X OF SWORDS: WEEK TEN
X of Swords comes to its conclusion this week with X-Men #15, Excalibur #15, and X of Swords: Destruction #1.
After telepathically reaching Cable, Cyclops and Jean plead with the Quiet Council to join Krakoa in battle against Arakko, arguing that matters must be dire if they were able to connect with him despite the great distance between them and Otherworld. Scott proposes a plan of attack and has some of the council volunteer to join him, but Sebastian Shaw argues they can’t afford to sacrifice that many councilors and therefore shouldn’t support the idea. Despite this, Scott and Jean proceed with their plan, stating that the X-Men need to be heroes for Krakoa (a memo from the Quiet Council then officially disavows the X-Men as an organization).
Elsewhere on Otherworld, Apocalypse and Annihilation square off in the final duel of the contest. When it appears the latter has been defeated, Apocalypse recuses himself from dealing the killing blow to his estranged wife, which gives the Golden Helm an opportunity to reclaim Genesis as host and call in reinforcements from Amenth to settle things once and for all. Just as she is about to strike back, however, Storm stuns her with a lightning bolt while the rest of the Krakoan team comes to evacuate Apocalypse.
With the contest still in effect, Arakko rallies behind their leader—except Bei the Blood Moon, who seeks to protect her new husband Cypher and defects to Krakoa. Just as the Krakoans seem doomed and overwhelmed by the Amenthi forces, Jubilee appears with the Priestesses of the Green (Saturnyne’s angelic soldiers) to help them fight, but they’re still vastly outnumbered. Just as Annihilation declares victory over Krakoa, Saturnyne draws the final card of the contest, resulting in a great reversal of fortune: the Captain Britain Corps is reborn.
Just as Annihilation calls in more reinforcements, Cyclops arrives with the entirety of Krakoa in the derelict S.W.O.R.D. station. But even the combined might of Krakoa and the Corps aren’t enough to contend with Arakko and Amenth … until Saturnyne reminds Cable that his sword is actually a portal key. With the help of his parents, Cable unleashes the dreaded Vescora onto their rivals, handily eviscerating them but at the cost of threatening to tear Otherworld itself apart. While Saturnyne waits to intervene, Apocalypse defeats Annihilation once more, which results in a worse outcome: the Golden Helm choosing Apocalypse as its next host. Despite their best efforts to turn Apocalypse to the dark side, his willpower overtakes the Golden Helm, and he chooses to surrender the fight.
With Apocalypse forfeiting, Saturnyne finally intervenes by clearing the battlefield with Shogo and rejoins the combatants to determine a conclusion. She uses magic to turn the Golden Helm into a staff (which will weaken its power) and gives it to Genesis. She then announces that the contest will end on such terms: Krakoa and Arakko each have to exchange members of their nations to live with the other. Genesis chooses Apocalypse, and Apocalypse chooses Arakko itself. With that being settled, Apocalypse leaves with Genesis and his surviving children, unsure if he’ll ever see Krakoa again. The contest officially ends.
After its conclusion, Saturnyne reflects on the contest with her handmaiden Ryl. Although she was not omnipotent and couldn’t foresee the ultimate ending, she was able to perceive certain inevitabilities (e.g. Apocalypse and Genesis reuniting, Jubilee rescuing Shogo, the S.W.O.R.D. station descending to help Krakoa, Storm returning her sword to Wakanda with their relationship strained, and cracks forming within the Quiet Council). She also reflects on developments more pertinent to herself and Otherworld: Avalon now controlling the sole passageway to Earth, putting the remaining Vescora and Summoners of Amenth to work on Blightspoke, Death now overseeing the undying lands of Sevalith, and the return of the Captain Britain Corps to protect the Citadel. But despite all that she has gained, she still does not have the one thing she truly wanted: Brian Braddock, the prince of Avalon.
The end … for now.
What a conclusion, eh? Sticking the landing of an event storyline is always tricky. After the middling conclusion of Marvel’s last big crossover, Empyre, I’m glad to say that X of Swords remained enthralling all the way to its finish. For all those people who were disappointed with the amount of fighting (or as perceived by them, a lack thereof) in the second half of this storyline, these last three issues provide plenty of that. But I’m more interested in the narrative developments and the possible ramifications of the X-Line moving forward.
Perhaps most immediately evident among them is Apocalypse essentially sacrificing himself for Krakoa to be with his long-lost family. Who expected Apocalypse, of all people, to be the emotional crux of this story? While I doubt this is the last we’ll ever see of him—I got a bridge to sell you if you think he’s never coming back—it’s pretty clear that he’s off the board for now, and I think that’s good for the X-Line at this current moment. Given how Apocalypse-heavy the past few months of X-Men comics have been, it’s a wise idea to send him away and make people miss him. Similarly, I hope we see Genesis and the First Horsemen again, perhaps under better terms (I’m also very excited to see how Bei the Blood Moon fares with her new mutant brethren as the wife of Cypher). We also still have Betsy Braddock apparently dead despite the Corps returning, but for how long? I assume that’ll be addressed in upcoming issues of Excalibur.
But perhaps most important of all in the aftermath of this event will be the aforementioned bruising of Krakoa’s government. We all know this era of X-Men can’t (and won’t) last forever, and it’s very possible that this storyline will have caused the first cracks in their foundation that will lead to its demise. (You can also definitely draw a parallel between this crisis affecting Krakoa’s governing body with how the COVID-19 pandemic has razed American politics, but that’s a whole other topic for another day…maybe.) In any event, X of Swords was a cracking milestone for the Hickman era’s first year of operations, and I can’t wait for the next crossover, whatever that ends up looking like.
(Added praise to Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard, who plotted this entire storyline and split the writing duties of this week 50-50. It really was a satisfying, cohesive end.)
First off, kudos to Mahmud Asrar, who drew both X-Men #15 and Excalibur #15 (the latter with Stefano Caselli) this week. He’s been one of this event’s foundational artists, having contributed many chapters of work, and he deserves praise for that. Same goes to Pepe Larraz, who reprised his tremendous run on House of X with several of this storyline’s biggest installments with visuals that were just as inventive and top quality as they were last year. It’s really hard to single out just one artist when everybody has been at the top of their game over these 20-odd issues, but I think Asrar and Larraz especially rose to the occasion. All in all, great work everybody. Here’s hoping we continue to see more of them all in the coming year of X-Men comics.
Technically nothing now that it’s over, but next week’s Hellions #7 and X-Factor #5 are billed as X of Swords aftermath issues, while the upcoming relaunch of S.W.O.R.D. will be part of the greater X-Men line moving forward and undoubtedly reference the events of this storyline. Until then, True Believers!
X of Swords: Week Ten
- Writers: Jonathan Hickman (X-Men and X of Swords: Destruction), Tini Howard (Excalibur and X of Swords: Destruction)
- Artists: Mahmud Asrar (X-Men and Excalibur), Stefano Caselli (Excalibur), Pepe Larraz (X of Swords: Destruction)
- Color Artists: Sunny Gho (X-Men and Excalibur), Rachelle Rosenberg (Excalibur), Marte Gracia (X of Swords: Destruction)
- Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles (all issues)
- Cover Artists: Leinil Francis Yu, Sunny Gho (X-Men and Excalibur); Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia (X of Swords: Destruction)
- Editor: Jordan D. White
- Publisher: Marvel Entertainment