The definitive, chronological, and up-to-date guide and trade reading order on collecting Excalibur comic books via omnibuses, hardcovers, and trade paperback graphic novels. A part of Crushing Krisis’s Collecting X-Men: A Definitive Guide. Last updated November 2019 with titles scheduled for release through March 2020.
Excalibur is one of the most peculiar of all of the original line-up of X-Men spinoffs, and that’s a large part of why it is so beloved by fans.
A light-hearted departure from the 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.
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.
Claremont relaunched the title in 2004 as focused on Xavier and Magneto living on Genosha, but the name never made any sense. He later 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. This book focused not on the Britishness of the brand name, but the magical connections to Otherworld. It also swaps Brian Braddock for his sister Betsy, and duplicates the import of fan favorites Kitty and Nightcrawler by bringing in Rogue and Gambit – along with Jubilee, Rictor, and Apocalypse!