Thursday, September 16, 2010

Excalibur Visionaries: Warren Ellis (Volume 1)

Warren Ellis & Various

This didn't hold up very well from my youth.  I was a huge fan of Excalibur growing up.  The very first comic that I picked up (thanks to a Marvel Universe trading card featuring Shadowcat) was Excalibur #48, and I went back and collected all of the back issues and kept up with it until the series ended.  So, I was rather disappointed when rereading Warren Ellis' run on the title from #83-90.  I'd remembered a few of his storyarcs quite fondly, especially The Soul Sword Trilogy and Dream Nails Trilogy.  And while they are cool stories, they just weren't executed well.  At all.  I had many moments during these stories, particularly in The Soul Sword Trilogy, where I remembered a big reveal or a big moment in my head much differently than how it played out on the page.  I must have just built them up in my mind, turning these sub-par drawings into iconic scenes.  It's a rather odd experience discovering this.  There's a scene on the very last page of issue #85, where there's a full body shot of Amanda Sefton with her cape billowing out, and I remember drawing that image over and over, and while seeing it again drudged up those memories, it left me kind of baffled that I was so taken with the image.  Other runs on Excalibur that I've recently reread as they were collected, like Excalibur Visionaries: Alan Davis and the original Claremont/Davis issues in Excalibur Classic still hold up amazingly well, probably because Alan Davis is just such a great artist, but also because Claremont had introduced some great elements to the series.  By the time we get around to Warren Ellis' run, some weird stuff is going on.  It's very dark, and Captain Britain is back from a voyage that left him with long, permed hair and the codename Britainic.  While Ellis does introduce Pete Wisdom to the fold, and has some really good ideas that he puts out there, he is completely hindered by the art.  It's 90's art at its worst, done by a variety of artists.  I'm almost sure some of those cool reveals I've had in my head could have been realized on the page had a competent artist been assigned with Warren Ellis, but as is, the drawings are mostly pretty bad, and the panels are arranged in a messy fashion that doesn't highlight things it should. Sure, there are some glimmers of talent in there, like Bill Sienkiewicz' opening to The Soul Sword Trilogy, and some of the art by Terry Dodson, but for the most part, Warren Ellis was left to crash and burn here.

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