An Adventure Beyond Any Measure: Reviewing ‘Knights Of X’
by Scott Redmond
Blending swords/sorcery and the world of mutants is a winning formula for ‘Knights of X’ which stands as an entertaining, emotional, colorful, and beautiful series that adds so much to the tapestry that is this era of X-Men. This chapter of the Otherworld story might be over, but the Captain Britain saga is far from over.
Gather your swords, grab the potions, and find the snazziest and most protective set of armor because it’s time to go on a quest. The group formerly known as Excalibur has returned and is ready to take back Otherworld from a group that hates and fears them.
In Excalibur, Tini Howard introduced a lot of plotlines through those twenty-six issues and the big X Of Swords event to fully set up Otherworld for the modern era. Often it wasn’t fully clear where all those plotlines might go or whether they would be addressed but, in the end, it all paid off as they led right into this new title. As the saying goes, Excalibur walked so that Knights of X could run.
Since the previous title took care of all the setup, this one can just dive right into the action and show us what has happened since Merlyn and his knight Arthur, and their allies wrested the throne of Otherworld from Saturnyne and began to hunt down “witch breed” (aka mutants). It’s not a pretty picture. Setting us up with the Fury doing their best Sentinel impression hunting down a young mutant really sets the tone for the story and shows how dire the stakes truly are. Swords & sorcery is a great companion to the X-Men and their stories, sprinkling in familiar characters and concepts (both fantasy and more X-Men/Mutant-centric ones) to create a really enjoyable recipe.
This book has a massive cast between the knights of the title and their allies and foes, but Howard seamlessly juggles it all. Not only do all the characters get their moments, but even bouncing rapidly from one setting to another doesn’t feel off-putting in any way. There are moments here where Gambit, who leads a group of Knights to save Jim Jaspers despite how much they dislike Jaspers, steps up in a huge way and has some big moments. Those who followed my Excalibur reviews will potentially recall that I have never been a huge Gambit fan (not till the Rogue and Gambit miniseries from years ago) and Howard not only makes me like him (his bouncing off Meggan was so great) but I felt sad when I thought we lost him.
There is tons that happens within the pages of this series, but what will be the most rightfully talked about moment for years to come was when Betsy Braddock and Rachel Grey-Summers finally kissed. Howard was seeding this relationship through much of Excalibur and the first three issues of this series, and to see it finally clearly stated how they feel sealed with a kiss is a tremendous moment. Comic books are an uphill battle for representation for the LGBTQIA+ community, and so many other marginalized groups sadly, so to see a creator be able to pay this off and keep pushing till they can make it happen is a powerful moment.
All of this comes together so beautifully on the page from Bob Quinn and Erick Arciniega. I have to say, Quinn was truly made for this book as his work holds all the right fantastical energy necessary as well as perfectly captures every bit of action. The action is fluid while the character moments are clear and distinct as the emotional elements are nailed. There is often a flurry of things happening on every single page, but it feels smooth and detailed, and while it might feel overwhelming, as it should with some of the battles, it’s always in a good way that is perfect for the story. There is never a moment where keeping track of what is going on is unclear or hard to follow.
Quinn’s level of detail and attention ensures that every bit of space is used and needs to be taken in, while also making great paneling choices. In the Siege Perilous/Mercator we see Rictor reaching for the hand of –|A|– (who remains fully unseen) only for the next page to turn that hand grab into that of Meggan reaching for the Siege-created image of Brian Braddock. Not to mention the glorious colorful amazing nature of the Betsy and Rachel kiss page, butterflies and all.
There is inherent darkness and heavy use of blacks in many places as Merlyn’s darkness continues to take hold everywhere, which is paired so well with the really bright popping but still darkened colors that Arciniega brings to the affair. Even with that darkness that is always present each of the realms of Otherworld that we visit here has its own energy and flavor, thanks not just to the visual differences but also to the use of different color palettes for each area. The Lavender Keep is brighter as it’s where the heroes are holed up while the Crooked Market is a bit drabber compared to the darkness and oranges of the Lunatic Citadel or the brighter and cooler tones of the Floating Kingdom of Roma.
There is a notable change in the color scheme once the story reaches the point of the heroes ending their quest and succeeding, as things take on a bit brighter overall feeling. Merlyn’s reign of terror is over, and Otherworld appears to react in its own way as the realms seem more welcoming and clearer thanks to the colors that Arciniega brings in these moments.
Rounding out the great team is the incomparable Ariana Maher who brings such a distinct, fun, and creative energy to any lettering work. While the art and colors have their own energy and personality, so too do the letters. Whether talking caption boxes or dialogue bubbles or the variety of SFX, they are all colorful and distinct with changes made that make them stand out more or make them distinct for different characters on the page. The use of sentence case is one of my favorite things because it makes the dialogue feel more normal or moderate tone so that when it gets bigger in caps or shrinks in size, we can easily tell what the tone or volume is meant to be.
Also, Maher is guaranteed to make moments more fun or stand out more with inspired bubble choices, such as having Gambit scream “Gyyaaahhh” when ‘stabbed’ by Betsy’s sword and the bubble molding to the shape of the words for an epic moment. Sure, that could have just been placed within a normal style speech bubble, but where is the fun and adventure in that? When on an epic quest, one should always go all out.
Knights Of X is now available in a collected format from Marvel Comics.