“Life Signs (Part 3): The Light of a Tainted Dawn”
Writers: Scott Lobdell & Todd DeZago
Pencils: Ken Lashley & Steve Epting
Inks: Philip Moy, Harry Candelario, W.C. Carani, John Floyd & John Livesay
Colours: Chris Matthys
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Editors: Suzanne Gaffney & Bob Harras
Original publication date: October 1994
We’re back from the holidays and eager to discuss the very important symbolism of robot Velociraptors in wizard capes in the bafflingly titled Phalanx Covenant crossover issue Excalibur #82, “Life Signs (Part 3): The Light of a Tainted Dawn,” in which Nightcrawler saves the world through the power of life-coaching and everyone’s hair looks fabulous. But we’re focusing on the Forge of it all, discussing race, representation, and Indigenous Futurism with comics scholar Dr. Jeremy M. Carnes!
On origin stories:
Anna: “What drew you to the world of the X-Men?”
On messed-up mergings:
“There are so many panels and pages of gooey people merging into other people, and something happened but… I don’t know what it’s going for.” -Anna
On plot holes:
“It’s unclear why they need to climb the tower because… and I can’t stress this enough… Sam can f-ing fly.” -Mav
On Indigenous tropes:
“Native characters are often painted as anachronistic so that they’re never thought of as modern. If you can’t be modern, you can’t be part of the nation state. And if you can’t be part of the nation state, it justifies exclusion.” -Jeremy
“Characters like Forge and Dani Moonstar sometimes live in stereotypes. Other times, they push against them.” -Jeremy
On the violence of absence:
“Because Indigenous communities have been legally, historically, culturally, and systemically denied, in relation to the United States, by their absence… a lack of representation reiterates that.” -Jeremy
“The rhetoric of this moment is totally the rhetoric of settler colonialism… Forge is asked to erase his own people, and accept that it’s for the best.” -Jeremy
Want more Jeremy Carnes?
You can find him on Twitter (@jmcarnes).
We’ll hype the heck out of Jeremy’s forthcoming edited collection on X-Men: The Animated series, co-edited with past guests Margaret Galvan and Nicholas Miller, when it’s available (hopefully later this year)!
In the meantime, we recently spotlighted some of Jeremy’s article “‘The Original Enchantment’: Whiteness, Indigeneity, and Representational Logics in The New Mutants,” talking about X-Men and Indigenous representation, over at Sequential Scholars.
And as usual:
You can find Anna on Twitter (@peppard_anna) and at Sequential Scholars (@seqscholars).
You can find Andrew on Twitter (@ClaremontRun) and at Sequential Scholars.
You can find Mav on Twitter (@chrismaverick) and on his podcast, VoxPopcast (@VoxPopcast).
Previously I would have posted my comments about this issue and episode on Twitter, but I’ve decided to take a break from Twitter, so here I am.
I read the title as “The Phalanx Covenant, Book Two: Life Signs, Part Three: The Light of a Tainted Dawn,” as in, the “Phalanx Covenant” crossover has 2 books, of which the second is called “Life Signs,” and “Life Signs” has 3 parts, of which this issue, titled “The Light of a Tainted Dawn,” is the third part.
Now that that’s cleared up, let me express how unexcited I am for Excalibur to be the sixth part of a six part crossover for the second time since Alan Davis left. This is made worse by the fact that the last time I read any comic book other than Excalibur was in the 80s, so I have no idea what’s going on in the other comics, and furthermore, I don’t care. I went into it thinking it couldn’t be worse than last time, but I was unprepared for how incoherent and disjointed this issue turned out to be.
Starting at the beginning, as you said on the podcast, Cannonball and Wolfsbane have never appeared in this comic before. However, at least Douglock and Kitty looked at a picture of them last issue. I am unsure of whether to give Scott Lobdell credit for this, which might be unfair of me.
After the opening sequence, we get Havok, who I at least know from 80s, with two other people who I don’t recognize, and one of whom isn’t even named in the comic. I was thinking he looked vaguely like Thunderbird (again from the 80s), but you called him Warhawk on the podcast. This might be the same person with a different name, but I don’t know and I’m not sure why I should care.
As far as I can tell, the entire point of Havok’s scene is so he can update us on the status of various other heroes. This seems unnecessary, since either you have read the other comics and so know all this, or you haven’t read them, like me, and you evidently don’t care about the other heroes. On the plus side, it does clarify that Scott Summers and Jean Grey have appeared in a limited series called “The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix,” killing off any hope that Rachel will return to Excalibur. (If Jean Grey is now Phoenix, it follows that Rachel is not, and therefore she will not be returning.)
There is also the possibility that the point of this scene is to explain why all of these characters are not otherwise appearing in this comic, if you have read the rest of the crossover and are wondering about them. Having not read the crossover myself, I can’t speak to this, but I can see it as a possibility the creators were guarding against. But this points out a problem with this comic generally, which is that there are so many characters that all of them have too little to do.
Moving on, the fact that the Phalanx eggs are clearly ripped off from Aliens (except, like, techno-organic) is so obvious that it didn’t bear mention during the podcast.
When the second team shows up, Nightcrawler looks so different that I didn’t recognize him, and thought he might be the Beast for a page or two. Which isn’t a comment on whether it’s a good look, just that Kurt showing up with a new appearance with a new group of characters without any comment is a bit disorienting. Again, there may be an explanation for this elsewhere in the crossover, but it would be nice if the change in Nightcrawler’s appearance was acknowledged in Nightcrawler’s comic.
Speaking of this being Excalibur’s comic, as you noted, it is very strange that after all the effort to center Britanic and Meggan in this comic in recent issues, they get no mention at all here. This comic thinks it’s important that we know what Banshee and Jubilee are doing, but not two regular members of the team.
Along those lines, this comic doesn’t mention the Legacy virus at all. The Legacy virus has been a running thread in Excalibur recently, and although I would have been just as happy if it had just stayed in other comics where it belonged, I am disconcerted by its absence here. Was this resolved in another comic while we weren’t looking? If so, why were Professor X and Moira MacTaggert such a focus of this comic recently? Or was the Legacy virus just dropped for this issue, and we will return to it in the future? I don’t know, but I assume I’ll find out if I keep reading.
PS: When Havok is giving his recap, he identifies the woman standing behind Jubilee as the White Queen. Is this correct? I mean, she’s clearly dressed in red, but I thought that if there’s a defining characteristic for the White Queen, it’s that she dresses in white. Also, she’s way more covered up in this outfit than I expect her to be.