|Excalibur (2nd series) # 2|| || |
Issue Date: March 2001
Story Title: The Ruined Land
Staff: Ben Raab (Writer), Pablo Raimondi (Penciler), Walden Wong (Inker), Dave Kemp (Colorist), Tom Orzechowski (Letterer), Brian Smith (Assistant Editor), Ralph Macchio (Editor), Joe Quesada (Editor in Chief)
Brian Braddock, Meggan, Psylocke, Black Knight and Captain UK arrive on Otherworld, just in time to save Crusader X, the only other surviving member of the Captain Britain Corps from certain death. Crusader X reveals that Roma wants the Sword of Might to join it with the Amulet of Right (the onetime source of Brian Braddocks long gone powers), which will give her complete power over the Omniverse. After a protest from Meggan, Brian leaves in search of the Sword of Might, while the others battle more warriors. Roma learns of the whereabouts of the Sword from the captured Hauptmann England as Brian arrives at the Sword’s location and battles the warrior who has been guarding the Sword. Brian defeats Benedict, who knew all along he would defeat him, and Benedict pledges allegiance to Brian. Brian enters the cave to look for the Sword when he is greeted by – his father!
Otherworld is a ruined land. Smoke from fires block the horizons and bodies lay everywhere – bodies of members of the Captain Britain Corps and bodies of the enemy. One man remains, his name is Bran Braddock, better known as Crusader X. The powerful and handsome hero swings his mace at two of his enemy and they drop dead to the snow surrounding him. Something from above catches his eye and Bran looks up – only to see three more of the enemy fly down towards him and pounce on him. One of them picks him up by covering Bran’s face with its strange feet and they begin to fly away with him. But Crusader X is a determined man, and tries to break free.
It was not these creatures plan to destroy Bran, but to let another have him – and so they drop him above a gorge of deadly beasts with tentacles who reach up to grab him. ‘Bugger me’ Bran says as he falls to his doom. As he is about to land in the gorge someone flies by and grabs him – its Captain UK who jokes that she knows the monsters are hungry, but that ‘this one is off today’s menu’. Bran smiles at the timely arrival of Linda McQuillan and he admits that he did not think she was going to make it back.
As the Omniversal Super-heroes land near some damaged buildings, Captain UK reveals that with all things considered she nearly didn’t make it back, that it was a bit ‘touch and go’ for a while. She tells Bran that a ‘pack of these cheeky buggers’ tracked her back to Earth 616 and it would have been the death of her if she didn’t get a little help from some friends. Bran asks if the mission was a success and when a green glow appears in the burnt sky above, and Linda replies ‘quite’ and Brian Braddock, formerly Britain’s greatest champion, aptly codenamed “Captain Britain”; his beautiful wife, the elemental Faerie Meggan; the handsome Dane Whitman, Brian’s friend and the current Black Knight; and finally Brian’s twin sister, mutant ninja psychic Betsy “Psylocke” Braddock fall from the sky.
‘Well, well, well, if it isn't 616’ says Crusader X, somewhat annoyed. Brian gives a blunt ‘Crusader X’ back in greeting before Bran asks Linda if it was the best she could do. Linda shrugs her shoulders and tells Bran that on such short notice it was and Brian says ‘appreciate the vote of confidence mates’. Brian tells the two members of the Captain Britain Corps that things have changed drastically since they last met, for he no longer possess the powers that made him Captain Britain, which means he is powerless. In an unusually nice move, Crusader X puts a hand on Brian’s shoulder and tells him that it is not the powers that make the hero, but the person. He adds that right now they need everyone able to rally to for the cause.
The sultry Betsy Braddock steps forward and asks Bran what happened to the other members of the Corps, like ‘Centurion Britannus, Lady London and Enforcer Capone?’ Bran cuts Betsy off and tells her that everyone is dead, and as far as he knows he can Captain UK are all that are left to battle the evil that the mad Roma has unleashed upon the land. Brian reveals that Otherworld looks like it does in the nightmares he has been having. He mentions that he has never been precognitive before and Captain UK informs everyone that all Corpsmen share a spiritual connection to Otherworld, which means its pain becomes their pain, which must be what has been causing Brian’s nightmares.
Meggan remarks that the whole situation seems totally unlike Roma and asks they others what they think Roma wants. Crusader X reveals that Roma wants the Sword of Might – Excalibur! He informs those that do not know that the Sword of Might is one of two talismen that once belonged to the God Wizard Merlyn, the other being the Amulet of Right, and that together, their power could divide the Omniverse. Brian reveals that when he first became Captain Britain, Merlyn offered him both the Sword and the Amulet, but he chose the latter as it seemed the wiser decision. Captain UK tells Brian that it was, for only the true monarch of Otherworld may actually wield Excalibur without jeopardizing all existence, and in Roma’s insanity, she believes herself to be that monarch.
Meggan asks if Merlyn didn’t incorporate the Amulet into Brian’s costume the second time he resurrected him to amplify his powers. Bran asks Meggan where she thinks the powers went when Brian lost them – back to the source. Brian agrees, mentioning that it is just simple physics since matter can be neither created nor destroyed, it has to exist in one form or another. He adds that without his power to sustain it, the costume must have reverted to its original state and become the Amulet once more. ‘That’s some piece of jewelry’ jokes Dane.
Psylocke realizes that what the heroes have to do is stop Roma from joining the Sword of Might with the Amulet of Right, but Captain UK reveals it will not be that easy, as Roma took the Amulet when she claimed Merlyn’s castle. Crusader X states that the Sword of Right is still ‘up for grabs’ if they can find it first. Black Knight tells everyone that the Sword should still be on Otherworld as he personally handed it to King Arthur the last time he and Brian were on Otherworld together. Crusader X knows that this was before Merlyn’s death and states that legend says upon his passing Arthur hid the sword to prevent others from stealing its power until his rightful heir may come to claim it.
Bran continues by revealing that the Sword of Might supposedly resides in the darkest depths of the Forest of a Thousand Sorrows, guarded by a mighty dragon and that only one man alive can defeat the dragon. ‘The true monarch of Otherworld’ Brian says. Crusader X confirms this, but informs the others that none have journeyed through that wilderness, faced the guardian and ever lived to tell the tale. Meggan steps forward and realizes what Brian is contemplating – ‘That I’m the next king of Otherworld? Certainly not’ he says. Brian pauses before reminding Meggan that of all of them he is the least powerful and therefore the biggest liability in the battle field against the monsters, so if anyone should go in search of the Excalibur Sword, it should be he. ‘Bu you’re not expendable! Not to me!’ shrieks Meggan as she leans into her husband. Calmly, Brian tells her that someone has to stop Roma, and that it has to end.
Crusader X informs Brian that the forest is vast and will take him days to search even a fraction of it on foot. Brian asks Bran whoever said anything about searching on foot and turns to Dane, who tells Brian that he is ‘way ahead of’ him. Dane raises his sword and shouts ‘Strider, to me!’ With those words, another green glow sparks in the sky and moments later a beautiful white winged horse, Strider, flies through. As the horse lands beside its master and his friends Dane tells them that the horse has a good head on its shoulders, like Aragorn before him and that if Brian needs him, he should just whistle.
Brian climbs onto Strider and tells Betsy to ‘toe the line while I’m gone’. Betsy replies by telling Brian not to be long, as ‘five against five thousand’ are not the odds she likes plays. Brian reminds his sister that ‘you X-Men’ have faced worse and come out on top. Meggan steps up beside the horse and tells Brian that as she is his wife she should go with him, but Brian tells her that her elemental powers are better served protecting the Realm. Meggan reminds her beloved of what Crusader X said about the journey and exclaims that she is too young to be a widow! Brian says to Meggan that after all the times they have been apart, she should know by now that he will always come back for her. He leans down and kisses Meggan before flying into the air on Strider.
Meggan and Betsy wave, and seeing her sister-in-law upset, Betsy hugs Meggan, who keeps looking up into the sky. ‘Stiff upper lip right, Betts?’ Meggan says, to which Betsy replies ‘Stiff as can be, Meg’. Seeing some of the enemy approaching, Dane tells the young women that he hates to break up this ‘Hallmark’ moment between them… The five super heroes spread out and engage the hordes of villains.
Meanwhile, in the Starlight Citadel, Roma sits at her throne and surrounded by several Warpies she watches the heroes in her crystal ball. Calling them fools for insisting on fighting a battle they can never win, what with half the kingdom in ruins, overrun by her children, and the Captain Britain Corps all dead. Followed by a large Warpie, Roma leaves her throne and walks into a room nearby, where strung up above the ground by dozens of chains is the irresistible Hauptmann Englande. Roma greets the leader of the nefarious Lightening Force and ‘scourge of mongrel races everywhere’ before saying ‘How easily the mighty have fallen’. Hauptmann spits at Roma and as she wipes it away she tells him she doesn’t need him to tell her the location of the Sword of Might, for she can just take it from his mind. Roma speaks to the large Warpie behind her and the beast-child puts its hand to Hauptmann Englande’s face. Hauptmann cries out in pain and Roma smiles before thanking Hauptmann in his native German and telling him that he has just handed her the Universe.
Soon after, the beautiful winged horse flies across what Brian guesses to be the Forest of a Thousand Sorrows. He mentions that it doesn’t look too dangerous to him, but he is soon shot out of the sky, the laser beam startling Strider, Brian falls of the horses’ back – lucky for him Strider is a clever horse, and flies down below to catch Brian on his back. Seeing the dragon on the bridge that shot at him, Brian and Strider fly towards the dragon that looks more like a larger-than-human troll. The dragon greets Brian and introduces himself as Sir Benedict of the falls, and suggests Brian states his business or departs.
Strider lands on the land by the bridge and Brian informs Sir Benedict that he seeks the Sword of Might. The heavily armed Sir Benedict tells Brian that he cannot have the Sword – unless he is willing to die for it! Benedict throws Brian a sword, and Brian catches it while standing his ground on the edge of the bridge. Sir Benedict walks up to Brian and after calling him bold he asks Brian if he realizes he has to kill him. Brian tells Benedict that as the fate of the Cosmos hangs in the balance, he will take his chances. Benedict smiles and Brian lunges forward to him, their swords clash, and Benedict knocks Brian’s sword out of his hand, before kicking Brian hard and sending him flying back onto the land.
Benedict declares that this ‘ain’t just some piece of metal we’re sparring over, mate’ and tells Brian that he has to be worthy of the Sword of Might. He tells Brian to ‘quit muckin’ about’. Brian picks up the sword again as Benedict informs him that only the “bloke” who removes him from the bridge gets a chance at the glory. Benedict narrows his eyes and asks Brian if he thinks that he is the man for the job. ‘We’ll see’ says Brian coolly before looking back at Strider and whistling. Strider stops grazing and takes to the air, flying low so that he purposely knocks Sir Benedict off the bridge and into the river beneath it.
Brian walks into the river and up to Sir Benedict, holding a sword to the dragon’s neck, Brian declares he could kill him now. Benedict tells Brian to get on with it, but Brian informs him he is here to save lives not take them. The wise Benedict smiles and informs Brian that that is what makes him worthy, and he bows before Brian. Brian is somewhat taken aback at this, and Benedict informs him that since King Arthur bade him watch over the Sword of Might, Benedict has waited for the rightful monarch to claim his birthright. Benedict reveals that he has slain thousands in the name of Excalibur, and would have slain thousands more had Brian not come along.
Benedict informs Brian that as his charge is fulfilled and duty done, he is free, and thanks Brian for making it so. He tells Brian that his humility does him credit, but that he is King of Otherworld, and if he wasn’t, then destiny would have him dead by now. Benedict and Brian shake hands as Benedict calls Brian “Lord Braddock” and pledges himself as his servant, to follow Brian wherever he goes. Brian is surprised that Benedict knows who he is, and Benedict proves to be full of knowledge when he lists Brian’s family – his mother and father Elizabeth and James Braddock and siblings, Jamie and Betsy Braddock.
Benedict tells Brian that his father, Sir James Braddock told him that Brian would be coming some day so that he would not have to kill him. Brian asks Benedict how and when he knew his father, but Benedict just tells him to ‘save the questions’ and points to the waterfall at the end of the bridge – which has suddenly become not a waterfall, but a “firefall” – revealing that the answers lay inside there. Brian walks along the bridge and exclaims that he cannot go in, for he will burned alive! Benedict agrees, but tells Brian to try having a little faith and imagine that the firewall is as cool as a spring rain – but only if he has faith. Brian squints and remarks that it could be a trap, to which Benedict agrees. But nonetheless Brian walks through the fire, as he realizes there is only one way to find out.
Brian enters the cave on the other side of the firewall unharmed and looking around sees various British-like artifacts all around, noting that it seems like the interior of some giant computer – ‘or a shrine’. He walks up to the altar in the middle, where a costume is bathed in glowing blue light. It incorporates element of both his earliest costumes. Brian sees that it is the uniform of the original Captain Britain Corps when he hears a voice behind him that says ‘Just like the one worn by your dear old dad’. Shocked, Brian turns around – and sees his father!
Black Knight III
Crusader X / Bran Braddock
Computer generated image of Sir James Braddock
Mastermind II, masquerading as Roma
The “Hallmark” comment Black Knight mentions is of course a reference to the world-known Hallmark Greeting Card Company.
Bran Braddock a.k.a. Crusader X of Earth 643 first appeared in Excalibur (1st series) #21-22. This is his first appearance since those issues. His powers are from an ethereal energy-channeling costume that grants him superhuman strength, speed, agility, endurance, reflexes, and invulnerability, flight, and a protective force field, tracking power enables him to sense and locate the presence of human bio-auras from great distances. However, there seems to be an artistic mistake, as during his first appearance Bran looked like a native American with darker skin and black hair, whereas here he seems to be another blond, blue-eyed Brian Braddock-analogue.
Brian has been powerless since he lost his powers while battling the Dragons of the Crimson Dawn. [Excalibur (1st series) #110]
Hauptmann Englande is an Alternate Brian Braddock from Earth 597, a Nazi-controlled reality where he is the leader of the Lightning Squad, this world's version of Excalibur (with the same line-up minus Phoenix). He has often come into conflict with Captain Britain and Excalibur since his first appearance. [Excalibur (1st series) #9]
Brian and Betsy’s older brother Jamie has always been highly unstable and was put into a coma after killing Excalibur ally Alysande Stuart. [Excalibur (1st series) #55, Annual #2] where he always remained on Muir Island. With much of Muir Island destroyed [Dreams End Crossover] (which takes place after this series), Jamie’s status has not been revealed.
Issue Summary written by: Daytripper (Steven Bishop)