It’s The Final Countdown, Maybe? Reviewing ‘Excalibur’ #24

Stories that are told in a longer format are bound to have ebbs and flows when it comes to the audience’s level of interest. It’s becoming more common for regular running comic book series tend to do longer form storylines (broken into arcs but all tied to one overarching game plan story), with mixed results. Some will be remembered fondly or become classics, others will be forgotten over time or be something that fandom pokes at for years/decades to come.

Excalibur is a series that probably falls somewhere in the middle, but we will not know for sure till it reaches whatever its final endgame might be.

With this twenty-fourth issue, that endgame seems to be potentially moving closer. After several issues that have sort of bounced around (the series has been somewhat hit and miss since taking part in the X of Swords and Hellfire Gala events), a number of brewing plotlines from the past two years are starting to actually come to the forefront in meaningful ways.

Tini Howard follows up a very well-written issue that starred Doctor Doom (who she writes fantastically) with one that focuses far more on the deteriorating situation in Otherworld between the ten kingdoms and the ground that mutant-kind gained following X of Swords. It’s been clear just how into magic and the various realms Howard is since these aspects have been through the whole series, and here she really dives in further and brings the whole realm to war. Betsy is still the main character here and is written quite well and gets to bounce off a lot of varied personalities and comes out on topmost of the time.

There are some fun moments with the return of Death and the Sevatlith vampires, and it was really heartening to see how firmly her family and Excalibur stand beside Captain Britain at this moment. This issue somewhat rectified the issue that previous ones had where the rest of the cast outside of Rictor felt like they could be replaced by any other character and not change the story very much. We get a solid moment with Roma and Jubilee about Shogo and his place in Otherworld as well as some interesting moments with Rictor and Shatterstar and Bei the Bloodmoon that seemed to move Rictor forward some after :–I A I–: (Apocalypse) departure. There is even some Gambit being Gambit bits near the beginning.

What has remained true for so much of this run is just how utterly gorgeous and tremendous the work of Marcus To and Erick Arciniega are bringing to the table. Otherworld is such a varied place, and they make it seem easy to just be able to hop from place to place and make them all look stunning and nothing alike. Some issues have had them only bringing some of the most dismal-looking plain areas of the land to life (and doing it amazingly), but this one brings in the spooky and moody realm of Sevatlith alongside the Citadel and the areas around it where the war kicks off.

Every background and character is rendered beautifully, so much emotion captured upon the faces of these characters. Paired up with the colors of Arciniega who can make the rapid leap from darker muted shadowed panels to bright shiny hopeful ones as if it’s nothing at all. This is very important because we know that each of the kingdoms is very different within Otherworld, and visually they are with architecture and the like, but the colors sell it even more.

There is a sense of dread and fear that permeates from the Sevatlith pages, while the Crooke Market has a more insidious capitalistic brightness to it. Roma’s realm is colorful and open and classic and freeing in its feeling and the Citadel is bright and shiny and stinks of wealth and bureaucratic power. We don’t have to be told any of these things through captions or dialogue, as the art makes this abundantly clear. Comic books are a visual medium and the most powerful artwork lays everything out for the audience and tells them everything they really need to know, while the dialogue and other parts of the story fills in the gaps.

This applies fully to the wonderful lettering work that Ariana Maher always brings to the table. Just in the dialogue alone, there are little flares and differences to the type of bubbles for several characters, showing both the variety in the realms they come from but also just how different characters will ‘sound’ different. Another aspect of hearing things in this medium is the SFX throughout the issues.

Maher gives SFX such life and personality, no two SFX being exactly alike. Even when two of them might look similar, like the two used in the fight panels between Betsy and Death, have their own little flares and slight differences that make them stand apart.

Excalibur #24 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.

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