It’s taken me a long time to get into X of Swords, the current X-Men crossover event. While I’m intrigued by Jonathan Hickman’s take on Marvel’s mutants set up in House of X/Powers of X, I can’t say I’m enjoying it. I dig some of the SF aspects of the premise, particularly the retconning of Moira McTaggart as a reality-altering mutant and the glimpses of the far future. Some of the artwork has been gorgeous. I’m struggling with the way that there are no mutant heroes and villains any more and that the X-Men characters I grew up reading aren’t behaving how they used to. Anyhow, I’m doing my best to keep up with the main title, X-Men, each month and I’m using this crossover to see what the other titles are like.
Here are my brief thoughts on the first half X of Swords comics:
- 00 – Prelude: Excalibur #12 – ★★★✩✩ – Apocalypse opens a gate/portal to Otherworld in order to use it as a route back to Arrakko. The portal needs the energies of ancient mutants to open. A mutant called Candra has hidden herself in a jewel stolen by Gambit.
- 00 – Prelude X-men #12 – ★★½✩✩ – Summoner, the grandson of Apocalypse, recounts the history of Arakko. At the end, Apocalypse sends Summoner, Banshee and Unus the Unconquerable through the portal. This is heavy-duty Fantasy back-story building. Very hard to keep all this straight in my head.
- 01 – X of Swords: Creation – ★★★½✩ – Complex issue involving tarot cards; the betrayal of Summoner; a team of mutants from Krakoa entering Otherworld; Apocalypse reunited (and then attacked) by his children who are the original Four Horsemen; Cyclops, Jean Grey and Young Cable activate the Peak, the HQ of SWORD. Saturnyne negotiates a sword fighting competition between Krakoan and Arakko champions. I’m not clear about the motivations of the demon horde or the original Horseman other than that they want power.
- 02 – X-Factor #4 – ★★★✩✩ – The Krakoans return from Otherworld. Rictus and Rockslide are resurrected but because Rockslide was killed in Otherworld, he is resurrected as an amalgam of different versions from other realities. Polaris is given clues to the swords and their wielders and builds a “casting circle” for the tournament. They will need the ten swords in order to open the portal to Otherworld. I guess the purpose of this issue was to raise the stakes: no more resurrections during the event. Plus there’s the possibility of some refreshed characters.
- 03 – Wolverine #6 – ★★★½✩ – Wolverine hunts for a Murmasa blade to take part in the tournament and, somehow, gets into Hell to find the swordsmith. Concurrently, the War and Pestilence release a prisoner called Solem from a pit in the Tower of Broken Will who is also tasked with finding the sword. I liked this. Bogdanovic’s art is great and the character of Solem, who we find has adamantium-laced skills is enjoyable (he’s had a lovely 100 years down in the pit and is both a poet and fighter).
- 04 – X-Force #13 – ★★★½✩ – Wolverine regenerates after climbing out of a lava pit. He teams up with Solem to retrieve the sword – which actually turns out to be two blades – from the demon known as the Beast. At the end of the story Wolverine agrees to something we have yet to find out in return for one of the blades.
- 05 – Marauders #13 – ★★★½✩ – Storm travels to Wakanda and steals the sacred blade, Skybreaker. The tension between Storm and T’Challa is quite touching
- 06 – Hellions #5 – ★★✩✩✩ – Silly – apparently funny – issue. Empath, a pretty obnoxious minor character is resurrected. The ego-centric Mr Sinister leads the Hellions team into Otherworld with a plan to steal the Arakko champions’ swords. My least favourite issue so far.
- 07 – New Mutants #13 – ★★★★✩ – Really enjoyed this one. Cypher faces up to the reality that he will die if he fights in the tournament. Warlock transforms into a sword. Cypher gets trained by Magik. After the complex and noisy main issues by Hickman, these crossover issues are turning out to be more enjoyable than I thought.
- 08 – Cable #5 – ★★½✩✩ – Seemingly little to do with the main story, Young Cable, Cyclops and Jean Grey encounter monsters from another dimension on board the Peak.
- 09 – Excalibur #13 – ★★½✩✩ – Ponderous, slow story about the Braddock family tricking Saturnyne into giving Betsy the Starlight Sword. It’s the sort of thing that used to be done in 3 panels in the old days. The art by R.B. Silva is lovely, though.
- 10 – X-Men #13 – ★★½✩✩ – Apocalypse gets healed, travels to Egypt and collects the Sword called Scarab. He recounts the events that led to the creation of Krakoa and Arakko, which I’m sure have been told in this event at least once before.
- 11 – X of Swords: Stasis – ★★★½✩ – A great deal happens in this issue. We get to see other realms and their representatives in Saturnyne’s parliament. The champions of Arakko are rounded up and bring their swords (there’s a double page info-page about their swords). More tarot cards and Apocalypse has is reunited with his wife, Genesis who is the main villain. It was fairly obvious from the start.