Facing Dragons in 'Excalibur' #3
Spoiler alert! Read through a full analysis of today's new Dawn of X issue!
Warning! This article contains spoilers for today's EXCALIBUR #3, so read on at your own risk, True Believers!
In the new era for mutants, EXCALIBUR may be the only book that has both figurative dragons and a literal dragon. Writer Tini Howard and artist Marcus To carried that idea to fruition in this week’s EXCALIBUR #3 by reintroducing us to Julio Esteban Richter, AKA Rictor.
This is the first time we’ve seen Rictor since HOUSE OF X and POWERS OF X changed the game by establishing a new mutant nation of Krakoa. However, Rictor has been denied a place in the mutant paradise because of his out-of-control powers. When we first see him in this issue, Rictor can’t even step on the ground without triggering an Earthquake.
Rictor’s personal dragon, or inner demon, is his severe depression. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Rictor in such a state. During X-FACTOR (2005) #1-2, Rictor was suicidal and severely depressed after he lost his powers during M-Day. He eventually found a new purpose in life alongside X-Factor and he even reignited his relationship with Shatterstar. However, ICEMAN (2017) #9 established that Rictor and Shatterstar are currently separated. Or “on a break,” as Rictor put it. Regardless of the reason, Rictor is alone at a time when he badly needs his surrogate family back in his life.
Rictor doesn’t actually have any strong personal ties to the new Excalibur team. Aside from the time Betsy Braddock and Jubilee helped save his life during X-TINCTION AGENDA, they are practically strangers to him. Instead, it’s Apocalypse who reaches out to Rictor and brings him back into the fold. It would have been an uncharacteristic move of charity, if EXCALIBUR #3 hadn’t spelled out Apocalypse’s motive. Apocalypse wants to connect Krakoa with the magical realm, Otherworld, and he needs someone with complete control over the Earth’s surface to do it. That’s where Rictor comes in, whether he realizes it or not.
Meanwhile in Otherworld, Shogo has become an actual dragon, as first seen on the final page of EXCALIBUR #2. As explained by Betsy, this isn’t the result of a previously unknown mutant power. Instead, Shogo’s ability to choose his own form is simply because Otherworld gives human babies powers that they don’t possess in their own realm. Shogo’s cognitive abilities also seem to be much higher in his current form, as he’s able to spy on Morgan le Fay for Captain Britain and he also offers to fly Betsy, Gambit, and Jubilee to Morgan’s castle for a confrontation.
If Betsy was expecting a quick escape with her enslaved brother, Brian Braddock, then that hope was dashed. While Brian had enough strength to help Betsy escape in EXCALIBUR #1, he attacks her with a frightening ferociousness in this issue. Brian is only briefly shaken from his transformed state at the mention that his brother, Jamie Braddock, is also back among the living. The mission ultimately ended in failure, as Morgan telepathically gloated while Betsy’s team was forced to flee.
But Morgan wasn’t done with Betsy. The evil sorceress correctly guessed that the powers that be would not be happy to learn that the new Captain Britain is also a mutant citizen of Krakoa. That led to a last page return of Pete Wisdom, a former member of Excalibur. Pete and Brian didn’t always see eye-to-eye during their time on the team, but they had a strong mutual respect in the criminally underrated series, CAPTAIN BRITAIN AND MI: 13 (2008). Pete is also one of the few mutants who has apparently refused to side with Krakoa against the rest of the world.
There are divided loyalties in the Dawn of X. And Pete may soon force Betsy to choose between the nation of her birth and the new mutant homeland.
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