“Forging the Sword, Part 1 of 4: Paint It Black"
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Aaron Lopresti (p), Greg Adams (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Professor Xavier journeys to the recently destroyed mutant refuge of Genosha, only to discover a post apocalyptic wasteland where technology no longer works, and a handful of mutant survivors cling to life. Brooding about the nature of his cause, he encounters a hallucination of former love Moira McTaggart, and battles a handful of inexplicably pissed off mutants.
Readers expecting to indulge in the adventures of mutants with bad teeth and inarticulate cockney accents are in for a big disappointment in this latest addition to the X-titles. Sadly, the most recent incarnation of Excalibur bears little in common with the now-defunct British Mutant team of the same name. So what is Excalibur? Don’t expect any easy answers. After struggling through this premier issue, most readers are likely to be left feelings as unsatisfied as the Blob after a single trip to an all you can eat buffet.
The book welcomes back veteran X-writer Chris Claremont, the now-legendary wordsmith who carried the Uncanny X-Men and a slew of other best-selling titles (including the original Excalibur series) for nearly two decades. If this latest series is any indication however, it has become painfully obvious that Claremont has lost his magic touch. Excalibur #1 crawls along at a snail’s pace, and lacks any of the polish and depth once common in Claremont’s work. Worse, the dialogue reads like something scrawled by a demented pre-schooler. At one point a distraught Professor X declares: “That so totally…hurts!” in what can only be described as a poor attempt at a Buffy impersonation. One cannot help but wonder what kind of glue editor Mike Marts was sniffing to let that one slip past.
And it gets even weirder. Xavier essentially ends up dragging a coffin behind his wheelchair for five or six pages (don’t even bother asking why, it’s never made clear), hallucinates about former love Moira McTaggart (again for no apparent reason) and is inexplicably attacked by a group of generic mutant goons. Perhaps worst of all, he encounters a young female mutant named ‘Wicked’ who somehow manages to resemble a leather clad groupie from a Motley Crew concert (circa 1987), despite living in the decimated Genoshan landscape. The issue finally reaches an unsatisfying and frustrating conclusion with Xavier joining forces with Wicked and another young mutant named Freakshow, and finally encountering an “old friend” in what seems like an all too familiar X-men cliché.
Lopresti does an admirable job depicting the bleak and devastated Genoshan background, but ultimately the writing is so painfully slow and misguided that most readers will probably lose interest quite quickly. Sadly, Excalibur is a huge let down and as a premier issue misses the mark in almost every conceivable way. It’s even more of a disappointment for fans of Claremont’s previous work, and a poor attempt from an otherwise brilliant writer. In the end, as a new series one can only hope that the title will develop some modicum of direction. With any luck Claremont will eventually pull his head out of his ass, return to his literary roots, and rediscover what the X-Men are truly all about.
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