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Mar 25

Excalibur #19 annotations

Posted on Thursday, March 25, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

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

EXCALIBUR vol 4 #19
“Wild Violets”
by Tini Howard, Marcus To & Erick Arciniega

COVER / PAGE 1. A confrontation between Captain Britain and Psylocke.

PAGES 2-3. Captain Britain of Earth-13054 locates our Captain Britain.

Elspeth Braddock was among the horde of Captains Britain we saw in X of Swords: Destruction, but this is her first full appearance. She’s a sorcerer version of the character; we’re told that her “focused totality turned inward”, which refers to the late 80s tagline about Psylocke’s psionic knife being the “focused totality of her psionic powers”. Earth-13054 is home to a fantasy-genre version of the X-Men, and was seen in X-Treme X-Men vol 2 #2.

Elspeth is “one of many charged with a quest – retrieving a missing member of her Corps”. The Captain Britain Corps agreed to look for Betsy in issue #16.

Her unnamed aide is, obviously, a version of Nightcrawler.

PAGES 4-6. The Captain Britain Corps demand to see Saturnyne.

The Captain Britain Corps. The basic idea here is that the Captain Britain Corps need access to the court chambers in order to send Betsy’s soul (which they’ve recovered) through the doorway to Earth. They believe that this will somehow restore her “body and soul”. The reasons for that belief aren’t really explained, and aren’t really supported by what happens later in the issue when they return to Earth through the alternative gate in Avalon.

There are plenty of recognisable Captain Britains from previous issues in here, including the dinsoaur Britannica Rex and the Violet Swan (who I was going to call self-explanatory, until I remembered that she isn’t violet). More importantly, there’s also the Queen Elizabeth version of Captain Britain from issue #17, who Betsy was possessing in that issue.

At any rate, Saturnyne is entirely unco-operative and the Corps decide to head to Avalon instead. For some reason, Elspeth tells us that the Captain Britain Corps are sworn to Saturnyne. That begs the question: when did that happen? As far as we could tell in X of Swords, a whole bunch of new Captain Britains were simply summoned into existence. Do they all have oaths to Saturnyne in their retroactively inserted-or-altered back stories? None of this has been very well explained.

Saturnyne is still having a tantrum about not getting Brian back as Captain Britain, though she claims this time that she’s playing by the rules of magic, insisting that Betsy has to pay a price for standing against her. It’s a feeble argument which rightly gets her nowhere.

PAGE 7. Recap and credits.

PAGE 8. Data page. A somewhat confused page from Rictor’s grimoire, trying to figure out what might be a good way of “rejoining” Betsy’s body and soul. The basic point is that in comparison to the reasonably sensible pages of this sort that we used to get under Apocalypse, Rictor is way out of his depth.

PAGES 9-12. Rictor tries to raise Betsy, and Psylocke shows up.

So to recap the plot: Betsy’s body was destroyed in X of Swords. Her mind was banished to the alternate world that we saw in issue #17, where she was possessing the local version of Captain Britain. Despite that, the plan in issue #17 seemed to be to send her through a portal back home, and that seemed to be what happened at the end. However, apparently Queen Elizabeth’s body simply remained on its own world, and Betsy’s mind went careering off somewhere until Elspeth recovered it.

This new body is one that Jamie commissioned from Mister Sinister. It escaped from storage two issues ago, and has been wandering around acting strangely, until Psylocke showed up to subdue her.

Psylocke/Kwannon claims here that she knows the psychic pattern in this body is not Betsy. She doesn’t seem to recognise it herself, presumably because she doesn’t have memories of Betsy’s time in her body. (We’ll find out later that it’s Malice, who Betsy/Psylocke met as an X-Man.)

Psylocke infers – correctly, as we’ll see – that Betsy herself is standing in the way of returning to  her body. She didn’t seem to have any problem with the idea of returning home in issue #17, though. It’s very, very far from being clearly explained, but I think the idea is meant to be that just before Betsy went through the portal in issue #17, she was having a highly emotional argument with that world’s version of Kwannon. This seems to be the cause of her state in this issue, and that’s why she needs to square things with our version of Psylocke/Kwannon before she’s ready to return to her body.

Rictor seems frustrated as much by his own failings as a sorcerer as he is by the fate of Betsy – maybe more so.

PAGES 13-18. Psylocke/Kwannon confronts Betsy down a well.

The village of Jackdaw’s Nest appears to be home to the people of Jackdaw, an Otherworld elf who was briefly the sidekick of Captain Britain (Brian) in Marvel UK comics of the early 1980s.

The confrontation between Betsy and Kwannon more or less speaks for itself. Betsy is trying to avoid facing Kwannon, and finally gets provoked into putting in an appearance. In contrast to Betsy, Kwannon seems to have at least come to terms with their connection as something they have to accept as part of their lot. She rightly points out that their body-swap was something done to them (by the Hand and Spiral) and generally seems to be telling Betsy that she’s self-destructively (and self-indulgently) wallowing in pain over the whole thing.

Whether this really has anything much to do with Betsy’s character arc so far in this series is rather debatable. I suppose you can make a case that Betsy has been throwing herself into the Captain Britain role as an alternative to coming to terms with her history, while Psylocke/Kwannon has already been through a period of self-flagellation in Fallen Angels before more or less coming to terms with her status quo. Feels very arbitrary to me, though.

The flashback on page 17 panel 2 is to a scene in issue #1 where Betsy and Kwannon crossed paths, clearly noticed each other, and didn’t speak.

PAGE 19. Data page. A folk song about the time Psylocke saved the village. We’re supposed to wonder what the link between Psylocke and Captain Britain is, I guess.

PAGES 20-22. Betsy comes home within Kwannon.

Betsy apparently doesn’t know that the Captain Britain Corps were re-created, and remembers issue #17 only as a dream. All this is setting up a scene where, basically, Betsy and Kwannon are reconciled when Kwannon deliberately allows Betsy to use her body as a host, so that she can convey Betsy back to resurrection at the lighthouse. So this time it’s by their choice, and they’re in control and all that.

On some level, this also seems intended to legitimise Kwannon as the “real” Psylocke (or at least as an equally real one).

PAGES 23-24. Malice escapes.

Malice. Malice is a psychic entity which worked for Mr Sinister as one of the Marauders. She’s best known for possessing Polaris for several years. The choker/necklace shown here used to appear around the necks of whoever she was possessing, and generally serves as the physical symbol of an otherwise invisible character. (Which, um, is why we probably shouldn’t be so concerned about the “she could be anyone on Krakoa” bit. It’s the evil one with the necklace, lads.)

Malice can pass through the gate to Krakoa, which isn’t normally possible for non-mutants. Presumably that means either that Krakoa recognises her as a mutant, or that Krakoa doesn’t sense her at all (and thus can’t choose to reject her).

Rogue was briefly possessed by Malice in Uncanny X-Men #214.

Though nobody points it out, the idea seems to be that Mr Sinister boobytrapped the body that he created for Jamie. So they might want to check it for other issues too.

PAGE 25. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: POSSESSION.

 

Bring on the comments

  1. Evilgus says:

    Lots of qualifiers on this one, Paul! Really interested to know your view on the Psylocke/Betsy conundrum, outside of the issue summary.

    I see the intention behind the issue, but don’t think it quite sticks the landing.

    It seems to allow the possibility of merging Betsy/Kwannon in future, as writers or marketing require.

    And while I like the clean art enough, I do wish for the imagination and verve of Davis. It also suffers from identical-face-itis for the women.

  2. MasterMahan says:

    I thought I’d skipped an issue. My memory was that Kwannon had just shown up to help fight Fake Betsy, but now they had her captured and unconscious?

    So I went back and checked. Kwannon appeared and knocked Fake Betsy over. Apparently that was a defeat.

    I know we’ve noted that Excalibur is unclear, but.

  3. Matt says:

    Every single time I read a new issue of this series I think I must have missed an issue; turns out it just didn’t make any sense.

  4. Mike Loughlin says:

    Matt: same! If I were the editor, I’d ask for a bit more connective tissue.

    I liked this issue, mainly because of the Kwannon/Betsy confrontation and Rictor’s frustration with magic. Kwannon accepting that her past and present are intertwined with Betsy’s while still not being happy about it made sense. I appreciate that it gave her the strength and insight necessary to solve the problem. Meanwhile, Rictor trying to follow the rules of magic (vague as they are) and still not succeeding was relatable.

    Excalibur hasn’t been the most consistent or coherent X-Book, but Howard, To, & Co. have me caring about characters and concepts that’ve rarely interested me before (Betsy, Otherworld, mutant magic). I hope the narrative issues don’t end overwhelming the series’ strengths.

  5. sagatwarrior says:

    It’s obvious that they are trying to rehabilitate the Psylocke character after years of her being “problematic”. They are trying to reconcile the two characters which allows them to use both characters without the messy issues involving them. Given the current climate surrounding Asians and Pacific Islanders, they want Kwannon to accept things on her own terms and not make her the passenger in the car of her life. Don’t know what they will do with Betsy, however.

  6. Bloodredcookie says:

    I still say Marvel should have just solved the Asian Betsey problem by retconning it so that Asian Psylocke was just Kwannon with her mind over written by Betsy’s psyche. Marvel could bring parts of Kwannon’s mind to the forefront and that would let them milk a few years’ worth of angst out of the character. They could also address the controversial issues surrounding the body swap, and retroactively make their most popular Asian hero actually be Asian without losing any of her market appeal.
    But instead we got this mess.

  7. SanityOrMadness says:

    @Bloodredcookie

    Pretty sure that would have made everything worse, not better.

  8. Loz says:

    Well, this is an improvement on the other issues in that while it’s completely inconsistent with what we are shown in previous issues and relies on guesswork because Tini Howard seems to be allergic to both showing AND telling, at least it mostly works as a story in this individual comic.

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