The larger ramifications of the new mutant status quo - with most mutants gathered as one on the new sovereign nation of Krakoa - on the rest of the Marvel Universe are just scratching the surface as the linewide “Dawn of X” relaunch rolls on. But this week’s Excalibur #1 brings at least one effect of the new mutant reality to bear – that of Krakoa on magic, and the relationship of magic, mutants, and mortals.
With writer Tini Howard, who was hand picked by X-Men writer and “Dawn of X” architect Jonathan Hickman to be part of the relaunch, on board, Excalibur finds unlikely allies and terrifying new foes alike, and sets the stage for what Howard calls the “deepest mysteries” of “Dawn of X”.
Newsarama spoke with Howard alongside the release of Excalibur #1, out now, to get the low down on how mutants and magic will collide in this unlikely tale.
Newsarama: Tini, “Dawn of X” mastermind Jonathan Hickman said you were a writer he sought out for this relaunch when Excalibur was announced. How did Excalibur come together?
Tini Howard: Jonathan approached me with a really open mind and a lot of confidence in my abilities (which was neat), and I was encouraged to build whatever part of mutant society I wanted to. And for me, that was the building of things that can't really happen when people are on the run - families, art, music, culture. And magic - that was a big part of it to me. Magic as distinct from religion as well, magic as more something like art, a way of accomplishing an as-yet-impossible goal than a set of religious beliefs.
I realized pretty quickly that I wasn't brought on to be safe and normal, that I was brought on to get weird. So I got weird. They liked my weird.
Nrama: On that note, what’s this book all about? What niche does Excalibur fill in the “Dawn of X” line up?
Howard: Excalibur is where we say “What Else, What Next?”. This is a story about finding your own identity when the fantastic becomes the new normal - when paradise is home, but you're still an intrepid explorer and hero at heart who craves the unknown.
Nrama: You’ve got an eclectic team here, all headed up by Betsy Braddock, the new Captain Britain. How does she come to that mantle? What’s her status quo going into this?
Howard: Betsy comes to that mantle in the events of Excalibur #1 - I needed people to see the moment she takes the mantle and why, as it defines her entire approach to the role. We see all that in the book, we're on a ride-along with her feelings toward being the Captain now.
Nrama: For the rest of the line-up, you’ve got Gambit, Rictor, Rogue, Jubilee, and Apocalypse. How do these mutants all fit together?
Howard: There are obvious questions already at play surrounding the cast - what of Jubilee's human baby? Will Rogue and Gambit make more mutants? And Rictor - we'll get to him. You'll see him when you see him. His is a journey I've wanted to see him on since I was just a reader and fan - it's a great feeling to bring him through it.
It's a great feeling to bring these characters together and have them share a meaningful journey, while giving them each a role and a path. Sometimes in my head it's like D&D, and I'm DMing for them.
Nrama: And for that matter, how does Apocalypse find being a team player? There have been some hints he may not be taking to it well.
Howard: ...Anyone who has ever played D&D knows there's one in every party.
In a lot of ways, Apocalypse is the ultimate team player, you just need to be good enough for him to allow you on his team. And most people aren't. Hopefully this team is, right?
Nrama: In terms of teams, you’ve got Marcus To and Erick Arciniega on art for Excalibur. What do they bring to a book like this?
Howard: Everything. Marcus has shaped the most beautiful Otherworld, and Erick's colors have been such a defining part of this, too. Marcus is a great artist to walk the line between beautiful, fantastic, fairy-tale characters and events, and pure superhero action. It feels great when you're really on a wavelength and everything is singing together, when we're seeing the same story as we're crafting it. We've gotten there and it feels really right.
Nrama: What’s your favorite thing Marcus has drawn for Excalibur so far?
I can't possibly choose, and I'm positive it's something you can't know about yet. [Laughs]
His Betsy design is purely iconic, though. We've already seen such a response to it - it's already cemented itself before the book's even out. Marcus nailed it.
Nrama: What’s it like laying the groundwork for a new era of a classic X-team? How deep into Excalibur lore will this series go?
Howard: It's been a minute since we've had a regular Excalibur book, so I want to make this what feels best to me as a comic fan - a reward for knowing the deeper mythology with a welcome into the unknown. I'm deep mining everything from Captain Britain to the Matter of Britain. We'll see it for sure.
Nrama: Bottom line, what’s in store for new readers and classic Excalibur fans?
Howard: The deepest mysteries of the X-Men's new story begin here. Trust me. Whole new things are spinning out of this book and we're going to start reading the cards a whole new way after this.