This week, one of the inaugural X-books of the current era comes to a close with the final issue of Excalibur! Does Captain Britain and co.’s final outing wrap things up in a satisfying way?
We’ve got a review of Excalibur #26, along with our regular Rapid Rundown of other new and noteworthy Marvel books, all ahead in this week’s installment of The Marvel Rundown!
Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Marcus To
Color Artist: Erick Arciniega
Letterer: VC’s Ariana Maher
Design Work: Tom Muller
Cover Artist: Mahmud Asrar & Matthew Wilson
Reviewed by Zoe Tunnell
Excalibur is over. One of the first titles in the Dawn of X revival from 2019, over the course of 26 issues it has ranged from the most vital series in the line at the height of X of Swords to a slow, politically messy tertiary title to the goings on of Krakoa. Never wavering from its focus on Betsy Braddock and her ascension as Captain Britain, Excalibur has gone on a journey of highs and lows for 2 years now. So imagine my surprise when Tini Howard and Marcus To‘s finale closed out the run with the most confident, entertaining story yet and an exciting path for the future.
I had drifted in and out of Excalibur for months now, interest rising and falling with where the book decided to throw its weight. Focusing on its wonderful core cast and engaging in exploration of the newly fleshed out fantasy realms of Otherworld? Fantastic! Love it! Engaging in, frankly, clumsy and heavy-handed political allegories and intrigue and engaging in obscure pulls from decades old Marvel UK storylines? Not my cup of tea. Thankfully–outside of a single data page–Excalibur #26 uses its space wisely and devotes the entire issue to the fall of Avalon, the war with King Arthur and some PARTICULARLY interesting developments (for this lesbian, at least) with Betsy herself.
In regards to the latter, some context is necessary. Betsy was, infamously, shown to be bisexual in the pages of Uncanny X-Force back in 2013 via a relationship with Cluster. In the near-decade since, however, it has been quietly ignored and she has been notably left out of any queer spotlight specials or marketing by Marvel. Tini Howard is a very proud queer woman herself and many–myself included–hoped her taking over would let Betsy once again be queer on the page.
As with many Marvel titles in the last few years (looking at you, Star-Lord) we instead got several EXTREMELY heavy and clear hints and innuendos between Betsy, Saturnyne and Rachel Summers but nothing firm. While that may not have “officially” changed as of Excalibur #26, the moments of intimacy between Rachel and Betsy in this issue are so tender, intimate, and blessedly drawn with very clear intent by To that it could not be more obvious that everyone involved with this book is telling a queer love story even if they are, for whatever reason, not yet able to say the magic words to make it “canon”.
The other focus of the issue, the fall of Avalon and the retreat of mutantkind from Otherworld, is handled with all the drama and gravitas of a good old-fashioned against-overwhelming-odds fantasy battle in the vein of Helm’s Deep. Instead of a heroic triumph, however, we get a bittersweet moment of true heroism from Captain Britain and a FASCINATING glimpse at what’s to come. While the news has likely been released by the time you’re reading this, just in case, here is a Spoiler Warning for the final reveal of the issue.
You still here?
Excalibur is over, but the Knights of X are only just getting started. Seemingly committing fully to the fantasy realms of Otherworld and splicing in the classic “fighting for a world that hates and fears them” X-Flavor, Excalibur‘s conclusion has me genuinely excited for the new series, which is about as much as what you can hope for in a situation like this.
Really, if there is one thing that I can say about the issue, it is that it is confident. The run as a whole was sometimes mired by jarring pacing, a lack of identity, and not particularly engaging with the themes of Imperialism and deployment of real-world political angles to less than ideal returns. With #26 it feels like Howard–and To for that matter who has always been excellent but truly knocks it out of the park with his farewell–has finally figured out what this series needs to be and is carrying it forward to KoX. The characters, the focus, the identity, every part of it feels the strongest it has ever been. The only reason I can’t say everyone should read it is, well, it’s the final issue. Give KoX a try in March, at any rate.
Final Verdict: BUY.
- Demon Days: Rising Storm #1
- The third chapter of Peach Momoko’s ongoing Yashida Saga, which features an English adaptation & dialogue by Zack Davisson and lettering by Ariana Maher, reveals the secret origin of Mariko… as well as the true shape of her arch-nemesis. This issue boasts an especially engaging version of Storm and Thor, more from Logan the wolf, and plenty of awesome action. Plus, the final panels deliver a last-page character reveal that will have you looking forward to the arrival of Blood Feud in March 2022, and as usual, the back matter offers insight to the mythological inspirations behind this interesting take on the Marvel universe. This issue is yet another shining example of how Demon Days has established itself as a must-read book over the course of this year. —AJK
- Miles Morales: Spider-Man #33
- In this week of webbed wonderment, writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Michele Bandini drop another solid Spider story on us as Miles has some legal trouble with the Beyond Corporation. This issue does a solid job of setting up a deeper conspiracy as Miles and his clone sibling Shift search for the big bad that made the clones, which leads to some great action and cool shots as the brothers make their way to the secret villain lair. Strong outing. —GC3
- Wastelanders: Wolverine #1
- Have you somehow been lacking in Old Man Logan content recently? Well, Marvel’s got you covered with this first of many one-shots that detail certain characters in the Old Man Blank-Verse they’ve been building up over the years. Here, Steven S. DeKnight and Ibrahim Moustafa tell a tale set sometime after the events of the original Old Man Logan story, where Logan and baby Hulk are traversing the wasteland. It’s frankly a little bit of a generic story, one that I feel like I’ve read before given the glut of Old Man Logan stories since his insertion into the main Marvel universe, but DeKnight makes a smooth enough transition into comics writing that I wasn’t bored, and Moustafa’s pages were pretty nice to look at. Overall, something I’d recommend for those who can’t get enough of the Wasteland for whatever reason, but something casual fans can probably skip. —HW
Next week: Avengers Forever!