As we fast approach X of Swords: Stasis, the champions of Krakoa still have four swords to retrieve. Two of these swords are meant for the Braddock twins, and we see their quest to claim them in Excalibur #13.
Mahmud Asrar (cover), Tini Howard (writer), VC’s Ariana Maher (letters), Tom Muller (design), R.B. Silva (art), Matthew Wilson (cover), Nolan Woodard (color artist)
October 21, 2020
We saw wordless preview pages of this issue a few weeks ago, and I have been living on the energy of those panels ever since. Guest artist R.B. Silva perfectly captures all three of the Braddock siblings and it’s immediately evident in these opening pages. Brian’s delighted face at seeing his sister turning to melancholy disappointment as she yells at him about bringing her the Sword of Might. Betsy’s aforementioned anger, her face turning nearly as vibrant as her hair (in a fantastic bushy ponytail) thanks to Nolan Woodard’s fantastic colorwork. And then there’s Jamie just adjusting his too-large-for-him crown, decked out in Mr. Sinister’s plumage. All three of their personalities are immediately evident and remain so for the rest of the issue. I love Marcus To, but R.B. Silva works a master class in this issue.
This issue directly builds on everything Tini Howard has done so far in this first year of Excalibur, working through all the tightly spun threads that have been laid before us. Key among these are Betsy’s relationships with Brian and Saturnyne. The relationship with Brian is one that is fraught with emotion, as Betsy waits for the other shoe to drop. She’s immensely enjoying her new place in the world, her ability to distance herself from her past as Psylocke. She feels worthy, and like she has a purpose in providing representation for both her countries: Krakoa and Britain.
The conflict between her and Brian stems from the fact that she feels like he means to take back the mantel of Captain Britain and feels insulted by that. She feels like he’s using her as a place holder while he felt like he wasn’t able to hold the title. For her, though, it’s not something she’s doing as a favor, it’s a responsibility that she has claimed, and she does not want to relinquish it. She refuses to take the Sword of Might because she doesn’t feel like that’s the role she’s destined to play.
On the other hand, the conflict between Betsy and Her Whyness the Omniversal Majistrix Opal Luna Saturnyne (I’ll never tire of saying her title) is a bit more complex. Saturnyne has never been the nicest of individuals, and that hasn’t changed now. She is spiteful and mean-spirited in regards to Betsy, whom she doesn’t want as Captain Britain. Worse yet, we find out that she considers the other Captains Britain created by Jamie’s incursion to be perversions of the power. She feels that anyone who does not make the choice between the Amulet of Right and the Sword of Might to be unworthy of the title, and when Betsy points out that she didn’t, we see that Saturnyne feels that way about her as well. But as our own Nola Pfau notes, she did make a choice. She chose to heed Brian’s words and take the Amulet way back in issue #1.
When Jamie is attacked by the new Captains Britain, Brian finally relents and draws the sword to defend his brother and becomes Captain Avalon. The Jubilee Captain is slain in the battle, and the rest, including Betsy, are imprisoned to be executed in the morning, but not before Betsy destroys the Amulet outright, symbolically doing away with the choice forevermore.
This turns out to be all part of the plan, cunningly set up by all three Braddock siblings to discover the whereabouts of the Starlight Sword, the true quarry of their trip to Otherworld. It was all a ruse to prey upon Saturnyne’s prejudices and desire for Brian to be her knight, and it works perfectly. She tries to seduce Brian, and for a moment it appears to work, but only just long enough for her defenses to fall and Betsy to make off with the Starlight Sword. Brian’s proclamation of how important his family is to him, and just how happily married he is brought me immense joy, and it’s a testament to Howard just how well she played both Saturnyne and the readers.
This issue ends with the twins plunging their swords into the summoning circles, vowing to defend both their realms. Excalibur #13 was a fantastic payoff to long-running threads and an even better lead-in to the next act of X of Swords.