Excalibur continues to be a dense, but light and fun read as the series grows the magical realm. It also spares the right amount of time and focus to delve into the long-awaited deep interaction between Betsy and Kwannon. The art team pulls no punches when crafting this colorful magical world that fills each and every panel of this delightful series.
Since it is debut in 2019, the latest incarnation of Marvel Comics’ Excalibur has been threading a great number of plotlines. Many of those led to last year’s X of Swords event including a return of the Captain Britain Corps (with various alternate Betsy’s rather than Brian Braddocks). Issue nineteen though tackled a plotline that not only has been simmering since the series first issue but one that has been waiting to be tackled for almost thirty years: Betsy Braddock and Kwannon at long last discussing the body swap.
For those potentially newer to comics, Betsy & Kwannon’s body swap began with Uncanny X-Men #255 and #256 back in 1989 where Betsy had her body seemingly changed by the Mojoverse’s Spiral. Later retcons came in the 90s adjectiveless X-Men series that saw Kwannon and Betsy being mind merged and their bodies swapped, and Kwannon eventually showed back up to the X-Mansion in Betsy’s old body. At the time it was revealed that Betsy’s old body had the Legacy Virus (a virus deadly to mutants) and Kwannon perished, leaving Betsy to be in Kwannon’s body all the way till she got her own back in 2019. It is a lot of comic book stuff, and it has been a very rightfully controversial issue for a long time.
Tini Howard uses the storyline of needing to return Betsy to her body, or at least a body created for her by her brother Jamie, as the perfect way to tackle this issue head-on. Kwannon is the perfect one to track down and talk Betsy into a return because of their long connection. Rather than have them predictably fight, there is a lot more behind the whole encounter that works quite well. Both of them were victims of the machinations of others that took their choices away for a long time.
One of the big pluses of Krakoa and what the X-writers are building is a place where a lot of trauma, issues, and problems of the various characters that have gone unpacked can truly be delved into. For better or worse, being able to see the characters open up and deal with things is a very nice change of pace. All too often superhero comics can delve too much into the action and spectacle and forget the whole idea of Marvel Characters being ‘real’ or ‘flawed’ beings. Except for all runs of Daredevil, where that is almost never forgotten.
Just like the last issue, Marcus To, Erick Arciniega, and Ariana Maher give the reader’s a veritable visual feast to dine on, including the variety of locations that the story stretches across as well as the full assembled intriguing masses of the new Captain Britain Corps. Hopefully, there will one day be a single issue or mini-series or something dedicated to Captains. There is a delightful moody, but also colorful palette to this series that just works for it every single time. The final page reveal is especially a sight to see as it’s so moody and dark, which is fitting for the character it’s tied to. Maher’s lettering is quickly becoming a favorite because it easily fits into the mold of flying under the radar when needed (dialogue and such), but when the time calls for it, things are turned up ten notches into a lot of fun.
This is heavily a Betsy and Kwannon issue but there is a lot of attention still paid to the other cast, especially the continued struggles of Rictor to try and pick up where his mentor ▪︎-|A|-▪︎ (Apocalypse) left off. What the aforementioned last page reveal means for Excalibur and the rest of Krakoa should be quite interesting.
Excalibur #19 is now on sale from Marvel Comics in print and digitally.