X OF SWORDS: WEEK SEVEN
Back to two this week: X-Men #14 and Marauders #14.
Still shocked by the revelation of his wife’s survival and her new role as Annihilation, Apocalypse lets her explain what happened.
After Arakko was sealed off with Genesis and the First Horsemen inside, hundreds of mutants were lost in the chaos. The White Sword and his army bought them enough time to regroup and plan their next moves against Amenth. The ensuing war between Arakko and Amenth lasted for thousands of years, with the former holding their own and even thriving against the latter. However, this meant generations of sheltered Arakkii were raised not knowing the full extent of their adversaries’ strength and grew complacent. Even when the high mutant prophet Idyll warned Arakko’s leadership of incoming defeat, Genesis refused to listen and rushed into battle with her own army to prove their dominance.
While out in the battlegrounds, she discovered the long-unseen White Sword, now so hardened and radicalized from eternal battle that neither party recognized the other. Warfare quickly broke out between the respective forces of the White Sword and Genesis, the latter’s handily decimated by the former. Genesis was then convinced by her turncoat sister, Isca the Unbeaten, to meet with Annihilation, the leader of Amenth. Upon arrival, Genesis was shocked to find innumerous hybridized Arakki-Amenthi warriors that easily outnumbered her own. When Annihilation offered a sort of peace agreement, Genesis responded with violence, killing her adversary. Genesis did not know, however, that the terms of defeating Annihilation in combat meant she would assume control of Amenth. After refusing to wear the Golden Helm for a hundred years, hoping Apocalypse would return to save them, Arakko reached its breaking point and finally fell to Amenth. With no other choice, Genesis succumbed to the power given to her and took control of Amenthi Arakko, leading the charge to conquer other lands.
Back in the present, Apocalypse pleads with his wife to fight the urges of Annihilation, but she admits it’s impossible and that she wants to conquer Krakoa next. According to her, the mutants of Krakoa (himself included) are soft and unable to maintain its current prosperity long-term. (As she ironically taunted him earlier, “survival of the fittest.”) A new prophecy from the current Arakki seer states: “Only under a black moon will the two become one. A white light will judge them, and a red land will see them split forever.”
Back at the Starlight Citadel, Saturnyne is holding a state dinner for the Arakki and Krakoan champions before the Contest begins. Each side measures the other up, seeking potential weaknesses to exploit and trying their best to intimidate the other. Wolverine lashes out at Captain Avalon for not letting Saturnyne seduce him, which he thinks could have put Krakoa in her good graces, and he even suggests throwing someone else (namely Cypher, Cable, or Magik) at her for that same reason. Meanwhile, Storm finds herself bonding unusually well with Death, telling him that she neither fears nor desires him but knows him. When the dinner begins, Wolverine calls out Saturnyne for needlessly causing collateral damage between the two nations when she could just take what she wants for herself without the fighting. While defending her stance on the matter, Wolverine abruptly snikts her in the chest with his claws.
This week’s installments inch us closer to the promised action ahead, with X-Men #14 offering more backstory about Genesis and Arakko, while Marauders #14 ends with one hell of a cliffhanger. It’s not the most action-packed week yet, but there’s still quite a bit to talk about.
Following last week’s revelation about Genesis (which I absolutely saw coming and still can’t decide if I was supposed to or not), I expected an “explainer” issue to tell us how she became Annihilation, and I wasn’t disappointed in that regard. We vaguely knew what went down in Arakko through occasional glimpses, but not to the extent finally shown to us here. We learn that Genesis, whom Apocalypse thought to be dead, was actually very much alive and arguably thriving as well as someone in her position could have been. Despite the constant threat of Amenth hovering over them for generations, Arakko managed to hold its own, only for their hubris to ruin everything the moment they got too arrogant. (To say this felt eerily prescient on the eve of yet another fearsome, potentially calamitous election in the United States would be an understatement…) But most of all, it shows us just exactly who Krakoa is up against, and she is not someone to underestimate. I also found her proclamation of wanting to take Krakoa fittingly meta; she’s basically echoing what lots of cynical comic readers have said about the “Dawn of X” era, doubting its long-term viability. On the one hand, she’s probably right, but on the other … what if she isn’t? Time will only tell, as with the fates of Krakoa and Arakko in this very storyline.
Marauders #14 is less substantive on a narrative level, but it sure is fun. Now that we have all our champions assembled, this issue lets them banter and try to posture themselves as alphas over the other. From Magik and Gorgon trying to find out Isca’s manual capabilities (plot twist: she’s ambidextrous) to the Krakoans attempting to locate “soft spots” on the massive (and instantly iconic) Pogg-Ur-Pogg, this issue is probably one of the breezier reading experiences yet. Storm’s aforementioned interaction with Death is a great character moment as well, and it succeeds a bit too much in making me even halfway consider shipping them. And that’s saying nothing of the cliffhanger splash page, which ends the issue with the apparent death of Saturnyne by Wolverine. Can’t say I expected that one! I’m sure it’s not that simple, and we’ll find out that she somehow survives the attack next week (unless we don’t…), but it’s easily one of the more shocking and surprising developments thus far. If Saturnyne is truly a goner, what does that mean for the Contest? And better yet, what could it mean for my conspiracy theory that the cover of next week’s Marauders hints at the possible arrival of Mystique, who has otherwise been completely MIA up to this point? Stay tuned, true believers! (But seriously though, that’s one conspicuous use of the color blue, isn’t it?)
This is yet another week with art by Leinil Francis Yu, Mahmud Asrar, and Stefano Caselli, which I don’t really have much to say about except that it’s all very good as was expected. X-Men #14 cleverly balances its duetting artists through one (Asrar) covering the present while the other (Yu) handles the past, taking advantage of both their aesthetic strengths. Yu’s flashback portion is epic and sweeping, befitting the material, while Asrar’s is softer and more vulnerable, reflecting the tenderness between its estranged spouses even after an eternity spent apart from one another. And then we have Caselli getting to draw the “fun” issue of the two, which gives him a variety of characters to depict on the page. The art of X of Swords has been uniformly strong, and this week is no exception.
Back to another hefty week with Marauders #15, Excalibur #14, and Wolverine #7.
X of Swords: Week 7
- Writers: Jonathan Hickman (X-Men), Gerry Duggan and Benjamin Percy (Marauders)
- Artists: Leinil Francis Yu and Mahmud Asrar (X-Men), Stefano Caselli (Marauders)
- Color Artists: Sunny Gho (X-Men), Edgar Delgado (Marauders)
- Letterers: VC’s Clayton Cowles (X-Men), VC’s Cory Petit (Marauders)
- Cover Artists: Leinil Francis Yu and Sunny Gho (X-Men), Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson (Marauders)
- Editor: Jordan D. White
- Publisher: Marvel Entertainment