Comic Review – Excalibur #1

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Excalibur #1 CoverOne would think mutants and magicians would be natural allies. Both possess astonishing powers that are not understood by most people and both face extensive persecution around the globe. Yet mutants are of the material world, and there is ever a divide between the physical world of genetics and X-genes and the mystic realms of wishes and dreams.

The Otherworld is such a realm, born of the legends of the British Isles and home to Avalon and Captain Britain. It is also a source of power to many magicians who follow the traditions of the ancient Druids. Alas, that well has now run dry, with the sacred waters of Avalon being tainted by some manner of strange flower never before seen in that magic land. It is the flowers of Krakoa, which grant amazing powers to mutants and mutants alone.

This displeases Morgan LeFay – current Queen Reagent of Camelot and one of the most powerful magicians of all time, who has decreed that her servants and champions should seek out the “witchbreed” who sully her source of power and destroy them. Until such time as this is done, the power she shares with the Druids of the material world shall be as nothing.

None of this is known to the sorcerer mutant once known as Apocalypse. All he knows is that a sealed gateway born of Otherworld but inaccessible from the island of Krakoa has formed within his personal quarters on the mutant island nation. It is a mystery that irks him, even as he seeks allies among his former enemies to investigate the strange portal. How shall this strange magic change the world of mutants? And how might they change the world of magic?

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Excalibur #1 is the kind of X-Men comic that keeps me from reading most X-Men comics. It isn’t bad but it is mythologically intensive and it assumes that you are already familiar with the history of the Braddock family, their connection to the Otherworld, the status of Morgan LaFey in the Marvel Universe, who Apocalypse is and a whole host of other tiny little details. Fans of the previous Excalibur comics can probably recall these things in encyclopedic detail, but everyone else will have to do some intensive research to understand all the characters and the story.

Case in point: the issue largely focuses on Betsy Braddock (aka Psycloke) who is back in her original body and still trying to adjust. It’s a fair bet that most casual comic fans are unaware that the most popular image of Psylocke as a Japanese woman with purple hair in a leotard is not how the character originally appeared. This is just one of the many subplots in the comic that is barely touched upon. Another confusing point is why Jubilee (everyone’s favorite perpetual teenager) has a baby.

The artwork is similarly muddled, though competently rendered by Marcus To.  While individual panels look fantastic, there is little sense of transition between them during some of the action sequences. Still. the color art by Erick Arciniega is solid and Tini Howard does a fine job capturing the individual voices of the major characters. Trinary (a favorite new mutant of mine from X-Men: Red) comes off as a bit of a cipher, but the story doesn’t give her much to do beyond giving Apocalypse someone to talk to.

X-Men fans and followers of the original Excalibur series will probably have an easier time getting into this series than I did. While not as easily accessible as Marauders, the idea of Apocalypse becoming the magic expert of the new mutant nation is an interesting hook and there’s enough X-Men characters casual readers will recognize (like Rogue and Gambit) to make this worth wading through.

6/10

Excalibur #1 releases on October 30th, 2019!

Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

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