Review: Excalibur #13
In Excalibur #13, the “X of Swords” event is back in fetch quest mode, but writer Tini Howard, artist R.B. Silva, and colorist Nolan Woodard bring not one, but two swords to the party along with a lot of Braddock family drama. There’s betrayals, reversals, and it’s a merry old time like an Errol Flynn film with interdimensional doppelgangers and energy blasts. The rivalry between Betsy Braddock and Brian Braddock for the mantle of Captain Britain takes center stage in this issue, and Howard connects the role the Sword of Might plays in selecting a Captain Britain (If you pick it instead of the amulet, you’re too angry and impetuous for the position.) to the story of “X of Swords”. She and Silva show that even with Krakoa/the universe threatened, there is still time for petty disputes and self-doubt.
Other than the two opening issues (X of Swords: Creation, X-Factor #4) and Hellions, most of the chapters of “X of Swords” have followed a formula of a mutant taking possession of a sword that they’ll used to fight the Arakko aka Apocalypse’s kids and having to give up something or learn something about themselves in the issue (Or two for Wolverine) about their quest. Tini Howard and R.B. Silva adhere to this formula, but throw in an Otherworld twist and connect their story to the Captain Britain mythos as well as Opal Saturnyne’s machinations.
Whether or not you’ll like this comic depends on how invested you are in the Braddock family dynamic as well as the Captain Britain mythos in general even though Howard’s data pages do a decent job providing adequate background information on both the Captain Britain Corps and how one becomes Captain Britain. (It’s all a basically riff on the classic choice between Excalibur and its scabbard, which could protect the bearer from all wounds in some of the Arthurian legends.)
As she has done throughout her run on Excalibur, Howard does a wonderful job nailing the bickering sibling dynamic between Brian, Betsy, and Jamie Braddock. Before they end up swinging swords at members of the new Captain Britain Corps and hatching plots against Opal Saturnyne, Betsy and Brian spar a bit about the mantle of Captain Britain. Howard gives Brian a dry wit, and he makes some zingers about Betsy not even living in the U.K. as well as if she even wants the mantle. Betsy fires back with his hesitance to draw a sword even in a good cause like protecting the Earth from Arakko, and Brian’s relationship with combat and swords is a big throughline in Excalibur.
As far as art, R.B. Silva’s action scenes lack a sense of flow, but his facial expressions, cartooning, and use of grids help drive home the dynamic between the Braddocks with Jamie Braddock as a chaotic Omega mutant monarch wild card. He also gets a bit of visual comedy out of Betsy’s strategy to get the Starlight Sword from Saturnyne.
Nolan Woodard uses a pretty intense color palette whenever Betsy Braddock goes into action with her big-ass sword and contributes to the mystical vibe of everything. He also adds some interesting touches that make a Excalibur #13 richer storylike using a glowing, almost whiter-than-white color tone for Saturnyne that symbolizes that she is kind of above it all. Add Tini Howard’s foreboding narration for Betsy, and just like Ed Brisson and Rod Reis did with Douglas Ramsey in New Mutants #13, there’s a feeling that she might not make it out of the tournament despite her considerable skills.
I’m definitely on the fence as far as my opinion of Excalibur #13. It’s not my favorite issue of “X of Swords”, but it’s considerably better than, say Wolverine #6 and X-Force #13. Some highlights are Tini Howard and R.B. Silva’s portrayal of the relationship between Betsy, Brian, and Jamie Braddock as well as the legacy of the Captain Britain Corps, and Nolan Woodard’s heavy metal color palette. Some not-so-great parts are the battle between the Braddocks and the Excalibur doppelgangers even though the character designs are quite fun. It has all the trappings of a “mandatory fight scene”, and I felt less emotionally connected to it than when Betsy and Brian almost came to blows. With their deep personal connection to Otherworld, I’m interested to see how Captain Britain (Betsy Braddock) and the newly-minted Captain Avalon (Brian Braddock) fare in the “tournament” part of “X of Swords”.
Story: Tini Howard Art: RB Silva
Colors: Nolan Woodard Letters: Ariana Maher
Story: 7.8 Art: 7.2 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read
Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review