meggan repeats his last thought to herself as they kiss. The young man keeps pushing Meggan to go farther and she continues to say no. He tells her that it’s his job to do the thinking and that she’ll be ‘lots happier’ if she’d just follow his lead. Meggan starts to buy that at first, thinking that it’s a lot easier to just obey and that she does want to be happy. As she wonders to herself why it is so hard to just be herself, she transforms into the Goblin Princess and very assertively tells him ‘no!’ Terrified, the boy runs away yelling that Meggan is ‘a crazy woman, a witch!’ As Meggan is left there she wonders to herself that if the only thing she can do to protect herself is manifest her most foul nature, then maybe the price of standing up is too high.
At this time, ‘high above the eastern seaboard’ X-Factor’s sentient skyship flies above the clouds. Baby Nathan Christopher Charles is in his crib. Jean Grey, leaning over the bars, tells him how lucky he is because after all he’s been through he’s escaped unscathed. Jean, who is wearing a sweater that says Xavier School over her red and yellow costume, tells the child that he may be her clone’s baby and not hers, but she feels him in her mind, so in a way, maybe he is hers. “What a concept,” she thinks to herself and she picks Nathan Christopher up and, with her back to the window, places him against her shoulder so that only he can see outside. Nathan Christopher notices someone outside the ship.
As Jean wonders to herself if she is up to the job of motherhood, Rachel sits on some nearby clouds. She’s wearing her red spiked Phoenix costume and her short hair is yellow fire. She is telekinetically juggling small comets composed of that same yellow fire to amuse her little brother. She seems to be enjoying herself very much and isn’t hiding her facial tattoos. She makes faces for her brother as she talks to him telepathically, calling him ‘NC’ and reminding him that their ‘mom’ doesn’t know that she exists, so they should keep that a secret. And they should especially do so because Jean’s been through a lot lately. Jean turns around and Rachel drops out of sight, thinking to herself, “Down elevator express!”
Jean looks out of the window thinking to herself that she has this strange feeling of being watched, but there is no one there. She thinks that if anything hostile was in the area the ship would have sounded the alarm. She thinks the clouds are ‘really lovely’ but also that they make great hiding places. Just as she wonders if she should ask the ship to run a scan, Nathan Christopher spits up on her (or something similar disgusting), and she says aloud, “Oh Baby, how could you!”
Rachel, observing the events from her position lying on a cloud, thinks to herself that that kind of behavior, “Comes naturally to the little rugrats,” and that they look “indecently pleased every time.” She is glad that she doesn’t have to smell the mess or clean up after it. She telepathically thanks NC for the ‘distraction’ and tells him to remember that they are psi-bonded. If he needs her all he has to do is ‘holler’. She tells him to take care in the meantime.
At a basketball court at the corner of Sixth Avenue and West Fourth, in Greenwich Village, four men play basketball. Meggan, who is wearing the same outfit she acquired in the city but has transformed her skin and hair to blend in with the mostly black players and onlookers, thinks to herself that they ‘play magnificently’ and that she ‘could watch for hours.’ She admires the game because it is a test of skill and strength and stamina. One of the players, Spin, hurts his ankle. Meggan comes out on the court and offers to carry the large, muscular man off it. As she does so the other three players look on in disbelief and Spin tells them that his ankle is sprained, he’s out of the game.
Spin’s teammate, Marty, is told he knows the rules, if he doesn’t finish the game he forfeits. Meggan offers to take his partner’s place. There is some protest from Marty, who doesn’t want to ‘turn this into a joke,’ but Spin says that it is okay with him if she subs for him. As an onlooker admirers Meggan, now wearing her usual orange bodysuit as she ‘struts the court,’ he questions aloud to Spin, ‘but can she play?’ Meggan informs everyone that she has seen the game ‘often on the television.’ The onlooker says, “Bad news, Spin. You guys are doomed!”
As the game starts Brian’s cab drives by the court. The cabbie is asking his fare if he wants to check out the ‘outer boroughs.’ Looking frustrated, Brian replies that he doesn’t know and mentions that maybe he should go back to the hotel, in case Meggan left a message. The cabbie reacts aloud as he sees a ‘lady’ slam-dunk the ball on the court. Brian looks and thinks that the skin may be ‘all wrong,’ but the clothes are Meggan’s. Yelling her name, Brian exits the cab and runs up to the gathered crowd where he begs them to ‘clear a path.’ As no one ‘in this infernal metropolis’ listens, he feels there is no other recourse than to fly above them. As his powers are still weak, Brian has a wobbly take-off and hopes to himself as he concentrates all of his strength of will, that he doesn’t ‘crush anyone underneath.’ Meggan sees him and calls out his name. She flies up to join him and they embrace and kiss above the watching crowd.
As Meggan and Brian drive off in the cab, Meggan tells her love all about the ‘glorious time’ that she had that day in the city. She’s confident and smiling as she relates to him of all the places she went, all the friends she made, and all the cotton candy she ate. Brian sits with his arms folded and tells her that he’s been looking for her all day. He tells her that he was ‘worried sick.’ Meggan questions why he would have a reason to worry. She’s a grown woman and with her powers is ‘perfectly capable of defending herself.’ Brian tells her that powers are the point, something’s going on with his. He’s ‘growing weaker by the hour’ and he’s afraid that she’s affected to.
Brian tells Meggan to look at herself, because ‘those aren’t your features.’ Meggan, who’s still wearing the face and body of a beautiful and strong looking African American woman, tells him, “It’s my face, Brian, they must be my features.” But, she agrees with him, she has been shape-shifting a lot that day, intentionally and not. She wonders if it’s significant that she stabilized with her current look.
Meggan changes the subject back to the basketball game, telling Brian that he should have seen the whole thing. She says she was doing so well, not using her powers and “playing those men on their physical terms.” And she won! She tells him that she didn’t know she could do that, stand up for herself, as herself and she never dreamed that it would feel so good!
The cabbie jumps in to tell them that their ride is over and that it is time to ‘pay the tab, meter plus tip.’ This is where Brian realizes that his wallet is missing. He tells the cabbie it must have been stolen. The cabbie replies that he should have guessed it ‘a sooper hero sob story.’ He tells Brian to ‘geddaddahere.’ And calls him a stiff. Meggan offers him $80 worth of twenties and asks if that will suffice. He tells her, “Anytime!” As Meggan exits the cab she mentions that that was her share of her winnings from the game. As she walks back into the hotel, reverting to her more usual figure, she says, “Allow me this once my sweet, darling Brian, to save you!” Brian is left in the cab looking a confounded and maybe a little embarrassed for himself.

Characters Involved: 

Captain Britain, Meggan, Nightcrawler, Phoenix III, Shadowcat (all Excalibur)
Cannonball, Mirage, Sunspot, Warlock, Wolfsbane (all New Mutants)

Marvel Girl (X-Factor)

Nathan Summers

Deaged Illyana Rasputin
Boy and Mother, Cabbie, Police Officers

Carmen, Felicia, Monique, Rosalie, Shirlene (five teenagers who help Meggan)

Boy from the street fair
Sid and Joey (Engineers from Lockheed)
Spin and Marty plus two unnamed, (basketball players)

Lois Lane and Clark Kent
Spiderman and Dr. Octopus
as Mirage’s illusions

Cypher and Magik

Story Notes: 

The pinup on the back cover(also by Ron Lim) is a central figure of King Arthur leaning on a sword, hands crossed on the pommel directly in front of him. Above him in an arc are headshots of the Excalibur team.
Excalibur followed teammate Rachel Summers to New York City during the Inferno Crisis Crossover in Issues #6 and #7.
Meggan is an empathic shapeshifter and her physical appearance and personality adapt to the desires and expectations of the people around her. During the Inferno Crossover the demonic, evil vibes in the city caused Meggan to choose to turn on her friends.
The reason for Brian and Meggan’s power control problems become more apparent within the next issues.
The “Skunk Works,” officially known as the Lockheed Advanced Development Projects Unit, is a real aerospace design team. The team became legendary under the leadership of Clarence “Kelly” L. Johnson during WWII and is responsible for creating America’s first jet powered aircraft as well as spyplanes like the SR-71 Blackbird.
Nightcrawler’s and Shadowcat’s powers have not worked properly since they were both horribly injured during the Mutant Massacre (Uncanny X-Men #210-213), leaving Nightcrawler with only limited teleportation capacity and Kitty with a default intangible form.
Kitty Pryde inherits the Soulsword, made from a piece of Illyana’s soul, whenever her friend loses her powers or her life.
Illyana reverted back to her six to seven year old self during the Inferno Crisis in the pages of New Mutants Issues #71-73.

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