X OF TITLES
Excalibur #13 and X-Men #13. Lots to discuss!
X OF EVENTS
Betsy Braddock (the new Captain Britain), Brian Braddock (the former Captain Britain), and Jamie Braddock (the current king of Avalon) arrive on the Starlight Citadel to convene with Saturnyne ahead of the Contest of Swords. Brian has brought the Sword of Might—which was named in the prophecy—with him and suggests he is ready to reclaim the title of Captain Britain from his sister, which Betsy is reluctant about. Saturnyne laments the loss of the Captain Britain Corps, who were lost in the Incursions a little while ago. Betsy points out that Jamie recently recruited a new Corps (made of versions of the Excalibur team from different realities), but Saturnyne deems them illegitimate, and that it’s not up to Betsy to decide if they are since she technically never chose to become Captain Britain (Saturnyne really wants Brian to be Captain Britain again, BTW). Angered by Saturnyne’s hostility towards her, Betsy storms out and is followed by Brian, resulting in an argument between them about who should get to be Captain Britain.
Later on, the “heretic” Corps ambush Jamie, forcing Brian to wield the Sword of Might in his brother’s defense and become Captain Avalon. Betsy tries to defend the Corps to Saturnyne, which results in all of them (including Brian) being sentenced to prison. When Saturnyne attempts to take the Amulet of Right away from Betsy, however, she uses magic to destroy it, meaning she needs at least one of the Braddock twins for her purposes (the Sword and the Amulet are offered to potential Captains Britain, but only one of them may be claimed). Brian then appears to side with Saturnyne and follows her to her chambers.
Betsy is able to psionically communicate with Excalibur while trapped in her cell, and they form a plan of escape. Meanwhile, Saturnyne tries to seduce Brian and reveals that she intended for Betsy to destroy the Amulet, which is redundant without Merlyn or Roma’s authority. Then she forges the powerful Starlight Sword, made from a piece of the Citadel and offers it to Brian in lieu of the Sword of Might. With fortuitous timing, Betsy rushes in and steals it for herself, taunting Saturnyne for thinking she could tear the Braddock twins apart over the Captain Britain mantle. Brain further explains that, as Captain Avalon, he is loyal to his lineage over the Corps (and also that he’s a married man not interested in Saturnyne’s whims). Saturnyne accepts defeat and lets Betsy walk away with the Starlight Sword. She and Brian then join their allies on the Krakoan casting circle.
Back on Krakoa, Apocalypse is in bad sorts after the incident with the First Horsemen (and not dead like I previously thought) with a cavalcade of healers struggling to keep him alive. While potentially on his deathbed, he offers more information about Okkara, the Twilight and White Swords (one is good and one is bad), and his late wife, Genesis. Though Genesis was a gifted diplomat, her silver tongue was not enough to maintain peace, nor to keep her sister, Isca the Unbeaten, from turning dark. After a fateful (and ominous) encounter with Annihilation, the Golden Helm of Amenth (AKA an evil, magic golden mask), Genesis and the First Horsemen embarked on their doomed mission. Back in the present, Apocalypse has miraculously healed from his injuries, and he travels to the Temple of the Horsemen in Egypt to retrieve his sword, the Scarab.
X OF WORDS
We may be down from three issues to two this week, but they are both dense. If you’re like me and barely able to make sense of the overarching plot, let alone the intricacies of Otherworld, this week might prove to be a struggle. The summary I wrote above took me aaages to complete, and I’m sure it’s still lacking some important details. But remember the golden rule of this event: You’re not gonna understand everything, and that’s fine as long as you’re enjoying the journey. Incomprehensibility is basically part of Hickman’s appeal! Thankfully, I still enjoyed reading Excalibur #13 and X-Men #13, even if I had to go back multiple times to make sense of everything.
Excalibur #13 follows the trend of past chapters as it follows each champion as they retrieve their swords for the Contest. On the whole, I think the former felt more substantive to me than X-Men #13, providing lots of fun banter between the Braddock siblings and Saturnyne while moving the plot along. Tini Howard is clearly reveling in the gonzo high fantasy of it all with Excalibur. Brian becoming Captain Avalon, which an info page explains to be an alternate sobriquet for Captain Britain in some realities, is a clever way to have him be more involved in the story without necessarily taking attention away from Betsy. But I kinda sorta have a bad feeling about him moving forward, as he’s not a mutant and therefore probably wouldn’t be brought back upon dying even under normal circumstances. Saturnyne’s ominous narration (“She would indeed lose more than she planned for.”) doesn’t help either.
I was less a fan of Hickman’s X-Men #13, which felt more like an infodump than anything else, which is fine, but I feel like I didn’t really learn anything new I didn’t already know at this point in the storyline (well, other than the fact that Apocalypse hadn’t died like previously thought. They probably could have been a little more clear about that initially). My assumption is that we’ll learn Genesis is the one currently wearing the Golden Helm, because who else would it be? And knowing how badly Apocalypse’s little family reunion went the first time, I don’t think his wife will be much kinder than their kids and grandson were. But with Apocalypse now wielding his sword and Gorgon likely already bearing his, that means we have just one more vacant spot on the casting circle…
X OF PICTURES
Another strong week for art in the X of Swords landscape, headed by R.B. Silva and Mahmud Asrar. Both are notable X-Men veterans at this point; Silva shared art duties with Pepe Larraz on HoxPox, while Asrar has drawn plenty of X-Books like All-New and Red. Silva is definitely suited to the vibe of Excalibur, and his pencils are gorgeously colored by Nolan Woodward, who adds so much to the visuals with impressive shading and lighting techniques. Coloring is so easily overlooked despite being a crucial component of any book, but I can’t imagine the art of Excalibur #13 having such an impact on me without Woodward’s contributions. Asrar’s X-Men #13 has a much different vibe, with his characteristically heavy lines feeling very appropriate to Apocalypse’s dark past and present. It’s interesting to see such different approaches to what is basically the same storyline among all these different titles so far, and this week’s are rather exemplary in that regard.
NE(X)T OF SWORDS
After weeks of multiple chapters, next week we’re down to just one, but it’s sure to be a doozy: X of Swords: Stasis #1. Now that our champions are mostly assembled and ready for battle, it’s time to prepare for the worst.
X of Swords: Week Five
- Writers: Tini Howard (Excalibur), Jonathan Hickman (X-Men)
- Artists: R.B. Silva (Excalibur), Mahmud Asrar (X-Men)
- Color Artists: Nolan Woodward (Excalibur), Sunny Gho (X-Men)
- Letterers: VC’s Ariana Maher (Excalibur), VC’s Clayton Cowles (X-Men)
- Cover Artists: Mahmud Asrar and Matthew Wilson (Excalibur), Leinil Francis Yu and Sunny Gho (X-Men)
- Editor: Jordan D. White
- Publisher: Marvel Entertainment