Excalibur (1st series) #97

Issue Date: 
May 1996
Story Title: 

Warren Ellis (writer), Casey Jones (penciler), Tom Simmons (inker), Ariane Lenshoek (colorist), Richard Starkings and Comicraft (letters), Malibu (separations), Suzanne Gaffney (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

Returning from the United States with Alistaire Stuart aboard, Meggan and Nightcrawler face several helicopters of Black Air. As their craft is unarmed, Meggan and Kurt have to fight themselves. Nightcrawler teleports into a cockpit, knocking out the pilots, while Meggan manipulates the other choppers‘ electromagnetic fields, rendering them harmless. They safely make it back to Muir Island, and Excalibur assemble to listen to Alistaire Stuart’s story of why Black Air are after him and Excalibur. Black Air secretly took over from the W.H.O., Stuart’s organization, and dissected the Warpies in the name of science. Somehow they are in league with the reformed London Hellfire Club, and since Alistaire saw their plans, they want him dead. Pete Wisdom, a former Black Air agent himself, confirms that there are some strange things going on, and that Stuart’s story would explain much of it. Moira is concerned about Douglock, who tries to become whole and human by switching off his logic parameters to ‘see what happens‘. He stands outside all day to experience nature, but in his confused state he fails to recognize an incoming plane as potential threat until it is too late - and he is penetrated by a harpoon and towed along behind the plane. In London, Brian arrives at the Hellfire Club, and meets with the Inner Circle. He claims his father‘s seat as Black Bishop, and while the Kings and Queens think it good to have a Braddock back in the Circle, Brian is meet with hostility from the Red Bishop, who challenges him to a duel. Brain easily defeats him, and is welcomed into the Inner Circle, wondering which of them is Mountjoy in disguise. Meanwhile, beneath London, Black Air agent Scratch arrives at a strange doorway in the sewers. Behind it is what both the Inner Circle and Black Air want.

Full Summary: 

Aboard the Moonlight Flit, Nightcrawler and Meggan, were almost back at Muir Island. They had traveled to America to pick up their old friend Alistaire Stuart, who was in desperate need of their help. Now however, the three friends find themselves at the mercy of several Black Air helicopters who had located them, and set the Moonlight Flit alight. Being a mere medical vessel, the Moonlight Flit is unarmed and without defenses. Inside the craft Alistaire begins to panic, thinking they will all die. Nightcrawler tells him not to dig their graves until they are lying down.

Nightcrawler tells Meggan that the Flit is set to auto-hover, and they are going to have to take the Black Air helicopters down the old-fashioned way. Meggan asks Kurt what his plan is. Nightcrawler tells her to take to the air and 'do something‘ when she sees the first chopper go down. That said, Kurt teleports across the water into the first helicopter he saw. Inside the cockpit, he knocks the two piloting Black Air agents out. Kurt makes sure that both of them are wearing a lifejacket, while Meggan takes flight, hoping that Nightcrawler remembers that he himself has no lifejacket on, just before the helicopter plunges into the water.

Meggan’s power is elemental in nature, she has the ability to draw energies from the Earth itself, by reaching out to the basic forces of it, and speaking to them. In this instance, she makes the electromagnetic field of another helicopter‘s electronic hardware simply go away. If she wanted to she could have taken the electromagnetic field away from the pilots themselves. But Meggan is not a killer.

A gun form a third helicopter turns towards where Nightcrawler is, in the ocean. Kurt teleports, unfortunately for him, his powers work best in straight lines. Straight horizontal lines, not vertical, as they are less reliable, and hurt. However, he makes it back to the Moonlight Flit, though just barely, as he hangs on the edge of the access hatch. He calls out to Meggan who tells him she will be right there – until she is fired at. Turning mid-air to the chopper that just fired at her, she says to the pilot ‘Don’t you shoot at me’. If they want to play with fire, she will show them fire. She lights up the propellants that fire the helicopter bullets, so that the pilots can “see them better”. Of course that results in an explosion of that chopper. Turning to the last helicopter, Meggan tells them not to look so smug. She tells the pilots that she has taken the guns off the others, and she will do worse to them, if they don’t jump out of their helicopter right now. The pilots comply with Meggan’s request, and jump from their chopper into the ocean below.

Flying over to Nightcrawler Meggan asks him if he saw her. She was very “Sigourney Weaver“ she thought. She asks Kurt if they can go home now. He answers that as soon as his arms shrink back to their normal lengths they can. And to think – in his circus days he thrived on daring acts like this!

In London, Excalibur’s cloaked Midnight Runner slides across the waters. Inside the ship, Kitty, piloting the aircraft, asks Brian if he still wants to do this. Brian tells her that if Shinobi Shaw and the New York Hellfire Club cannot unravel what is going on in the London Chapter, then it must be serious, and well worth his time. Especially if Mountjoy has infiltrated them, as Shaw believes. And the files say Mountjoy kills like any of them breathe. Sitting quietly, up until now, Rahne “Wolfsbane” Sinclair reminds her teammates that Shinobi is not to be trusted. Kitty agrees, before opening the drophatch. Before jumping out, Brian tells his friends he will be careful, and to make sure Meggan gets the note he wrote her, as this all happened to quickly for them to say goodbye.

Brian flies towards the ground, using his powers of Captain Britain, who he once was, a fusion of wild genes and old magic. But Brian gave up the names and costumes and wars. All he wanted to do was build things. In the distance he can hear the deep hammerings of war, and he fears it. Brian lands in the streets of London and walks to his destination – the Hellfire Club. He knocks on the door.

Muir Island. The techno-organic Douglock stands infused to the ground beneath him, starring up at the sun. As Dr. Moira MacTaggert walks up to him, he says to her ‘I’ve begun something’. Surprised and a little wary, Moira tells him he used a contraction – something he has never done before. He tells Moira that since his creation, he has wanted a reconciled position between his dual identities: the mechanical logic of the alien Phalanx, and the template of the deceased New Mutant, Doug Ramsey. Douglock believes that he should never have fought for the reconciliation, as you cannot force order on something as chaotic as personality, which is formed by random events and linkages.

Smiling, Moira tells Douglock, though not wishing to alarm him, that he has ‘taken root a bit’, as wires and techno-organic material from his feet is merged with the ground. Douglock knows, and is happy. He wanted to know if he could feel what Meggan feels, in her elemental talent…the pulse of Earth itself. Douglock tells Moira that he has set his brain to access and link various experiences and ideas, at complete random, just to see what happens. He believes it was quite a paradigm to come to that conclusion, that like people he should just “see what happens”. In the end, he will either come out with an integrated personality, or not. Moira’s smile has turned to a frown, but Douglock tells her not to worry, everything will be fine, he just wants to watch the sun go down.

Moira MacTaggert is a doctor, and dislikes trusting to a self-diagnosis. She doesn’t like it at all. Still she heads back towards her lab complex, when suddenly Pete Wisdom suddenly startles her. She asks him what he is doing creeping around? Armed with a fire extinguisher, he tells her to be quiet, as he is hunting flying rats. Lockheed? Moira says everyone is going mad. As Pete approaches Lockheed, he tries to coax him out, by telling the dragon he has a “present” for him, in return for Lockheed giving him back his cigarettes. ‘Stupid looking son of a drug-crazed anteater’ Pete calls him. Holding packets of cigarettes, Lockheed tells Wisdom that he will never take him alive.

Deep beneath London, wallowing in the sewer-water, the Black Air agent known as Scratch is highly over-qualified for what he is doing at the moment. However, Scratch is the liaison between the Hellfire Club and Black Air, which means he is the only agent of Black Air with the correct clearance to see what he is seeing here under London. In fact, what he is seeing is centuries old and hasn’t been seen since it was built. Both the Hellfire Club and Black Air need what is inside. As Scratch looks at the ancient door in front of him, marked with a demonic skull, he wonders if what is inside wants to come out.

Inside the London Hellfire Club, gazing around the foyer, Brian remarks on how impressive it is. A diminutive man asks Brian if he may be of any service. Brian tells the butler that he demands an immediate audience with the Inner Circle. He tells the butler that he is not interested in protocol or correctness, and that he is heir by right to the position of Black Bishop. The butler understands. He introduces himself as Rutledge, manservant to the Inner Circle. Rutledge asks Brian to follow him, and tells Brian that he knew his father, Sir James Braddock. Brian is surprised, and asks Rutledge how he knew who he was. Rutledge tells Brian that his family has a genetic disposition towards photographic memory, and that they have served the Hellfire Club for generations. Sir James was one of Rutledge’s favorite people here. Rutledge tells Brian to enter, and simply make his petition, before wishing him good luck. Brian thanks the butler, and hopes that they will talk again.

Entering a large chamber of the Inner Circle’s, Brian introduces himself, and states who his father was. He now claims his father‘s seat as Bishop of the Inner Circle, by right of ancestry. The Black Queen is impressed with Brian’s approach, done the old way, very direct. She introduces herself and bids him forward. Addressing the Kings, Red and Black, Brian asks them if the court hears him on this. The Red King tells him they do, and the Black King, cigarette in hand, remarks how very good it is to have a Braddock in the Circle again.

A loud outcry is heard, and the Red Bishop steps up to speak. He tells Brian that he will not countenance this insult. He says that the balance of Red and Black here is already to thick, and that there should only be one color in rule. He challenges Brian to a duel for the sole Bishopric of the Hellfire Club. ‘Red Bishop?’ Brian asks. The Red Bishop tells Brian that he spits in the milk of Brian’s mother. Looking embarrassed with the Red Bishop, Ms. Steed, the Black Queen tells Brian that they changed the opposing color from White to Red, to distance themselves from the “coarse” American branch of the Club.

The Red Bishop tells Brian that he will kill him a thousand times over for he is cruel and mighty -–but is knocked out when Brian raises his fist and shoves him away, asking him to be quiet. Ms. Steed tells Brian he is now Black Bishop, and welcomes him to the club. As she sets about to bring him up to date on the latest business, Brian wonders to himself, which of them is possessed by Mountjoy.

Muir Island, nighttime. Nightcrawler, Moira, Kitty, Meggan, Colossus, Wisdom, Wolfsbane, and Lockheed stand around the kitchen, listening to the Alistaire Stuart’s story. As Moira gives him a shoulder massage, he tells the heroes that he doesn’t even know how long he has been running for. It all happened so fast. He reminds them of how the Weird Happenings Organization had taken guardianship of the Warpies, the children mutated by the Reality Warp, which occurred in the Eighties. While he worked with the Warpies, helped them recover, he paid less and less attention to the administration and politics around the W.H.O. He never even noticed Black Air.

Alistaire tells Excalibur that Black Air started out as a secret Ministry of Defense unit, charged with recovery of unusual artifacts that could be interpolated into weapons design. Eventually, Black Air took over W.H.O.’s role to observe and deal with paranormal occurrences. Black Air was backed by a government vote - a vote bought by the Hellfire Club. Standing next to Wisdom, Kitty, not wanting to say what Alistaire said isn’t true, after all, she has known him for years, asks Wisdom, who used to work for Black Air, how much he knows of this to be true. Wisdom tells everyone that he wasn’t around at the beginning, but Alistaire’s story sure explains a couple of things.

Meggan asks Alistaire why he ran. After all, they helped him free the Warpies, and knew he was happy teaching them. Alistaire finally looks up from having his head in his hands. Tired and unshaven he tells Meggan and the others that Black Air killed and dissected the Warpies in the name of “Research”. And that is what Black Air is amassing all of those things for. They may say that they are taking them out of unsafe hands, and putting them in storage, but along with the London Hellfire Club, they have plans for them. The Hellfire Club used to be made up of the ruling class, and Black Air will make the current Club the ruling class again. Black Air will keep the status quo going in the background, keep the country dull and mediocre and in pain, the way it is now. The Inner Circle will feed off the lifeblood of the country in private. “Shadow Rulers” that even the Prime Minister wont know about. Alistaire tells everyone he saw the plans, that is why Black Air wants him dead – and they want Excalibur dead too!

It is well and truly nighttime now. Still standing outside, Douglock watches, with new eyes, the stars, and the night sky – things he hasn’t taken much notice of before. He is becoming one person. However, a single thing nags at his wildly randomizing logic center. One star is growing bigger, and darker. As it approaches Muir Island, he makes out the shape of it. It is not a star, but a jetplane. His random state-of-mind cannot make sense of it, confusing him. Suddenly, the planes engine howls, and a flash of silver darts from it…and stabs right through Douglock. As he is uprooted from the ground, and towed along behind the plane, attached by the spear, Douglock‘s heart breaks.

Characters Involved: 

Brian Braddock / Black Bishop II, Colossus, Douglock, Meggan, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, Pete Wisdom, Wolfsbane (all Excalibur)

Lockheed, Shadowcat’s pet dragon

Dr. Moira MacTaggert

Alistaire Stuart, Excalibur ally

Black King III, Black Queen IV, Red Bishop, Red King, Red Queen II, (all Inner Circle of Hellfire Club, London Branch)

Rutledge, manservant to Inner Circle


various other agents of Black Air

Story Notes: 

Sigourney Weaver is a Hollywood actress, best known for her role as Lt. Ellen Ripley in the Alien films.

The Warpies story occurred in Excalibur (1st series) #61-65. While Alistaire mentions that they were killed by Black Air, a few of them survived and appeared in Excalibur (2nd series) #1-4.

Doug Ramsey, aka Cypher, sacrificed his life to save that of Wolfsbane in the touching New Mutants #60, part of the Fall of the Mutants crossover.

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