Last week’s X of Swords: Creation left the mutants of Krakoa in pretty bad shape, and the worst is only yet to come. Welcome to week two of X of Swords!
X OF SWORDS: WEEK TWO
X OF TITLES
Just X-Factor #4 this time.
X OF EVENTS
Following their tremendous defeat on Otherworld at the hands of Summoner and the First Horsemen, Apocalypse and his scouts return to Krakoa. Rockslide is dead, with Rictor barely clinging to life, and Apocalypse not much further behind. After Xavier learns of what happened on Otherworld, he rushes The Five to resurrect their fallen. Rictor is resurrected without a hitch, but something seems to be deeply wrong with Rockslide, triggering a brief reboot of Cerebro throughout space. The Five deduces that Otherworld’s omniversal nature corrupts Cerebro’s mutant backup system, and though Rockslide has been resurrected, it’s not their Rockslide. This means Otherworld effectively nullifies the resurrection protocols and makes death permanent for anybody who dies there. Considering how there’s an incoming war with Arakko on Otherworld soil, this is bad news.
Meanwhile, Polaris struggles to decipher the clues Saturnyne left for her regarding the upcoming battle against Arakko. After some nudging by her father Magneto, Polaris enters a trancelike state and dictates the prophecy that alludes to the 10 people who wield swords for the fate of Krakoa. She then uses the deceased Rockslide’s remains to construct a casting circle that will also serve as a permanent memorial for the fallen mutant, and she announces that it’s time for them to determine who will wield swords for Krakoa.
A written memo by Cypher speculates who will wield those swords based on the prophecy. Magik is their only confirmed champion, but he also suggests the likes of himself, Warlock, Cable, Storm, Wolverine, the Braddock twins, Gorgon, and Apocalypse. The latter’s involvement might be tricky, now that Xavier and Magneto have forbidden the resurrection protocols from being used on him following his untimely death…
X OF WORDS
Despite not technically being one, X-Factor #4 is arguably a “red issue” (a chapter of importance of which last week’s Creation was) in that it introduces a major wrinkle to the Krakoa era: the resurrection protocols can fail. Kate’s short-lived death implied as much, but this time it applies to everybody. As poor Rockslide’s demise can attest to, this is going to be a major problem for the 10 Krakoans who will fight in the battle against Arakko. On a narrative level, however, this development makes sense because now Hickman & Co. have injected mortal stakes into the story. After a publication year of relative immortality for the Krakoans, what happens now that they know their fight with Arakko will almost inevitably result in permanent losses? Further installments will surely explore that topic. Let’s be clear, however: death in comics is cheap, and characters can come back as long as someone wants really them to. But on a narrative level, it gives the X-Men something to truly fight for, and this kind of storyline requires that urgency.
X-Factor #4 is also likely indicative of what we can expect from Hickman’s co-writers moving forward. Penned by Leah Williams, this issue decidedly lacks the humorous touch that defined her first three issues on the title, but that was to be expected given the story at hand. X of Swords is serious business. That being said, the issue is told largely through the perspective of Polaris and The Five, who are both central to X-Factor’s new premise, so it doesn’t completely come across as a hard swerve from what Williams already established. I’m definitely missing my beloved trash king Daken, who is completely missing here, but I’m sure we’ll be reunited soon enough…
One last stray observation about the script: ? MOIRA X ALERT! ? The elusive constant briefly appears in a single panel, for what I believe is the first time since HoXPoX, and that’s very exciting. I wonder if she’ll play a bigger part in the story later on…
X OF PICTURES
Carlos Gomez replaces original artist David Baldeón for this issue, and it’s a pretty seamless change that doesn’t break visual continuity with the former work. X-Factor #4 is less sprawling than Creation and mostly takes place in a few locations on Krakoa, which leaves Gomez to emphasize character and convey emotion, of which this issue contains plenty of. It’s actually a nice breather from the last installment, which was packed with action and all sorts of comicbook weirdness (this could also be said of the script, which is a lot easier to follow than last week’s was, which is neither good nor bad). A big part of the visual continuity in this issue comes down to Israel Silva’s colors, which provide similar shading techniques that I actually think look better here than with Baldeon’s art. The previous style is exaggerated and approaches cartoony territory while Gomez is more realistic and down-to-Earth in his approach, so that may be why. In any event, it’s quality output from Gomez and Silva, if slightly less exciting to look at than what Pepe Larraz did on Creation.
NE(X)T OF SWORDS
After two consecutive weeks of just one issue each, we’re getting a whopping three chapters: Wolverine #6, Marauders #13, and X-Force #13. We haven’t seen much of most of the characters in those titles yet, so I’m interested to see how they feel about the current conflict. I’m sure Logan will handle the prospect of war with the calm, measured attitude he’s known for…