Excalibur #2 Erick Arciniega (Colorist), Tini Howard (Writer), Tom Muller (Designer), Cory Petit (Letterer), Marcus To (Artist) November 20, 2019 After a dynamic beginning, Excalibur #2 struggles to find its footing with the same surety of the first issue. As the newly minted Captain Britain and her companions leave Krakoa to save Brian Braddock and find
Erick Arciniega (Colorist), Tini Howard (Writer), Tom Muller (Designer), Cory Petit (Letterer), Marcus To (Artist)
November 20, 2019
After a dynamic beginning, Excalibur #2 struggles to find its footing with the same surety of the first issue. As the newly minted Captain Britain and her companions leave Krakoa to save Brian Braddock and find a cure to what ails Rogue, they are beset by magical obstacles to overcome and questions with unsettling answers. But while this issue loses some momentum, it moves forward too strongly to get bogged down. And no matter what happens on panel, magic permeates every page.
Marcus To and Erick Arcienega’s art continues to be gently otherworldly. The coloring builds contrasts between the purple of Captain Britain’s powers and the world around her and by giving a vivid brightness to all other articulations of magic or mutation. The use of more muted colors in Jubilee’s nightmare but brighter, vivid hues in Betsy’s dream give the latter the sense of a unique, prophetic significance. They are subtly, yet undeniably, effective in communicating the difference between scenes of more terrestrial and magical natures. The increased action in this issue allows To’s character designs to shine; the team’s new costumes are all unique enough to give a sense of the hero behind the costume, but share enough common design elements to feel unified. The designs for this issue’s mystical elements are equally excellent; the selkies are as frightening as the apparition that comes to Betsy is striking.
Excalibur #2 opens up the magical threats facing the team, and expands the earthly world of magic. Even outside of Otherworld, mutant magic is under attack by the forces of Morgan le Fay, and as this issue ramps up the action following the first issue, the danger becomes more clear. The forces opposing Captain Britain and the loosely linked new Excalibur are gravely dangerous, and this issue illustrates that well.
But even as the story moves forward concretely, the pacing of the issue seems to stutter. Threats seem to arrive and pass suddenly, lending an uncertain rhythm to Excalibur #2. The first page offers an anecdote from -A-’s past, which later ties in to new characters introduced this issue, but doesn’t feel like a seamless fit with the pages that follow. A cameo from Captain Kate prevents the issue from feeling sequestered away from the rest of the Dawn of X line, and this choice promotes a sense of linewide unity. The subjects of mutant magic and the threat posed to Krakoa by Morgan le Fay haven’t been felt in other books thus far, so Howard’s use of this cameo is an effective choice. Even as the pacing finds its footing, the creative team effectively grounds this issue in the Dawn of X, despite leaving Krakoa behind.
Betsy and -A- each have clearly defined motives and are each drawn to Otherworld for their own reasons: these two characters are essential to Excalibur, and no other character could fill their roles. With any other two characters in the leading roles, this book would by nature be entirely different, and this issue continues to leverage their contrasting perspectives effectively.
But outside of the clear focus each of these two characters bring to the book, this team doesn’t feel like it has a shared purpose yet, or a reason for working together outside of the circumstantial. While Gambit’s motivation is clear, the roles that he, Rogue, and Jubilee play in this issue don’t feel specific to their characters; any worried spouse or partner would react as Gambit does this issue, just as Jubilee’s role feels defined by her motherhood. Rogue’s part in the story so far feels like a retreading of so many stories in which women lose agency in the face of possession, and even in a book with two other women, this can be frustrating to read. While Betsy and -A- feel essential to the story Howard, To, and their collaborators are telling, Gambit, Rogue, and Jubilee seem coincidental, like they were all in the wrong place at the wrong time in the first issue and now have no choice but to see what happens next. There is an interesting revelation regarding Rogue’s condition this issue, which I am hopeful will develop further to show that Rogue’s mutation could have allowed her alone to play host to this possession, but even so, until she wakes up, Rogue has been reduced to little more than an object in this narrative so far.
Excalibur #2 is a solid sophomore issue, which cements the book as having one of the most clearly articulated purposes and niches within the Dawn of X. Even as this issue hits some bumps, the story remains engaging, and the ideas communicated through data pages, plot points, and the introduction of new characters, forces at play, and magical creatures are fresh and unique. Artistically, the book flows well, each page consistently neat and lovely. And after a final page twist that turns the story on its head, I’m more excited to see where the story goes than ever before.