X OF SWORDS: WEEK SIX
Just one this week, but it’s a biggie: X of Swords: Stasis #1.
Saturnyne gathers the encompassing kingdoms of Otherworld to the Starlight Citadel to convene about the upcoming Contest of Swords. Arakko, who recently conquered the Kingdom of Dryador and turned it into the Fiefdom of Amenth, makes their presence known and affirms their readiness for battle. Elsewhere, the champions of Krakoa are preparing for transport to Otherworld.
An extended montage establishes the champions of Arakko, who are comprised of the First Horsemen, Solem, Isca the Unbeaten, Summoner, reptilian beast Pogg-Ur-Pogg, Arakkoan interpreter Redroot the Forest, immortal warrior White Sword of the Ivory Spire, slayer of serpents Bei the Blood Moon, and the unknown host of daemonic entity Annihilation.
The Krakoans arrive at the Starlight Citadel, where Saturnyne greets them with her typical chilly disposition. She invites them to their respective chambers, each containing a special tarot card with ominous messages and glimpses at their rival combatants. Apocalypse in particular takes issue with his card—The Lovers, depicting himself and his late wife Genesis—and confronts Saturnyne about it, who proceeds to taunt him further. Then Apocalypse comes face-to-face with the current host of Annihilation unmasked: none other than Genesis herself. When he asks her how this is possible, she coldly responds, “Survival of the fittest.”
X of Swords: Stasis is largely a table-setting issue that builds up to the final page revealing that Genesis is actually alive after all these years, to which I say … duh? I’m not sure if we’re meant to be shocked by this revelation, because it felt pretty obvious to me after so many issues spent retconning Genesis into Apocalypse’s backstory, running alongside the mystery of who was behind the Golden Helm. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that I predicted correctly, since well-written mysteries are meant to be solved so that the person guessing the outcome is rewarded for their intellect, but I saw it coming from a mile away—and I’m terrible at guessing these sorts of things. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m smarter than Jonathan Hickman, of all people, and that this issue will be the apex of shocking twists and turns to come in the latter half of the storyline, but being treated to such a predictable twist was just an odd feeling.
That being said, I enjoyed a lot of the nuggets of lore provided here, most notably the expanded (yet still truncated) montage of the Arakkoans assembling their swords and the ominous tarot cards assigned to each of the Krakoans. The info page at the end explaining each card was helpful to me, a tarot philistine, and granted me some insight into what each card potentially meant for the people they were given to. Let’s just say some seem to have it made better than others…
I do hope we finally get some action next week, now that we’re officially 11 issues into this 22-issue story, cleanly at the halfway point. After a month of buildup, slow-burning plot, and lots of character development, it’s time to get wrecked as readers, right?
Pepe Larraz and Mahmud Asrar jointly illustrated this issue, and it’s a strong testament to their collaboration that I never noticed any shift in visuals while reading. With multiple artists assigned to a single issue, you run the risk of them contrasting one another in a distracting way (unless it’s intended, obviously), but Larraz and Asrar are compatible enough to the other’s aesthetic that it’s not a problem here. There’s one panel in particular that I really enjoyed, wherein the casting circles of the rival combatants are laid atop of one another, conveying that they’re mirror images of one another despite being vastly different in their general vibe. Overall, just great stuff. Special mention to color artist Marte Gracia, once again bringing his signature candy color tones to the lively linework of Larraz and Asrar, but also doing some very interesting shading that’s almost newsprint-y and Lichtenstein-esque in a way I find very visually unique.
Back to multiple chapters in one week with X-Men #14 and Marauders #14.