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Excalibur #16 Charts A New Course Ahead

Excalibur #16 is written by Tini Howard, drawn by Marcus To, colored by Erick Arciniega, lettered by VC’s Ariana Maher, with designs by Tom Muller, and published by Marvel Comics. The main cover is by Mahmud Asrar and Matthew Wilson.

**Spoilers For X Of Swords and Excalibur #16 Ahead**

A Rocky Return

After the groundbreaking event that was X Of Swords, the Reign Of X has begun across the X-titles, and Excalibur is at the center of that. The biggest loss from the event was the apparent death of our still-fairly-new Captain Britain, Betsy Braddock. With her death occurring in Otherworld, her resurrection won’t be as simple as usual, as the potential consequences are horrifyingly dangerous, given what happened to Rockslide in the event.

Excalibur #16-Marvel Comics(2020)
Excalibur #16-Marvel Comics(2020)

Everybody is pretty bummed out, unsurprisingly so given how close they are to Betsy. We get some adorable time with Rogue and Gambit together, which I am always a sucker for. Whereas Rictor especially is hit hard by the loss of Apocalypse, his mentor and friend, even though he left of his own volition. There’s day drinking and even Fred gets in on it, still having some feelings remaining for Betsy after Age Of X-Man it seems. Folks are uncertain of the future and rely on each other to get through, making this a very appropriate comic for the end of 2020.

Where In The World Is Betsy Braddock?

Unwilling to take Betsy’s death as certain, Rogue and the gang push further into the circumstances of her death, courting X-Factor in the process. Tini and Marcus do a great job emulating Leah Williams and David Baldeon’s team, making Excalibur #16 feel like a communal issue with slightly more significance. X-Factor still performs their function, but they don’t arrive at the answer that Rogue and the team are looking for. Alas, poor Betsy was lost via magic, which is something they just don’t know enough about.

Excalibur #16-Marvel Comics(2020)
Excalibur #16-Marvel Comics(2020)

The Excalibur team realizing that they themselves are the only ones capable of handling this situation sets us forward on our path, and the hunt for Betsy Braddock begins in earnest. Finding Betsy isn’t what I think is interesting here, but more where it leaves the team and what they have to do next. They’re leader-less and at their lowest point, but they have to find a way to pull together and forge ahead. Excalibur just feels like more of a team book as a result.

Rictor’s Evolution

Rictor’s trajectory from his entrance to the series to now has been fairly incredible. He joined the team due to Apocalypse helping him control his powers, and even though their relationship seemed sketchy at times, he ultimately imparted his mission to Rictor. Looking at Apocalypse through the eyes of someone who is motivated by him, who feels like he was a great unifier of mutants, and in some ways actually was, is so fascinating. Coming off the most captivating Apocalypse story ever told, the legacy that he leaves behind is similarly interesting. The sheer growth that Rictor makes, inheriting the philosophies of mutant magic that Apocalypse was trying to bring to their people. If I had to pick one character who isn’t Betsy to have my eye on especially going forward, it’s Rictor.

Where Do We Go From Excalibur #16?

“Back to basics” is a stupid approach in comics that never actually works. Luckily that’s not what’s happening here. Sure, there are similarities from the old Excalibur book and this one, but it only informs the lore and storytelling on display. I don’t feel like we’re taking Excalibur back to square one, but rather it’s being reinvigorated by being pointed in a new direction. The team’s relationship with magic is changing, becoming more profound, and that’s the most exciting thing I could ever hope for here.

Excalibur #16-Marvel Comics(2020)
Excalibur #16-Marvel Comics(2020)

The Visual Storytelling Of Excalibur #16

Marcus To and Erick Arciniega are back together and in fine form to say the least. Marcus’ work is always incredibly clean yet sharp, with gorgeous lines that highlight the characters’ features. There is power in the way he renders expressions, able to convey every conversation without the need for scripting even, though I’m delighted to have it. Erick only enhances the work of Marcus, as they’ve been a dream team for much of this run so far, complementing each other well. He captures warmth excellently when it’s needed, but is equally capable of bringing forth an atmosphere that FEELS magical. May they see many more issues together. Ariana Maher, my personal favorite letterer at Marvel these days, is bringing the heat too. The whimsical feel when Meggan is singing is delightful, and you can see the effort brought to every issue she works on, elevating the lettering to a level that is beyond just blending into the book. Some say good lettering shouldn’t be noticed, but the truth is good lettering only lifts a story up.

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