With X of Swords in the rear view, and with it Apocalypse, the Excalibur team is trying to enjoy some quiet down time in Excalibur #16. Enjoyment is hard to come by however, as one of their own is still missing. Betsies Braddock from across the multiverse helped to save the day in X of Swords, but Earth 616’s Betsy is still missing in action.
Erick Arciniega (colors), Mahmud Asrar (cover), Ariana Maher (letters), Tini Howard (writer), Tom Muller (design), Marcus To (art), Matt Wilson (cover)
December 23, 2020
This review contains spoilers for Excalibur #16
Despite her absence, Betsy remains the emotional core of both this issue and the team as a whole. In fact, in her absence this is even more clear. Her absence is felt not only by Excalibur but by everyone who loves her. In a super emotional moment, Gambit and Rogue break it to Fred that she’s missing, giving the reader a reminder of the relationship they both still remember from Age of X-Man.
It’s telling that Rictor cares more about his abuser who left Krakoa willingly and is still alive, than the friend who might not be. He’s showing all the hallmarks of being in an abusive relationship, including his defense of Apocalypse’s actions. Betsy may be dead because of the bullshit A pulled, but Rictor doesn’t care because he misses his abusive friend. This may seem harsh on Rictor, but it’s absolutely the truth, his codependency is a big part of his character, especially in this era, and I’m excited for Howard to break that down further.
X-Factor makes a guest appearance to deliver the bad news that they can’t sufficiently prove that Betsy is dead. This doesn’t sit well with Rogue, but we do get so more subtext about Rachel and Betsy being maybe more than just friends. Without proof of death, it’s up to Excalibur to see if they can find Betsy in Otherworld. As part of the search party they’re taking Meggan with them and this delights me, because I’ve wanted more for her to do since the beginning of Howard’s Excalibur. It’s also delightful to see that Leah Williams is not the only person who can deliver a perfect voice for Maggie. Her “I dislike when you two discuss me like this” was adorable.
The other Braddocks will not allow Jamie to muck about in reality to make a new Betsy (and as Maggie says this is for good reason as things never go right when he tries such tomfoolery). But that doesn’t mean the King of Avalon doesn’t have other tricks up his sleeve, as he slinks off to cavort with Mr. Sinister. In payment for having Sinister cook up a new Betsy, Jamie gives him his cape back. My theory though, is that he’s not going to bring back the version of Betsy that Jamie expects. The cover to March’s Excalibur is Captain Britain fighting Psylocke. But what if it’s Betsy versus Betsy instead? It’s very much in line with Sinister’s scheming to use Kwannon’s body to fuck with things.
In a moment of growth, the rest of Excalibur successfully cast a spell without the aid of Apocalypse, in their efforts to summon Betsy. And they do, just not the Betsy they were looking for – the entire rest of the Captain Britain Corps, just not the one they wanted.
The last two pages hearken back to the struggles Betsy has had most of her existence with her physical self, before delivering the absolutely wonderful and shocking last page splash. This sets us up perfectly for January’s “Reign of Queen Elizabeth”.