RSS Feed
Oct 6

Excalibur #24 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, October 6, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

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

EXCALIBUR vol 4 #24
“By the Pleasure of the Court”
by Tini Howard, Marcus To & Erick Arciniega

COVER / PAGE 1. The regents of Sevalith with Betsy as a guest, and a spilled goblet of wine / blood. One of those cases where having a different cover artist is very noticeable, since Betsy’s costume is entirely different, and so is the entire style of room – Mahmud Asrar opts for something traditionally gothic, while Marcus To’s Sevalith is minimalist and modern.

PAGE 2. Data page. Our opening quote is from Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory (c 1415-1471). It’s missing a few words – it forms part of a passage about how Mordred has become a popular ruler in Arthur’s absence, and it continues: “For then was the common voice among them that with Arthur was none other life but war and strife, and with sir Mordred was great joy and bliss.” The general tone of the original is “bunch of ingrates”.

PAGES 3-5. Betsy has dinner with the regents of Sevalith.

I think this is the first time we’ve seen Oublia and Oscura as anything other than generics, but they were named back in Marauders #13.

“The assassin who attacked you in the Avalon woods.” A Sevalith assassin attacked Excalibur last issue.

“What followed within the market.” Presumably the skirmish with the Furies in the Crooked Market at the end of last issue.

“The accusations of the Furies…” Excalibur figured out last issue that the Furies were using the term “friends of Mordred” to refer to mutants.

“Mordred’s greatest ally in the past has been his aunt, Morgan le Fay.” Correct; leaving aside actual myth, they’ve been allied in Marvel continuity since the 1950s Black Knight series.

“Our original home, in our original reality…” I think that’s new information – but the idea that worlds cycle in and out of Otherworld has come up plenty of times in “X of Swords” onwards.

“Avalon has been Sevalith’s enemy for ages.” Again, this comes from the Sevalith data page in Marauders #13.

“We make a courtier of Death.” Death, of the Horsemen of Apocalypse, has been stuck in Sevalith ever since being defeated by Storm there during “X of Swords”. We saw him as  Sevalith courtier previous in X of Swords: Destruction #1 and Wolverine vol 7 #12.

PAGE 6. Recap and credits.

PAGES 7-8. Gambit and Jim Jaspers.

As a loveable rogue, Gambit seems quite at home in the Crooked Market. Why he’s provoking someone as powerful as Jaspers like this is less obvious, but may he figures this is harmless trivia.

Jaspers’ dogs all seem to have human faces, which might be an indication of why paying for a trading license is a good idea.

PAGES 9-10. Jubilee and Roma.

As usual in this series, Shogo is much happier as a dragon in Otherworld, and Jubilee is vacillating about whether to let him stay there. There’s some rather eye-rolling stuff about how Shogo is extra bright and creative thanks to “being raised among you and your brilliant kind”, which really only makes sense if you think Roma’s flattering her.

I’m … not sure about Jubilee calling Shogo her “best friend”. Not sure that’s how many parents think of a small child who’s incapable of holding a conversation yet.

PAGE 11. Rictor, Shatterstar and Bei.

Dryador used to be a water domain until the Arakki forces marched in and destroyed it in X of Swords: Creation #1. Technically, it’s now an annexation of Amenth.

Bei was one of the Arakki champions in “X of Swords”; she married Cypher in issue #14 and is now part of the supporting cast of New Mutants. She speaks telepathically, hence her odd speech balloons.

Why are Rictor and co here? He says he’s there to see if anyone has taken up residence since Dryador was razed but… why? Bei strongly hints that she thinks Rictor’s actually interested in finding the doorway to Amenth to visit his beloved Apocalypse, which Rictor firmly denies. But again… why is he here?

PAGE 12. Captain Britain and Death.

Isca and Captain Britain fought (briefly) in issue #14. Again, she was one of the Arakki champions in “X of Swords”.

Storm fought Death in X-Force #14. Death was at least somewhat charming and flirtatious towards her in that issue, although that didn’t stop him from trying to kill her (as per the contest rules, to be fair). He comes across here as much more reasonable.

PAGE 13. Betsy leaves Sevalith.

The Diplomatic Ring is the part of Otherworld where Saturnyne’s Starlight Citadel and the assorted diplomatic activities take place, as named in X of Swords: Creation #1.

PAGE 14. Excalibur camp for the night.

It’s not entirely clear whether Shatterstar has formally joined the group, but he certainly seems to be addressed as part of the team here.

PAGE 15. Data page. A poster giving notice of the trial of the three remaining “Captain Britains” that Jamie Braddock created by artificially splitting timelines in issue #10. They haven’t been mentioned since issue #13 and I honestly thought we’d forgotten all about them. Saturnyne has never liked them.

Mandragon, named as the “master of Court Security”, is a 1980s Captain Britain villain who briefly seized Saturnyne’s role. Apparently he’s worked his way back into some sort of minor position of responsibility. He’s the guy giving the “All rise” speech at the start of the trial.

PAGE 16. The trial begins.

Saturnyne seems to have her hair styled like a lawyer’s wig, and she’s wearing bands around her neck.

Sitting behind Captain Britain are a whole bunch of other divergent Betsies. Immediately recognisable are the Violet Swan and Britannica Rex.

PAGES 17-19. Merlin attacks the court.

“You lost the right to move freely in this Citadel when you threatened the Majestrix.” Merlin threatened Saturnyne in issue #22.

Arthur showed up in Merlyn’s custody as an amnesiac in the epilogue to issue #22. He’s been missing since an indeterminate time before issue #1. Saturnyne says it’s been “years”. That’s probably overstating it in terms of Marvel time, but I don’t think he’s been seen since 2016.

The forces Arthur is leading seem to comprise a mixture of Sevalith, Furies and members of the Colony (the insectoid hivemind who live in Vesperidae).

“It’s one thing to play card games with confused invaders…” Merlyn is referring to the tarot theme of “X of Swords”. There’s some rather awkward work going on here to explain how an invading army can actually be a threat to Saturnyne, given how easily she dealt with the mutants in “X of Swords”. It’s not especially convincing, but Merlin seems to be suggesting that those tricks only worked on the outsiders because they didn’t know the rules, and Otherworld denizens would know how to get round them. In more prosaic terms, “X of Swords” was Kafkaesque, and but people who are actually from Otherworld know how to work the system and what its limits are.

PAGE 20-24. Captain Britain confronts Merlyn, and the big fight begins.

Arthur is clearly working on a version of events given to him by Merlyn. As best as I can follow, he seems to believe that Mordred’s mutant status explains the long-standing prophecy that Mordred will betray him: Mordred will ally himself with the invading mutants who have taken over Avalon and declared it mutant land.

It’s worth remembering here that Merlyn is basically right about the mutants being invaders and interlopers who took over Avalon and literally declared it mutant territory, despite the entire mutant population consisting of their own invading force. Nothing about that is especially sympathetic. Despite that, Arthur gets to claim that he’s “protect[ing] these places from invaders and champion[ing] their purity”. But in the logic of the story, they’re colonists and conquerors, not just immigrants.

Note that Mordred himself remains completely absent from this story – even though he is an active character, having only just appeared in the recent Black Knight miniseries.

“[F]orce them to stop, like you did in your mutant card game.” Again, X of Swords: Creation #1.

“Once upon a time, you agreed with me.” I’m not honestly sure what Merlyn’s referring to there. It might be part of the same Roma/Merlyn back story (explaining their current positions in Otherworld) which has been hinted at in recent issues.

PAGE 25. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: THE ONE TRUE KING RETURNS.

Bring on the comments

  1. Si says:

    I’m not reading this one, but I have been reading the Black Knight mini on Unlimited, which featured Mordred and Arthurian myth in general. It seemes to try to tie the various Merlins into a single character, and directly referenced Otherworld. Does this tie into that at all?

  2. Ben Johnston says:

    I’ve only been buying Excalibur for the sake of completionism, but I thought this issue was a major improvement. The first half is reasonably interesting character work of the sort this book’s been missing for some time. Then the second half is a fight scene that’s evidently kicking off the big finale of the run. And it’s got clear stakes and motivations for everyone involved! (Well, maybe not Merlyn’s. But his motivations are meant to be obscured.)

    Admittedly I don’t really care about these stakes because Otherworld really isn’t my cup of tea. But this is a lot more successful than all the Coven Akkaba stuff.

    As Paul notes, it’s obvious that Mordred is going to show up at some point, and possibly in a more sympathetic role than he’s usually given in the Arthurian myths. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Jubilee-as-parent material tie in with that.

  3. neutrino says:

    From the start, when they were functioning as Apocalypse’s lackeys, I thought there was a strong case that Excalibur were the villains.

  4. Evilgus says:

    Agree with Neutrino. I forgot how much of the early HOXPOX line was very morally grey, including Excalibur. Though they seemed to be played for fools by Apocalypse, and gradually falling under his thrall (bar Gambit).

    This line still does feel very messy. I understand the idea behind long term seeding of ideas, but there’s little coherence. When will we Betsy’s reaction to STRIKE’s resurrection? We keep being told the UK hates mutants – I don’t feel we’ve seen that on the page?

    I would love a British writer to take this on, make it offbeat. Give Spurrier a go?

  5. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    God, a Spurrier version of this book with Pete Wisdom would be lovely.

  6. Jester72MI says:

    “Oublia” and “Oscura”? “Forgotten” and “Hidden”? Awesome vampire names!

  7. Ceries says:

    I also initially thought Excalibur were supposed to be the bad guys, but after reading X-Corp I think I understand.

    The thing about Tini Howard is that she doesn’t think that imperialism and predatory capitalism is bad because they’re systems that cause needless suffering. To Tini Howard, the main problem with those systems is that the Wrong People are in charge. If the Right People were in charge, then they would be much less destructive and could be put to use constructively. This is the central thesis of Howard’s Excalibur and X-Corp runs: mutants can run the world better than humans using human systems, because they’re the Elect, the special people, the ubermenschen, if you will.

  8. Chris V says:

    I think that’s the central thesis of the entire Krakoa direction, to an extent.

    Xavier’s dream is outdated and unworkable.
    Humans and mutants can never coexist. One will always dominate and oppress the other.
    So, mutants needs to move away from human society and establish their own society.
    Anything that mutants do is considered to be part of the greater good because they are simply interested in their own survival.

    I was reading a review of Remender’s Uncanny Avengers online. I had mostly forgotten that series…Why? Because it was terrible and deserved to be forgotten.
    The Krakoa era reads oddly as one long rebuttal to Uncanny Avengers, surprisingly enough.
    -Havok’s speech which upset so many readers.
    -Rogue and Wanda’s ongoing, tedious argument about Havok’s speech which served as Remender attempting to validate his opinion to his critics.
    -The fact that Wanda (the great pretender!) was the one who defended Havok’s position.
    -During Axis, the X-Men were inverted and decided that Apocalypse’s ideology of mutant supremacy was valid.

  9. Joseph S. says:

    This was certainly better than the average issue of this book. I think it works better when the focus is in Otherworld, going nowhere near the real world. Though I do agree a Spurrier book would be much of an improvement. He’s already written Betsy in his X-Force book some years ago, and might actually be able to get some mileage out of stories with Wisdom set in the UK. Still, Howard really seems to want to develop mutant magic, so tying Mordred to mutants may, like with Apocalypse, help retcon this mutant magic system. At least it finally feels like the threads are being drawn together in time for #25 (though all the longer running books are reaching a crescendo during Inferno). Maybe a the end is in sight for Howard’s Excalibur.

  10. Chris V says:

    You know, there was Maha Yogi (is he still going by that name?) who impersonated Merlin for a number of years and was a near-immortal mutant.
    I wonder why he hasn’t shown up on Krakoa or been plugged in to this role rather than Mordred?
    It would seem to be a natural fit.

  11. CitizenBane says:

    @Ceries: The central conceit of the Krakoa era is the idea that militant ethnonationalism and unaccountable oligarchies are good when the “oppressed” do it. I don’t know if Hickman was intending to subvert this view, but a lot of writers and fans have taken it to heart.

    The most inexplicable example of this to me remains the scene where the Council sentences Sabretooth to total paralysis and sensory deprivation in a black vacuum, while Xavier cloaks this in language akin to progressive prison abolitionism. This is a worse torture than anything humans have ever come up with and it’s presented as a humane (ha ha) alternative to a prison cell.

  12. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Citizen Bane-

    Yeah it honestly baffles me how many people think Krakoa is some sort of paradise.

  13. Adam says:

    I think most of expected that the initial enthusiasm for Krakoa’s “utopia” would give way, as so many supposedly perfect societies do in fiction, to a reckoning with the darker truth. But the new setup has been so popular that here we are, no second shoe in sight.

    And yeah, I agree I’m not exactly comfortable with that, considering how big of a comeback these toxic ideologies have made in the last decade.

  14. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Dave Chappelle should move to Krakoa.

  15. neutrino says:

    The Maha Yogi has been retconned to being an altered human.

    Specific to Excalibur, Jamie cheated in the duel between Betsy and Brian and then broke his word, two things you should never do in a fairy tale realm. Excalibur went along it. Brian condemns his brother for murdering alt-Jubilee, then swears loyalty to him almost minutes later. Then they murdered their fellow mutants to enable Apocalypse’s gate. They’ve followed a brutal tyrant who’ll sacrifice anything for his own ends and a mad king who gives out life or death at his whim. Hardly in accordance with the Arthurian ideals Excalibur is supposed to represent.

  16. mastermahan says:

    The oddest part is who Tini Howard selects as the Right People. If you want to something about imperialism, Jamie Braddock is a great choice – he made a fortune enslaving and murdering people in Africa, and that was back when he was sane. In this series alone he’s an unstable murderer. Meanwhile, X-Corp gave board positions to Mastermind and Selene. One’s a vindictive attempted rapist at best, the other is one of the most evil mutants in history. Any systems that gives these guys power should be looked at with suspicion.

    And yet, Krakoa still presented as being in the right, its opponents all bigots and monsters. It’s bizarre.

  17. Taibak says:

    You know, for all the speculation about how long it will be before Krakoa implodes and how that was put on hold because the writers like the new setup, I can’t help but wonder if we’re asking the wrong question. I wouldn’t be surprised if Krakoa is going to stick around because Marvel Studios wants to do something with the concept.

    As for Excalibur, as much as I like seeing obscure Captain Britain concepts coming back, I still shudder when I hear about what’s happening in this book. It seems like this book is to Otherworld what Halle Berry is to Catwoman.

  18. MWayne says:

    Mastermahan’s comment made me think that maybe one day we will see the more evil mutants band together to take over Krakoa, in a story Marvel will call Civil Schism.
    I thought the latest issue of Excalibur was an improvement on what has come before, the story-telling a pinch more clear, but that’s a really low bar by which to judge. Still my least favorite ongoing title.

  19. Karl_H says:

    I hadn’t really considered it before, but it’s very out of character for the evil masterminds on Krakoa (especially on the Council) to be going along with things and not attempting to take the place over, just because they’ve been given clemency. Lord knows, that’s not how sociopaths given positions of power behave. Maybe Krakoa is sedating those urges.

  20. Chris V says:

    Well, we know that Krakoa is always listening to everything that goes on while on Krakoa. So, anyone plotting to take over could be stopped before it went anywhere.

    Sinister is more likely to sabotage everything rather than want to take over Krakoa, which he pretty much has been plotting to do since the beginning, I think.

    Exodus is a follower who will give in to Magneto’s wishes.

    Mystique is more of anarchistic. We know what she wants and she’d rather destroy Krakoa than take it over if they deny her.

    Shaw is basically in an alliance with Emma. He has his own objectives, but Emma keeps him in line.

    So, nobody on the Council is really a threat to usurp Xavier and Magneto’s rule for their own goals.
    However, Emma may be planning to take over to steer Krakoa better than Xavier and Magneto’s ego-trip.

    The biggest threat of that was Apocalypse, which is probably why he was originally given a seat as one of Krakoa’s ruling triumvirate, but he is gone now anyway.

    Besides which, Xavier and Magneto are the amoral masterminds now.

    There’s also the issue of The Five. If some rogue mutants wanted to conquer Krakoa for their own benefit, the Five may refuse to side with this faction, which would take away the promise of mutant resurrection. So, that probably makes them more docile and willing to accept Xavier and Magneto’s leadership.

  21. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Immortality is a hell of a way to keep most of them in line.

    And Sinister is just happy to be able to do whatever he wants with endless supplies.

  22. ASV says:

    Besides which, Xavier and Magneto are the amoral masterminds now.

    Yeah, it’s a reasonable read that the villains already have taken over Krakoa.

Leave a Reply