Writer: Chris Claremont
Pencils: Chris Wozniak
Inks: Al Milgrom
Colours: Bran Vancata
Letters: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Terry Kavanagh
Original publication date: April 1990
Anna, Mav, and Andrew are joined by Dr. Martin Zeller-Jacques to tackle Excalibur #21, “Crusader X,” which Mav describes as “definitely, technically a comic.” The players and pencils are new, but the plot is intentionally—though not always enjoyably—familiar, as we revisit Rachel revisiting her trauma (again) in an issue that restages the Dark Phoenix Saga with new masterminds (but also the same old Mastermind). We also talk serialization, sexy Pietàs, and the further transformations of Nigel Frobisher, and unanimously declare evil Iron Man the best part of the issue. Plus, how a poster in the Albany Public Library ignited a lifetime love of comics!
This episode has an enhanced video version! Watch here:
On the promising set-up:
“I think this issue does a good job of setting up the world you’re in. A continuity comic asks its reader to do a lot of work – to know a lot of stuff coming in. A comic introducing a new world relieves some of that burden. We get an immediate sense of Crusader X’s ideology and place in the world.” -Martin
On Sat-yr-Courtney’s evolving villainy:
“I like that we’re drawing attention to the trope of characters being re-dressed in comics, and instead of not commenting on it at all, being like ‘holy crap, someone re-dressed me, this is creepy as hell, what does this mean, I gotta get out of here.’” -Andrew
On the further transformations of Nigel:
“We’ve discussed Nigel previously as perhaps having some type of queer desire, though the nature of it remains unclear – we’re not sure whether his transformations relate to sex, gender, or sexuality. I’m not sure transforming him into Vixen builds very productively on that.” -Anna
On Wozniak’s limitations:
“I don’t think there’s any getting around the further you get from either a lantern-jawed, traditional male hero or a sexy lady in a revealing outfit, the weaker Wozniak’s penciling seems to be. Excalibur is mostly women, plus Nightcrawler, who doesn’t have a stereotypically super-masculine body. So, he does his worst work on most of the main characters in this series.” -Martin
“Something about the weight of Wozniak’s style, and the squareness and the blockiness of his style… I do see him really struggling with both the quite character moments and also the unique physicality of a character like Nightcrawler.” -Anna
On re-traumatizing Rachel:
“Having Rachel continually interacting with the Phoenix saga motivates the question of: ‘why is Rachel here’? If one of the foundational tenants of the X-Men world is that the Phoenix force is too powerful to exist, that’s an important question. And it’s not clear that Rachel herself has a good answer. Having her re-experience the fate of the previous Phoenix may be trying to address that question of – ‘what is the role of the Phoenix in this space’”? -Martin
On unproductive Pietàs:
“Having this much sexualized exposure, in this particular moment, in this particular way (note the individual flames emanating from Rachel’s breasts), is maybe not the most productive choice to visualize the emotional crux of this issue.” -Anna
If you’re so inclined: you can read up about Wozniak’s goals for the book, from a then-contemporary interview!
Want more Martin Zeller-Jacques?
Visit him seaside, or find him on Twitter (@MZacques)!
And! Read his writing on X-Men! His book chapter “Adapting the X-Men: Comic-Book Narratives in Film Franchises” is included in A Companion to Literature, Film, and Adaptation.
And as usual:
You can find Anna on Twitter (@peppard_anna) and on her podcast with Andrew and Michael Hancock, Three Panel Contrast (@3PanelContrast).
You can find Andrew on Twitter (@ClaremontRun).
You can find Mav on Twitter (@chrismaverick) and on his podcast, VoxPopcast (@VoxPopcast).