When X of Swords concluded, it was clear that Excalibur would be the title dealing with the brunt of the fallout. In that respect, Excalibur delivers, weaving more and more threads from the conclusion of the event. No one can accuse Howard of not having a plan with this series — or her part in X of Swords for that matter — and as the weeks roll by, a clearer picture of that plan is being painted.
Excalibur often gets wrapped up in its larger-than-life plots, diving deep into the high fantasy aspect of the series. Excalibur #16 takes a step back, allowing for the character to reflect on the events of X of Swords while attempting to move forward. The simple domesticity of Gambit and Rogue’s breakfast together is a welcome change of pace, allowing Howard to peel back the layers of these characters as they attempt to come to terms with Betsy Braddock’s apparent death.
Apocalypse and Rictor have had an interesting relationship over the course of this series, and it’s clear Rictor grew more attached to the former X-villain than ever intended. For Apocalypse, Rictor was never a question he seemed to ask about, but for Rictor, the loss of Apocalypse is crushing. Seeing Rictor attempt to come to terms with that loss and overcome his self-doubts without Apocalypse present is certainly one of the more intriguing parts of Excalibur moving forward.
There’s something incredibly satisfying about seeing Meggan present in an Excalibur title again, acting as part of the team instead of a guest appearance. Reading Excalibur #16, one can only hope to see more of Meggan in a central role in the title moving forward. In this new Excalibur Howard has created, it’s clear that Meggan still fits perfectly in this world.
Betsy’s death has raised many questions — and many complications — but it’s clear the groundwork of that plot is only just being laid. The questions that have arisen are certainly intriguing, and as part of the web being woven, characters across the Excalibur spectrum are responding to the complications her “death” has raised. Excalibur is embarking on a mystery-style case of their own, discovering if there’s actually any way to bring her back. Meanwhile, Jamie Braddock and Mister Sinister have devised their own sort of plan, which is almost certain to bring more bad news than good.
It’s very pleasing to see some cohesion between the different titles, referencing the antics of Jamie Braddock and Mister Sinister from Hellions prior. There’s a level of referencing other titles here that feels like it hasn’t been seen to this degree since the ’90s. That being said, it feels odd that there aren’t any editor’s notes pointing readers to the titles being referenced as those ’90s comics had. With so many X titles (and more to come) out at the moment, these references would be lost to readers who are only keeping up with a few titles instead of the whole landscape of current X-Men comics. It’s still a bit jarring to see Rachel refer to herself as Rachel Summers again instead of Rachel Grey when that name change was so significant years ago, but this change didn’t occur within the pages of Excalibur to begin with. Neither of these nitpicks are Howard’s to blame, however, and they are just minor nitpicks.
By far the best part of the entire issue was the final page, seemingly reuniting Betsy with Warren Worthington. Though it’s doubtful this Warren is the “real” Warren, the mystery and premise are far too tantalizing as these two ex-lovers haven’t had a truly significant interaction in a long time. What does this actually mean for Betsy? Where is she? Assuming she can be saved, who will do so first? All of these questions are poised to be answered in future issues, each exciting in their own right.
As far as single issues go, this one is very much a groundwork laying one, which Howard does well. Several interesting mysteries are presented and the character work done was much-needed. As usual, Marcus To’s pencils are a highlight, proving once again he’s one of the best artists in the industry. Each character is wonderfully expressive and unique in their own right — on principle, nothing is ever truly perfect, but To’s artwork comes pretty darn close.
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