Excalibur is one of two X-Men titles out this week, which continues from last week where Malice was removed from Captain Britain and temporarily passed through Rogue. This issue gives Malice center stage, at least at the start and finish, and serves as a means of showing Betsy Braddock and Psylocke working together to help a fellow mutant. But how do they save a mutant who is clearly doing wrong, possessing others, and may not want to stop? That’s where the five come into play.
This issue opens England. Malice is a bit of a problem child, coming home late and worrying her mother sick. We soon find out how Malice lost her original body, which leads to Captain Britain speaking to the Quiet Council. This scene helps recap where we’re at with Captain Britain’s story who has been fully restored, but Malice is still at large. Soon though, Captain Britain and Psylocke draw out Malice so as to stop her from possessing anyone else.
The long and the short of it is the plot of this issue works quite well. How do you save a person who no longer has their body and can’t even receive treatment or reconciliation? Along the way, Tini Howard explores the characters preparing for the Hellfire Gala and a few wrinkles between the characters. Things heat up when Captain Britain and Psylocke take the fight to Malice, which leads to confrontations in another realm. With a touch of commentary on Captain Britain — and some reflection of what happened to her in X of Swords — the confrontation leads to some resolution. Later, Howard doesn’t ease off the very real pain and torment Malice would be feeling, which helps humanize her. As the story stands, there’s a new mutant added to the fold who could play an interesting part in future X-Men stories.
The art by Marcus To is strong in this issue, with colors by Erick Arciniega. There’s a lot of talking-head moments, though the acting is on point and the point of view of each panel well planned. I’d argue there’s too much talking and standing around in this book for its own good, but at the very least To continues to show a great sense of drama in how characters stand and where they are positioned. There’s also a lot of drawing to be had, with layouts mixing things up so it never feels boxed in or stale.
Excalibur #20 ends with real hurt, pain, and character growth felt across multiple characters. If you’re a fan of character development, especially for these characters, you’ll find this highly enjoyable. It may be heavy on dialogue and light on action, with most of these scenes focused on characters standing about and chatting, but the end result is good. Excalibur serves as a good-looking ghost story with a mutant twist.
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