Updated: Dec 17, 2019
Like Jean Grey has done multiple times, Excalibur once again rises from the ashes, this time to join the Dawn of X. What’s new and what’s different this time around?
Let’s take a look at how this version of Excalibur operates in this new era of the X-Men.
Right off the bat we take a departure from the other X-Titles and jump to the land of Camelot in Otherworld where there are a few problems. The first is that King Arthur is missing and Camelot is under siege, so the kingdom is being led by Morgan Le Fey. The second problem is her annoyance with the Krakoan flowers polluting the blessed waters of Avalon (we’ll come back to that later).
Next we join up with Betsy and Brian Braddock, the former Psylocke and current Captain Britain respectively, who are getting ready to send a nervous Betsy off to Krakoa. Brian reassures her that spending time in mutant paradise will be good for her. Speaking of, there seems to be some trouble in paradise. Since joining up with the good guys, Apocalypse has changed his name to a symbol. It's something in Krakoan that as far as I can tell, only means Apocalypse. He's also been trying to open a gate to other realms including Otherworld. The gate is shattered at every attempt to open it and he believes what they need is a champion to break through to the other side.
Meanwhile, Morgan Le Fey contacts some magic users in Yorkshire to scold humanity on drawing power from Otherworld. She’s got it all wrong though because Apocalypse and his portal attempts are the reason for the interference with Camelot’s magic. Morgan actually doesn’t care whose fault it is, just that whoever is at fault knocks it off and tasks the Yorkshire wizards to make sure they do so.
Back in Krakoa, Betsy is finding paradise more uncomfortable than expected as she has an awkward moment with Kwannon (a.k.a. the hand assassin whose body she was trapped in for years). Also Goldballs (now going by Egg for obvious reasons) asks her to help him out with a troublemaker in the hatchery. The third Braddock sibling, Jamie, is back from the dead and making a mess in the resurrection pods. Jamie Braddock is also back to himself (weirdly hedonistic) leaving her to put him in check.
While she’s there, Apocalypse decides to drag Betsy into his attempt to open the portal to Otherworld. He thinks that Captain Britain’s amulet will do the trick and tasks her to obtain it with the good Captain’s help. Lucky for them, Brian’s already on his way to Otherworld, so one Braddock twin team-up later and they try to both accomplish Apocalypse’s goal and see what that problem is in Otherworld. They find out about Morgan Le Fay’s regency over Camelot in King Arthur’s absence, as well as her plan to get rid of the mutants’ interference in the blessed waters. This all leads to the Braddock siblings fighting off Morgan’s forces and magic until Le Fay turns Captain Britain into her personal Black Knight. Apocalypse assembles the rest of the team from the issue's cover and has Rogue use her powers on the Otherworld portal to stabilize it. This doesn’t go well for Rogue and Betsy destroys the portal on Camelot’s end leading to an explosion on the Krakoan side. Rogue is left in a florally catatonic state ala Sleeping Beauty.
On the Camelot side, Brian fights against Morgan’s enchantment enough to tell Betsy to take the amulet of Captain Britain. She does and it whisks her away from Avalon back to Krakoa where we see that she has now become the new Captain Britain. The issue finishes with an epilogue detailing the last member of the Yorkshire coven of magic users who decided to sacrifice the other members to the service of Otherworld and then joins Coven Akkaba.
Let me start off by saying this: I am not a big fan of magic, sorcery, or fantasy on the whole. Sure, smaller elements in other genres are cool, but with full-on sword and sorcery I usually check out. I really like this book though. It’s got heart, a legitimate point to why the mutants have to deal with the magical element of the Marvel Universe or at least a specific magical element of the MU. It’s got a (mostly) wonderful cast of characters, and some great art to accompany everything. Seeing Betsy’s anxiety towards living on Krakoa, regaining her old body and having to deal with her resurrected older brother Jamie are fun new challenges that she’ll have to tackle. Apocalypse’s role on the team was something I was intrigued to see and I kept forgetting just how old he is and how extensive being En Sabah Nur can be. Of course he'd have ties to old magic and of course he’d try to “invade” magical realms. The epilogue that showed us Coven Akkaba (Apocalypse's tribe was Clan Akkaba) was a good hint to how he’ll be more active in the coming issues, so that’s something cool to look forward to.
My only problem is that the rest of the team seems fairly thrust upon us. Trinary literally grabs Rogue and Gambit because of vicinity and Jubilee only joins in because she was the last to see Betsy. I will admit to not knowing a whole lot about the original and subsequent Excalibur books. I have read a few issues here and there and I have a stack of back issues I plan to read over winter break. This issue is “new reader friendly”, focusing on the new Captain Britain and Apocalypse rather than any of the old Excalibur. That being said this is the first issue so things can change and progress.
Also Betsy Braddock as the new Captain Britain is a nice addition to the Dawn of X. Let’s face it, no one was really using Captain Britain, and as much as I like Brian Braddock, change is good. Twin Captain Britains might be a cool idea! Excalibur #1 was a great start for this new series with some top-notch work by writer Tini Howard and some great art by Marcus To. Looking forward to the future of this book!
Verdict: 8/10 Knights of the Round Table
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