When it was announced that Tini Howard’s Excalibur would be re-launched as Knights of X, I had my doubts about how much I would enjoy it. As a fantasy nerd who enjoys D&D a healthy amount, the concept of mutants rebooted as fantasy archetypes in a magical land was right up my alley. I loved Excalibur in the beginning, but it meandered and dragged too much towards the end. And while my enjoyment of Tini Howard’s writing is hit or miss, my interest in Knights of X was entirely piqued by the announcement of Bob Quinn’s art.
I won’t lie, the magic and realms of Excalibur were far too intricate for me to remember issue-to-issue and that seems to have been remedied at least in this first issue of Knights. The introductory pages set up a classic situation in X-Men comics; a young mutant being pursued by a cyborg programmed to destroy it. By bringing in well-known and time-tested X-Men themes but reframing them in the fantasy situation, Knights was immediately more familiar and digestible for me. The young mutant Josh (just Josh) is saved by a woman who appears to be Betsy Braddock (Captain Britain) and through his POV, we are given a bit of exposition to the story.
The mutants of otherworld have been hiding out in Roma’s (Merlyn’s daughter) kingdom with the Captain Britain Corps because King Arthur’s son, Mordred, was a mutant. After his death, Arthur created mutant-hunting machines called Furies much like the Sentinels we know from Earth-SIX ONE SIX. Roma gives Betsy Prime(616) a mission that will grant them access back to Krakoa from Otherworld.
From here, we see Betsy assemble her cast of Knights, most of whom carried over from Excalibur but trading Jubilee for Rachel Summers and picking up Doug Ramsay’s bae Bei The Bloodmoon as well (Rogue having long ago left to join the flagship). Meggan Braddock (Gloriana) has an idea to track down an old Alan Davis Excalibur favorite Kylun to add to the team, once again rescuing him from Furies right in the nick of time. The final-pages reveal/cliffhanger is Mordred himself, who had failed to be resurrected earlier in the issue, kneeling and asking to join the quest granted by Roma. With the necessary knights assembled, the quest makes itself clear for the first time. The team is to find the Siege Perilous.
Overall, Knights feels like a callback to the early stages of both Classic Excalibur and post-HOXPOX (EN: the 2019 soft reboot House of X/Powers of X) Excalibur. There are familiarly high stakes, a varied cast of characters, new villains teased, and plenty of obscure pulls from continuity. Bob Quinn’s art lends itself to naturally to Otherworld, but does not feel too different from Marcus To’s from Excalibur.
My greatest criticism of Excalibur was that sometimes the background characters tended to fade into set dressing for a story entirely about Betsy Braddock, and I hope the same pitfalls do not become of Knights of X. A character can be the lead of a book without being the sole focus as it seemed like Betsy often was. While great for fans of Betsy, as a fan of Jubilee it was frustrating to see her in a book with rarely anything to do and ignoring her already standing interpersonal relationships with other characters. Fleshing out the character of Bei the Blood Moon, and giving more page time to the fan-favorite relationship between Rictor and Shatterstar could make this book really shine. Not to mention how this separation might affect Rogue and Gambit, Jubilee and Shogo, or Bei and Doug. I hope we get to see relationships amongst the team developing and see how the dynamics affect their life if and when they return to Krakoa. Overall, Knights of X #1 set a high bar that I am eager to see if it can maintain.
KNIGHTS OF X #1
Written by TINI HOWARD
Art by BOB QUINN
Cover by YANICK PAQUETTE
Variant Cover by ROD REIS
Next Month: Death looms over the Knights — in more ways than one!
Images via Marvel Comics
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