Excalibur (1st series) #110

Issue Date: 
June 1997
Story Title: 
Hearts Bled Crimson

Ben Raab (Writer), Salvador Larroca (Penciller), Scott Koblish (Inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (Letterer), Kevin Tinsley (Colorist), Paul Tutrone (Assistant Editor), Matt Idelson (Editor), Bob Harras (Editor in Chief)

Brief Description: 

Excalibur and Spiral arrive in Hong Kong, at the location where Captain Britain is being held, ready to rescue their captive teammate. An argument ensues with Spiral, which is broken up when Meggan talks to the mysterious Xiandu, who informs her of his and the Dragons of the Crimson Dawn’s origin. Meggan then proceeds to ask Xiandu to help him against his former friends - the friends that murdered him centuries ago. Captain Britain continues to suffer at the hands of A’yin, Ra’al and Barak, who are ready to unleash the Crimson Dawn upon Earth with Brian’s unwilling help. However, when A’yin senses that the deceased Xiandu is nearby, Barak goes to investigate, only to be attacked by Excalibur. Spiral comes to her uneasy-allies’ aid, allowing them to concentrate on helping Brian, and revealing that she never lied to Excalibur, only to the Dragons. Meggan takes a separate route where she meets up with Xiandu again, who reveals that it is her love for Brian that will save the world. Excalibur find the weary Brian, but the Dragons prove too powerful for them, until Brian reverses the energy spell, and his powers begin flowing back to him, though he cannot reabsorb fast enough, luckily Meggan arrives, though their reunion is brief, Brian explains what he needs Meggan to do - help him absorb the power, so he can then release it safely to seal the rift - even though it may result in his death. Meggan does as Brian wishes, while Excalibur can only watch helplessly. The Dragons make their getaway, vowing their return and the coming of the Crimson Dawn. When the dust settles, Brian unclenches his fist, revealing the wedding ring Meggan had chosen. The next morning, Excalibur regroup, while Brian and Meggan have a heart to heart, in which Brian reveals that as he is now powerless, he is leaving to explore other options. Meggan is concerned that it means they can no longer be married, while Brian tells Meggan he doesn’t blame her if she doesn’t wait for him, to which Meggan replies she would wait forever.

Full Summary: 

Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, Meggan, Colossus, Pete Wisdom and Wolfsbane, they are the mutant members of England’s premiere super hero team, Excalibur. Teleported to Hong Kong by the Time-Witch Spiral, they are on a life-and-death mission to rescue their iconic member, Brian Braddock - also known as Captain Britain - now they pray that they are not too late.

Making their way across the gentle landscape, the team leader, Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner tells his teammates to be on their guard, for if the “Dragons of the Crimson Dawn” are as formidable as their erstwhile ally spiral claims, then they must make a swift assault. Kurt asks young Rahne “Wolfsbane” Sinclair to take the point as they rush through the dark night.

Wolfsbane rushes forward, and focusing her enhanced lupine senses towards the fortress in the distance, the young Scots lycanthrope discovers that the path is clear across the countryside, before quickly alerting her teammates that there are no signs of the Dragons, and adding that there is something strange about the fortress, and she spies that it is guarded by something, a laser grid which surrounds the perimeter.

Meggan takes to the air, and asks her friends what they are waiting for, it is time to break through it, adding that if Brian is inside, then that is where she is going. Piotr “Colossus” Rasputin puts a hand on Meggan’s shoulder, halting her flight, despite her protest. Colossus replies that he will not let go of her if she is going to fly off half-cocked, and Meggan lowers herself back to the ground, where Colossus embraces her, Meggan exclaiming that they must save her beloved and reminding everyone that she and Brian were going to get married. Colossus calms Meggan, and promises her that they will rescue Brian.

The six-armed Spiral watches Excalibur and thinks to herself that they are sentimental fools, believing love can conquer all, while boasting that if she didn’t teleport them from their home on Muir Island they would not have had a chance of saving Brian Braddock in time. Spiral knows that she could have prevented this, but wonders why she didn’t.

Suddenly, Pete Wisdom creeps up behind Spiral, and with one of his hot knives ready, he startles her, suggesting that she teleports them inside the base, safely past the laser grid, or something other than his roguish charms are going to make her sweat. Spiral tells Wisdom that he flatters himself, and flips him onto the ground with a loud thump, declaring that to the passion which once burned within her, his hot knives are like candles unto a raging holocaust.

Spiral exclaims that one twist of her blade will easily douse Wisdom’s hot knives, when Nightcrawler intervenes, holding his sword up to Spiral’s throat, he orders her to get them inside - now! Backed up against a tree, Spiral replies that she would if she could, before explaining that to do so would alert the Dragon’s not only to Excalibur’s presence, but her presence as well.

As everyone gathers around Spiral, the strange being that has been following Meggan around approaches her and declares that the time-dancer is a fool to assume that the Dragons are not already aware. Meggan turns upon hearing the familiar voice, and calls to him, asking what it is he wants. Meggan walks over to the strange man as he informs her that her betrothed lives, before revealing that she has little time before his own brethren break Captain Britain’s nigh-indomitable will.

Everyone looks at Meggan, and Wisdom announces that Meggan is talking to herself again, offering his opinion that Meggan has gone all “Tweety” in the head. Kitty “Shadowcat” Pryde folds her arms and tells her boyfriend that she loves him to pieces, before suggesting that he does them a favor by trying not to be so obtuse for at least one second. Kitty reminds Wisdom that Meggan is an elemental, which means her heightened perception of reality lets her see things that are invisible to the naked eye. Cigarette hanging out of his mouth, Wisdom mocks the “heightened perception of reality” and tells Kitty that she must watch too much X-Files.

Meggan’s visitor informs Meggan that her surly companion does not realize that she alone can see him, which is for the best, as the tale he, Xiandu, must tell is solely for her ears. With that statement, Xiandu begins his tale.


Long ago, in a time of turmoil for the people of Hong Kong, the Ming Dynasty had died a brutal, bloody death at the hands of the barbarian, Li-Tzu Ch’eng. Despite the carnage, Xiandu and his fellow monks held piously to the belief that that their prayers would bring an end to the bloodshed drenching their kingdom, and somehow, sustain the Dynasty of their patriarchs to come.

But their prayers fell on deaf ears, almost as swiftly as the house of Ming fell to Li-Tzu’s savage armies. With his faith shattered, Xiandu consciously led his three friends - A’yin, Ra’al and Barak - down the darkest road they would ever travel. In the pitch of night, beneath the light of the moon, the four of them were initiated into a covenant that promised to repel their oppressors, and restore the rightful dominion to the throne of China.

With that initiation, an ancient mystical discipline became the willing servants of the ancient Crimson Dawn! Little did Xiandu realize the price such servitude would exact on their souls - and tempted by the power of the Crimson Dawn, his friends turned on him. Corrupt within, the Crimson Dawn began to corrupt A’yin, Ra’al and Barak, and in the instant the first dagger was plunged into Xiandu’s unsuspecting heart, his friends ceased to exist - and the Dragons of the Crimson Dawn were born. With those actions, Xiandu’s spirit was sentenced to wander the Earth awaiting his former friends inevitable escape from the Crimson realm.


Xiandu exclaims that centuries later, the Dragons herald the blood-dimmed tide soon to come. He explains to Meggan that since her beloved Brian is a vessel of great power, he is as instrumental in the loosing of that mystical deluge, as is this land - for this is the very nexus of power where he and his former friends once sought to bend reality to their petty, mortal whims. Xiandu reveals that it is here that the Dragons will attempt to do so again, ‘Unless you, Faerie child, can stop them!’ Xiandu declares.

‘Me? But how?’ asks the perplexed Meggan. Kurt taps Meggan on the shoulder and tells her that whatever she is experiencing must be quite difficult for her to handle, before pointing out that nevertheless they must hurry if they are going to save Brian. Megan’s half turns to Kurt and explains that her newfound friend is just telling her about what they have to do. Meggan introduces Kurt to Xiandu, and informs Xiandu that he is Excalibur’s team leader.

Nightcrawler thinks to himself “Xiandu”? and decides that Wisdom is right on this one, Meggan has gone “Tweety”. But a eager Meggan pleads with Xiandu to help she and her teammates. ‘Please?’ Xiandu does not reply, instead he simply looks away.

Meanwhile, as Excalibur readies their assault outside, within the compound proper, the battle has already begun. Captain Britain - a.k.a. Brian Braddock - screams as he is dowsed in painful magicks, he knows he cannot take much more as the pain is so severe. Since he long ago assumed his predestined mantle as “Captain Britain: Protector of the Realm”, he has survived a great many trials, surpassed by a great many tribulations. But of all the hardships endured during his often undesired career as a hero, none can compare to the excruciating agony inflicted upon him by his otherworldly captors.

As Brian’s body screams at him to surrender, his heart demands that he must fight on. ‘I can…I must…I WILL resist!’ he shouts, as the Dragons of the Crimson Dawn come up behind him. The Dragons leader, the Albino Ra’al tells Brian that he better conserve his prodigious strength, before remarking to her comrades that by resisting he not only hastens his own demise - ‘But it ensures the destruction of the “modern world”!’ adds the brutish Barak.

The green-skinned A’yin agrees that Captain Britain is truly incredible, to which Brian informs the Dragons that it will take a lot more than what they have got to keep him down. Ra’al takes Brian’s weary face in her hands, ‘Ever the warrior prepared to take a stand for “King and Country”, eh?’ she remarks, telling him that it is admirable, but futile at best, and suddenly she lets some energy quills upon Brian, piercing his very soul, and leaving Brian Braddock’s shrill wail pierce the night.

A’yin sits at a large computer console, ready to make use of the “magic” of technology to his teams’ advantage. He remarks that the six-armed time-witch, Spiral did not lie about these devices, and reveals that they are indeed siphoning off Braddock’s energy by the second! He boasts that they shall soon have all the power they need to shatter the barrier between this mortal coil and their own mystical realm.

Barak unsheathes his weapons, claiming that for too many centuries have they suffered to achieve this moment. He declares that he grows impatient that he must wait any longer. A’yin tells his comrade to reign his destructive appetite, pointing out that their servitude to the Crimson Dawn is about to repaid a thousandfold within the hour. Suddenly, a worried A’yin reveals that he senses someone has entered the compound, and in disbelief he exclaims that it is Xiandu!

Ra’al doesn’t believe A’yin and tells him that he must simply be so giddy that he imagines this to be the day of Karmic Retribution, reminding A’yin that the left the superstitious fool for dead ages ago. Hoping to make A’yin feel better, she motions for Barak to go and investigate.

Some levels below, Barak emerges from the shadows to find nothing, to which he supposes that time is taking its toll on senile old A’yin. He wonders if they should add A’yin’s elderly soul to the pyre, when suddenly, ‘Need a light, bit guy?’ asks someone standing in the shadows. Barak is confused for a moment, until Wisdom reveals himself, hurling his powerful “hot knives” at Barak, who yelps in pain, before furiously asking Wisdom ‘You dare assault the mighty Barak?’, as he foams at the mouth.

‘Yup’ Wisdom replies confidently, which causes Barak to leap at Wisdom with his weapons outstretched, ‘Insolent mortal, I will kill you!’ he cries, while Wisdom casually lights a cigarette. Suddenly, Nightcrawler teleports in, and Barak’s weapons clang against Kurt’s swords. Kurt declares that Wisdom may be rude, crude and utterly uncouth, but he is still one of Excalibur - and Excalibur look after their own.

Noticing Nightcrawler’s appearance, Barak asks him what kind of freakish creature he is, to which Kurt explains that he is a “mutant”, born with a variant chromosome that not only gives him amazing powers, but makes him a dashingly handsome fellow also. Weapons continue to clang, and Barak declares that looks alone cannot help sustain so fleet an attack for long. Kurt grins and replies that he doesn’t expect them to, before reminding Barak that Excalibur look after their own. ‘Right. Colossus?’

Nightcrawler suddenly teleports out, and Colossus rushes Barak, striking him hard, while Wolfsbane drops onto the behemoth from above, growling at him, while Colossus suggests to his teammates that they continue on with the mission, while he and Rahne keep the brute at bay. Barak informs Excalibur that they are too late, for thanks to the time-witch’s technology, Brian Braddock’s power, his very life essence, is forfeit. He adds that once they have finished with Braddock’s, the Crimson Dawn shall take the power of everyone else.

Colossus tells Meggan not to listen to the monster, but a frightened Meggan realizes that her friends were right, Spiral did lie to her, to everyone. Meggan calls to Brian, before beginning to wail. But suddenly, Spiral appears overhead, and claims that the only lie she has told, was to deceive the foolish “dragons”. Spiral explains that the technology she gave the Dragons is useless without the proper magicks to temper its influence. She reveals that the only being capable of manipulating those magicks, is herself.

Spiral begins casting some spell, causing a startled Barak to yell ‘Treacherous witch! What are you doing to meeeee?’ Spiral points out that the Dragons claim their bond to the Crimson Dawn to be eternal, before claiming that it is little more than a hollow threat, ‘For I have walked the Wildways - and I know that nothing last forever!’ Spiral suggests to Excalibur that if they are going to rescue Braddock, they do it now, before she regrets her decision.

Nightcrawler teleports everyone away, while thinking that there may be more to Spiral than they suspected. Safe in another part of the complex, Kitty tries to comfort Meggan, telling her that everything will be okay, that Brian is a trooper and will pull through just fine. Flying off ahead of her teammates, Meggan calls back ‘For those evil Dragons’ sake, Kitty, he’d better!’

Flying through the complex, it has only been a matter of hours since Meggan was separated from the man she loves. But for Meggan, it feels like an eternity. She wants, more than anything, for this eternity to end - so that her new life with Brian Braddock may begin. Determination on her face, Meggan recalls that she and Brian have waited so long to consecrate their relationship, so she refuses to let these people stand in the way of their happiness! Entering a new room, Meggan realizes there is something not quite right about it, and wonders what is going on.

Xiandu stands before Meggan and explains to her that Captain Britain’s power is being used to erode the barriers between this reality and the Crimson Shadow Realm to which the Dragons were once banished, and already, that world is superimposing itself upon this one. Xiandu claims that he did all he could to stop it, but he fears it is too late.

Meggan declares that she is not giving up just like that, before telling Xiandu that like his own faith once meant the world to him, so does Brian mean that Earth, the moon, the stars - the whole Universe to her. Never showing any emotion, Xiandu reveals to Meggan her love is why he has spoken to her and none of her teammates, for as much as the magicks within Meggan are necessary to save Captain Britain - so much more is required of their love for one another - to save their world. Power emanating from him, Xiandu touches Meggan on the forehead.

Elsewhere in the complex, the battle rages on, a brilliant array of colors fills every space it can, and Ra’al boasts that this world’s day is done, and asks A’yin if he cannot feel the renaissance. A’yin replies that he cannot, before revealing that something is wrong, the energy isn’t being drawn out of Braddock to the rift - Brian is drawing the energy from the rift to himself!

‘That’s right, demon! You said it yourselves - my very body is an object of power, power that is mine alone to control! Mine alone!’ exclaims Brian, unleashing masses of power after enduring the ceaseless torture of Ra’al’s “psychic surgery”, the agonizing sting of Barak’s incessant beatings, and the tedium of A’yin’s mystical poking and prodding for hours on end. However, despite being so far from his native land for so long, so far from the source of his miraculous might - Captain Britain is far from being defeated.

No matter how reluctant a hero Brian Braddock may be, a hero he is - and a hero never says “Die”! Getting to his feet, Brian turns to A’yin and Ra’al and asks which one of them would like to go another round. A bamf signals the arrival of Nightcrawler, Kitty, Colossus, Wolfsbane and Wisdom - the cavalry. Kurt tells Brian to take it easy, as they can give the hell-spawn a go now.

Brian is surprised to see his friends, but Ra’al gets straight back into it, declaring that Braddock belongs to the Crimson Dawn, she spit’s a stream of bile at Kurt, who steps aside as Brian warns him that it is corrosive and can fry your flesh right off the bone. Nightcrawler asks Brian what they should do now, to which Brian replies ‘Now…we give them what they want’.

Kurt is surprised by Brian’s remark, and asks him if he is insane. Ra’al exclaims that Braddock is not insane, merely ready to accept his destiny as the usher of a bold new era. Ra’al tells A’yin to dispose of the others, so A’yin unleashes some green gas, causing Piotr, Rahne and Wisdom to fall to the ground, while Kitty becomes intangible and tries to remember everything Wolverine taught her about fighting to take the Dragons down hard and fast. Solidifying herself, Kitty kicks both Dragons square in the jaw, knocking them both down.

Brian thanks Kitty, before suggesting she phases under some kind of cover if she can, because things are about to really heat up! However, as Captain Britain reaches out to draw the wild coruscating energy back into himself, there is a backlash as the energy begins to feed back on him. He cries out, knowing that he cannot reabsorb it fast enough, he needs help. ‘BRIAN!’ exclaims Meggan as she flies towards him. The weary Captain Britain asks Meggan if it is really her, ‘Of course it is, you big silly!’ Meggan replies, grabbing Brian in her arms.

Exhausted, Brian wearily tells Meggan that she needs to drain the energy from the portal and redirect it into him, to seal the rift, then he can safely release the energy. Meggan points out that it might kill him, to which Brian doesn’t say anything, he just looks into his beloved’s eyes. Meggan understands now, and protests, but Brian tells her to shush, and kisses her, ‘I love you, too…’ he whispers.

Brian stands tall, with Meggan hovering above him. When they first met, Meggan was a frightened waif living on the streets of London, and Brian Braddock was fast becoming the symbol of a nation’s hope - an equally frightening prospect. Meggan announces that she has recycled as much of the energy as she can, and under strain, points out that neither of them can survive much more. She asks him if he is ready, Brian replies that this is it, and placing her hands on Brian’s muscular shoulders, Brian declares ‘Let it go!’

Taking solace in each other’s company, Brian and Meggan’s relationship soon grew from tried and true friendship, to deep, impassioned love. Each becoming a rock upon which the other could defend. Till death do they part. Color starts to fade, until Brian and Meggan are left floating in a blinding whiteness. Kitty, Kurt, Piotr, Rahne and Wisdom watch in awe, until Kitty breaks the silence, asking if it is over, just like that.

Nearby, Ra’al calls Excalibur ‘foolish mortals’ and warns them that this is far from over, boasting that the Crimson Dawn shall soon rise and bathe this world in its sanguine fury! She claims that whether it be at the turn of this millennium, or the turn of the next, Excalibur will not avert its doom. Sinking into the shadows, she tells them that as certain as they can be of that inescapable truth, they can be certain of this - ‘We Dragons shall return!’ Kitty watches A’yin rush away also, and thinks to herself that it is a good thing they are leaving, as she doubts Excalibur could have lasted much longer.

Holding onto Brian as the dust settles around them, Meggan asks him to say something, ‘Oh, darling…it’s not supposed to happen like this…we were supposed to be married!’ sobs Meggan. Opening his fist, ‘Who said we won’t?’ the weary Brian asks, revealing the ring. Xiandu watches Meggan and Brian, safe in the knowledge that they have been reunited at last, the journey of his restless soul has now come to a close, and he fades.

Dawn, the next morning, and several reconnaissance missions later. Nightcrawler, Colossus, Wolfsbane, Kitty and Wisdom gather and sit on the steps of the temple. Kurt announces that there is nothing, no sign of either Spiral or any of the Dragons, so one can only hope that they all returned to their respective dimensions. Wisdom declares that he just ratted this place out by bouncing a signal to an orbiting Chinese satellite, and the last thing they need is a run in with that. ‘What do you mean “you” bounced the signal?’ Kitty asks Pete, massaging his shoulders. ‘Oh, bloody heck’ Wisdom mutters.

Colossus asks his teammates if any of them have seen Meggan and Brian, to which Rahne points out that they have been gone for some time now. Kurt replies that he isn’t sure about Meggan, but that he saw Brian sitting on the hill overlooking the valley, adding that he looked like he didn’t want to be disturbed, to which Kurt points out that after having been tortured almost to death, he imagines Captain Britain has a lot on his mind.

Brian sits on the hill as the sun rises, and Meggan approaches him, asking him if there is enough room for two up here. Brian sees Meggan and tells her to sit, taking her hand, he informs her that he is glad she is here, as they need to talk. Meggan’s face drops, already knowing that it is about them getting married. Brian replies that it is that and a great many other things that are going through his head right now. He remarks that it is so strange, for he thought he could handle anything, but the Crimson Dawn was too powerful for him, now his powers are gone - and Captain Britain is no more.

However, Brian reveals that it feels like an incredible weight has been lifted from his shoulders, a burden too heavy for one man to carry. He explains that he can finally become the man he wants to be, he can move on to being “Brian Braddock, Scientist”, or “Brian Braddock, Husband”, or “Brian Braddock, Couch Potato” - whatever, and he can do it on his own terms.

As Brian takes Meggan in his arms and pulls her close to him, Meggan asks him if it means he is leaving the team, or her. Brian replies that he is going to leave the team for now. But leave Meggan? Never. He tells her that she is as dear to him as his own heart, but that he needs some time away from Excalibur to figure out what he is and who he wants to be. ‘I know you, of all people, can understand this, Meggan,’ Brian says.

Brushing his thumb across Meggan’s lips, Brian tells her that since he is asking a lot of her, he won’t blame her if she doesn’t wait for him. The rising sun sparkles across the water, and Brian and Meggan stand up, embracing, they kiss, and Meggan whispers ‘For you, Brian Braddock - I would wait forever…’.

Characters Involved: 

Captain Britain, Colossus, Meggan, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, Pete Wisdom, Wolfsbane (all Excalibur)


A’yin, Barak, Ra’al (all Dragons of the Crimson Dawn)


In Flashback

A’yin, Barak, Ra’al, Xiandu

Story Notes: 

According to a footnote, the name Xiandu is pronounced “Hsien-Tsu”.

Captain Britain first proposed to Meggan in Excalibur (1st series) #61. However not long after, he was lost in the Time Stream [off-panel, between Excalibur (1st series) #67-68], and when he returned in Excalibur (1st series) #75, he was a very different person. When he finally returned to normal, their wedding was arranged in Excalibur (1st series) #107. They will finally get married in Excalibur (1st series) #125.

The saga of the Crimson Dawn continues in the Psylocke & Archangel: Crimson Dawn limited series.

Issue Information: 
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