The concept that drives the story of Excalibur is one that recently cropped up in Dan Slott’s “Spider-Verse” storyline. It’s a story about characters traveling the multiverse encountering strange creatures and going on even stranger adventures. It’s basically a way for series creator Chris Claremont and Alan Davis to do anything and make each issue a self-contained story. That’s why I had to change the format of this column from “3 Reasons Why” to “3 Stories Why” to capture the three best in this epic collection.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Amazing adventures across the Marvel Multiverse! England’s premier superteam takes their show on the road in an interdimensional odyssey. Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler, Rachel Summers, Captain Britain and Meggan face a truly epic journey through incredible alternate dimensions, guest-starring nearly every hero and villain you can think of – or very unreasonable facsimiles thereof! But what do Crusader X, Centurion Britannus, Chevalier Bretagne and Lady London all have in common? Why, they’re all Captain Britain, of course! Traumatic transformations and titanic tricksters await!
Can I jump in easily?
I can’t say it’s easy at all. It took me about 100 pages to sort out who all the characters were and what the deal was with the dimension-hopping train named Widget. I’d suggest picking up the first Epic Collection or at the very least reading up on the characters via the handy character guide in the back of this book.
Story 1: An alternate Marvel universe where Galactus wants to devour Earth to put it out of its misery.
In of the most interesting stories of the collection, Excalibur is sent to a planet where the Marvel heroes are mixed up and slightly different. Mysterio is a hero for instance, or in another, the Fantastic Four is all mixed up (Johnny Storm has invisible powers, Ben Grimm is elastic, Reed Richards can turn to flame, and Sue Storm is the rocky monster) which gives this tale a “What If” feel. There are some hilarious beats too like Daredevil’s new mantra and Hank Pym’s inability to shrink down which is affecting the weather. I dare you not to laugh out loud when Hulk’s true nature is revealed.
Enjoy the time-hopping inter-dimensional fun!
Story 2: Nightcrawler becomes a pirate and a prince.
In one of the best stories of this collection, Nightcrawler is depowered and must use his physical abilities to keep himself alive. A bit of swashbuckling takes place and plenty of fun action drawn by Alan Davis. The story is filled with twists and turns from there like falling in love with a (secretly) evil queen, escaping prison, and being eaten by a giant green monstrosity. Nightcrawler is a highlight throughout this collection as his ego and always-smiling self seems to add a bit of heart to even the direst of stories.
Story 3: Adds to the Rachel Summers (Phoenix) mythos.
Midway through this volume, a story takes place forcing Rachel to lose her Phoenix powers. Claremont and Davis explore what would happen if Rachel gave up the powers of the Phoenix. Needless to say, it’s very bad for the team and it even grounds their ability to move between dimensions. It’s a fun way to show how important the character is, reveal a bit about her past (if you didn’t know), and see what she’d be like without the power of the Phoenix. She’s essentially the heavy hitter on the team cleaning up when the powerful villains pop in.
Throughout this series, she adds a cosmic element to the story with most of the main team running with more basic powers. With these powers comes a lot of trauma and plenty of melodrama for the characters to react to or help fix.
A must read for Rachel Summer fans.
Reasons to be wary?
Much of the second half of this book isn’t written by Chris Claremont or drawn by Alan Davis. Truth be told, Davis’ art is excellent and a perfect match to the dense dialogue and storytelling style of Claremont. You’re guaranteed an excellent story if they were involved, which isn’t to knock the other creators who worked on this collection, but they just can’t add the amount of content packed into each story. Given how each issue is an adventure in itself that leaves you wanting more.
Captain Britain’s brother James Braddock Jr. ends up being an enigma I never really understood. I guess he has dimension manipulation powers, but for the most part, he comes off as strange and weird for the sake of being strange and weird. He’s basically out of his mind which ends up getting pretty tiring over time.
Is there a rationale to the reasons?
I never got into this series, but can see why some love it to no end. The imaginative nature of the narrative is excellent and every issue has something new or interesting to enjoy. The cast of characters might be somewhat unknown, but by the end, you’ll enjoy their team dynamic as they try to make sense of the wacky and strange multiverse.