Monday, December 8, 2014

The Matt Signal Advent Calendar 2014 Day 8: Excalibur #86

Excalibur #86, December 1994

He’s rude, he smokes, he’ll martyr himself for his friends and he’s British. He’s Pete bloody Wisdom, and you better recognize.

Excalibur #86 marks the first appearance of Warren Ellis’ spy game-weary spy, who is attached to the British superhuman team via his employer, Black Air. After one issue of the new character, the book got hijacked for four months by the "Age of Apocalypse," but once it came back, Ellis quickly set about the task of making Wisdom my favorite character in any book I was reading at the time.

I loved his back-and-forth (both verbal and, soon enough, physical) with a maturing Kitty Pryde. I loved the way he came off like a boorish, boozing a-hole, only to find out he’d pulled all his spy friends’ fat out of the fire at one time or another because “Job needs doing.” And I loved how he had no reverence for the admittedly pretentious Xavier or his Scottish counterpart, Dr. Moira MacTaggert. (There’s a great panel in which Wisdom dons a shower cap, sits in a chair and presciently mocks the professor’s resemblance to Patrick Stewart).

Sadly, for whatever reason, not many writers have been able to nail Wisdom’s voice. Excalibur foundered after Ellis left with issue #103, and it wasn’t until Paul Cornell’s MAX series and, later, Captain Britain and MI13 that the character as I knew and loved him returned to the page. When a writer has one of your all-time favorite characters match strategic wits with Dracula and win, that’s a bingo. 

Extra credit: Read Matt’s original pieces on Ellis’ Excalibur run and the MI13 series.

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