After dealing with trying to juggle far too many plotlines with its last issue, Excalibur gets back on track thanks to the help of the caped and metal armored fan-favorite character out of Latveria. Month after month the art team nails it and deserves far more recognition for the truly amazing worlds and images they are crafting.
If there is one truth that one can take to heart about Marvel Comics it is this: adding a little Doom always makes everything better. The Latverian Doctor has been all over the Marvel Universe as of late, currently a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy team, including quite a few memorable appearances in some X-Men related books. The latest of which is of course this here issue of Excalibur.
This series has been focused quite a bit on some really long drawn-out plotlines, and while this one still has some ties to those plots it’s a bit more fun and set apart from what we’ve been seeing. Doom wants to go to Otherworld to collect something of Morgan Le Fey’s, and Excalibur takes on the role of his guide (not that Doom needs nor wants a guide).
Right off the bat, Tini Howard writes a great Doctor Doom. All the hallmark personality bits that one expects from Doom are on display as he bounces well off Betsy and her team. This issue taking a step to the side of the plot lines is a refreshing moment as it often feels like the long-form nature of the book holds it back from what it could be. Doom’s presence and the overall plot of the issue show what the book could be if it took more deviations like this.
Unfortunately, the other members of this team mostly feel like they are just along for the ride, having some dialogue moments or small moments that honestly could be given to any character. Sure Betsy is Captain Britain and this book centers on Otherworld, but the rest of the cast is some really great characters that could do and deserve so much more. Meggan is a nice addition and has some nice moments, hopefully, she doesn’t end up semi trapped in place like some of the others.
Juggling a large cast is hard, for sure and I don’t begrudge Howard the story she wants to be telling. It would just be really great to see Jubilee and Gambit and even Rictor take even more spotlight and do something bigger or more fitting/specific to who and what they are.
Excalibur is a series that I like and I really enjoy Howard’s work, there are just some things that I wish there was more time given to, namely the rest of the cast, that could take the book in new fun directions. Wrapping some number of the ton of bouncing plotlines, many of which only get addressed every other issue or so, might help. With what looks to be a potential line shift or relaunch in the X-Line some of this might well be on the way.
What Marcus To and Erick Arciniega are doing on this book is just truly great, and more people need to take notice of the beautiful and engaging, and solid work they are doing on this book. All of the characters look amazing and their costumes just are on point, but really the landscapes and detail in all the work is something to fully take note about. No matter the space the world is as bright and colorful or as dark and dulled as it needs to be, Arciniega shifting effortlessly between the variety of realms and palettes.
Also, a special shout out to the really neat opening page dream sequence recap page, that shows off a number of the characters and plots of the previous issues. It’s a truly neat way to slip in a bit of a recap in a very different way.
To is just like a lot of other current artists, in the fact that he is wonderfully expanding the way panels are set up in these issues. Bringing in a lot of close-up panels while stacking panels upon one another or allowing action to stretch beyond the panel confines. Standard panels have their place and are classic for a reason, but there is just something far more creatively fulfilling about stretching outside the box.
If one sees Ariana Maher’s name in the credits, they know they are in for a lettering treat. Easily one of the greats on a stellar rise through the ranks, bringing great varied life to each and every book. All the conversations just flow around easily, while all the little fun and powerful SFX just brings even more life. One can’t help but smile to see the ‘Pafs’ that pop up as Jubilee uses her powers to help the team move forward.
Excalibur #23 is now on sale in print or digitally from Marvel Comics.