The X of Swords crossover event has gotten into the second half of the story. The first few issues for this second half of the crossover has still been about setting the stage for what the actual Champions Tournament between Krakoa and Arakko is about. But now that we got an awkward dinner between the X-Men and Saturnyne’s group we can hopefully move forward with the tournament. Let’s see if that is the case with Excalibur #14.
Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Phil Noto
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: While in Avalon’s Forgiven Forest in Otherworld, Jubilee gets a call from Captain Britain (Betsy Barddock). Captain Britain is only able to tell Jubilee that she is taking part in the first duel before having to cut their conversation short.
Elsewhere Captain Britain and Isca the Unbeaten have a tense conversation as they each size one each other up before their duel.
Later, King Jamie Braddock announces Captain Britain and Isca the Unbeaten as opponents for the first duel in a arena. The X-Men are shown to be in the crowd cheering on Captain Britain.
Captain Britain and Isca the Unbeaten begin their duel with Captain Britain getting an early advantage in the fight. Captain Britain starts calling Isca the Unbeaten out for never fighting someone who is a challenge before, implying that is why Isca has never lost. Isca the Unbeaten proves Captain Britain wrong by first shattering the Starlight Sword and then Captain Britain into bits, much to everyone’s shock.
Saturnyne awards the first point of the tournament to Arakko. She then tells her priestesses to clean up the spot where Captain Britain’s shattered remains are.
Captain Avalon yells at Saturnyne about what happened to his sister. The other X-Men hold Captain Avalon back so he doesn’t make the same mistake Wolverine did earlier when trying to kill Saturnyne.
Saturnyne then gives Cypher a tarot card as he is the next participant in the tournament. Saturnyne then as the priestesses grab both Cypher and Bei the Blood Moon (one of Arakko’s champions) to prepare them for their match.
As Bei the Blood Moon says that he is dead in her own language Cypher is surprised to the point of curiosity that he can’t understand what she is saying.
It is revealed in Bei the Blood Moon’s data file that she speaks using the DOOM NOTE, which gives her power but causes her voice only to be heard but unable to be translated by anyone.
As Cypher is getting dressed Magik shows up. Cypher says that he can’t fight and is afraid of dying permanently like Betsy possibly just did. Magik reveals that the preparation for Cypher’s duel seems to be different, like there is a dinner being prepared.
When the priestess open the door to the arena Cypher is shocked to see Bei the Blood Moon dressed as a bride and everyone else waiting for him as the groom.
While Cyphe is happy he doesn’t have to fight he is not sure hat to do. Saturnyne says that Cypher he has to make a vow. Cypher makes a vow that he says he will uphold for the duration of the challenge as he is not ready to die. Bei the Blood Moon makes an intense vow of how she will use their love to fight for Cypher, all of which Cypher and the others did not understand what she said.
Bei the Blood Moon takes off her veil. Cypher is happily surprise by Bei the Blood Moon’s beauty.
Suddenly the chapel is attacked by Jubilee and Shogo, who is looking for Captain Britain since she hasn’t heard back from her. The X-Men quickly rush out to try to calm Jubilee down.
Meanwhile Cypher notices Bei the Blood Moon is getting ready to fight Jubilee and Shogo. Cypher pleads with Bei the Blood Moon to not fight Shogo. Cypher’s words get through and Bei the Blood Moon pulls him in for a passionate kiss.
Saturnyne tells Wolverine and Apocalypse that she wants Jubilee’s head while Storm is trying to calm Jubilee down. Shogo fires a massive fireball at the chapel. Saturnyne easily crushes the fireball with her powers before it gets near anyone.
Shogo suddenly rushes down to the chapel at a speed that causes Jubilee to fall of him. Storm catches Jubilee before she falls.
Shogo then lands next to Saturnyne and becomes obedient to her. Saturnyne accepts Shogo as her new pet after what Jubilee did. Now with her own dragon Saturnyne tells everyone that they should all wrap up Cypher and Bei the Blood Moon’s reception. End of issue.
The Good: After fourteen chapters of build up for the start of the tournament it was refreshing that things really kicked off with two matches featured in Excalibur #14. It was the change of pace that X of Swords needed, especially after two chapters in Marauders that felt like X of Swords was spinning its wheels without movement. Though how far we moved along with this story is a bigger question.
One of the positives of Excalibur #14 was the fact we got a better idea of how the whole tournament that X of Swords is based around actually works. The two matches that we get with Captain Britain vs Isca the Unbeaten and Cypher vs Bei the Blood Moon shows that no match will be the same. Things will be different depending on the competitors fighting. Having that set-up gave greater importance to why we saw these two matches happen first.
This all helped to highlight how the champions on both the Krakoa and Arakko side were not chosen because of their fighting ability. Especially with Captain Britain and Cypher, both X-Men are opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of what they bring to the table. Creating this type of scenario where Saturnyne in her role of making all these matches creates an air of mystery of how things will progress as the tournament goes on.
The fight between Captain Britain and Isca the Unbeaten was a good tone setter as it reminded everyone what is at stake. Things aren’t simple in Otherworld, because we’ve seen in earlier chapters how if a mutant dies in Otherworld that they can’t be brought back to life through Cerebro as the same person. Captain Britain’s shocking death is a dark reminder to the X-Men of this fact.
Having both Captain Avalon and King Jamie Braddock there to see their sister die was also an interesting choice. Because as of now we don’t know how permanent any death suffered in X of Sword will be. Though Captain Avalon will certainly try to push Charles Xavier to resurrect his sister if she is not brought back by Saturnyne. How that impacts the future of Excalibur, where Betsy as Captain Britain has been the lead character, will be interesting to see.
The first match also further established how tough all the champions of Arakko are going to be. Isca the Unbeaten living up to her name by completely annihilating Captain Britain was a great showcase for her side. It creates greater concern for what the X-Men are up against and whichever one from Krakoa’s side that has to fight Isca the Unbeaten, if she is allowed to fight against.
Captain Britain’s death also raised the stakes for Cypher being the next X-Men up. Not being a fighter like the others you understand what Cypher would be so scared to be in the next match. Howard does a good job balancing Cypher’s fear with the curiosity he has when he heard Bei the Blood Moon speak using the DOOM NOTE. Having that sort of contrasting sides to how Cypher approached his match made his choices stick out more. There was a sense of honesty to his vow that had the balance of fear death and curiosity of what Bei the Blood Moon was saying.
Also given that Bei the Blood Moon speaks with the DOOM NOTE, which meant that no one understood what she was saying, made her a more compelling character. Having it so Bei the Blood Moon’s BOOM was translated for the reader what Bei the Blood Moon was a great choice. It gave us a look into Bei the Blood Moon that the characters in the story didn’t. Which made how Cypher reacted to her vow of love even more affective. Given how things went down it does create the question if Cypher and Bei the Blood Moon will be united throughout X of Swords and what that means for the story.
Through all of the events of Excalibur #14 Howard once again does a great job writing Saturnyne’s character. In all of the chapters of X of Swords thus far Saturnyne has been a standout with how she is positioned as the ultimate antagonist. She is wickedly uncaring as all she wants to see is good matches in what she has created. The way she speaks to the X-Men after Captain Britain is shattered and later with her pleasure of getting a pet dragon, Saturnyne is someone you just love to hate.
Phil Noto delivered solid artwork throughout this issue. The action in the fight between Captain Britain and Isca the Unbeaten was solid as he got over each of their skill level. At the same time he did a good job in giving Cypher a look of curiosity and fear as he had to figure out how he can come out of his challenge alive.
The Bad: While we do get two matches in the X of Swords tournament when Excalibur #14 concluded it didn’t feel like the story moved forward that much. The way everything was structured felt like we were in the same spot as before. Which does fall on the fact that we do rush through the first two matches of the tournament and aren’t allowed to sit on them. That wouldn’t be a bad thing if we didn’t have fourteen prior chapters of set-up for the tournament. It gets to the point where it does feel that we are now suddenly having these character rush through the story after we spent so much time having characters prepare for the tournament.
Which is a shame because actually showing us more of how Captain Avalon was dealing with his sisters death would’ve helped Excalibur #14 a lot. Especially since Betsy as Captain Britain has been the lead character of this series you would think there would be a page or two what her death means to the X-Men. Being thrusted right into the next thing makes Captain Britain’s death not have the impact that is expected.
Jubilee’s involvement in Excalibur #14 also came across as completely unnecessary. Not being one of the characters that has been directly involved in the X of Sword build made her look like a random character. Her anger over not getting a call back from Betsy makes you question why she was brought to Otherworld in the first place. More than anything Jubilee’s involvement just felt like filler content to get to the page count than something that will add to the X of Sword story. That would’ve been different if we saw Jubilee play a role in helping the build of X of Sword. But the fact is that wasn’t the case making her appearance be nothing more than filler.
It may just be the painted style that Noto uses but the artwork did not help Jubilee’s final scene. The anger Jubilee and Shogo had looked to light hearted for what that scene needed. There should have been more of a raw fury in the attacks. But that just did not appear to be the case from an art perspective.
Overall: Excalibur #14 finally kicked off the tournament that X of Swords has been building up to. The first two matches of the tournament did a good job in showing what the X-Men are up against, especially with the big loss they suffer in one of the matches. That said, when things were said and done it did not feel like Excalibur #14 moved the goal post forward very much. Hopefully the story development is better paced out as we are now entering the final chapters of the X of Swords story.
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