Excalibur (1st series) #86

Issue Date: 
February 1995
Story Title: 
Back to Life

Warren Ellis (Writer), Ken Lashley (Penciler), Tom Wegrzyn (Inker), J. Rosas (Colorist), J. Babcock (Letterer), Suzanne Gaffney (Editor), Bob Harras (Group Editor), Tom DeFalco (Editor in Chief)

Brief Description: 

Brian Braddock gets visions of a man called Pete Wisdom, shot to death, when soon after he has finished modifying the Midnight Runner, Excalibur are visited by Agents Scicluna and Threadgold of the Weird Happenings Organization’s replacement, Black Air, and Wisdom himself, who is placed with Excalibur, should they chose to journey to Genosha to help sort out the war between the humans and the Mutates. While deciding whether or not to go, Rory Campbell contemplates the possibility that he may become the mutant-hating Ahab some more, and Nightcrawler reveals to Moira that he knows she is the human who has contracted the Legacy Virus. On the way to Genosha, Excalibur are attacked and shot at by missiles, but as the Midnight Runner goes down, everyone aboard, and all around the world, turn to crystal.

Full Summary: 

Thailand, where deep in the tropical swamplands on the edge of a country there was a place, called Ronsaphan. In Thai it means “Hot Street”, a combination airstrip and base, once used by CIA gunrunners during the Vietnam War. Fire spreads around the small area and bodies lay scattered throughout it. Back when the secret Americans abandoned it, terrorist cells found ugly uses for Ronsaphan, like drug running, training for international assaults and for staging private armies to destabilize small nations. But today, Ronsaphan has been broken, its unclean plans have touched the borders of the United Kingdom.

Britain, like most countries, operates an intelligence service to deal with external matters. They’re not loud like the CIA and they have no truck with the clumsy viciousness the KGB once peddled. They are quiet and certain and ruthless. Like the thin, darkhaired man who stands up amongst the bodies, a mutant called Peter Wisdom. Tears fall from his eyes as he looks at his hands, he has just decided to quit the British Intelligence. He is crying because he knows he should have done it long before he killed everyone in Ronsaphan.

In Genosha, the dead and the dying lie everywhere, mutates with a number slapped on their foreheads. One of them says These are the end days. This is the Apocalypse.

Pete Wisdom is attacked, bullets bite through him.

A mirror shatters, in it the reflection of Brian Braddock, the former Captain Britain, champion of England. He says No. No.

He wakes up. The real Brian Braddock, now known as Britannic, he realizes it was a flash-forward, something that has happened frequently to him since his recent plummet through the Timestream. The handsome hero sits up from underneath the aircraft he is working on. He clutches his head, for he saw so much, everything throughout history, it filled his memory and now spills out in hallucinatory episodes. The novelty of it wore off fast.

Suddenly, Kitty “Shadowcat” Pryde phases through the ceiling and into the hangar bay where Brian is working. Kitty tells Brian that he has been snagged, and looking up at his teammate, Brian tells Kitty that he thought she was going to keep out of here. Kitty smiles and tells Brian that Douglock blew it. You know how he is… “The Braddock unit is down in the hangar doing illogical things to your hovercraft Dr. MacTaggert” Kitty says repeating what Douglock told Moira. Kitty informs Brian that Moira is on her way and suggests he hide.

On cue, Moira strides forward, calling to Brian and telling him that Douglock informed her he has been in here for the past two days. But as she enters the hangar, Moira stops in her tracks. Och, she mumbles as her eyes meet the improved aircraft. But Moira is not impressed and asks Brian what he has done with it. Not seeing him in the room, she calls out that when she gets her hands on him it will be just as well that she is a doctor.

Brian steps out from the back of the room and asks Moira if she likes it. Moira points a finger at Brian and declares that it is her own fault for letting an Englishman on her island. Brian informs Moira that he thought they could use some faster transport so adapted some Shi’ar technology that Hank McCoy had flown to them from Westchester. He adds that it was good therapy for himself, getting back to physics and engineering, after all, it is his specialty.

Brian walks over to the Nobel Prize winning scientist as she tells him she wants some therapy between his head and her boot before telling Brian that she loved her hovercraft, that it was cute and not some big thrusting macho speed thing. Brian smiles and informs Moira that once it has had a proving flight he can start work on the medical version – a hypersonic medical installation that can reach any situation in the world within hours. Moira’s eyes light up and tells Brian that he knows he is a very handsome young man – a veritable genius and that she has always admired the English. Brian just smiles. At that moment, Kitty Pryde speaks over the intercom, asking for everyone to come up to the communication room, and fast.

Within one minute, Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner joins Moira and Brian as they enter the comm. room, where Kitty is awaiting them with the elemental Meggan. Shadowcat informs everyone that she and Meggan have spotted some sort of flier circling the island and that it is hailing them on the old Weird Happenings Organization frequency. Kurt reveals that the last time he spoke to Forge he heard the W.H.O. had been disbanded, and of course Forge would know as he does work in the Pentagon.

Nightcrawler informs everyone that Kitty is going to open the frequency and he wants Meggan and Brian to be ready to hit the air if needs be. Kitty opens the channel and introduces herself to whoever is aboard the mysterious aircraft before asking them to state their business. The reply comes that this is an unregistered flight from a confidential location. The speaker informs Excalibur that they can only reveal that they represent the intelligence entity that has replaced the W.H.O. and they request landing privileges and a meeting with Excalibur for mutual gain. Nightcrawler informs those aboard that Excalibur agrees, and tells them to land at their leisure.

Washed over by the howl of landing jets, Brian cannot concentrate on current events and his episodes reveal only disconnected snatches of time, scattered prophecy which is impossible to act upon. Three figures emerge from the aircraft and are greeted by Excalibur. However, the tone of the episodes Brian has is changing, less frequent are the explosive freeze-frames of future time and the horrible seconds of past history. Something in the back of Brian’s mind is struggling to pull his smashed memory closer to thenear future.

It was a theory, maybe just a dim hope, until this second, where behind the sunglass-wearing man and woman at the front of the trio is the third member of the party, a thin man in a black coat, who looks just like the thin man in Brian’s recent episode. The man, Pete Wisdom, who used the last of his dying breath to scream out that the bullets were biting into him.

Soon, in the kitchen, Moira and Kurt sit opposite the two agents, while Brian, Meggan and Kitty stand around the kitchen, as does Pete Wisdom. The woman introduces herself as Michele Scicluna and tells Excalibur that they may call her associate Threadgold and that together they represent Black Air. Scicluna declares that as part of British Intelligence, charged with the observation and interaction with extranormal activity, they were instructed to come to the European X-Men regarding an unusual situation.

Kitty asks Scicluna what it is that they can do for them. Wisdom mutters heh to which Scicluna turns to Wisdom and tells him to keep his comments to himself. Wisdom reminds Scicluna that he is the one who has been picked to stay with these bozos so he should get to say whatever he wants – about Genosha or anything else.

Excalibur get concerned when “Genosha” is mentioned and Meggan declares that she has been doing some research on Genosha and informs everyone that it is the place where the human minority used engineered mutants – mutates – to create wealth through slave labor. Meggan continues, declaring that there was a civil war, but it is over now and mutate rights were restored by a new bipartisan government. Meggan adds that it is an island off the East Coast of Africa and is supposed to be really pretty.

You’ll enjoy your trip then, says Threadgold, to the surprise of Excalibur. Scicluna informs the British super heroes that sources in Genosha recently contacted the British government via secret diplomatic channels and revealed that due to the release of the mutates, the Genoshan economy collapsed, and that humans and mutates are blaming each other, basically Genosha is returning to street fighting.

Brian remarks that after all the tragedy Genosha has suffered it is very sad, but asks what it has to do with them. Moira turns to Wisdom when he lights a cigarette and informs him that the Muir Island Research Center is non-smoking. Sod off, Pete snaps back, to which a stunned Moira asks if he just told her to “sod off?” Moira cringes as Scicluna informs her that Wisdom is a little highly strung, but nevertheless he is an expert on matters in Genosha. Scicluna adds that with Excalibur’s permission Wisdom will be accompanying them to Genosha.

Unemotionally, Scicluna informs everyone that politics prevent her from dealing with the matter communicated to them from their sources, as Genoshan humans are at a disadvantage in the fighting, for mutates with their special abilities are hard to kill – however the humans have now found away and so the mutates are being slaughtered. Scicluna reveals that a special ammunition is being used and that it may have originated in Britain. Scicluna tells Excalibur to go to Genosha and help the government clean things up and bring back to Black Air proof of the ordnance’s origins.

Nightcrawler starts to inform the Black Air agents that they cannot just ‘flounce into our station and order us to- ’ but Threadgold cuts him off and declares that Black Air cannot act until they have proof and until then, the slaughter will go on. He tells Kurt that if he can sleep at night knowing that their inaction has killed hundreds… Then please, go back to bed. We’ll see ourselves out.

Wisdom, still smoking his cigarette, tells Scicluna that he will be in touch, but that she needs to remember he stays with Excalibur as a non-combatant until the missions end, and then he wants what they agreed to.

As Scicluna and Threadgold’s aircraft leaves Muir Island, Scicluna remarks that she thinks it went well. Threadgold asks her what she would have done if Excalibur had not gone for it, and Scicluna replies that she would have mentioned the Braddock connection to the events in Genosha, a pity really, as she really wanted to have seen Braddock’s face when she told him.

Elsewhere within Muir Island, Douglock enters Doctor Rory Campbell’s quarters. Douglock says Hello, Rory to which Rory tells him that it is a very natural thing to say. Doug replies gratitude and informs Rory that the Kitty unit – I mean Kitty has been instructing him. Douglock informs Rory that they are going to Genosha and asks him if he is coming. Rory is surprised at this and asks why they would be going to Genosha. Douglock reveals that violence has returned to Genosha and they are going to terminate it.

Douglock asks a question, and in his understanding that the Phalanx’s way was “not right / ethically unsound”, and not withstanding the basic flaw in humanity that allowed Adolf Hitler to control a major geographic region for fifteen years…. How is it that fighting wars in order to purchase the freedom to fight more wars and kill more humans is found to be good / better than the Phalanx’s way? Rory replies that it is a good question, but asks Douglock to leave as he has much work to do.

Douglock “complies” but before leaving informs Rory that there is a newcomer on Muir Island, Peter Wisdom, who will be accompanying them to Genosha. Douglock thinks this is good, for in his research on the human species he has read it customary with humans to engage in welcoming festivities. Smiling, Douglock tells Rory that he has not had the opportunity to study more human behavior in festive situations and hopes Kitty will provide details for him.

When Douglock has left the room, Rory wonders what he should do. Should he get involved? For if there is fighting in Genosha again, with mutates in the midst of it…he looks in the mirror and tells him not to use the euphemism, as mutates are still mutants. But he knows he cannot risk exposing himself to harm at a mutants hand. For the small pain could easily grow into the almost pre-human intensity of hatred for mutants that will characterize the man he may become…. Rory’s reflection fades and is replaced by a reflection of the man he may become. He tells himself to stay on Muir Island and to abort the creation of…Ahab!

In one of Moira’s personal labs, Kurt enters and informs her that he has been thinking that perhaps they should not go to Genosha, as they have enough things to worry about as it is. Examining some things on computer screens as she talks to him, Moira asks Kurt like what? and tells him stopping a possible slaughter in Genosha is excellent preventive medicine. Moira reminds Kurt that it was him who took “Excalibur” as a metaphor for a scalpel. Kurt tells Moira she is right, before reminding her that she said the Legacy Virus had been infecting humans rather than the mutants it was designed to kill, information that was generated here on Muir Island. Kurt narrows his eyes and looks at Moira, declaring that there are only two humans on Muir Island, and one of them, Rory, has spent no time around infected mutants. Which means It is you, isn't it Moira? You have the Legacy Virus!

Moira’s eyes open wide at this accusation and turning away from Kurt she tells him he speaks nonsense. Kurt leaps over Moira’s computers and tells her it is the truth. He asks her to stop and talk to him, to let everyone help. Moira begins to cry and tells Kurt that there is no helping her, as she and Charles have both been working hard, but if Charles were with her, instead of being in Israel with the Legion trouble he would say the same thing: Go to Genosha. Help those who can be helped, it is what Moira wants. She drops a screen and it smashes on the floor.

Later, Excalibur fly off the island in what Brian calls “the Midnight Runner”. The aircraft can reach a speed of Mach 2, which means that Genosha is practically a footstep away. As far as proving flights go, it has gone well. Brian suspects something close to surprise in Kurt’s congratulation. He did it – alone. Just using his hands and brain, Brian succeeded at something. For so long he thought himself just a buffoon in a costume, but he now feels practically redeemed.

Kitty approaches the smoking Wisdom in the back of the aircraft, and informs him that they are getting close to Genosha so she was hoping he would like to share some of his expertise at this point. There is a smoking ban in the aircraft by the way, Kitty adds. Wisdom ignores her and just replies Life sucks, get an extractor fan. Give me that, says Kitty as she snatches the cigarette from Wisdom’s mouth. Kitty informs Wisdom that she is getting good at stubbing cigarettes out on people and asks him if he wants her to practice some more.

Wisdom calls Kitty a bloody fascist and tells her to give him back his cigarette or he will rip her head off and spit down her neck. That’s real witty. You think that up all by yourself? Kitty snaps back. Pete turns away from Kitty and asks her if she wants to know about the Genosha of today and you self-righteous little toerag, he mumbles before asking if there is a decent camera on this crate.

Brian overhears the “crate” comment and tells Wisdom that if he ever calls his aircraft a crate again then he will let Kitty stub out the cigarettes on him, before informing Wisdom that he has rigged an airborne remote viewing system. From a hatch on the underside of the Midnight Runner, the viewing system drops out, and Brian smiles, announcing it deployed, he asks Wisdom where he wants it to go. Wisdom replies that there is a ring of plazas set around the central square mile of Hammer Bay, the capital.

The viewer flies down to Hammer Bay, Genosha’s heart, which was once possessed the hum of money and business like Tokyo. The camera transmits images back to the Midnight Runner – a cemetery of silence, pockmarked by gunfire. Mutates are littered throughout the slums, keeping warm by makeshift fires and huddled in poverty. Excalibur’s reaction is one of horror, and Wisdom gives them their expertise: that when the economy failed, Genosha got equality – humans and mutates, starving together.

Suddenly, missiles attack the Midnight Runner and it is shot twice. Brian asks Wisdom why they are being shot at, to which Wisdom replies that there is a guerrilla war going on, for mutates and humans blame each other for the state of the nation. Wisdom declares that in the complete mess down below someone obviously took a disliking to the big X painted on this crate, adding that he was going to mention it.

The Midnight Runner is out of control, Brian declares that the missile took out the power feeds to the drive system and they are going down – those maggots have killed my plane! The burning Midnight Runner dives to the ground as the air begins to scream. The sounds grows deeper, like a note on a slowing tape machine.

Suddenly, everyone begins to turn into crystal – Brian, Meggan, Kitty, Kurt, Douglock and Pete, even the Midnight Runner – and time crawls. The stunned heroes are unable to move. Everything is reduced to a hard structure – the shape of the whole world now frozen into the mathematics of crystal.

Then, when this second and everything leading up to this second is understood – every facet – it is shattered. Near history is smashed by a time-quake and tumbles down like broken glass. Time flexes and something dark and awful begins to swirl and coalesce – new history. And all that we know is gone, like rain in the ocean.

Characters Involved: 

Britannic, Douglock, Meggan, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat (All Excalibur)

Dr. Moira MacTaggert

Dr. Rory Campbell

Pete Wisdom (former Black Air agent)

Michele Scicluna

Threadgold (both Black Air agents)

Genoshan Mutates

Story Notes: 

First appearance of Pete Wisdom who will go on to become a member of Excalibur, begin a long term relationship with Kitty Pryde.
Brian was lost in the Timestream between Excalibur (first series) #67-68 and returned in Excalibur (first series) #75.

During Brian’s rescue from the Timestream in Excalibur (first series) #75, both Rory and Amanda Sefton looked into the Timestream where they saw Rory’s possible future self, the mutant hating Ahab.

Moira learned in Excalibur (first series) #81 that she had been infected with the deadly Legacy Virus due to all of her exposure to it, making her the first human to contract it.

Nightcrawler’s comment about there being only two humans on Muir Island is somewhat incorrect, as in addition to Moira and Rory, both Brian and Amanda are humans. Under writer Warren Ellis, Brian was written as a mutant, while Amanda does not spend much time on Muir Island due to her job as a flight attendant.

The ending of this issue, like all X-titles of the time leads into the Age of Apocalypse. During the AOA, alternate versions of Excalibur appeared to various degrees. Brian and Moira were both part of the Human High Council, while in X-Calibre Kurt and his mother Mystique searched for Destiny. Kitty trained the next generation of mutants in Generation Next. Meggan and Amanda were both probably killed by agents of Apocalypse, while no mention was made of Rory and Douglock (Warlock) .

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