The debut of Tini Howard‘s, Marcus To‘s, and Erick Arciniega’s Excalibur marks the third series in the new Dawn of X. With an intro that is heavy on fantasy references — the book is called Excalibur, after all — and leans on (Daddy) Apocalypse to set an ominous tone, things are off to an excellent, tense start that shows how Krakoa is affecting humans and magical beings alike.
At the core of the series is the Braddock twins — specifically Betsy — as she transitions to a new life on Krakoa with her fellow mutants. Even though Betsy is packing up her belongings and preparing to leave the Braddock house, the twins’ touching dynamic makes it clear that this is simply a temporary goodbye, not an instance of a sibling isolating themselves from another. Brian may be Captain Britain at the beginning of the series, but it’s clear he has a deep respect for his sister and supports her decision to move. Likewise, her brother may be the famous superhero in the family, but that doesn’t mean Betsy allows his sarcastic comments about clothes to go unanswered. Their interactions help highlight that Betsy’s voyage to her new home isn’t about following trends; she’s always been someone who shapes her own path and determines what makes her happy despite the actions of those around her.
Shortly after Betsy arrives on Krakoa, where many of her old allies still know her as Psylocke, she shares a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it visual exchange with Kwannon. For much of the character’s history, Betsy’s spirit lived inside Kwannon, a master assassin of Japanese descent, while Kwannon’s soul was temporarily hosted in Betsy’s body before she was quickly killed off. Betsy’s psychic powers briefly go off before the two lock eyes, implying that she has some kind of visceral reaction to discovering Kwannon’s presence on the island. Their relationship is complicated and messy, but it’s also extremely intimate, as they both know what it’s like to feel so uniquely violated and unsure of who they are.
Moving to the mutant nation is an assertion of Betsy’s independence, something she’s doing to discover a new version of herself; so she understandably tells people — even the big A himself — to just call her Betsy. More than a simple shedding of a codename, insisting she go by Betsy indicates that the character is still trying to figure out what’s best for her and exactly what kind of person she wants to be. Seeing Kwannon, and being reminded of the damage she inflicted as Psylocke, momentarily shakes the headstrong character to her core.
It’s been touched on in a past column, but there are a lot of cooked-in agency issues and assumptions that take place with Krakoan resurrection protocols. Xavier and company have no right to assume certain mutants want to return from the dead; they simply make that decision for them. Similarly, no one asked Betsy or Kwannon permission to swap their bodies — it just happened. Kwannon’s entire existence was subjugated to Betsy’s, essentially making a woman of color into a simple tool to enhance Betsy’s arc, since she never had much time to develop a true personality. It’s clear that Betsy is uncomfortable with the way her past is entangled with Kwannon’s, and the fact that she zones out instead of immediately approaching her shows her relative unease with the situation.
While the issue implies that it’s Betsy who is more uncomfortable about an interaction between the two, the awkward situation is also empowering for Kwannon. For once, she has agency over her own body and thoughts, and it’s up to her and Betsy to determine what kind of relationship they will have. It’s unclear what kind of presence Kwannon will have in Excalibur in the future, but she will have a prominent role in Fallen Angels, a series that will allow her to develop her own relationships and role in mutant society.
The twins may be the most popular Braddocks, but Excalibur #1 also brings back Jamie Braddock in a big way. Fabio — wisely going by Egg instead of Goldballs now — interrupts Betsy’s and Jubilee’s mission for mimosas to inform the former about the chaos her bro is causing in the resurrection chamber. Once she sees him for the first time, splashing around and drinking wine in a juicy egg post-resurrection, Betsy’s disdain and dismay are immediately clear on her face. Ironically, she stated that she wishes Jamie would have been able to see this new mutant paradise earlier in the issue, and believed that it could have helped him stay on “the straight and narrow,” but it becomes immediately clear the old-school partier views Krakoa as his personal Ibiza and only reins in his gaudy behavior after a mental smackdown from Betsy.
Betsy and Brian have butted heads in the past, but the two of them were always able to rely on each other and still have a deep, trusting relationship. Jamie, on the other hand, has caused the family a lot of distress over the years. Due in part to his untreated schizophrenia, Jamie has dipped into the world of villainy a few times, giving his siblings — and mutants all over Krakoa — an understandable reason not to trust his intentions.
Betsy is trying so hard to be her own person by taking the huge step of leaving her home behind in London to start a new life; despite her good intentions, old family drama pops up to drag her back down. Unable to fully enjoy her new surroundings and plan out a healthy future for herself, Betsy’s stuck playing middle-man between her two brothers, a role that will only hamper her ability to live a guilt-free, happy life.
It’s incredibly fitting that Betsy seems to be Excalibur’s primary anchor. As mutants from all over the globe try to discover a new version of themselves and imagine a better life on Krakoa, Betsy is also laboring to develop a new type of existence for herself. She may have received the Captain Britain mantle at the end of the issue, but it’s up to her to determine what the symbol means moving forward. Betsy is painfully aware of all of the destructive deeds she performed while inhabiting Kwannon’s body, and she clearly doesn’t want to be defined by her past. This beautifully illustrated issue goes out of its way to constantly paint Betsy as a fearless individual — someone willing to dive into trouble on a second’s notice to save her loved ones — and I have a feeling her bold attitude will set a positive example for her fellow Krakoan citizens to emulate as they all move into an unsure future.
With Excalibur #1 finally on (and dominating) the shelves, there are only three more series in the Dawn of X’s first wave set to debut soon. To make sure you’re caught up on all the new, on-going adventures, take a look at last week’s column — all about Captain Kate Pryde and her merry band of Marauders — and check back next Friday after New Mutants and X-Force finally hit the stands!