The first Excalibur consisted of the British superhero Captain Britain, his lover Meggan, and several onetime members of the X-Men and related mutant teams. An eponymous series featuring the team lasted from 1988 until 1998. Originally, it was a wacky series involving cross-dimensional travel that incorporated as many elements of Captain Britain’s mythos as it did the X-Men’s. It became a more typical X-Book in later years.
Captain Britain reformed Excalibur to defend London in a series entitled New Excalibur, which debuted in 2005.
Between Excalibur’s disbandment and reformation, a short-lived, ongoing series entitled Excalibur chronicled the efforts of X-Men founder Charles Xavier and his former nemesis Magneto to rebuild the mutant homeland of Genosha. Although written by Claremont with the same title, it had no connection to the superhero team.
The X-Men are a group of mutants —evolved human beings born with extraordinary powers— who use their abilities to defend a society that hates and fears them. Claremont had authored their series since 1976, guiding them to tremendous success. He borrowed four characters from the X-Men for Excalibur:
A Marvel UK property co-created by Claremont in 1976, Captain Britain is a protector of Great Britain, endowed with superhuman powers by the legendary wizard Merlyn. Alan Davis and Alan Moore, during their joint early 1980s stint, established that the Marvel Universe's Captain Britain was one of many from various dimensions and that one of his main roles is guarding the lighthouse that is placed at the convergence of realities.
Excalibur, which also featured Captain Britain's emotionally unstable, shapeshifter lover Meggan, first gathered together in Excalibur Special Edition #1 (1988) and were soon featured in a monthly series. With the help of a manic, dimension-hopping robot named Widget, they embarked on a series of wacky adventures through parallel worlds.
Davis left with Excalibur #24 (1990), and Claremont with Excalibur #34 (1991) and the series began to lag badly. In addition, various plot points were left dangling and unresolved by Claremont before his departure. A year later, Davis returned to the book as both writer and illustrator with Excalibur #42 and rejuvenated it, returning to the (mostly) lighthearted tone of his original run, while resolving many plotlines Claremont had left dangling. He also added several new members, including the mystic Feron, the warrior Kylun, and the alien Cerise, and also introduced the size-shifter Micromax (in an interview in Wizard #6, Davis said that he was adding four new team members to the team; presumably if Davis's run had not ended prematurely, Micromax would have become a full member of the team during Davis' tenure, rather than the start of Lobdell).
After Davis left in 1993 (issue #67), Uncanny X-Men writer Scott Lobdell filled-in for several months (#68-82). In a jarring transition, Captain Britain was lost off-panel, Meggan was suddenly catatonic from losing Captain Britain, and the newer members were summarily dispatched. In addition, the tone of the series changed as well, from a lighthearted, fun comic to a more grim and depressing series. Marvel stationed the team on the fictitious Muir Island, off the coast of Scotland, and tied the series closer to the X-Men family, casting-off most Captain Britain-related elements entirely, in addition to the characters that did not have close ties to the X-Universe (like Kylun and Feron). Phoenix was disposed of to bring a much altered "Britannic" (a Captain Britain who was altered) back. Lobdell also introduced Douglock, who was eventually revealed to be the deceased techno-organic alien Warlock of the New Mutants, reborn with the form and memories his former teammate, the deceased Cypher, who joined the team. Nightcrawler's former lover, the mystic Amanda Sefton also joined the team, using the codename Daytripper.
In 1994, Warren Ellis assumed writing duties (issue #83) and, using his dark sense of humor, helped the book gain its own voice once again. Revisions made in his time on the book included reverting "Britannic" back to Captain Britain once more and adding Pete Wisdom, a cynical British spy who could manifest solar energy in the form of 'hot knives' from his fingers. Ellis made Wisdom the romantic interest of the much younger Shadowcat. At the insistence of Marvel editors, Ellis also added Wolfsbane (Rahne Sinclair), a Scottish werewolf-like young woman from the X-Men spin-off New Mutants and Colossus (Peter Rasputin), a Russian X-Man who could turn his flesh into “organic steel.”
Ellis left in 1996 (issue #103) and Ben Raab, his replacement (issue #106), failed to find a voice for the series, often borrowing plotlines from other X-Books. Sales fell and Marvel canceled the series, partially so Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, and Colossus could return to the X-Men. The series ended with issue #125 (1998) featuring the wedding of Meggan and a depowered Captain Britain.
Originally solicited as Excalibur: Sword of Power, the subtitle was absent from the published issues, and, due to an error, the indicia described it as Excalibur volume 1. In addition, the solicited cover to issue #1 featured a new costume for Captain Britain different from the one he actually received in the comic, and the cover was unused.
Other cast members included Callisto, another mutant leader and former member of the Morlocks, and newcomers such as Wicked, Freakshow, Shola Inkosi, and Karima Shapandar. Archangel and Husk also appeared in the series. The grouping never laid claim to the name Excalibur, despite the title of the series. The series' last issue was #14, released in May 2005. Events of the House of M storyline concluded Xavier's and Magneto's partnership. Afterwards, the mutant members of the group showed up in the Son of M series, where it was revealed they had all lost their powers due to the Decimation. However, they used Quicksilver's stolen Terrigen Mist to bring their powers back, which caused them to go out of control, but the effect wore off later, leaving them human. Ironically, issues of Uncanny X-Men during the time of this Excalibur had much in common with the original Excalibur: light hearted stories by Chris Claremont, colorful art by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer, characters including Nightcrawler and Rachel Summers, and even a cameo appearance by Captain Britain.
The letters page of the final issue of Excalibur (vol. 3) announced a relaunch of the title as New Excalibur in November 2005. This incarnation of the book was written by Claremont.
New Excalibur has more in common with the original series than the Genosha-based book had, for it features Captain Britain and Peter Wisdom as main characters and takes place in London. Other characters include the reformed villain-turned-X-Man Juggernaut, the former X-Women Sage and Dazzler, and Nocturne, formerly of the Exiles.
As with many of Marvel's late 2005 books, it spun out of the after-effects of House of M. Four issues of Uncanny X-Men laid the foundation for New Excalibur. Captain Britain brought the team together as the new Excalibur in New Excalibur #5, preceding an attack from Lionheart, Albion, and the Warwolves. Later, the team faced an attack by Black Air and Black Tom Cassidy, who was depowered due to M-Day. Black Air retreated after Dazzler, Wisdom, Nocturne, and Captain Britain trounced them. Black Tom surrendered after Juggernaut talked him down and made him feel guilty about killing Juggernaut's friend Sammy Paré. Sage also confronted the Dark Charles Xavier from Shadow-X. They got in an astral fight, where Sage shot his astral form and won.
Recently, Psylocke joined New Excalibur and assisted them during an attack by the recently-revived Shadow King who was responsible for the creation of Shadow-X. With Nocturne, Juggernaut, Dazzler, and Pete Wisdom under Shadow King's control, Captain Britain being beaten by his own team, and Sage unconscious, Psylocke faced the Shadow King alone, plunging a psi-blade into Dark Xavier, saving New Excalibur and mysteriously vanishing in a flash of light without explanation. Captain Britain believes her to be dead, unaware that she has joined the Exiles. Since the incident with Psylocke, New Excalibur has met up with a repowered Chamber, visited and saved Camelot (while the Black Knight temporarily traveled with them), and have attempted to help Juggernaut with some recent troubles stemming from his powers that he received from the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak. The series revealed that Charles Xavier was meant to be the Juggernaut. Recently, Nocturne has had a stroke and the team is trying to help her recover.
Later on, Albion tells his story to Lionheart. He is a Brian Braddock from another world, where their first World War never ended and he chose the sword over the amulet. He brought his world peace but people kept starving and dying until he met a Captain Britain and move onto the latter's world and begun a killing spree on the Captain Britain Corps. He then meets Shadow-X and Michelle Scicluna, a Black Air agent, and they prepare to take on New Excalibur. Rivalry sets them apart though and Sage infiltrates them as Diana Fox. He manages to take down all of England's energy-using objects and conquers it, with Sage developing a new persona completely subordinate to him, killing both Dark Cyclops and Dark Beast forcing Excalibur and Shadow-X to ally to make what might be their last stand. Dark Marvel Girl, Juggernaut, and Dark Angel create a diversion, at the cost of the latter's life, to allow Dazzler, Dark Iceman, and Pete Wisdom to combine their powers and blind all the captains while Nocturne, who has left the hospital while possessing a captain's body, evacuates the civilians. Captain Britain arrives to face Albion and tries to bring Sage back to normal and the two Brian Braddocks prepare to face off. Captain Britain then defeats Albion, and Dark Marvel Girl finds the device Albion had used and is able to reactivate all of the technology on Great Britain.
At the end of New Excalibur #24, Marvel announced that this would be the final issue of this title, with the storylines carrying over into the crossover miniseries X-Men: Die by the Sword.