The age of Excalibur has come to an ending of sorts, casting the light on some of the highs of this series as well as sadly showing off a great number of the lows to be found. While it’s been a gorgeous sight to look upon each month, the ending of this series leaves just a bit of a bitter aftertaste.
The Starlight Citadel has fallen to Merlyn and the armies of Arthur. Otherworld is in disarray, while Clan Akkaba makes their latest move against Excalibur and the nation of Krakoa as a whole. Betsy Braddock though never goes down without a fight.
If one were to glance back through past reviews of this series that have been written here, it would not be hard to see that there have been times where I have been a bit critical of this series and its pacing and the long game. Within the past few issues though a lot of the stuff that had been plots since the series’ debut seemed to be coming to a conclusion of sorts. In fact, they come to the full conclusion of the series.
More accurately the plotlines came to a cliffhanger that ends the title in this format so that in March of 2022 the plotlines can be picked up in the new title known as Knights Of X. This circles right back to the previous reviews and mentions of this title seemingly dragging its heels because even with its final issue the title resolved very little.
To be fair it did resolve one thing right from the last issue, telling us just how Saturnyne managed to wrest control away from Merlyn in the first place. I give Tini Howard credit here for reaching back to a point in time that makes perfect sense as a setup for how this upheaval was pulled off. It probably helps that it is a moment pulled from Jonathan Hickman’s era of Avengers/New Avengers where he began the plotline of the fallen Captain Britain Corps that this series picked up on from the start.
There are a few pieces of this story and recent issues that I did at least like. Over the last few issues, more of the extended cast actually feels like they should rather than interchangeable characters meant to bolster Betsy’s story as they felt a few times in the past. While likely corporate/editorial sort of edicts keeps us from getting more, the moments Howard was able to provide between Betsy and Rachel were good to see for what they were. Would be better to see far more but there is only so much Howard or really almost any creator can do within these corporate-owned confines.
At the same time, the plotline that has dragged across most of these 26 issues and will continue into a new series feels a bit tiring. Honestly, it almost feels like this book and the Ben Percy written X-Force are in some competition for who can string their overarching plotlines on for more issues. Both are getting relaunches that continue their stories so this competition seemingly isn’t close to ending any time soon.
Not a thing actually concludes here. The war is still going, the gate to Otherworld is destroyed but Betsy ‘sacrifices’ herself to leap back through one last crack to keep the fight going, the Pete Wisdom/STRIKE storyline went absolutely nowhere (after barely appearing for many issues, they literally just stand around in this issue & get brushed off by Xavier), and Clan Akkaba/Merlyn continue their cackling shruggeable ways.
Despite it coming up often about how “dangerous” it is for mutants in Otherworld, what with the whole if they die there, they come back different (as shown in the past by the already totally forgotten rebooted Rockslide and Gorgon) none of it feels dangerous. The characters feel like they have massive plot armor (what with most of them being big popular characters) and Merlyn feels like a moustache-twirling villain if they actually never twirled their moustache and were utterly boring rather than threatening in any way. A dude is literally an old man yelling at clouds meme come to life that you don’t fear like at all.
On a last note, the back and forth between Xavier and others and Emma and Betsy all just feels so hollow and wrong and even sanctimonious in so many respects. Xavier is just a jerk all around, which we see in various books, so I suppose that lands. The Emma ‘real world’ jabs though just felt so off and out of nowhere in the long run, after all, they’ve been through in recent times. Perhaps if this had been fleshed out earlier as concerns from the Quiet Council about having these characters spend so much time focused on Otherworld it might have landed better.
It’s a major shame that this is the last issue that we get to see Otherworld and this magical series brought to life by Marcus To, Erick Arciniega, and Ariana Maher. Despite issues with the overall plot listed above, the series has just been beautiful to look at month in and out. All the various aspects of the realms, both in Otherworld and back on Earth, are quite a sight to behold and have a depth to them.
There is a ton of standing around and talking in this issue, alongside the small bouts of action, and those moments are still a pretty sight to look upon. There is still a lot of darkness and shadows that play into the coloring here, alongside bright but also dull flashes of colors that define the various areas that the characters travel through.
Much like how the various realms have their own quirks to them, so do the various bubbles and captions that are on the pages. This is helped by how Maher uses sentence case for most of the dialogue, increasing or decreasing the font size for yelling or whispering respectively among other ways to emphasize what is being conveyed.
Overall, this has been a journey of highs and lows, that is somewhat marred by an ending that isn’t really an ending but just a brief stopping point. It would not be such a proverbial slap in the face sort of feeling if we had gotten conclusions to things along the way rather than most plots just chugging along still.
Excalibur #26 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.