Chris Claremont's tenure on New Excalibur is ending soon, and this is the penultimate issue in both his run and the seven-part storyline, "Battle for Eternity." The story has been moving fairly glacially (although with some nice character pieces mixed in, including last month's death scene for the alternate universe Beast), but the action picks up in this issue, and along with the strong artwork, this was a much improved issue.
First off, to get it out of the way, yes, three different characters in the book say some variation of the term, "What the devil?" It's fairly corny, and if you have never read a Chris Claremont-written comic, the dialogue may come as a bit of a surprise to you.
I was very impressed with the work of artist Jeremy Haun. He brings to the book a realistic look, which should not be much of a surprise, as that has been a trademark of Haun's past work. A particularly interesting thing (and it probably interests me way too much) is how Haun depicts flying. Usually, you'll see artists having flying people fly in a sort of a heroic pose - like the classic image of Superman flying with one leg bent and one arm straight ahead. Haun chooses to draw them in a (and yes, I know the term really does not fit when describing a person FLYING) realistic manner. It's a bit unsettling, really, as characters sort of hang there...but I think it really works well.
A reoccuring complaint about Claremont's recent work is that he seems to make the stars of the book feel almost like guest-stars in their own book, and that keeps up a bit with this issue, where beyond the efforts of Nocturne, the best character work in this book is with the Shadow X-Men, the alternate universe X-Men who were controlled by Shadow King. Shadow King is now dead, so his X-Men are free from his control, but at the same time, they've been working for him doing evil things for so long, how do their natural personalities come back? That's something Claremont examines in this issue, as we see Warren and Jean deal with the fact that, for the first time in many years, they are not being forced to be villains - so what is their "actual" personality? It's quite interesting.
Likewise interesting is the plan of the Shadow Iceman, which is to just blitz the bad guy (the alternate universe Captian Britain, Albion) and his evil versions of Captain Britain with a huge avalanche of ice, meanwhile putting the rest of Britain in harms way in the middle of the fight. It's an interesting strategy, and Haun depicts the imposing nature of the ice tidal wave well.
The main member of Excalibur that we see is Nocturne, who is forced to possess one of Albion's evil Captains to help save the day. It's good to see Nocturne back in action.
There is an interesting enough moment where Sage is forced to try to break free of her programming (she went undercover as a member of Albion's team, but she may have immersed herself in her role TOO much).
The rest of the team gets their own moments to quickly shine in the midst of the battle, but in the end, reasonably enough, it's down to Captain Britain versus Albion - all while an ice tidal wave is bearing down on them.
It's a prety good cliffhanger to a decent issue of New Excalibur.
In the end, though, while the artwork was quite good, and the Shadow X-Men got some interesting character work (even while they pretty predictably all fall in battle, one by one), I do not think we saw enough of the stars of the book, and perhaps the title was a bit cluttered.
So while I did enjoy the comic, I probably would fall short of actually recommending it.
Slightly Not Recommended.