After bringing the first arc to a close, Excalibur #7 surges forward towards a new adventure. Tini Howard, Wilton Santos, Oren Junior, Erick Arciniega, Tom Muller, and Cory Petit take Excalibur on a wild hunt, as the team pursues a new quest for -A- with unexpectedly high stakes. The most otherworldly of the Dawn of X titles comes down to earth, putting Excalibur in the hunting scopes of an entire pack of Warwolves and of hunter Cullen Bloodstone.
Erick Arciniega (Colorist), Tini Howard (Writer), Oren Junior (Inker), Tom Muller (Designer), Cory Petit (Letterer), Wilton Santos (Penciller).
February 12, 2020
This was a team roster I was initially uncertain about, but as the second arc starts, I find I really enjoy the way the team dynamics have started to gel. Gambit in particular butts heads with most of the team in an interesting way over their conflicting opinions of -A-. Rictor defends -A- to him again this issue, and as Rictor’s loyalty makes as much sense as Gambit’s distrust, the disagreement between those two characters is interesting to watch unfold. Similarly, Jubilee, Shogo, Rogue, and Captain Britain all interact in interesting ways, and the tentative yet uneasy alliance between -A- and Captain Britain continues to intrigue.
I love the use of the Warwolves in this new arc. The Warwolves’ capture of Kitty Pryde caused the formation of the original Excalibur. The newest iteration of Excalibur isn’t a fully cohesive team yet, and seeing them come together against the threat that united the original team is a fun continuity nod. Even without this context, the Warwolves are an interesting piece of X-Men lore, and Howard and Santos execute their use well. The Warwolves’ powers are demonstrated well within the plot and the danger they pose is clear. Their visual design is distinct; the way Santos, Junior, and Arciniega bring them to live on the page is fantastic, the Warwolves look dangerous and frighteningly alien. And the Warwolves introduce with them another corner of the X-Men universe associated with magic, the Mojoverse. While most of the team have had run-ins with Mojoworld, two members of the team in particular, Captain Britain and Rictor, have complicated pasts involving the Mojoverse. Using this book to explore more of the stranger places the X-Men have ventured would be an interesting direction to go, especially if the book continues to use the characters’ histories as well as the first arc utilized the Braddock family’s history with Otherworld.
New artists, penciller Wilton Santos and inker Oren Junior, offer an organic artistic shift as they join the book with Excalibur #7. The change from the first six issues, pencilled and inked by Marcus To, isn’t jarring. Colorist Erick Arciniega remains on the title, and his colors remain strong and vibrant, cementing the changing art style with the consisting coloring. Santos and Junior capture fluidity of movement in their art in a similar way that To did, keeping the book’s dynamic, liquid look. They do an excellent job with characterization as well, particularly with facial expressions. Characters are emotive and evocative, and even Shogo in his dragon form is expressive as he interacts with Jubilee. Depictions of mutations are similarly incredibly communicative and visually interesting. In particular, the butterfly motif in Jamie Braddock’s expression of his powers was eye catching, and an interesting reference to his mutant name, Monarch, but also his sister Betsy’s historic association with butterfly imagery.
This new direction for Excalibur is a great deal of fun, as the hunt for Warwolves begins and immediately grows more dangerous. The scope of this second story feels smaller to begin with, which serves as a nice change of pace. As exciting and enjoyable as an expansive first arc detailing the conflict in Otherworld was, this story presents a new challenge for the team and an exciting start.