New Excalibur #20

Issue Date: 
July 2007
Story Title: 
The Best Laid Plans

Chris Claremont (writer), Jeremy Haun (penciler), Dave Meikis and Sean Parsons (inkers), Laura Villari (colorist), Tom Orzechowski (letterer), Will Panzo (assistant editor), Nick Lowe & Andy Schmidt (editors), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

Excalibur confronts Shadow-X and Lionheart at Crossmore. Lionheart takes the opportunity to slip away while Excalibur beats the evil X-Men (albeit barely). In the meantime, TJ is slowly recovering and Sage has joined Albion’s inner circle of Shadow Captains. They attack a top secret vault, where Albion gets a magical object that he uses to ban the use of technology in all of Britain. Sage tries to stop him but, as she touches the object, there’s is a magical backlash.

Full Summary: 

The recent past:

Sage, in her guise as Diana Fox, doesn’t know where she is. All that matters is that her search is over. She’s found Albion. She’s convinced him – through days of interrogation and evaluation – of her loyalty, and commitment to his cause. And now that she’s been accepted into the ranks of his Shadow Captains her job is to find a way to bring him down.

London, the Royal Victoria Hospital:

This has become TJ Wagner’s new home. She’ll be here in the physical / psychological recovery unit for the next few weeks, learning to do again the things that less than a month ago she took for granted. For example reading.

She’s fine when she’s reading to herself, although she does feel exhausted after a few pages. The problems come when she tries to read aloud. Random words don’t make sense, breaking the flow of her speech as she struggles to find their meaning and even proper pronunciation. Worst, of all, these words aren’t difficult. They’re ordinary, simple terms that she knew a minute ago and will know again an hour later. Impatiently, she swears, telling herself she knows this word!

Her therapist comforts her that she’s actually doing better. But that’s enough for today. She hands her a biro for writing. Something else she used to take for granted, TJ sighs. She always felt more free writing than typing. She could play with a pen, write and sketch. She felt as free with words as with her body. Anything was possible. Her spelling is sketchy. Not anymore. Those days are over.

Another day, another session. She’s typing on a laptop, then stumbles through the beginning of Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.” As she tries to sketch, she mutters that she hates this. She feels like she’s being dragged over spikes.

She juggles balls with her left arm. Her left side is as good as ever, but when she tries the right, it doesn‘t work. Thanks a lot guys, she chides her right hand’s fingers. You used to be able to do this. She tells them to get their act together, because she isn’t going to quit until she gets it right.

At her Britannic Majesty’s Ultimate Security Prison Crossmore, the rest of Nocturne’s teammates are confronting the evil X-Men Shadow-X, who have just turned on their erstwhile ally Lionheart. Captain Britain advises his team not to be gentle. They know what the other side can do. As Cap attacks Cyclops he wonders what’s going on. Why would Shadow-X attack their ally Lionheart?

Juggernaut punches Beast, asking him if he has anything smart to say now that he isn’t beating up a girl?

Dazzler fires laser beams at her personal nemesis Iceman. She reminds him that they killed her the first time they met. Will they get better if she returns the compliment?

While Wisdom hits Marvel Girl he asks his teammates what it is with skinsuits and snappy patter during fights?

Angel has caught Cyclops who orders him to get him closer to the Captain who is busy following Lionheart. Cyclops lets loose his optic blast, hitting both Captain Britain and Kelsey.

As Marvel Girl kicks Wisdom in the stomach, she replies that, what he calls snappy patter, they consider last words of those about to die. Luckily, Dazzler intervenes with a laser blast.

Beast evades Juggernaut’s blows, informing him that there’s more to winning than raw power. The key to victory is knowing what to do with one’s muscles. He uses a judo throw to toss Juggernaut against Dazzler. Iceman intends to finish them off. They’re more dangerous than before, Wisdom realizes as he fires hotknives at Iceman. They can’t afford a single mistake.

Cyclops intends to finish Dazzler and Juggernaut off but Captain Britain intervenes, jumping in front of the optic blast. However, he falls afterwards as do Angel and Cyclops who are caught by Marvel Girl.

Seeing the two teams busy with each other, Lionheart decides to slip away, while despising herself for abandoning the heroes. Noticing this, Marvel Girl sends Beast after her, ordering him that she wants her in pain, before falling down from the exhaustion. However, Juggernaut intercepts Beast and Kelsey gets away.

With teamwork, Juggernaut, Wisdom and Dazzler take care of Iceman. Captain Britain wakes up to see Shadow-X beaten and Lionheart gone. He wonders why Shadow-X were trying to kill her. Was she having second thoughts or is Albion eliminating his rivals?

Elsewhere, for Sage, as Diana Fox in her cover identity, the training by Albion was like nothing she’d ever imagined. It was almost as if the uniforms knew what to do, honing and reshaping her body in ways that would normally take months. It worked on her mind as well, emphasizing loyalty to Albion and his cause, though her power and training enabled Sage to keep her true self inviolate.

Now, it seems all the training will be put to the test. Led by Albion, a cadre of his trainees fly to a secret installation Sage has never heard of. They follow Albion into battle against government soldiers. But, great as he is, Albion is mortal and the troops are trained to take on the best. They don’t go easily. Sage intervenes and takes a blast meant for Albion.

Albion claps, commending her, admitting he may owe her his life. Walking closer to her, he adds that he is not altogether sure whether she was trying to rescue him or save the men. She is a very clever woman, he continues. He isn’t clever. Never has been. But he always wins. She’d do well to remember that. Throwing her a sword, he orders Diana to follow him. He intends to show her how he plans to make this world his.

At Crossmore Prison, Wisdom informs the others that he has heard from London. This attack was just a diversion. Albion has apparently built himself a little army and is now attacking one of Britain’s top security vaults. Do they know what he’s after? Captain Britain demands. Looking at his mobile, Wisdom sighs he wishes. That place is even above his security clearance. Seeing the fight on the mobile’s screen, he remarks that Albion’s found himself a spare Lionheart.

At the hospital, Nocturne is giving walking stairs a try again for the first time. She manages to the top but then falls. Finally able to see some humor in her situation, she is ready to try again.

At the vault, Albion ignores all the rich in front of him to find an ornate staff, which he refers to as the key to Victory. Doesn’t look like much, Sage observes, to which he replies that appearances can be deceiving.

Sage wonders whether he has caught on to her and decides to strike now. However, at that moment, a panicked Lionheart comes running in and Sage resigns herself to waiting. Lionheart informs Albion how Shadow-X betrayed them. They wanted Lionheart’s body as a host for their master, but she killed him. Not really listening, Albion asks her to tell him later, when this day is over and they have achieved victory. He opens the staff, stating the bare dozen of them stands against the entire technological might of this age.

Sage realizes she has to act now and draws her sword. Lionheart notices something wrong… but then attack helicopters arrive. As Albion takes a shining blade out and plants it on the ground, Lionheart warns him of Sage trying to betray him as he shouts that his will be done.

That moment, Sage also reaches for the energyblade and her Sage persona is burnt away. She falls unconscious and the energy effect spreads all over Britain. Everywhere, systems fail, lights go out, power fails as Albion has reduced the island to a simpler era. With the casting of a spell, he has taken all the technology away.

Characters Involved: 

Captain Britain, Dazzler, Juggernaut, Nocturne, Sage, Wisdom (all Excalibur)



Albion’s Shadow Captains

Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, Marvel Girl (all Shadow-X)

British soldiers

Hospital staff

Story Notes: 

Chris Claremont on what should have happened on page 21:

This is what I intended to present. Unfortunately, I wasn't as clear on the expression of the scene as I should have been and, since this was off a full script and the book was seriously late, there was no real opportunity to catch the glitch and set things right. My fault, my bad.

What should have happened is that when Sage and Lionheart collided just as Albion cast his "spell," the subsequent panel was supposed to be a shot of Sage (in disguise) above which could be seen the astral image of Excalibur Sage screaming in psychic agony as her substance is visually disintegrated, which (hopefully) should have informed the reader that something dire had just happened, namely that Sage's personality had been KO'd. Subsequently, when she woke up, it was wholly as her assumed identity Diana Fox.

Thanks to Ann Nichols for that information.

Issue Information: 
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