Betsy meets Iska the Unbeaten in battle, for the first real fight of "X of Swords."
A lot happened in this issue, and it’s difficult to talk about it all without crossing into some major spoilers. But I think that it is telling that we are over halfway through the “X of Swords” event and we’ve only just had our first official fight. And that fight lasted all of a page and a half, before sprinting on to Doug’s impromptu wedding to Bei.
Tini Howard might not be a terrible writer, but she has absolutely no idea how to write Betsy Braddock. There’s no there there, no solid ground in the muddled mental landscape of the new Captain Britain. She has no real personality, no drive beyond the desire to ‘prove herself’ and that’s a terrible spot for a character as nuanced and layered as Betsy to be in. What’s worse is that, if the current trend continues, this situation likely won’t improve.
I have absolutely no idea why Tini Howard was given this group of characters to write. She can’t get Jubilee, Betsy, Rogue or Gambit (the latter two don’t appear at all in this issue) to ever sound like themselves. Her plotting is either incomprehensible, treacly, slow, or far too rushed. This entire series has been a brutal slog for long-term fans. But when she’s writing Magik, Cable, or Doug, the dialogue snaps, crackles and pops. Howard might not be a uniformly terrible writer, but she was definitely assigned the wrong book.
The plot of this issue is alternately rushed or unbearably slow. Certain elements make little to no sense. But once you get beyond your inevitable frustration over Betsy’s fight, the story picks up and even manages to become interesting.
In large part, whatever enjoyment that can be wrung from this issue is due to the art. Phil Noto’s work is never less than gorgeous, and these pages are no exception. His faces (especially those of the women) are individual and expressive — a trait which is, unfortunately, perishingly rare among modern comic artists. His intimate scenes are touching and impactful and his action scenes are splashy and fun. It’s lovely work all around.
In short, this issue was…a mixed bag, today the least. The plot moves forward, but at the expense of character and storytelling. But at least the book is beautiful to look at.
In this book, unbalanced, unsatisfactory storytelling is partially ballasted by beautiful art.
Excalibur #14: Betsy Deserves Better
Writing - 6/10
Storyline - 7/10
Art - 9.5/10
Color - 9/10
Cover Art - 9/10
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