While X of Swords mostly ended with its main conflicts resolved, it did leave readers with one lingering question: Where’s Betsy Braddock? That concern seems to be at the center of Excalibur’s first post-Swords story arc, starting with this week’s Issue #16. When the team returns to Otherworld to investigate their missing leader’s whereabouts, they’re unsure as to what state she’s in and if she can even be brought back to life at all.
If you read X of Swords, then you know things didn’t end so well for Betsy. As one of the few Krakoans to fall in battle, she wasn’t just defeated, but literally shattered into pieces. Despite the miraculous return of the Captain Britain Corps, which boasts a number of Betsy Braddocks, none of them are their Betsy. And because X-Factor is unable to investigate the matter due to Krakoan protocols, the remaining Excalibur—plus guest party member Meggan Braddock— must assume the mission themselves. Without resident mystic Apocalypse at their side anymore, however, things are bound to get a little bumpy.
The extended X-Men line is reacting to the aftermath of X of Swords to various degrees, but Excalibur is perhaps the title most affected because of Betsy’s demise (aforementioned X-Factor is the other one, now that we know their resurrection protocols aren’t foolproof). Without Captain Britain at the helm of Excalibur, what now? Removing a team leader from play is a time-honored comicbook plot that should play out interestingly in this title, especially when a heavy-hitter like Apocalypse is also missing in action.
There’s lots to like about this issue. We’ve got a number of callbacks to recent developments predating the current Hickman era, such as the return of Meggan and Brian’s super-intelligent toddler daughter Maggie (who definitely needs her own codename and spinoff series, please and thank you) and a timely reappearance from Fred Dukes, the mutant formerly(?) known as Blob, who keen readers will remember was romantically involved with Betsy during last year’s Age of X-Man storyline. Bringing Meggan front-and-center here is also a canny decision because of her relationship with Otherworld and the Excalibur title itself, so I’m glad we get to see her function as a character separate from her husband. There’s some good character development with Rictor as well, who is now forced to transcend his role as a druid to Apocalypse and become a sort of sorcerer in his own right. Also … Gambit wears a crop top.
While I don’t know if this issue is necessarily a good jumping-on point for those not already following the story in progress, it’s a promising start for this new arc that gives the team something meaningful to do, hopefully culminating in the full return of a de-shattered Betsy. Marcus To’s art also continues to be a lovely asset, with whimsical visuals that help sell Excalibur’s place in the Krakoa saga. And again, Gambit in a crop top. Can’t go wrong with that.