Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Marcus To
Color Artist: Erick Arciniega
Cover Artists: Mahmud Asrar & Matthew Wilson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
After X of Swords, then the Hellfire Gala, and finally bringing back Betsy Braddock from the brink, the Excalibur team is back together. Their problems haven’t stopped piling up since then, and now it’s only getting bigger. Excalibur #23 shows how the team will survive a journey into Otherworld with the one and only Dr. Doom.
So, Excalibur has been a bit of a hit-or-miss X-title. There have been issues that are fine, some that are good, some that are awful, and some that are just meh. This issue goes right between fine and good. And it’s all thanks to Doctor Doom himself. He’s the spice that keeps this comic book issue alive.
From the beginning, Dr. Doom arrives on Braddock Isle for passage to Otherworld since he has business with Morgan Le Fey. And if Captain Britain and Excalibur won’t help him, he’s willing to use some random mutant baby as his means to go through the gates if necessary. I’m not kidding, check out the preview images. It’s also a little call-back to the Way of X series.
Betsy agrees to grant him passage with the Excalibur team and escorts him through Otherworld to his true destination. From there, shenanigans and hilarity ensue while opening the door to a storyline about King Arthur. The irony about this entire comic is that Dr. Doom is a character who’d normally fit in with Otherworld, Avalon, and all that with his armor, grandiloquent vocabulary, etc. In fact, he’s visited Avalon numerous times in past comics, notably the Iron Man: Doomquest story. However, now he doesn’t seem to fit in anymore and it’s weird.
The biggest star in this comic is Dr. Doom, specifically his reactions to the changes in Otherworld, and his interactions with Captain Britain. The rest of the Excalibur team take a huge back seat to Doom and Captain Britain and have to keep themselves busy while the pair advance the story. Despite the criticisms levied at Tini Howard’s writing, Dr. Doom is a character she gets right in terms of characterization, for the most part. On top of all that, even he can’t stand Otherworld.
Eventually, the action starts and things get heated for a little bit, but it’s over as quickly as it started. However, there are some neat developments in Excalibur regarding a few characters that I’ll get into in the Spoilers section.
Throughout the comic, Dr. Doom is after Morgan Le Fey’s castle for some reason. The comic never states why he wants it or what exactly he wants inside it. And for some reason Tini Howard writes several characters in the comic make bad ex-girlfriend jokes about Dr. Doom like, “Your ex-girl won’t answer your call, Victor?” from Betsy. Which is where her writing flaws show in her forced attempts at humor. Thankfully there’s not too many, and Dr. Doom’s story is concluded by the end. My personal theory is this is setup for the upcoming Darkhold series featuring Dr. Doom and the Scarlet Witch.
The King Arthur storyline also gets some development concerning Arthur and Mordred. At the end of the story, Doom provides some scrying water to Betsy as a reward for granting him safe passage in Otherworld. Back on Braddock Isle, Betsy and Meggan, the elvish mutant and wife of her brother the original Captain Britain, talk and Meggan shares her theory that maybe, just maybe, Mordred is a mutant.
Excalibur #23 kicks off another adventure for the Excalibur team as they venture back into Otherworld with Dr. Doom. The star of this comic is Dr. Doom, his reactions to Otherworld and his interactions with Captain Britain steal the show every time. The story with Doom does feel concluded by the end, meanwhile the comic builds up some mystery and intrigue to prepare the book for a new Arthurian storyline.