Review by Karl Verhoven
Much of Excalibur has concentrated on Otherworld, an interdimensional nexus to which the X-Men have access via their transportation gates. On some worlds accessible from there mutants are considered “witchbreed”, which is a way of connecting the modern day bigotry that’s sustained X-Men since the start with the persecution of old. As seen in Vol. 3, Tini Howard mixes this with a sense of something definitely wrong in Otherworld, and Merlin far from the well-intentioned helper to Captain Britain that he’s been in the past.
Were he not pictured on the cover, Doctor Doom’s arrival in the second chapter would surprise, but to begin with at least Howard has his arrogance and pomposity down well. “You and your retinue will face grave risk if you accompany me to Avalon”, he bellows, “And I wish to hear no distaste for my work”. That work is retrieving something the departing Morgaine Le Fey left behind, and in the course of tracking it down Howard has Doom drift too far into a snarling fantasy Heathcliff.
Fantasy trappings have been predominant from the start, with the superheroes one aspect of them, and as ever these are very decoratively drawn by Marcus To. Howard continues to introduce more fantasy enclaves and beings, to the point where she’s considerably increased Marvel’s fantasy contingent by the end of this volume, although she draws heavily on Alan Moore’s Captain Britain. To a greater or lesser extent they all drop on one side or other of a coming revolution, and that arrives approximately halfway through. As is sometimes the case, Howard isn’t the clearest storyteller, but that works in her favour here by adding to the suspense of not knowing where allegiances lie.
Along the way Howard’s treatment of a prominently heroic legend might not sit well with readers, nor will the fact that little is resolved by the end of this book, which proves to be just a springboard into Knights of X. Furthermore, several reintroduced characters seem to have little purpose. Balanced against that is a massive ambition to be applauded as she brings the plot and counter plot of Game of Thrones and its ilk to Marvel.