The definitive, chronological comic book collecting guide and reading order for Marvel’s Excalibur and Knights of X in omnibuses, hardcovers, trade paperback, and digital. Part of Crushing Krisis’s Crushing Comics. Last updated January 2024 with titles scheduled for release through September 2024.
Excalibur is one of the most peculiar of all of the original X-Men spinoffs, and that’s a large part of why it is was beloved by fans and continues to be revived – though never quite in the same form.
In 1988, Excalibur was a light-hearted departure from a particularly heavy period of main X-Men series. Chris Claremont packed up three of his favorite X-Men – Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, and Rachel Summers (Phoenix II) – and flew them across the pond to the pencils of former Marvel UK collaborator Alan Davis. They added Marvel UK characters (and non-mutants) Meggan and Captain Britain (Psylocke’s brother) to create an irreverent, firmly British spin on an X-book.
It initially launched in the wake of “Fall of the Mutants” in Uncanny X-Men. Claremont’s flagship book found the mutants besieged from foes on all sides.
The lighthearted Nightcrawler and idealistic Kitty Pryde were both early sacrifices to this status quo as casualties of “Mutant Massacre” a year earlier. By the time they healed the X-Men were no longer a fit for them – and, in continuity, believed to be dead!
Meanwhile, Claremont creation Captain Britain had wrapped up a 10-year run at Marvel UK across a number of different comic titles and anthology. The latter five years of his life were stewarded a by a rising star artist named Alan Davis (as well as, briefly, Alan Moore), but with Davis moving on to work on Batman and the Outsiders it looked like the end of the line for Captain Britain.
Claremont collaborated with Davis on a pair of annuals that imported the character (and his sister, Psylocke) to the states, but he was too unknown in the American market to support his own ongoing there.
(There was also the problem of Rachel Summers, who had been supplanted as team psychic by Psylocke, and who brought her own complications of her extensive future knowledge, connection to Cyclops, and massive powers.)
This was the genesis of Excalibur, which saw Claremont reteaming with Davis and using his extensive knowledge of British culture (he was born there) to return to Captain Britain, to give Nightcrawler room to be the dashing swashbuckler he always hinted at in X-Men, and to write Kitty’s coming of age away from the horrors facing the X-Men.
Excalibur was my favorite book in the 90s because of its stable core of lovable characters, and its sensible handling of alternate timelines.
The challenge of the “Excalibur” brand name is that X-Men fans tend to associate it as much with Kitty and Nightcrawler as they do with Captain Britain, but the former two characters have long since been reabsorbed by the core of the X-franchise while Brian Braddock has moved firmly away from mutants.
In 2001, Ben Raab – who had written the final fifth of the initial volume – returned with a four-issue mini-series to follow up on some plot threads.
Claremont relaunched the title in 2004 as focused on Xavier and Magneto living on Genosha in the run-up to House of M, but the name never made any sense for a book that was completely divorced from the themes of the original.
Later, in the wake of House of M introduced a “New” version set in London that paired Captain Britain with Dazzler and Juggernaut, but didn’t capture fan’s hearts like the original did.
In 2019, the Dawn of X relaunch curated by Jonathan Hickman tapped the “Excalibur” name for a new spin on the concept. Tini Howard’s new volume focused not on the Britishness of the brand name, but on Captain Britain and their magical connections to Otherworld established by Claremont’s original run. It also swaps Brian Braddock for his sister Betsy as Captain Britain, and duplicates the original import of fan favorites Kitty and Nightcrawler by bringing in Rogue and Gambit – along with Jubilee, Rictor, and Apocalypse! The book would be one of two anchors to the first big event of the new era of X-Men – X of Swords (alongside the X-Men flagship title). [Read more…] about Excalibur – Definitive Collecting Guide and Reading Order