X OF SWORDS: WEEK EIGHT
Another hefty week with Marauders #15, Excalibur #14, and Wolverine #7.
After last week’s shocking cliffhanger that left Saturnyne full of Wolverine’s claws, it’s revealed that her apparent death was actually part of an extended vision about what would happen if Logan succeeded in killing her (spoiler alert: Arakko conquerors Krakoa and then Earth itself; everybody dies). Back in the present, Saturnyne’s banquet continues. Cypher narrowly survives a poisoning attempt intended for Wolverine by War, saved by the White Sword and Isca the Unbeaten. Captain Avalon tries to convince Saturnyne that Arakko should be DQed over War’s assassination attempt and, though she agrees they were out of line, she points out Wolverine’s own attempt at her life that same evening and declines. At the end of the evening, Saturnyne draws cards bearing the first combatants of the contest: Captain Britain and Isca the Unbeaten.
In the morning, Betsy telepathically alludes to Jubilee that a duel is being held soon, but falls short of providing specific information about it. The duel between Betsy and Isca begins. Although Betsy bears the mighty Starlight Sword, it’s easily shattered by Isca and causes Betsy’s entire body to fall to pieces, apparently killing her. Saturnyne calls it for Arakko, giving them a 1-0 lead over Krakoa. The Krakoans are furious, but Logan advises them against seeking revenge from the majestrix knowing what’ll happen if she’s killed.
Saturnyne promptly informs Doug that his duel is next. His opponent will be Bei the Blood Moon, the only Arakki with whom he cannot communicate. Intimidated but also intrigued by his rival, Doug panics while he’s apparently being dressed for a slaughter, adorned in white robes and a flower crown. Magik sneaks by to inform him that Saturnyne is seemingly preparing not for another fight, but for another dinner of some sort. They’re both shocked when they discover what’s really happening: a wedding. It turns out their “duel,” per Saturnyne’s arrangement, will be coming up with marriage vows for one another. Jubilee loudly interrupts their ceremony with the dragon-fied Shogo, but Doug successfully convinces Bei to not kill them, and they share their first kiss as husband and wife. Saturnyne intervenes and overtakes Shogo’s brain with magic before he can wreak havoc on the wedding. She then awards points to both Arakko and Krakoa, bringing the score to 2-1.
The next fight is between Magik and Pogg-Ur-Pogg. Once their swords are drawn and they begin to fight, Saturnyne informs the combatants that it will instead be a contest of arms—literally. With the duel now an arm wrestling match, Pogg-Ur-Pogg easily overtakes Magik and claims victory, bringing the score to 3-1.
Wolverine arrives on Blightspoke, the “realm of collapsed realities,” which will serve as the venue of his duel with Summoner. Assuming his goal is to kill Summoner, Saturnyne points out they are not fighting to death with one another, but with Blightspoke itself. The epic duel eventually ends with Wolverine killing Summoner once and for all, but he then realizes that his victory is actually a defeat, as Summoner is the one who literally fought to the death. Saturnyne calls it for Arakko, bringing them to a 4-1 lead over Krakoa.
Saturnyne invites Logan and Storm to drown their sorrows and fight with glasses instead of swords in a drinking match, which results in a point for Krakoa, bringing the score to 4-2 (unbeknownst to them, however, she has spiked their drinks with something harmful). Elsewhere, Saturnyne has invited enemies Solem and War to battle one another. Before they can fight, however, Solem has Logan teleported to their location. Solem reminds Logan that he owes him a debt for granting him a Muramasa sword back when they first met and then informs War that her new opponent has just recently killed her son. Saturnyne sets the parameters for their fight: First combatant to sever an appendage off the other wins. Logan holds his own against the enraged War, despite his healing factor nullified by Saturnyne’s spiked drink. He emerges the victor of the duel by cutting off War’s hand, but because he fought as Solem’s proxy, the point goes to Arakko, giving them a 5-2 lead over Krakoa.
While I was correct in assessing that last week’s cliffhanger would be undone immediately, I wasn’t sure how it would happen, and the answer we got was very satisfying. Logan’s little attempt at killing Saturnyne basically resulted in a “game over” that doomed the entirety of Earth, forcing him to try again and make better choices this time. The real kicker is that, had he waited just a bit longer, he would’ve learned that War attempted to kill him and it would’ve resulted in a DQ for Arakko. But alas, we’ve got battles to witness … but not the kinds we may have expected.
The big revelation of the week seems to be that not all of the duels in the Contest of Swords necessarily have life-or-death stakes as we previously assumed. Though Betsy seemingly perished (key word: “seemingly”) and Summoner has been killed by Wolverine, we should’ve known that Saturnyne would employ lots of trickery in her methods going into the Contest. For example, did anybody expect Cypher’s “duel” would involve him marrying someone from the other side? Or that two of the duels would result in Wolverine losing by “winning?”
I’m sure there’s more to it than we currently know, but I appreciate Hickman & Co. throwing a wrench at our expectations and opening the scale of the Contest to being more than just about Krakoa and Arakko killing one another. On the other hand, I do wonder if it’s a bit cheap for them to pull the rug out from underneath us and reveal the established stakes have been exaggerated to a degree, but we’re only at the midpoint now. As we now know, anything could happen in this storyline, and all we can do is go along for the ride.
The longer X of Swords goes on, the less I have to say about the art. It’s all great! Everybody working on this storyline is talented! My favorite art of the week goes to Phil Noto on Excalibur. From Betsy’s apparent death (which looks very cool on the page) to Cypher’s surprisingly sweet wedding, his art really helps mitigate what could have been tonal whiplash. I’m honestly never going to complain about seeing Noto’s art in a comic, and this issue was no exception. Honorable mention goes to Joshua Cassara on Wolverine, particularly for the sequence of him and Summoner fighting on Blightworld, which provides some very cool and surreal imagery.
I also have to point out a series of panels in Marauders as drawn by Stefano Caselli and lettered by Cory Petit. I’m not sure what the directive was in Gerry Duggan and Benjamin Percy’s script, but I really enjoyed how the scene between Captain Avalon and Saturnyne is depicted, with the word balloons around them going blank to emphasize her having his complete and undistracted attention. It’s a great example of the kind of storytelling unique to comics that can’t be replicated in any other medium.
Another threepeat next week with X-Force #14, Hellions #6, and Cable #6.
X of Swords: Week Eight
- Writers: Gerry Duggan and Benjamin Percy (Marauders and Wolverine), Tini Howard (Excalibur)
- Artists: Stefano Caselli (Marauders), Phil Noto (Excalibur), Joshua Cassara (Wolverine)
- Color Artists: Edgar Delgado (Marauders), Phil Noto (Excalibur), Guru-FX (Wolverine)
- Letterers: VC’s Cory Petit (Marauders and Wolverine), VC’s Ariana Maher (Excalibur)
- Cover Artists: Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson (Marauders), Mahmud Asrar and Matthew Wilson (Excalibur), Adam Kubert and Frank Martin (Wolverine)
- Editor: Jordan D. White
- Publisher: Marvel Entertainment