Captain Britain and Excalibur storm the gates of the Starlight Citadel in the rousing Excalibur #11.
Still cut off from Krakoa and en route to their main objective, Betsy Braddock and her team seek to rescue the captured Jubilee and dragon-form Shogo, who was shot out of the sky thanks to the white priestesses of Opal Luna Saturnyne.
Written by Tini Howard
Art by Marcus To and Erick Arciniega
Lettering by Ariana Maher
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
But while this main plot gives the issue a nice drive and direction, writer Tini Howard also delivers more world-class worldbuilding for the new team, not to mention a few highly effective emotional turns for members Jubilee and Rictor.
Pair this heart with the continually impressive and expressive artwork by Marcus To and Erick Arciniega and you have another issue that proves Excalibur to be a standout 'Dawn of X' effort.
Though the time between the tenth and eleventh issue saps a little of the energy from the ongoing quest toward the Starlight Citadel, writer Tini Howard wastes little time injecting drive into issue #11. Opening with a splashy showdown between the team and the "green" priestesses of Saturnyne, Howard and the art team use the fight to reestablish the stakes and objective through the dialogue and another cannily deployed data page.
This, to me, is a crystallized example of how Excalibur keeps working, both as an ongoing and single-issue comic experience. By resetting the main drives of the team at the moment (rescuing Jubilee and Shogo, getting to the Citadel, etc, etc) readers are instantly reoriented as to the crux of the series. Howard then doubles down on this reorientation, by slicing the action with a data page, effectively using it as an act break. Howard also is the unsung hero of these pages, tersely laying out more 'rules' of mutant magic or lore with tight sections of short stories, usually breaking with a straight-up punchline or affecting moment. It's a nice bit of synchronicity between the main action and the data pages, something I feel that some of the other main titles still struggle with.
And better still, Howard is still delivering really solid character work/development throughout here as well. Led by their driven new Captain Britain, each member of the cast, particularly Jubilee and Rictor here in issue #11, get ample time in the spotlight.
For some, it's heartfelt, like the case of Jubilee, who is largely 'off-screen' most of the issue, confined to a bleak, dark tree-cell. Though isolated, Howard and the art team fully sell her worry and anger at being kept from her injured Changeling son through some highly emotive single panels of her anguish.
But for others, it's damning, like poor, doomed Rictor, who seemingly sacrifices himself (under heavy persuasion from :-A-: (otherwise known as Apocalypse)) to be the "blood in the soil" for the Kraokan gate in Otherworld. Howard has been teasing this for a bit, but that doesn't stop her and the art team fully selling the scene, telegraphing that it might be Betsy who was going to pull the lone hero feint, pushing them through first and then standing against Saturnyne alone. But alas, their druid fails his saving roll and the circle closes between his and :-A-:'s relationship.
Artists Marcus To and Erick Arciniega also continue to weave together well gripping action and emotive character work. While a lot of their best emotional work is detailed in the scenes above, their action in issue #11 becomes a lot more expressive as well. From the opening fight to their storming of the Starlight Citadel (coming up from under the mountains it surrounds and popping up to make the next entry point), To and Arciniega bring a real life to the action, standing well visually with Howard's more heartfelt script this time around.
Though if I was to have one complaint, it would be that the lengthy flashback this issue's middle has, showing :-A-:'s first coven of mutant magicians the Externals, doesn't pop nearly as much visually as the rest of the issue that surrounds it. Though To's pencils fully sell the theatricality and headiness of the scene, the lighting and sepia-toned colors the scene takes on makes it look a bit drab compared to the bright and highly kinetic scenes in the present.
But not even a drab flashback can stifle the power and fun of Excalibur #11. Simultaneously delivering a satisfying new entry for longtime readers and a thrilling, important feeling single issue for those wondering what the fuss is about, Excalibur #11 continues the title's Claremont-esque fun, weirdness, and heart.