REVIEW: Excalibur #22 – Alchemy Is Also Magic

Sadly, Pete Wisdom did not have the decency to stay dead for more than a single issue, as he is one of five resurrections performed in Excalibur #22.

Excalibur #22

Erick Arciniega (colors), Mahmud Asrar (cover), Ariana Maher (letters), Tini Howard (writer), Tom Muller (design), Marcus To (art), Matt Wilson (cover)
Marvel Comics
July 14, 2021

This review contains spoilers for Excalibur #22.

Excalibur being held in Merlin's torture chamber on the cover of Excalibur #22 with Betsy in a stock.

We came really close to something worth celebrating as the issue opened with Beast joining Excalibur in an excursion to Otherworld to do some research, and Sherrif Whitechapel having a shoot first, ask questions later approach to law enforcement in her realm. Sadly, she took aim at Gambit instead of Beast, but luckily everyone’s favorite trash heap deflected the shot with his mutant power and won’t come back different.

The meat of the Otherworld plot involves Merlin’s vocal racism against mutants as Excalibur engineers a heist to free prisoners held by the wizard’s authoritarian regime. His steampunk fascist dystopia looks cool but is just a frightening change from how the character once was portrayed, which Betsy comments on. The heist sequence has some fun moments, most of them hinging on Gambit just having the time of his life. From finally using the tarot cards he stole to powering a steam engine, Gambit’s the absolute star of this issue, and it’s refreshing. Some time away from Rogue seems to be doing him a lot of good.

The other plot of the issue revolves around our sadly no longer departed secret agent. He is resurrected only to find out that he was killed by Coven Akkaba to free Morgan Le Fay in an effort to drive mutants out of Britain. Things escalated immediately after the Gala beyond even what we saw in the last issue. Gates are being destroyed, mutants are completely unwelcome, the Braddock lighthouse is just ever so tantalizingly close to Britain but no longer a part of it. As Wisdom is resurrected Meggan tells him of these developments, and he lets out a guttural, primal scream that echoes across Krakoa.

Wisdom spends the remainder of the issue moping around the two islands that are not the shitty island that he wants to mope around while thinking of ways to undermine the British authority. Parts of his master plan are revealed at the end of the issue as he has four other mutants resurrected. These mutants were minor supporting characters in the original Captain Britain series, and all of them have been dead for at least the last forty years of real-time.

Now, none of these characters were identified as mutants when we last saw them, that’s an entirely new development for Excalibur #22, but they did have close ties to both Brian and Betsy Braddock. We still don’t know much about their new roles, other than a final data page that aligns each character with one of the classical humors of traditional alchemy. Each of the characters is assigned the humor that matches their hair color and a codename to match. Now, this is very likely meant to play into the alchemy angle, as this is the book about mutant magic, but given the book’s less than stellar track record in dealing with the racism that’s tied to British colonialism, it’s worth pointing out that those four colors grouped together do have a different meaning to many people, a meaning that is a couched in racism and hatred, and one that is good for them to call out.

I’m positive that that wasn’t Howard’s intention, but her recent track record makes this a touchy subject at best. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt to continue the story, but I understand others that are not willing or able.

Cori McCreery

Cori McCreery

Cori is a life long comic nerd residing in Northern California. A life long Supergirl and DC Comics fan, she is the DC Comics Beat Reporter for Women Write About Comics.

7 thoughts on “REVIEW: Excalibur #22 – Alchemy Is Also Magic

  1. Oh, oof. Colonialism, I’m sorry I clearly need to check some privileges and do some reading. I didn’t expect such a huge topic to be hidden in a single curse. My apologies to Cori and this site. My thanks to Wendy.

  2. I just wan’t too say that according to the, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Lighthouse isle is still in British territorial waters and with that British soil, so Wisdom is technically in Brian all the time.

    1. Sentence enhancing is all fine and dandy but there is no need to call a whole country ‘shitty’ that’s very disrespectful and disappointing.

        1. Sure, Wendy, in conversation about your own country. What’s the problem?… but in professional setting its not really fair. Cori does not state that she is a citizen of the UK. Or what leads to her use of the term ‘shitty’ when describing the real Britain (rather than the fictional one in the comic she reviews here) I certainly disagree with a huge number of Russian laws (for example) but I can’t imagine a situation where I could call the whole country excrement without specific and clear clarification.

          1. Oh I call other countries shitty too. This is a website where we share our opinions on pop culture in relation to society as a whole and also discuss important topics like whether or not Batman fucks. Cori can refer to an island as shitty without having to spell out the context of colonialism etc in order to avoid disappointing you, Nick. Thanks for reading.

          2. In the context of the review, I was very clearly talking about the fictional version of the island, that had just basically banned mutants from being able to exist on it. Out of the context of the review, but in line with the mutant metaphor, I’m talking about a country that is very much doing that same thing with regards to trans people and the overwhelming number of TERFs that call that island home.

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