X OF SWORDS: WEEK NINE
Another threefer this week: X-Force #14, Hellions #6, and Cable #6.
A montage shows the Contest of Swords continuing in varyingly eccentric ways that include a fashion show, an eating competition, and a dance-off. Unfortunately for Krakoa, they’re unable to keep up with Arakko’s perpetual lead over them. The body count also remains stagnant until Storm’s duel with Death, which ends with the latter’s apparent demise despite Storm being drunk and depowered. Storm’s victory over Death brings the score to 17-6, with Krakoa unfortunately still far behind their rivals.
Elsewhere, Sinister has finally led his Hellions to Arakko, but the team is dismayed to learn the Arakki champions have already departed. A mysterious Arakki reads Sinister’s mind and reveals to the Hellions that he brought them to Arakko under false pretense (Sinister? Double-crossing? Shocker!!). It turns out Sinister’s real goal was to extract the genes of Arakki mutants for his personal collection. The stranger then introduces himself as Tarn the Uncaring, a sort-of mad scientist who is seemingly Sinister’s Arakki counterpart. He’s the leader of the Locus Vile, a feared Arakki cult of deformed brutes. (The vibe is very much Leatherface’s family in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, but all wearing Jason Voorhees masks.) Naturally, Sinister is awed by these monstrosities and attempts to extract their genes with his tech, but the Locus Vile retaliates with violence. Wild Child and Orphan-Maker are killed in the conflict, but it’s TBD on whether or not dying on Arakko means they can’t be brought back by The Five. The rest of the team flees with their tails between their legs and return to Krakoa with their lives (and the samples of Arakki genes) … until Sinister murders all of them to cover his tracks.
The Quiet Council convenes with their present members. Having just returned from Arakko, Sinister pleads with Xavier that Krakoa’s loss in the Contest is imminent and that they should close the External Gate before it’s too late. Back on Krakoa, Cable and Bei the Blood Moon are set to fight to the death by Saturnyne. Cable quickly finds an opportunity to kill his opponent, but he relents and thus allows Bei to overtake him. Just as Bei goes for the killing blow, Cypher pleads for his new wife to stop, and Saturyne agrees that a death of the spirit is suitable enough to give Arakko yet another point. When Saturnyne abruptly ends a telepathic conversation between Cable and his parents, Jean and Cyclops vow to save their son before it’s too late.
Saturnyne sets the penultimate fight (to the death) between the White Sword and Gorgon. Unfortunately for the latter, however, the White Sword has an army of a hundred undead fighters at his disposal. Gorgon is handily killed by his opponent, but, because he managed to slay thirteen of the White Sword’s fleet, Saturnyne gives Krakoa just as many points, bringing both teams to an unexpected 19-19 split. With the Contest being anybody’s game now, the final duel is set: Apocalypse versus his estranged wife Genesis, who currently bears the Golden Helm of Amenth as Annihilation.
As X of Swords approaches its endgame, this week is mostly concerned with preparing some loose ends to be tied up and heightening the stakes, which are already pretty dang high. After Krakoa’s embarrassing losses last week, things arguably get worse for them in these issues, with Arakko taking such a high lead that it seems impossible for them to catch up … until Saturnyne decides to pity the Krakoans with a +13 boost at the last minute. Who knew Gorgon would play such a vital role in this storyline? (RIP, Gorgon.) I can’t say I’m surprised that they saved Apocalypse v. Annihilation for last, but I’m very interested to see how that goes down. After so many twists and turns with this event, I’m sure Hickman & Co. have a few more surprises planned for us. Which brings me to another point…
While I personally love the unexpectedness of the Contest’s duels thus far, it seems a lot of people do not, and I find that odd. Isn’t it always better to be surprised than get exactly what you wanted or expected? (This is a rhetorical question; I know comic fans tend to be subversion-averse.) We all expected the Contest to be a fearsome battle to the death for each of our beloved mutants, and while there has been some of that, I’m actually relieved that it ended up not being the case. Especially since the first round proceeded the way we assumed the rest of them would (RIP Betsy), I’m glad to have been wrong thinking I knew what to expect. Once Cypher found himself an unlikely groom to one of his rivals, I knew all bets were off. For my money, X of Swords has been a real high point in what’s been an overall strong year for the X-Men line, and I’m excited to see if the creative team can top it with their next event storyline.
As per usual, strong visuals from each of this week’s artists. Joshua Cassara’s contributions on X-Force were the standout to me, building on his great work from last week, but once again I’m at a loss to say anything especially constructive or analytical about what I’ve seen. What else can you say at this point? Throughout the event, it’s consistently been a bunch of artists at the top of their craft, and I expect this trend to continue on in the conclusion.
The grand finale! We reach the end of X of Swords next week with X-Men #15, Excalibur #15, and X of Swords: Destruction #1.
X of Swords: Week Nine
- Writers: Benjamin Percy (X-Force), Zeb Wells (Hellions), Gerry Duggan (Cable)
- Artists: Joshua Cassara (X-Force), Carmen Carnero (Hellions), Phil Noto (Cable)
- Color Artists: Guru e-FX (X-Force), David Curiel (Hellions), Phil Noto (Cable)
- Letterers: VC’s Joe Caramagna (X-Force), VC’s Ariana Maher (Hellions), VC’s Joe Sabino (Cable)
- Cover Artists: Dustin Weaver and Edgar Delgado (X-Force), Stephen Segovia and Rain Beredo (Hellions), Phil Noto (Cable)
- Editor: Jordan D. White
- Publisher: Marvel Entertainment