Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Marcus To
Colorist: Erick Arciniega
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Artists: Mahmud Asrar, Matthew Wilson
Editor: Jordan B. White
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
The Dawn of X is fully upon us, and this week we’re greeted with yet another launching series that’s sure to create some excitement among X-Men fans: the all-new, all-different Excalibur.
If X-Men is the flagship “superhero” book and Marauders is a sea-faring pirate tale, then Excalibur is a sword and sorcery epic. First published in 1988, the original Excalibur run by Chris Claremont began as a spinoff of his Uncanny X-Men, following Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler, and Rachel Summers in the UK as they teamed up with Captain Britain and his own ragtag crew of mythical crime-fighters. While it may not be the most popularly remembered X-Men title of years past, it’s certainly beloved within fandom, so bringing it back for the first time since 2007 is a no-brainer.
But this new incarnation comes with changes. Because Kitty (or more recently, Kate) is tied-up with the Marauders, Excalibur puts Betsy Braddock — formerly Psylocke — in a starring role. Still readjusting to her old body after being swapped back with Kwannon, Betsy has arrived on the new mutant paradise of Krakoa, and she’s feeling a bit aimless. But when she gets word that her brother Brian —AKA Captain Britain — is headed into a trap by the sorceress Morgan le Fay, she comes to his aid. Things go wrong, because of course they do, but Betsy emerges with a brand new responsibility: the mantle of Captain Britain.
Excalibur succeeds in “feeling” like a distinct book from previous launches X-Men and Marauders, and that’s going to be very important in the Dawn of X line moving forward. When you have this many X-Men titles coming out concurrently, individuality is just as important as cohesiveness. The color-themed team books of the ResurrXion era (Gold, Blue, and Red) had different casts of characters and their own premises, but they all sort of bled into one another in tone, whereas I’m not getting that same vibe from DoX thus far. It’s just as much of a testament to X-Architect Jonathan Hickman as it is the myriad creators joining him in this endeavor, and in the case of Excalibur, it’s writer Tini Howard and artist Marcus To.
Howard is among a new class of rising Marvel talent, cutting her teeth on the recent successes of Strikeforce and Thanos, and she’s definitely suited for the kind of voice Excalibur calls for. As already seen with Strikeforce especially, Howard can balance a large, varied team with supernatural-flavored stories, and that’s precisely what Excalibur is. While Betsy is undoubtedly the lead of this series, everybody else in the cast — which includes the likes of Rogue, Gambit, and even Apocalypse — gets a moment to shine. I particularly love her characterization of the new Apocalypse, still intimidating and steely as ever despite his changed outlook on mutantkind. (There’s also a teeny cameo from Goldballs, which I’ll never complain about.)
To’s art is very much in line with what we’ve seen from Pepe Larraz and R.B. Silva on House of X and Powers of X, respectively, which lends some cohesiveness to the overall aesthetic of DoX. That said, he gets to play with different subject matter (i.e. magic) than what was seen in those titles, which keeps his art from feeling too samey. His linework gives colorist Erick Arciniega a lot to work with, opting for colorful flourishes to represent magic and the like.
- Cohesive with the broader Dawn of X line but stands on its own
- Howard's script is spritely and entertaining
- Quality visuals from To
- Might require some prior knowledge of the Excalibur mythos and doesn't explain certain aspects
- Might be confusing for those not following Dawn of X