Excalibur (1st series) #9

Issue Date: 
June 1989
Story Title: 
The Two-edged Sword!

Chris Claremont (writer), Alan Davis (penciler), Paul Neary (inker), Orzechowski & Mas (lettering), John A. Wilcox (colors), Terry Kavanagh (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)
Claremont & Davis: creators

Brief Description: 

Still in the remains of Xavier’s mansion, Excalibur tests Captain Britain’s mysteriously deteriorating strength. Meggan, too, is losing control of her power and seems to share an odd power-link with Phoenix. The team is shaken out of their worries when they are asked to return to London to assist WHO and Commander Thomas, as Excalibur’s allies, Moira MacTaggert and Callisto, have disappeared and been replaced with Nazi analogues. In the meantime, the Nazi world has noticed the disappearance and sent their heroes to bring the women back – Lightning Squad, a team consisting of Nazi versions of Excalibur with the exception Phoenix. Hauptmann Englande, the Brian Braddock analogue – infiltrates the Tower, WHO Headquarters, where the prisoners are kept. Lightning Squad attacks. Excalibur returns in time to face them, but they are all taken out by their Nazi analogue and only the weakened Captain Britain – in an old, too tight costume, to boot – is all that stands between Lightning force and their triumph. Elsewhere in the Tower, the mysterious Widget has created a dimensional gate, resulting in a family of tourists getting lost and being replaced by dinosaur versions of themselves. In the meantime, in the London Hellfire Club, Sat-Yr-9, still posing as Courtney Ross, plays a game of chance with her ambitious employee Nigel Forbusher, managing to completely indebt the young man to her.

Full Summary: 

Excalibur’s lighthouse on the west coast of Great Britain. A while back Phoenix left in a hurry departing through the roof when she heard an urgent call. The others followed. Only Kitty’s dragon, Lockheed, stayed behind, waiting patiently. Suddenly, his wait seems to be over, as ghostly hands reach to him from below. Kitty trying to surprise him, he figures, until the hands begin to throttle him. The dragon passes out.

The person who did this is indeed Kitty Pryde or a horrible mockery of her, A skinny form with haunted eyes, looking more dead than alive, with a Star of David branded onto her forehead. She is surrounded by more alternate versions of members of Excalibur. A buzz-cut Captain Britain analogue dressed in a costume that displays a mixture of an eagle and a stylized swastika, a similarly attired Meggan in matching colors and a smoking Nightcrawler wearing an approximation of a Prussian uniform mixed with elements of his typical outfit – the Lightning Squad.

The Captain Britain analogue – Hauptmann Englande – commends Shadowcat and hopes the rest of their mission will go as smoothly. Nightcrawler tells him not to fret. Where is his zest for battle? They are the Reich’s foremost band of warriors with a whole new world to conquer. He for one is overjoyed. He can afford to be, Hauptmann Englande shoots back, but he is in command and their primary mission is to rescue the Reichsminister of Genetics, Lady Moria MacTaggert. Afterwards, perhaps they may indulge themselves.

At the same time, it’s the middle of the night in the ruins of Xavier’s School in New York. The mansion is a gutted ruin, but the sprawling complex beneath it is in fine shape. Which is more than can be said for the subject’s of today’s evaluation, Captain Britain, who struggles with some weights in the Danger Room. Kitty Pryde observes his feat from the observation booth and is clearly disturbed. The weight should be easily within Captain Britain’s strength parameters, but he is clearly straining. Beside her, brain’s lover, Meggan is fretting.
Kitty tries to push Cap to his limits, multiplying the weight. He makes the ultimate effort and finally sinks down, exhausted.

Kitty offers him a moment’s break while announcing that she is going to test his speed of reactions afterwards. A moment is all he gets, as the Danger Room’s machines start pummelling at him. Kitty gets even more worried. From Cap’s past performance, he should have easily dodged those attacks. Meggan complains that this sneak attack was mean, while Cap argues that he wasn’t ready. Does he think a villain will be that considerate, Kitty thinks cynically, as she starts the next test: a panel in the floor opens beneath his feet. Cap should, of course, be able to fly. Wildly flapping his arms, he finds that he can’t. He falls into the pool below.

Nightcrawler enters the observation booth from above, asking how things stand. Cap, in the meantime, has climbed up again, cursing a blue streak, causing Kitty to point out that he shouldn’t use that language around impressionable girls her age. Nightcrawler observes that Brian is angry and Kitty concedes that it’s probably more at himself than at her. He is scared and with good reason.

Kitty creates another test: a gauntlet armed with spraycans. With Brian is busy, Kitty points Meggan out to Kurt. Meg is utterly absorbed in watching Brian – who is doing poorly. Kitty walks up to her, and without even noticing, Meggan mimics her shape until Kitty steps away. Kurt tries the same and Meg changes into a female version of him. Kitty explains to Kurt that Meggan is functioning as a chameleon, taking on the protective coloration of whoever’s in closest proximity. It is totally involuntary and she doesn’t even seem to be aware of it.

That moment, Rachel, dressed in an impossibly outrageous skimpy minidress, enters joyously, asking if anybody’s missed her. The fireworks begin as she passes Meggan. Their energies cross, the two women seem to merge, until the phoenix effect appears and Rachel telekinetically shoves Meggan away.

Ray confides to Kitty that none of her psi-defenses were working. She was drowning. Kurt, in the meantime, tries to reach out to Meg, when the all but forgotten Captain Britain, splotched with color from head to toe, enters the booth in a foul mood, announcing he wants no more tests until he hears some results.

While Brian cleans himself, Kitty explains the grim truth. All Brian’s super-abilities show a marked and progressive decline with no apparent cause and no end in sight. Same holds true for Meggan, though she isn’t weakening but losing her control.

In the meantime, Meggan, having again taken on her “Nightcrawler shape,” confides to Kurt about her experience with Rachel, using much the same words as the other girl.

While they walk into the hangar, Kitty explains her fears. Powers are an extension of one’s natural being. Deterioration of the one means deterioration of the other. Is he going to die, Brian asks. Kitty tries to comfort him, certain that there is a cure, even if she cannot find one. With a grim smile, Brian announces that if there is nothing he can do about it there is no need to worry, eh? Kitty tells him they can consult Moira MacTaggert and Reed Richards. He shouldn’t give up.

That moment, the phone rings. It is Cap’s friend at Scotland Yard, Commander Dai Thomas, who informs Nightcrawler that Excalibur is needed in London. There is big trouble involving Moira MacTaggert.

The London branch of the Hellfire Club. Just walking through the door means that you are somebody, unless of course you are only a member’s guest, like assistant banker Nigel Frobusher and his friends. Nigel complains to his mates that he has a faint hope of being promoted as long as that cow, Courtney Ross, stands in his way. He does all the work; the “ice queen” hogs all the credit. His friends try to subtly tell him to shut up. He doesn’t get the hint until Courtney, dressed up impeccably in white gown, addresses him from behind. Startled, Nigel turns around in a hurry and spills his drink. Courtney courteously apologizes for startling him and offers to make it up to him. Nigel follows her while making crude gestures to his admiring friends.

Courtney and Nigel sit down at a table for two and she asks him if he is interested in games of chance. This one is simple. Cut the deck. High card wins. What stakes? He asks. A pound for him, she declares, by way of her apology he can name his wager. Getting bolder, Nigel suggests a weekend with her. Courtney calmly agrees and they draw. Three of diamonds for him, Ten of clubs for her. Nigel pays a pound and suggests another round. Courtney eagerly agrees but points out that they will hazard something more substantial this time. For each win, he will gain a promotion. However it is all or nothing. He can withdraw any time. But lose and he loses everything. She shuffles the cards and adds that each round the bet increases by a factor of ten. Then, he states, suddenly calling her “Courtney”, she owes him ten pounds.

The game continues, drawing more and more spectators and Nigel wins each time while getting more and more nervous. All the time, Courtney remains cool as ice. The next draw, Courtney announces is for a million. Also she wagers her job: chief vice president of Fraser’s bank. She points out that he looks unwell. If he has no more stomach for their game, he can walk away. Nigel wants to but fears this would brand him a coward in the eye of the crowd. He draws and, with a relieved smile, finds he has the King of Hearts. Courtney calmly draws the next card – the Ace of Spades.

Nigel, in the manner of a supplicant, admits that he hasn’t the money. He can’t pay. Courtney strides away under the cheers of the crowds, calmly announcing that he can and he will!

The Tower of London, where a guide leads a tourist family through the Hall of heroes containing replicas of the super-powered British heroes, such as Spitfire and Union Jack. The hall even contains a replica of the original red, lion-chested costume of Captain Britain. A division of the Weird Happenings Organization, along with a disgruntled Commander Thomas, passes them by. The dad asks if they are soldiers and the guide explains that they are around all the time. When the father inquires after the Haunted Tower, the guide explains in his heavy Cockney accent that it is off-limits as it is WHO’s headquarter. While he and the family are inadvertently doing the Abbot and Costello spiel, they pass through a doorway.

Suddenly, light explodes around them. And the doorway begins inquiring friend Colin? It is Widget and he has sent the family somewhere else!

Elsewhere in the Tower, in a stuffy little office a relaxed Alasdair Stuart – head-scientist of WHO – and a tense Dai Thomas – of Scotland Yard – are waiting for Alistaire’s sister Alysande, who is interrogating their “guests.” Did Thomas find anything interesting on their identiscans, Stuart asks and Thomas grimly replies that their prisoners’ fingerprints, retina scans, DNA analyses are all a perfect match. They are who they’re supposed to be, but they are not!

To quote Sherlock Holmes, Stuart replies calmly while munching a banana, “when all other possibilities are investigated and discarded, whatever remains, however improbable must be the truth.” Thomas refuses to believe in the existence of alternate dimensions. That very moment a family of tourists and their guide enters the office - an intelligent dinosaur family that is and it is hard to say who is more surprised.

At the Tower Gate, a Tower guard and a member of WHO discuss whether a woman should really be in charge of a combat unit when suddenly they get company. The sergeant tells the civilian the Haunted Tower is off-limits until the stranger produces his credentials – it is Brian Braddock. The sergeant suggests he talk with the brigadier himself. While they are talking, behind them three figures secretly enter the area. As Braddock leaves, the two military men are a little surprised. They’d always figured Captain Britain would sound proper as the BBC. Was that a German accent?

Brian Braddock – Hauptmann Englande – meets with his teammates in an alcove. Greeting them with “Heil Hitler,” he tells them they are to liberate MacTaggert and her bodyguard, while he will attempt to find out how they came to be transported to this world.

In the dungeon, Brigadier Alysande Stuart tries to interrogate two women who should be Moira MacTaggert and Callisto but clearly are not. In her world, Moira is Reichsminister of genetics, responsible to the Führer himself. Her brief is to purify the breed and thereby enable Aryan humanity to achieve its ultimate potential, as she boasts. That moment the corporal guarding the door, a black woman, is attacked by the ferocious-looking Shadowcat from Lightning Force.

Shadowcat tears into her neck like a vampire. Callisto mocks about one mongrel dealing with another as she grabs Alysande and disarms her. Moira orders her to treat her gently for the moment. Later, when they have the opportunity to do so properly, they shall teach Brigadier Stuart what it means to tempt the wrath of the master race. The ghostly and obviously disgusted Shadowcat wipes her mouth.

Upstairs, Dai Thomas finds that the phones are dead while the Dinosaur guard demands to speak someone in authority. He is the authority Thomas shouts back. The tourist parents are panicking while Alistaire is examining them. They are joined by Lightning Squad’s Braddock, still in civilian clothing. Thomas is glad that what he believes to be help has arrived though he is surprised about Brian’s buzzcut haircut. Is he going skinhead on them? He jokes.

Alistaire suddenly announces out of the blue that Sandy is in danger. Hauptmann Englande takes that as the opportunity to show his true colors, as he tosses a desk at Alistaire and then proceeds to disarm Thomas. He intends to smash his face but, suddenly, Thomas is phased-out of harm’s way courtesy of the real Shadowcat. Hauptmann Englande’s similarity to Cap momentarily startles Kitty.

Outside in the courtyard stands the Blackbird. Nightcrawler asks Meggan and Captain Britain to stay behind, telling them they are in no shape to handle a major battle. Brian agrees, though he notices that he has started feeling better since they crossed the coast.

Inside, Hautpmann Englande blusters only to suddenly find himself frozen by Phoenix’s telekinesis. As she begins reading his mind, Alistaire is awestruck by her. Kitty has phased down below only to get a start as the soldiers run through her phased face. Her weirdest sensation, she muses as she watches them leave. Phasing certainly has its uses but she wishes she could turn it off easier. She hates being a living ghost. Far better than being a dead one, a ghostly voice announces, as Kitty comes face to face with her double, who asks her forgiveness as she kayos her.

Upstairs, Phoenix is momentarily diverted, as she senses her psi-link with Kitty being severed. Time enough for Hauptmann England to break free and toss her out of the building. Outside Captain Britain and Meggan witness this and realizes that they have to intervene.

Inside, Hauptmann Englande gets rid of his coat and trousers to reveal his Nazi costume underneath. He demands that the others yield Moira or he will bring the tower down. Nightcrawler slaps him from behind and diverts him by playing his own version of tag with him. Thanks to his agility, he evades the Hauptmann while making fun of him. That, however, ends when the other Nightcrawler appears and multi-teleports with him. Exhausted, the real Nightcrawler passes out.

The Nazi Nightcrawler mocks that this is what one can expect from this weak decadent dimension. Shall he kill them? he asks, as Moira and Callisto join them. Nazi-Meggan flies in as well, announcing that she ran into a firefight. Now that they are complete, they will be on their way, the Hauptmann announces.

Meggan blasts a hole into the wall, providing an exit. Outside, they find one more obstacle to be overcome, an obstacle that raises no more than amused smiles from the Lightning Squad. At last, he meets his counterpart, Hauptmann Englande announces, or rather the pathetic wretch who passes for him.

With his uniform destroyed, Captain Britain grabbed the old uniform displayed in the Tower, an uniform he has since grown out of and which is falling apart at the seams. The Lightning Squad assumes that this will be easy…

Characters Involved: 

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


Commander Dai Thomas
Professor Alistaire Stuart (chief scientist of WHO)
Brigadier Alysande Stuart (military leader of WHO)
Corporal Swain and other WHO soldiers and Tower guards

Nigel Frobisher (junior banker at Fraser’s)
Nigel’s pals
Guests at the London Hellfire Club

Tower Guide
Tourist family

Dinosaur guide and family from an alternate dimension

Opul Lun Satyr-9 (posing as Courtney Ross)

Hauptmann Englande, alternate Meggan, alternate Nightcrawler, alternate Shadowcat (Lightning Squad)
Alternate Moira MacTaggert and Callisto

Story Notes: 

The issue includes a pin-up by Alan Davis as a back-cover showing Gatecrasher and Yap with the rest of the Technet obscured by shadows.

Xavier’s School was destroyed in Inferno.

Alistaire Stuart seems to sense that Alysande is in danger. An explanation for that “link” displayed here has never been given.

As a result of injuries received during the Mutant Massacre being phased is now Kitty’s default state.

As a result of injuries received first at the hands if Nimrod and then during the Mutant Massacre, Nightcrawler has lost a lot of his stamina and is roughly limited to one teleportation jaunt per day.

Actually, the proper German spelling of the word is “England,” not “Englande.”

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