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Aug 20

Excalibur #11 annotations

Posted on Thursday, August 20, 2020 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

EXCALIBUR vol 4 #11
“Verse XI: Blood of the Changeling”
by Tini Howard, Marcus To & Erick Arciniega

COVER / PAGE 1: An angry Jubilee surrounded by… well, I guess it’s meant to be dragon fire, though if it’s supposed to be forming any particular shape, I’m not seeing it. In a retro touch, we have the story title too… plonked somewhat arbitrarily on the page.

PAGES 2-5. Excalibur show up to rescue Jubilee from the Green Priestesses.

We’re picking up here from issue #9, where Excalibur were in Otherworld in an attempt to create a permanent Krakoan gate. They were attacked by Saturnyne’s Priestesses – who are now clarified in this issue to be the White Priestesses – and Shogo was shot down. Issue #10 was a diversion into events in an alternate timeline (which doesn’t directly play into this issue), and so it’s been a long long time since we picked up this plot thread.

You presumably remember that Shogo is an infant who (for unclear reasons) takes the form of a dragon while in Otherworld. But if not… well, he is.

PAGE 6. Data page on Saturnyne’s priestesses. This clarifies that there are two sects: the White, who follow Saturnyne’s word to the letter, and the Green, who are somewhat more liberal and (by implication) not inclined to follow direct orders from Saturnyne unless they can see a coherent reason to do so.

This seems to be alluding to different religious groups who take a more or less literal approach to their favoured texts. The obvious difference is that Saturnyne is literally right there, ready to tell you precisely what she wanted. The Green Priestesses appear to take the view that they follow Saturnyne, but that they base their actions on her “intent” rather than her “direct will” – which seems to amount to saying that they think they know what she intends better than she does, or at the very least that the truth of matters will always be more complex than any order can account for, justifying a very relaxed interpretation of what Saturnyne has to say. Saturnyne, on the other hand, seems to accept them as some sort of check and balance.

Still unclear in all this is quite how old these sects are, and where they came from – after all, Saturnyne has a back story as a normal human who worked her way up from nothing. Have these groups sprung up around her recently? Or did she inherit them from her predecessors?

PAGES 7-8. Credits and recap.

PAGES 9-11. Jubilee calms down.

Betsy was complaining in issue #9 that Saturnyne was hiding the Starlight Citadel from her, and that she couldn’t understand why.

PAGES 12-14. Druid Rictor makes psychic contact with Apocalypse.

The awful bloodshed coming soon is either a building war with Jamie, or X of Swords. Or maybe both.

PAGES 15-16. Apocalypse tells us about the High Lords.

The High Lords is a less common term for the Externals, though Rictor helpfully reminds us of their more familiar name. They’re a group of immortal mutants introduced in the early issues of X-Force. Previously it seemed to be a description of a particular power set (or linked power set), rather than an organised group as such. Apocalypse describes them as his coven… but then he claims Excalibur are his coven, so it’s not clear that the rest of the Externals would necessarily share his reading of that.

The term “High Lords” is not new, and has been around since the early days. In those early stories, the parallels to Highlander were rather more glaring, but that’s faded away over the years.

The five shown on page 15 are (left to right):

  • Selene, though she’s unrecognisable in her costume here. Still, there aren’t any other established female Externals other than Candra (who shows up on the next page), so Rictor’s almost certainly right in identifying her. I’m not aware of any previous stories establishing her as a former nun, but her history in this period is a blank anyway.
  • The guy with the short white hair is Nicodemus.
  • The purple guy with the headpiece is Crule. Look, it was the nineties, people had names like Crule.
  • Apocalypse, obviously. There’s been some uncertainty over the years about whether he’s actually an External, but he was described as one in Powers of X #3.
  • The guy with the long hair is Saul.

“When we desire to meet, it takes little more than a thought to bring us together.” This is new, as far as I know. I don’t think Apocalypse is claiming he can literally teleport everyone to him, so much as asserting that he can easily contact and locate them all.

“If one of us dies, the others feel ourselves become stronger, as though one had distributed the contents of them among us.” The Externals’ psychic link was established in early appearances, and the idea that their power can be transferred in this way was used as a plot point in the last Cable run (in the rather confused “Newer Mutants” arc from Cable #150 onwards).

“So when one of our number had a plan to extract her own life energy and place it into a stone…” This is the Heart of Candra, and it comes from a relatively obscure Scott Lobdell story in X-Men vol 2 #60-61. Apocalypse’s description of the gem is basically faithful to how Candra described it in that story: it’s an external repository for her life energy, designed to stop the other Externals from getting to it. But Candra claimed that she created it in order to protect herself from the other Externals, after refusing to join their group. In Apocalypse’s version, they help to make the thing. It seems as if one of them is lying – either that, or Apocalypse and Candra were in league.

Apocalypse seems to be saying that magical stones are at least symbolically a kind of earth, and thus within the scope of Rictor’s powers (which, in this series, are being treated as earth-control and not merely as vibrational).

As Rictor points out, Candra is a Gambit villain, and thus suitable for bringing in to this series.

PAGES 17-18. Excalibur set off on their mission again.

For some reason Captain Britain has dropped her earlier suggestion of continuing to the Citadel alone. Rictor is obviously helping to steer things in the direction that Apocalypse wants – no doubt in good faith.

“Avalon’s war with Saturnyne” was going on in the background through the early issues, ending with Excalibur deposing Morgan Le Fey as the acting monarch of Avalon, and Jamie Braddock becoming “King”. But from what we’ve seen of that war, Saturnyne was the attacker. It’s not immediately obvious to me why Captain Britain would think that Saturnyne would have a problem with the relatively-sane Morgan, but not with the completely demented Jamie. In issue #9, Saturnyne said that her goal was to “put a stop to whatever madness threatens the balance of the Omniverse”, apparently referring to Jamie’s efforts to create pocket universes with extra Captain Britains (which we then saw in more detail in issue #10). She doesn’t much care for him.

PAGES 19-22. Excalibur break into the Citadel and set up their gate.

It’s pretty obvious throughout this scene that most of the team have no very clear idea of what the objective of this mission actually is, beyond “stick a gate here for no particular purpose.” There seems to be no clear plan of what to do once it’s there. You’d think some of them would have asked more questions, but that’s been a recurring issue with Excalibur. Rictor, the true believer, tells us that somebody has to use the gate – I’m not quite sure why.

PAGE 23. Rictor goes through the gate.

“Don’t the Otherworld gates need crystals or something…” Apocalypse needed specially powered crystals in order to make his Otherworld gate work in issue #5. Rictor had to get them for him. I realise this piece of dialogue is there to explain why the gate doesn’t work normally, but surely Excalibur would have remember that at some point on their mission. (Maybe the way around that would have been for Apocalypse to tell them that the crystals were only needed once.)

PAGE 24. Captain Britain confronts Saturnyne.


PAGES 25-26. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: EXTERNALS. So maybe we’re not dropping that name just yet.

PAGES 27-28. Coda: Rogue and Gambit go thieving.

The jewel that Gambit picks up is the Heart of Candra – that may not be obvious just from its generic appearance, but it’s a faithful rendition of how it appeared in X-Men vol 2 #60-61. The Heart was supposedly destroyed at the end of that story, and I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen it since then.

Bring on the comments

  1. David Goldfarb says:

    I thought the gem at the end being the Heart of Candra was reasonably obvious just from its resemblance to what we saw in the earlier scene where it was created.

  2. Paul says:

    It doesn’t have the yellow frame in the flashback, though. That’s from the earlier story.

  3. Evilgus says:

    I’ve seen a theory on Twitter that what we’ll see play out in Excalibur are the fractured realities for each Captain Britain (as in, Rogue, Gambit, Jubilee, Rictor), as they converge on the citadel. Hence, Gambit has somehow ended up staying his ‘own’ Captain Britain deck of cards.

    It’s all horribly convoluted, but I’ll give Howard the benefit of the doubt if it all makes sense in the long read. It’s also ambitious – I’m assuming Excalibur has good sales to warrant this kind of long plotting!

    Nice crisp art and colouring and a few good character beats here and there but it still feels busy. Saturnyne has always been an imperious but comic figure to me, so it feels off to see her played straight. I did like the comment that she preferred Brian, though. As she kept trying to get in his pants…!

    I also find it interesting if we do see more focus on the ‘other’ Captain Britains. I know there’s always been a corps but it does somehow reduce the ‘specialness’ of Betsy becoming CB. But then if we treat this as one super long arc, maybe it also implies it’s not a permanent transition?

  4. Taibak says:

    So… where’s Roma in all this?

    I realize that’s probably a dangerous question, given Marvel’s approach to continuity these days, but still… seems like she should be involved here.

  5. Luis Dantas says:

    I wonder how long will it take until Merlin is ressurrected somehow.

  6. Paul says:

    Good question about Roma. As far as I know, she was last seen in a Spider-Verse tie-in book from 2014, where she was shown working alongside Saturnyne. She hasn’t done anything of real significance in over a decade.

  7. ASV says:

    Doesn’t it seem like planting a gate in hostile territory is not the wisest move?

  8. Anthony says:

    Selene was been showing up in Captain America a lot doing religion/cult stuff, was she dressed as a nun there?

  9. DannytheWall says:

    With my deep and abiding love for all things Otherworld and Captains Britain, I will probably be in for the long haul, but Tini Howard is making it difficult. There’s a difference between writing to be mysterious and writing that is confusing, and I don’t think she’s even trying to be mysterious. It’s hard to tell, though, because I think she’s trying to be sprawling, but without any connective tissue and/or a focused through-line, it’s really just things spiraling out of control.

    Howard might be more of an “ideas” writer, but this is failing to transition or express itself well in the medium of comics. The artwork looks solid, but the storytelling-in-the-artwork is decidedly not. With this and with Strikeforce, I’m going to lay that at the feet of the writer, then, who may not yet have found footing in writing for an artist’s strength. Like most modern day writers, she’s drawing upon film as a visual medium in which to approach– and that simply doesn’t work as well.

  10. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    @ASV The idea is that since only mutants can use the gates, it’s safe enough to put them wherever.

    Obviously this doesn’t take into account that Hordeculture was able to hack the gates – so others might too – nor the possibility of mind-controlled mutants making trouble… To say nothing of the possibility of hostile mutants. Though the third one is so far nonexistent, somehow. Everyone’s on board.

  11. ASV says:

    Sure nobody can come through, but all the trouble they went through to plant it is for naught when they leave and the locals destroy it or block it up.

  12. GN says:

    The cover: If you look at the text-less version of the Excalibur 11 cover, the flames seem to form some kind of misshapen dragon. There seems to wings on both sides of Jubilee and a tail in front of her.

    Roma: I’m not very familiar with the Captain Britain and Excalibur mythology (having just got into comics a couple of years ago), but I do believe Merlyn and his daughter Roma showed up in Excalibur 6 (Verse VI: Watch the Throne) as a vision/dream/spirit to Brian Braddock and offered him the choice between the Amulet of Right and the Sword of Might. Hence, it could be that Merlyn and Roma have ascended to some higher plane of existence since Secret Wars II and left Saturnyne to protect and run the Starlight Citadel.

    Externals / High Lords: The High Lords is a more generic name for this group, so I was a bit surprised that it was said to be the preferred one. Perhaps Marvel does not want them confused with another group of long-lived and quasi-immortal superhumans, the Eternals, especially when the Eternals are about to be featured in a major motion picture next year and in a new ongoing comic this November from Kieron Gillen and Esad Ribic.

  13. GN says:

    Awful bloodshed: This one is most certainly X of Swords, but it could involve a war with King Jamie too. The Free Comic Book Day 2020: X-Men issue (which is a prelude to X of Swords) features Starlight Citadel with the armies of Saturnyne (I think Excalibur 6 called them the Kobold Battalion) assembled below the citadel, ready for war.

    I know Excalibur has been somewhat confusing and convoluted at times, but I think that with this issue, threads are starting to come together. From what I can surmise from Powers of X, X-Men and Excalibur, there seems to be five factions that will be involved in X of Swords, though some of them could be allies.

    In Otherworld,

    FACTION 1: The Province of Avalon

    Governed by the Mad King Jamie Braddock (but secretly Apocalypse) from the Kingdom of Camelot. This used to be ruled by Queen Regent Morgan le Fay, who was deposed by the machinations of Apocalypse in Excalibur 1-6. The castle in Camelot has since been converted to a Krakoan habitat. I’m not entirely sure what happened to Morgan’s army (I think they ran away) but Monarch is an Omega level mutant (in Quantum Reality Manipulation) so he can definitely provide a serious threat.

    There is an abandoned thread here about the missing King Arthur, as his disappearance is what lead to the installation of Morgan to the throne. Perhaps his disappearance will be explained in X of Swords.

    FACTION 2: The Province of Starlight

    Governed by Omniversal Majestrix Opal Luna Saturnyne from the Starlight Citadel. Saturnyne has white priestesses who live in the Citadel with her, green priestesses who live in the woods around the Citadel and the Kobold Battalion who fight her wars for her.

    She also has the weird Egyptian-themed followers and amber-helmeted blacksmiths from the Free Comic Book Day issue, whom I’m not too sure about. I’m also confused about the alternate-reality Captains Britain that Monarch has been creating, but I’m sure it will be explained in future issues.

    Captain Britain and Excalibur went questing for the Starlight Citadel in Excalibur 9 and managed to plant a gateway there in Excalibur 11.

    FACTION 3: The Lost Island of Arakko

    Governed by the First Horsemen of Apocalypse (or what’s left of them I suppose). Apocalypse left them on the island millennia ago to repel the daemon hordes, but since then they seem to have built some sort of society of summoners there that can apparently control the daemons. However, X-Men 2 says that after ‘endless war’, ‘the enemy has come’ and ‘soon Arakko will fall’.

    In X-Men 2, the horseman War sent her son, the only High Summoner left, and a piece of Arakko back to Earth-616 to bond with Krakoa and make contact with Apocalypse.

    The provinces of Avalon and Starlight are separated by a small stretch of land (as seen in the map in Excalibur 6) but Arakko is said to be in ‘the land beyond the wild borders of Arakko’.

    In Earth 616,

    FACTION 4: The Island Nation of Krakoa

    Governed by the Quiet Council of Krakoa from the Grove. This is the recently established mutant nation.

    Krakoa is connected to all three of the Otherworld factions:

    a) There is a Krakoan gateway from the castle of Camelot in the Province of Avalon to the Braddock lighthouse in Cornwall. The lighthouse itself is a Krakoan habitat connected to the Krakoan shared consciousness.

    b) There is a Krakoan gateway on the Starlight Citadel in the Province of Starlight. However, since this gate was not stabilised by crystals, I assume that there is not yet a corresponding gateway on Krakoa. Rictor did go through this gateway, so we’ll probably find out more in Excalibur 12.

    c) There is an Arak Maw (the volcano, presumably) on Krakoa that has a portal to the island of Arakko. This portal is currently closed, but Apocalypse and/or the High Summoner will probably find a way to open it before or during X of Swords.

    Finally, from a currently unknown location,

    FACTION 5: The Enemy

    This is the group we know least about, and we don’t even know if they will be relevant in the present day. Powers of X 4 established that the pre-historic mutant island of Okkara was split into two by ‘the enemy’s Twilight Sword’. The island of Arakko was pushed into the dimensional breach with the First Horsemen still on it.

    The only thing we know about them is that they are demonic in nature and the leader carries a Twilight sword. Mephisto is busy in the Avengers title, Surtur is dead and his daughter Sindr is imprisoned on Asgard in the Thor title and Belasco is busy in the Ghost Rider title, so I’m not sure who this could be referring to. It could be a pre-historic version of them, or could be a new character altogether.

  14. Taibak says:

    GN: I’m not familiar with the scene you’re referring to, but that’s a call back to when Brian first became Captain Britain. He was working in a physics lab when some baddies attacked, escaped on his motorbike, and was seriously injured in a crash. That’s when Merlyn and Roma appeared offering him the choice. He picked the amulet.

    Also, there really isn’t much Merlyn and Roma could possibly ascend to. They’re already extremely powerful beings and it’s been hinted that they’re immortal. Honestly, the only possible upgrade for them would be becoming something like Eternity.

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