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Jan 30

Excalibur #17 annotations

Posted on Saturday, January 30, 2021 by Paul in Annotations, x-axis

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

EXCALIBUR vol 4 #17
by Tini Howard, Marcus To & Erick Arciniega

The title is short for “Queen Elizabeth III”, presumably referencing the cruise liner Queen Elizabeth II, often known as the QE2. (The normal abbreviation for the Queen is ER II, standing for Elizabeth Regina.)

COVER / PAGE 1. Betsy – or perhaps her counterpart – as queen of an alternate England, complete with the orb, sceptre and crown from the Crown Jewels.

PAGES 2-3. Reuben Brousseau visits Pete Wisdom.

The building shown here is presumably meant to be the MI6 Building, headquarters of the British security services, though it actually winds up looking far more subdued than the real thing.

We last saw Reuben Brousseau and Coven Akkaba in issue #9, where they were carrying out human sacrifices in order to try and make contact with Morgan Le Fey in Otherworld, and had plans to provoke Jamie Braddock into doing something or other. We know from earlier issues that he has the sort of contacts to be able to waltz in to the building.

The photos that Brousseau shows to Wisdom depict Jubilee, Rictor, Rogue and Gambit as the Captain Britains of pocket universes created by Jamie Braddock in issue #10. We last saw them in issue #13 when they were trying to kill Jamie, at which point they just vanished from the plot without explanation. How Brousseau ended up with a photo of them is unclear, but it seems to be a plot point, as Wisdom certainly has no idea who these people are.

Brousseau does have a point in some narrow senses – Betsy has gone missing, Krakoa is an obvious place to look, and Pete Wisdom is uniquely well placed to do so. He’s conspicuously avoided Krakoa so far – and very clearly does not regard it as his national identity – but he’s not really discussed why that is. More generally, the divergent Captain Britains are an absurdity and completely incapable of serving any sort of symbolic role to represent the nation.

PAGE 4. Recap and credits.

PAGE 5. Data page – a note from the actual Queen Elizabeth III of this dimension. Basically, this version of Britain (England?) is a refuge for mutants and Betsy is to go home before she does anything to muck it up. Quite why Betsy has wound up here is never really explained in the issue – perhaps her Queen counterpart was just summoned to fight in “X of Swords” like various others, but why anyone would be preparing for the highly specific scenario of being replaced by a counterpart Captain Britain is a bit odd. Especially since the Captain Britain Corps was only just re-created, so…

Let’s be honest, there are a whole bunch of plot problems with this issue. Some of them might potentially be explained in later issues, but at the very least Betsy ought to be asking questions about them. If the Captain Britain Corps were only just restored, when did the Queen become Captain Britain? When did she write this? Is the idea that all these Captain Britains were retroactively written into history, or that their entire worlds were created retrospectively or… what? The story later assumes that Betsy is possessing the local Betsy’s body – why does anyone assume that? Why was anyone anticipating this scenario and planning for it? If they think Betsy’s body-hopping, why do they assume that throwing her into a portal will set things right? If the Queen and the Prime Minister both know about this plan, why is it necessary to sneak into their own facility in order to put it into effect?

PAGES 6-8. Betsy and Warren discuss the plot.

“My being American is so complex politically.” Maybe in that world, but for us, it’s not particularly problematic for the monarch’s partner to be foreign. There’s more of an expectation that they should be a member of an aristocracy, admittedly. But if the reference is to Wallis Simpson, the perceived problem there wasn’t so much that she was American – it was that she was divorced, and the King was the head of the Church of England, which at that point still didn’t recognise divorce for religious purposes.

“We were together once…” Psylocke and Archangel were a couple throughout the 1990s, although that was when Psylocke was in Kwannon’s body.

PAGE 9. Betsy is introduced to Kwannon.

Betsy has still never had a proper discussion with Kwannon about the period where she was living in Kwannon’s body (more because Kwannon didn’t want to have one). Obviously, part of the point of this issue is to engineer a situation where she can do that.

This world’s Angel has been in relationships with both Psylocke and Kwannon.

PAGES 10-12. Excalibur prepare to move into the Lighthouse, and Pete Wisdom looks to join them.

The cats belong to Rogue and Gambit, who got them in Mr & Mrs X.

Otherworld. Rogue brings Pete up to speed on the problems with resurrection that were established in “X of Swords” – though it’s doubtful that Pete’s plans really place that much weight on getting resurrected in Krakoa. Pete evidently knows in general terms about “X of Swords” third-hand or so, and finds it completely unintelligible.

“She did no such thing…” Rogue is wrong. Wisdom said that Betsy “took the job and vanished”, not that she took the job and deserted it. Objectively, she did vanish. Rogue’s claim that Betsy fought for both England and Krakoa is also frankly dubious, except inasmuch as England is located in the world. (And her country is meant to be Britain, not England. The clue’s in the name.)

The kid who shows up to offer Wisdom a lei is perennial background character Curse.

PAGE 13. Data page on the “Lighthouse”, an intelligence facility on the other world. “King James III” is apparently a version of Betsy’s father, Jamie Braddock Sr.

If we’re being technical about this, and if the history of these two worlds is broadly similar, he ought to be James VIII – there have been two previous King James in England, but seven in Scotland. The official line of the UK royal family is that where the numbers differ, they use the higher one.

The Lighthouse’s unseen director Alysande Stuart is the counterpart of a character from the original Excalibur, who had the somewhat similar job of running the Weird Happenings Organisation.

PAGES 14-15. Betsy and Kwannon arrive at the Lighthouse.

Betsy can’t resist trying to find out a bit more about this world. It’s really not obvious why asking these sorts of questions poses a threat to the world, though it might be better for Betsy’s mental health not to think too closely about the number of alternative versions of her out there.

PAGES 16-18. Excalibur defend the Lighthouse.

Apparently, the Coven’s plan is to force their way into the Lighthouse and then destroy the gate inside. Quite what they think that’s going to achieve in the long run is anyone’s guess.

PAGES 19-22. Kwannon answers Betsy’s three questions.

As already mentioned… why is it even necessary for them to fight their way to this portal? Even if they want to keep the Queen’s disappearance a secret, all they have to say is that they’re sending the duplicate back to Otherworld.

“I’ll be with a woman who will likely be grateful to have her body back.” Kwannon seems to assume that Betsy is occupying the body of her world’s Queen. The evidence for this isn’t entirely clear, to put it mildly.

“How’s my brother?” This doesn’t make sense as a question – Betsy has two brothers.

As so often with this book, the basic thrust of the characters makes sense – Betsy can’t resist taking the opportunity to talk to Kwannon about what happened, and Kwannon is understandably repulsed by the whole thing – but the plotting is just confused.

PAGES 23-24. Betsy shows up back at the Lighthouse.

Her appearance has obvious lady-of-the-lake overtones. Apparently Excalibur were actually losing to Marianna and her crew before she arrived. It’s played as if Betsy’s arrival is game-changing, but given that the Coven don’t like or respect Betsy, why would her arrival and immediate passing out give them any particular concern? I suppose you can argue that they recognise her office enough to defer to it to some extent.

PAGE 25. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: WHO’S THERE.

Bring on the comments

  1. brian says:

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one puzzled by all the stealth-ing and fighting. I had thought they were just going to…walk in.

  2. Rybread says:

    This series seems to be a real fan-favorite, but with the best will in the world I can’t understand why. It has consistent pacing issues, the plotting is often confusing at best, and there seems to be a disconnect between the script and the art at least once an issue. I know the characterization is often praised, but characters seem to make arbitrary and unexplained decisions, neither Rictor nor Betsy are consistent with any past depictions, and Jubilee doesn’t seem to have a personality beyond “concerned mother”. There are some good ideas beneath the surface but, quite frankly, this book is often a mess.

  3. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Paul: ‘The cats belong to Rogue and Gambit, who got them in Mr & Mrs X.’

    This is the most miniscule of nitpicks, but the cats go further back than that. Gambit got them in the Marjorie Liu run of Astonishing X-Men. Mystique left him the then-kittens after saving them from Sabretooth, who apparently wanted to eat them.

    I wouldn’t bring it up except it was a ridiculous scene that I have loved ever since I first read it.

    And ever since AXM, Gambit just had the cats, whenever the writer remembers them. He had them when he moved to the Serval Industries HQ in All-New X-Factor, for example. (They made the cover of issue 3).

  4. CJ says:

    This series is becoming a major slog to get through. It’s really hard for me to care about alternate versions of a woman who’s been bodyswapped for three decades.

    Why did she wind up in Alternate World #538? Look, she just did. She doesn’t get to even have drama about 616-Angel or 616-Kwannon, who truly matter to her. Anything to actually avoid developing her character.

    For some reason, *alternate* versions of the main cast are mattering to the plot. What on Earth are Gambit, Rogue, and Jubilee even doing in this book?

    I was interested in the first arc since at least it tried to continue Betsy’s story and her (return to the) role as Captain Britain. But it’s hard for me to care when the plot boils down to “alternate versions of characters” or “a wizard did it.”

  5. sagatwarrior says:

    I guess every since they returned her to her original body, Psylocke had somewhat been flaying about, the writers did not know what to do with her. Since the current trend is swapping out heroes, it was a perfect match for her to become Captain Britain (since she has done it before). It would seem the current Excalibur is for those who have fond memories of the original, 1988 title. While it is good seeing past Excalibur characters, it is difficult for me to understand this current version and its remit.

  6. Mikey says:

    Outside of the art, this book is terrible. I’m always straining to understand where the script and the pencils are trying to meet.

  7. Chris V says:

    No. Trust me. This book is not for those who have fond memories of the original Excalibur title.
    I love the original Chris Claremont run and then the Alan Davis penned run on Excalibur, and I found this book completely unreadable.
    The only similarity is the travels to alternate Earths, which could just as easily be an Exiles remit.

    The cover looks really nice, but trying to read a recap of this plot after not reading the book since before “X of Swords”, this seems like gibberish.

    “My being American is so complex politically.” is perhaps the strangest line of dialogue I have ever read in a comic.

  8. Jack says:

    The thing this book does with nationality intrigues and infuriates me.

    The British state being concerned that Captain Britain identifies more as Krakoan than British is interesting. One could easily swap in ‘Welsh, N.Irish or Scottish’ for Krakoan, and it feel an apt comment on the real world…because the book is regularly giving the impression that Britain is really just England, or that just England stuff matters.

    “She fought for Queen and England”, James III, even using the quintessential London hard man Pete Wisdom (nice football shirt in his office there) as the voice of the state. Even that the state would prefer lord of the manor Brian and his uncomplicated upper class Englishness to his dubious sister. The quite reasonable objection that the alt-Cpt Britains aren’t even British. Has anyone non-English been in this? Proteus had one of those traditional comic-book terribly-accented lines once, didn’t he?

    With the state of the UK I find the meandering around nationality in this book intriguing. If I wanted to head down a rabbit hole I guess one could even consider the meaning(s) of a character like Betsy, with her history with Kwannon, her place leading a fairly non-traditional and progressive comic book team, wearing that particular flag in the modern era.

    But then I consider that I’m probably wildly reaching and it’s just an example of the unfortunate Britain=England thing in an comic more concerned with referencing classic Marvel UK tropes.

    But there’s something there. There has to be. Otherwise it’s just a big mess.

  9. Evilgus says:

    The broad ideas are good – Betsy wants the frank discussion with Kwannon, only it’s an alt-Kwannon.

    But it’s just such a slog.

    The art doesn’t sell an alternate world (if we are emulating classic Excalibur).

    The reader has to fill in myriad gaps (the alternate Cap Britain’s haven’t been seen in 616 – have they? Complexity doesn’t need to be confusing.)

    The rest of the cast is yet to have their own plot. What exactly have Rogue, Gambit and Jubilee done yet, except dash from scene to scene?

    I’m not faulting the enthusiasm, but the execution needs a great deal of sharpening.

  10. Jon l says:

    I genuinely love the concepts of this series. I just get thrown off by the pacing. It just seems like I’m jumping from one scene to another, with so little explanation. And I agree with many sentiments… Why are rogue/gambit and Jubs in this? They have no value to the story. Any other character could have fulfilled these roles.

  11. Karl_H says:

    Agreed to all of the above, and adding that reading about these various magical groups like Clan Akkaba and the Druids, who’ve apparently been around for some time and have mysterious significance, feels like joining in the middle of an ongoing RPG campaign where the GM is pulling in stuff from earlier plotlines that I wasn’t there for. Their significance is lost on me, and they’re boring and kind of a bad fit for the Marvel Universe in general.

  12. MasterMahan says:

    I absolutely cannot Coven Akkaba seriously. Brousseau really just walked into a government building, wearing a cape, and started whining that Morgan le Fey is trouble? Le Fey once attacked Europe with a army of the undead. I can’t imagine the British government really gives a toss.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the Coven just rolls up to the lighthouse with a very quiet wrecking ball and and starts claiming the land is theirs, apparently on the unusual legal theory that you can claim land if the owner isn’t physically present. What?!

    Semirelated, but this book really needs a UK consultant.

  13. MasterMahan says:

    I absolutely cannot *take* Coven Akkaba seriously. Take. This book is so confused it’s broken my comprehension of language.

  14. Karl_H says:

    Am I remembering correctly that Rictor’s druids live underground? Was that expanded on at all?

  15. David says:

    I honestly mostly enjoyed this issue even though it plainly made no sense. As has been stated a few times, it works on a character level if you kinda squint.

    That said, the fact that Queen Betsy had prepared for a scenario where she vanished and was replaced with an alternate Captain Britain was absolutely baffling. The idea that Betsy passing through the portal should automatically return the queen- why?? Why did the queen vanish and why did Betsy turn up there? It makes no sense.

    In terms of the book’s identity, it feels like it’s moving into a new phase, where Apocalypse is gone and they’re taking on the role of “magic experts.” Which is unconvincing- the previous issue really failed to sell that concept. Only Rictor seems to have a fledgling level of magical knowledge, the rest of them are clueless. If Meggan sticks around on the team, I guess that kinda helps.

    This book is just weird! I do kinda like it in spite of its incoherence, but it’s so baffling. Great art though.

  16. Loz says:

    I heard the interview Tini and others gave on the Christmas ‘Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men’ and she, and everyone else, seems delightful but every issue lacks stakes despite Tini telling us they do. Each issue seems to be decided by rolling dice, ‘this issue Captain Britain is in an alternate world and returning to the 616’. No-one really has a personality, it’s just that with Gambit and Rogue there are certain verbal tics you have to remember to put in their dialogue. In this issue Betsy doesn’t seem to be either desperate to get home, torn because she wants to stay or anything. At least Jubilee showed some concern when ‘going to Otherworld causes Shogo to become a fire-breathing dragon’. This comic seems inconsequential as it is being read. The next issue could have Rogue finding a button in the lighthouse that literally turns this clan wossname nonsense off and Excalibur decide that they are really a deep-space rock band and I wouldn’t be surprised.

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