Last time we left off with the team over at Excalibur, they had been tasked by Apocalypse with fetching Warwolf skulls, who were in the captivity of Cullen Bloodstone. In typical Cullen fashion, he turned this into a game of sport in which he would compete with the X-Men in hunting the Warwolves for their skulls. Excalibur’s fearless leader, Betsy, agreed to playing by the rules, as she holds the Captain Britain title, which also meant no mutant powers.
There are quite a few things going on in this issue. Struck with a bout of insomnia, Rictor slips out of his room at night to bond with the Earth. While wandering the estate, he catches Cullen on the phone making a deal with a witch coven to set the X-Men up while searching for the Warwolf Skulls. Cullen identifies that Rictor overheard him, and in a s----y manipulative move, he grabs Rictor in for a kiss with a side comment of “Us gays have to keep track of each other.”
As a member of the LGBTQ community, I was surprisingly not that bothered by this. Often times villains are established as gay, a trope that has consistently shown the LGBTQ community in a negative light. It is also why we have turned to villains as relatable characters (Looking at you, Disney). What is good about this piece of writing is that Rictor turns around and reports to Betsy what he had just learned. It was a nice reminder that we have a gay superhero who isn’t manipulative or villainous, and he is doing the right thing. So thank you, Tini Howard, for writing us two different variations of someone representing the LGBTQ community in a single issue.
The following scene is also great. Rictor talks to Betsy, who is adamantly saying they should play by the rules as the world is looking to her as Captain Britain. Rictor gives an extended monologue about how it’s stupid that Betsy would be willing to let them stand by and get set up, and mentions that mutants have had enough of that in their lifetimes. This turns Betsy’s opinion around real quick, reminding her that she is not just a superhero, but a vocal part of the mutant community as well.
This comic also has a lot of fun moments in it including Jubilee being too grossed out to cut off a Warwolf’s head (she is a rebel, but not that much of a rebel), and also Rogue turning a Warwolf to destroy Cullen in his tentacle form.
There is also a really touching moment where Betsy finds a Warwolf pup. She doesn’t have the heart to kill it, and will not let Apocalypse have it, so she gives it to Rachel to raise as her own pup. If this two-part story was simply a set-up for Rachel to have a little Warwolf child, I am all for it.