Excalibur #11 is a pretty good comic, with good art, good moments for every member of the cast, and it makes me excited both for the next issue, and for future X of Swords stories to come.
Unfortunately, it has been almost six months since issue #9 of Excalibur, the issue that this one immediately follows up on. Issue #10, for the record, was a diversion into a pocket dimension where we discover the origin of Jamie Braddock’s knockoff Captain Britain Corps. But this means that readers are coming into the center of a story, not really remembering what happened before. And that’s not Tini Howard’s fault; it’s the fault of a mass pandemic and the botched response by, among many others, Diamond.
And, almost certainly, it’s a result that will be ignored by anyone reading the book in collected trade format, or anyone who just buys the issues off ComiXology and reads them all at once. But trying to read the story in the single-issue format feels more complicated and fiddlier than it really is.
Honestly, Excalibur is pretty straightforward when it comes down to it. The team, sans Apocalypse, are in Otherworld, and are aided by the green druids of Saturnyne, who help the team get to the Starlight Citadel and find an audience with the Omniversal Majestrix herself. Meanwhile, Rogue and Gambit do some theft, and Apocalypse continues to manipulate Rictor in order to do some sinister (no, not that Sinister) things.
It’s a story that feels both retro – this could easily have been a Claremont/Davis Excalibur story – and modern, with the ideas of the warring tribes of priests and priestesses, the fantastic idea of Betsy as the new Captain Britain, and the simple maturity in the way that Single Mom Jubes and the really adult relationship between Rogue and Remy are handled.
Excalibur feels like it’s drifting a bit, slightly aimless in the build-up to the highly hyped X of Swords event. Taken as a single issue, it’s not that good. Taken as part of a trade, or as a greater story – if you read all of the issues of the series at once – then it’s spectacular, a really fun story exploring some ideas that are both esoteric and entertaining, diving into deep parts of Marvel continuity that aren’t often explored.
The art by Marcus To isn’t anything to scoff at. It’s got this beautiful, stylized, smooth feeling, presenting a world without flaw – it’s a comic that isn’t presenting the real world, instead presenting a world that is just prettier than the real world. It’s more Ivan Reis than Bill Sienkiewicz, essentially; it’s a book that looks just spectacular.
If you have been reading Excalibur as it comes out, it’s easy to hesitate to read this book, given how long it’s taken for this issue to come out. But you should definitely take the time to catch up on the book, and read it in the trade at the very least.