After two months of comic book hiatus, I was expecting to come back to Excalibur and see the X-Men having adventures of magic and mischief. What I came back to was a far more terrifying that which paralleled our own.
Last time we were with the Excalibur team, Jubilee had blown up angelic sorcerers who had attacked her son, Shojo… who had shifted into a dragon. It was a shock to see the team opening up in a war zone in the heart of England directly following that scene, without explanation.
One of the very first panels features a group of men in military gear screaming “We will shoot any mutie we see on sight!” Before Betsy can even protest, the X-Men immediately are shot at with full force. This is a dark and horrifying parallel to our own reality.
I don’t know if this story went through a complete re-write in the past two weeks during the much-needed protests against racism and police brutality, but it certainly feels like it.
What brings some extra depth and insight to this scene is knowing that they are shooting at Betsy Braddock, a character who originally was white until her mind had been swapped into an Asian body. While she has recently returned to her original body, it does make the reader think about Betsy’s experience with two different marginalized classes. Her white privilege had been stripped from her for years, only recently to find herself back in her original body. This combined with Betsy being a mutant is a double whammy as soon these military cops start shooting at the X-Men.
While most of this issue puts a lot of emphasis on the X-Men running from military police, there are some bonkers moments, like Kitty Pryde (who had previously been dead) arriving on a floating airship, Super Mario 3 style. Turns out Betsy’s brother, Jamie, is back to messing with timelines and realities. The worst part is he takes the problems he is causing and he puts them on Betsy’s shoulders, forcibly shifting the blame onto her. We knew Jamie couldn’t be trusted!
There is a lot going on in this issue. It really feels like whatever story Tini Howard had been writing got scrapped at the last second to write a story commentating on the state of current politics. Thankfully, issue still leads to explaining why Rogue, Gambit, Jubilee and Rictor all wind up as Captain Britain, and that storytelling device still works.
Regardless if the story was re-written or not, Tini Howard delivers us a harsh truth about our current political reality.