X of Swords has so far been a lesson in captivating an audience with perfectly paced action, tension and intrigue. In a world where consumers are so used to binge-watching content in one day, this event has felt almost timeless—a saga carefully drawn out not only to tell a good story, but to build a world. Excalibur #14 very much encapsulates this sentiment in a single issue. Tini Howard’s prosaic text marries flawlessly with the dreamlike art of Phil Noto, creating something that feels truly unique. There is a certain sense of magic to this issue that I believe readers will linger on for quite some time.
The issue begins with the idyllic image of Jubilee dozing with her son, Shogo, who is still stuck in his Otherworld dragon form. This image stands as the calm before the storm, broken abruptly by Captain Britain’s telepathic message, warning the pair that the time has come for her to battle the ominously titled Isca the Unbeaten. The war between Krakoa and Arakko has began — and it has been made very clear that there will be loses on both sides.
What stands out in Excalibur #14 is how well it is structured. This may sound clinical, but the structure of this issue means the drama and action is told fluently and flawlessly. Admittedly, this opinion may not be shared by everyone — some readers may find certain beats rushed or overlooked. However, to me, the story played out like the rhythmic collapse of dominoes. Between each event, I barely breathed, trying to process one page whilst rushing to see what will happen on the next. Much like Vita Ayala and Gerry Duggan in their respective Marauders issues, this X of Swords chapter brings forward the best of Tini Howard’s talents as a writer.
Despite all the intensity, Excalibur #14 still manages to incorporate humor and joy into its tale. Doug Ramsey, whose innocence beautifully complements Noto’s art, will have you laughing through tears. His friendship with fellow New Mutant, Magik, is also furthered upon in this issue, and continues to be delightful. We also get a greater insight into another Arakko fighter, Bei the Blood Moon. As with the rest of the family, I find myself irresistibly captivated by this character, despite her status as enemy of Krakoa.
Excalibur #14 is a memorable instalment to the X of Swords saga. Tini Howard effortlessly puts together a fast paced and emotional narrative, which is given an enchanted quality by artist Phil Noto. This is a definite high point of the Excalibur series.
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