RSS Feed
Sep 9

Excalibur #23 annotations

Posted on Thursday, September 9, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

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

EXCALIBUR vol 4 #23
“In the Service of Lord Doom”
by Tini Howard, Marcus To & Erick Arciniega

COVER / PAGE 1. Dr Doom leading a somewhat reluctant Excalibur. The composition loosely echoes the cover of Excalibur vol 1 #1.

PAGE 2. Betsy dreams.

Braddock Isle is now “several kilometres off the coast of England”. Last issue it was “Just off the coast of England” and the art showed the distance to be pretty much swimmable. Maybe Rictor’s been moving it.

Betsy’s dreams show a mixture of images from the series to date, most of them fairly generic. Merlyn and Morgan Le Fay are at the top. The woman emerging from the golden egg is probably meant to be Malice, upon her reincarnation in issue #20. The group above Betsy’s head are all members of Krakoa’s Quiet Council (from left to right, Magneto, Mr Sinister, Nightcrawler, Kate Pryde, Mystique, Emma Frost, Storm and Professor X). To her left is a silhouetted image of Pete Wisdom being killed by Marianna Stern of Coven Akkaba in issue #21. To her bottom right are her brothers, Brian (Captain Avalon) and Jamie (Monarch). And bottom left are Stern again, with fellow Coven leader Reuben Brousseau.

PAGES 3-5. Dr Doom demands access to Otherworld.

“This is not the first time I have sought Excalibur’s aid.” Doom is referring to Excalibur vol 1 #37-39. The details of the arc don’t matter – it was a story about Limbo.

“My intelligence tells me Morgan Le Fay has left Otherworld.” Doom’s sources on Otherworld are evidently a bit shaky, as we see throughout this issue. Morgan was deposed as regent of Avalon in issue #6 through the machinations of Apocalypse. Publicly, she was allowed to leave Otherworld, but in reality she was imprisoned. Doom’s source is evidently aware of the public story, but has also taken quite some time to pass on the message.

“Do not speak to me as an equal, acolyte.” Either Doom is taking Rictor’s “I know magic too” line at face value, or he’s aware of Rictor’s status as a rookie magician. More likely the latter, and probably because Doom’s own magical abilities let him pick up on clumsy neophytes.

“I had heard you were an assassin, woman. That you were a mind taker and a killer.” Doom seems to be confusing Betsy and Kwannon, which is perhaps understandable given their convoluted shared history and their generally low level of relevance to his schemes.

“… leave Shogo with Kyle while I’m at it.” Kyle Jinadu, Northstar’s husband. He was also mentioned as Shogo’s babysitter in X-Factor.

PAGE 6. Recap and credits. The recap refers to Reuben Brousseau as “the new Otherworld ambassador”, which seems wrong – he was the UK’s ambassador to Krakoa at the Hellfire Gala. It’s hard to see how he can be the “ambassador” to a place he can’t get into.

The recap also states that Coven Akkaba have freed Morgan Le Fay (which happened in issue #21) and that they’re trying to stir up anti-mutant sentiment in “Avalon”. That’s not really what we saw last issue, where Merlyn was indeed promoting anti-mutant sentiment throughout Otherworld generally (not specifically Avalon), but there was no mention of him being in league with Coven Akkaba in doing so. This seems to be new information.

PAGES 7-10. Doom and Excalibur in Avalon.

“Don’t you like big bad men?” Captain Britain is referring to Rictor’s relationship with Apocalypse in the first year of this title, which certainly seemed to have romantic aspects at least on Rictor’s side.

“Brian says … that you ought to visit S.T.R.I.K.E.” The mutant agents of S.T.R.I.K.E. were resurrected at Pete Wisdom’s request at the end of last issue, but this is the only mention of that plot thread in this issue. They’re mostly teammates of Betsy from back in the 1980s Captain Britain comics published by Marvel UK. She seems strangely unkeen to see them, for reasons that aren’t really addressed.

“She took the throne when Arthur abdicated.” In issue #1, Morgan did indeed claim that she had taken the throne after Arthur had already left, and in order to lead the defence of Avalon against an invading force. She appears to have been telling the truth. It’s not clear why Captain Britain claims that Arthur abdicated, when all we’ve heard before is that he vanished – and last issue, we saw him as a prisoner of Merlyn. Bluntly, it may just suit her to believe this because it helps to legitimate the mutant colonisation of Avalon.

The Valley of Wailing Mists. This is not an authentic part of the Arthurian mythos; it comes from Iron Man vol 1 #150 (the one where Iron Man travels back in time to Camelot), and it’s been mentioned sporadically in later stories. As Doom says, Morgan’s castle was located there.

“He went to pick up his ex-girlfriend’s stuff.” Doom and Morgan’s unlikely and short-lived relationship was seen in Mighty Avengers vol 1 #9, and their acrimonious break-up was the springboard for the first arc of Dark Avengers.

“Where sits Merlyn? And Mordred?” Last issue finally acknowledged that Otherworld as seen in Excalibur differs markedly from previous depictions; all of this seems to have passed Doom by, somehow, despite his interest in Morgan-related affairs. It reads as though we’re meant to find this odd.

The version of Mordred’s history given by Captain Britain – where he’s the son of Arthur and the villainous heir – is a genuine version of the story, though in earlier versions he’s a traitorous nephew. In the Marvel Universe, Mordred was a villain in the 1950s Black Knight series, with the origin given here. He was last seen, very recently, as the villain in Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade (but that’s only up to issue #3 on Marvel Unlimited, so don’t ask me how it ends).

PAGE 11. Data page, with another extract from the Crooked Market’s newspaper.

Josh, who wasn’t given a surname, was the mutant who Mirage and Karma followed to Sevalith in New Mutants #16-17. The other two vox pops are new characters.

PAGE 12. Data page. As already mentioned, the version already given here is standard, but the bit about him being an illegitimate son of Arthur is a later development (maybe a case of piling on the villain-associated things once the character already existed). Geoffrey of Monmouth has him as the legitimate son of King Lot, who usurps the throne after being asked to take care of it while Arthur is off fighting a war. The traditional version of the May Day Massacre has Arthur killing not only Mordred but all other children born on the same day, with Mordred miraculously surviving. Lovely chap, Arthur. As this data page rather indicates, Mordred’s back story by this point is so over the top that his status as an icon of treason becomes a little odd.

PAGES 13-23. Doom and Excalibur in the Crooked Market.

Doom recognises Jim Jaspers as the villain from the 1980s “Jaspers Warp” storyline. We’ve never been told how he ended up here. Betsy suggests that Jaspers should recognise Doom from “your former home reality”, but doesn’t make clear whether she’s saying that he’s from Earth-616 or from some other world that had its own Doom. Later on in the issue, Jaspers claims to have created the first Fury – if so, this is Jim Jaspers of Earth-238, the first one that Brian encountered in the Jaspers Warp arc.

It’s less than clear why Betsy waits this long to object to whatever it was that Doom was trying to achieve. You’d have thought that she’d have raised any concerns long before this point.

Gambit is still using the cards he got from Saturnyne, as in the last issue. Arcana seems to be some sort of generic Otherworldly poker-analogue using tarot cards and dice.

Uath, Getal and Oir are words, but also the names of the symbols on the dice (which are Ogham). Meggan is right about Getal and Oir being killing and gold, but “Uath” just means “horror” or “fear”. There was a figure of speech about a pack of hounds being Uath, which is probably where Meggan is getting confused.

“The world knows Doom needs no bride…” Alluding to the recent arc in Fantastic Four where his planned marriage to Victorious was called off.

“Friends of Mordred.” Apparently a euphemism for mutants, as we see later on in the story – the idea being that Mordred was a mutant who was wrongly ostracised for that reason. (Or, I guess, who just happened to survive the boat thanks to that.) It seems to be an echo of “friends of Dorothy”, which is a bit weird considering that the Furies are using it.

PAGE 24. Doom opens his box, and Betsy and Meggan talk.

The box apparently contains Morgan’s castle itself. The scrying pool inside, which Doom mentions here, is perhaps meant to be the one we saw in issue #1, though that scene was identified as taking place in Camelot.

PAGE 25. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: KINGDOMS OF BLOOD.

PAGES 26-32. This is a 9/11 anniversary story which appears in all this week’s Marvel comics.



Bring on the comments

  1. Mark says:

    This was mostly gobbledygook to me. The Excalibur cast has a tendency to shout motivations at each other for panels on end.

  2. Karl_H says:

    What are the odds on Howard’s Mordred bearing any resemblance to the Mordred who appeared in the Black Knight series a few months ago?

  3. YLu says:

    Re: Karl_H

    Considering that Tini Howard and Si Spurrier are both part of the X-books’ “writer’s room” and how that mini-series did bring up Arthur’s disappearance… I’d say not 0?

  4. MasterMahan says:

    So what do think happened with Meggan the shapeshifter disguising herself by changing her hair color and absolutely nothing else? Miscommunication between the writer and artist?

  5. Zoomy says:

    Well, plenty of artists are only able to distinguish one woman from another by changing the hair on the identical Barbie dolls they draw…

    Without having read the issue, I shudder at the sight of “several kilometres off the coast of England”. Will we ever manage to convince Americans that we measure distance in miles?

  6. Mathias X says:

    How machine are the Furies? I’m not familiar with 80s Captain Britain, only that people swear they’re super powerful, but I can’t quite tell if they’re robots or merely robot-looking. Either way, it seems to me that if they’re migrating from superhuman hunting to explicit anti-mutant sentiment, they’re yet another type of anti-mutant AI — possibly aimed at Apocalypse on Amenth, or Braddock on Avalon.

    I’m assuming they must be nerfed in some form, because from Wikipedia it seems even the one Fury was able to kill whole universes, which far exceeds Nimrod’s power.

  7. Ben Johnston says:

    @Mathias X — I was wondering that myself. I’ve only read a couple stories involving Furies, and it was years ago, but I seem to recall them being way more powerful than they’re depicted here.

    What a joyless slog this book has become.

  8. Chris V says:

    I seem to remember them being seriously depowered during one of the Claremont returns to Uncanny X-Men.

  9. Allan M says:

    The original Fury is a “cybiote”, “an unstoppable amalgam of flesh and metal.” It shows up, slaps around Captain Britain easily, sends Saturnyne running, and kills Brian’s supporting cast. Brian runs, ends up in a graveyard full of superheroes the Fury killed, realizes he’s finished, and is on his knees as the Fury just vaporizes him with one shot.

    The original Fury is weakened when it crosses dimensions into 616 and gets destroyed, and all subsequent versions have been a lot weaker still. But it’s basically the Juggernaut syndrome – the core premise is that it kills superheroes and succeeds 100% of the time. It starts having massacred a dimension’s worth of them, and our protagonist can barely put up a fight. It can never really fit into the mainstream Marvel continuity or its schtick dies – if it got beat by Nightcrawler, is this really an existential threat? In wrestling terms, it was a monster heel that became a jobber in short order.

  10. Voord 99 says:

    To be fair on the Mordred thing, Mordred the illegitimate child of incest* tends to feature in most modern retellings, including the “historical” Arthur ones. Cf. Guinevere’s adultery. Or Arthur being a king, even. Some things have become so familiar that to depart from them maybe would verge on pure antiquarianism for its own sake.

    *In fact, the idea that Mordred is Morgan’s child comes up often enough that it’s become its own detached thing that can be considered a “standard” part of modern versions.

  11. Evilgus says:

    My own pet hate… Meggan doesn’t wear shoes or cover her feet!! Ever!! Grr

  12. Taibak says:

    Mathias X: To build on what everyone else has said, the original Fury survived its universe being erased from existence.

  13. Daniel says:

    Apocalypse as a love interest for Rictor. Now I’ve heard everything.

  14. James Burdo says:

    “The mutant agents of S.T.R.I.K.E. were resurrected at Pete Wisdom’s request at the end of last issue, but this is the only mention of that plot thread in this issue. They’re mostly teammates of Betsy from back in the 1980s Captain Britain comics published by Marvel UK. She seems strangely unkeen to see them, for reasons that aren’t really addressed.”

    The main reason is probably because one of them is her former lover whose last memories are of them still together.

    The reference to Braddock Isle now being kilometers from the mainland is probably because of all the people pointing out it would still be in British territorial waters as initially presented.

    This “Friends of Mordred” is nonsense. In the legends and in Marvel comics, Mordred has never been portrayed as being part fae or having any supernatural powers (before death). Nor was he ever banished. He kept on plotting against Arthur because the Black Knight could never find proof of his guilt. The first issues had Morgan Le Fay as an antagonist, who was an actual ally of Mordred, portrayed as anti-mutant who calls them “witchbreed” despite being a witch herself.

    Another pet peeve about Meggan: she is not part-fae and has nothing to do with the Otherworld.

    It’s not hard to argue that Excalibur are the villains. They serve as lackeys to an invading Apocalypse, and they go along with Jaime Braddock’s cheating and breaking his oath to seize control of Avalon where he reigns as a mad king giving life and death at his whim.

Leave a Reply