Writer: Tini Howard
Art: Marcus To, Erick Arciniega, VC’s Ariana Maher, Tom Muller, Matthew Wilson, and Mahmud Asrar
Publisher: MARVEL COMICS
Release Date: June 9th, 2021
EXCALIBUR has been up to their eyeballs in bizarre and supernatural mutant affairs. They’ve had to fend off the Coven of Akkaba while simultaneously defending the Captain Britain seat. Additionally, they’ve had to help stop a war against Otherworld that ended with Apocalypse leaving permanently. However, things are looking up. Captain Britain is back! And with Captain Britain’s return to an altered world, this one is looking to be not so nice. Let’s dive into EXCALIBUR #21 to see what some deem as an Earth-shattering HELLFIRE GALA issue that will change Krakoan diplomacy forever.
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As the HELLFIRE GALA continues in this week’s EXCALIBUR #21 by Tini Howard, we see a disgruntled Rictor, an alliance broken, and a surprising death that leads to an interesting new direction with the Coven Akkaba. However, as you’ll see in this week’s X-MEN, EXCALIBUR #21 is more of a springboard for what’s to come as the REIGN OF X continues. It appears as though we are introduced to two new possible team members and the resurgence of an old evil. But otherwise, this issue lacked its normal excitement and flare until the last 7-8 pages.
Howard used this issue to skim over too many moving pieces as if this was the cliff notes of what’s recently happened to point readers forward while sprinkling in future narrative cues. Plus, the first two-thirds of the issue was heavily saturated with dialogue that was ultimately a fight between Captain Britain and Reuben Brousseau. I understand that vast dialogue is oftentimes required to tell a story. However, the conversations severely handcuffed Marcus To and his art team from “showing” readers the story.
Additionally, the reemergence of Shatterstar bloodied in the middle of the HELLFIRE GALA was simply weird. What was its objective? Was it on purpose and a part of his outfit? If so, I severely hope that never becomes a style in our mainstream fashion. Plus, this is the second issue in which the writers are painting Nightcrawler in a drunken stooper. We will have to wait and see his perspective in the WAY OF X issue to affirm this, however, I wonder the reason behind his drunkenness?
The true power of Marcus To’s art and illustrations weren’t on display until the issue began to come to a close. Nonetheless, the more characters that squeezed into his panels at the GALA, the less character detail was present. Furthermore, To’s style proceeds with sharper edges and less of a natural, more realistic appearance. So, it’s that same style that adds to the muddied character backgrounds and lack of definition in overly complicated scenes such as a GALA.
Readers, we don’t get much in this week’s EXCALIBUR and there is very little to hang on to. If the HELLFIRE GALA is supposed to be the main focus, I feel like it missed the mark there. If the EXCALIBUR team was meant to be the focus, that premise shined through more as a mere summary of what’s to come in the future of the title along with some mild confusion.
Fans, I want to like this series but it’s just getting harder and harder to follow as well as the lack of explosive and exciting narrative plot threads. Maybe the book needs a solid change-up? Maybe it needs a shake-up or a new creative team like the main X-MEN book? However, for an issue meant to propel and excite readers moving forward, it seemed to have the opposite effect on this reviewer.