Even with a time jump, the latest issue of Excalibur is still pretty overstuffed with long building unresolved plotlines that just continue to be built upon. There are engaging really great action pieces and moments that are beautifully rendered by the art team that helps make the issue move along somewhat. That being said, a break from Otherworld at this point might really help this book find some new ground, and find more for most of the cast to actually do.
With the Gala over and Krakoa’s relationship with Britain having been ended, the Excalibur team has a lot of things to tackle as they make their return to Otherworld once more.
Right of the bat, Excalibur #22 is jam-packed with storylines and moments. There is a new discovery in Otherworld, issues with Merlyn to deal with, a whole lot of cleaning up and exploring the aftermath of Clan Akkaba’s actions in the Gala issue, and a whole lot of conversations.
Tini Howard clearly is enjoying really building up the foundations of Otherworld and all the various kingdoms and the political atmosphere of this realm. There are definitely a lot of gems and intriguing threads that are popping up within this series. At the same time, it’s starting to feel like there might be just too much going on.
If this was someone’s first issue of this book, or even their second or third, it’s really dense and full of plotlines that will be potentially hard to follow if you don’t have the context from most of the previous twenty-one issues that built this all up. There is a clear time jump from the last issue and some of the moments from that (Shatterstar) are not even addressed, but that clean space that a jump provides is quickly filled up with a barrel full of plotlines.
Long-form stories are great but it feels at times that this book has been building this one main plotline and its few branches for the entirety of its run. This isn’t a bad thing per se, but not only would it be nice to see this crew tackling more than just Otherworld and Clan Akkaba stuff it would also be nice to have some one-offs or smaller arcs to give more of the cast room to grow and do things. This book feels majorly like a Betsy Braddock solo with a supporting cast that helps things along at times.
Rictor probably has had the most stuff outside of Betsy because of his part with Apocalypse and his growth in that realm. Rogue had some moments but she’s gone off to the X-Men team book now. Jubilee has had very little to do for quite some time. Gambit gets some cool moments in this one, but they all revolve around finding ways to use his powers to solve any issue the team faces.
There is a strong fantasy RPG feeling around this book, which again isn’t bad, but at times it sure feels like that type where the players have spent far too long in the pub or town while the actual adventure/conclusion awaits them far ahead.
While the story might feel like it’s trotting along at a walking-style pace, it’s pretty to look at each issue.
There are some pretty awesome visuals from Marcus To, Erick Arciniega, and Ariana Maher many of them centering around the aforementioned uses of various characters’ extraordinary abilities. With bright popping colors making the various abilities and natural elements stand out as the issue is jam-packed with bold bombastic SFX on most pages. Arciniega does a great job of mixing the brighter colors into the backgrounds of the citadel while dimming things down for other parts of Otherworld and the dour sad pages surrounding Pete Wisdom’s situation.
While it all looks great, I do have to say a whole ton of Otherworld is kind of dismal and bleak and dark fantasy looking. Outside of the forested area, we saw far back in the first issues of the series, a whole lot of the areas were rocky open areas and cliffs. Very gorgeous colors and work done, but the landscape is definitely dismal in various regards.
There is quite a deep cut with the use of resurrection in this issue, but it fully begs so many questions about the haphazard resurrection system where apparently anyone can just skip the lines and bring people back as the plot demands it. The more this happens the more Mystique’s decision to try and burn this whole system down is harder to fight against.
Excalibur #22 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.