Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Marcus To
Colors: Erick Arciniega
Letters: VC’s Ariana Maher
Design: Tom Muller
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Leinil Franci Yu
Colors: Sunny Gho
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Design: Tom Muller
A year ago, we were still awash in positive feeling from the now Classic House of X relaunch event that rebooted and reformed Marvel’s entire X-Line of comic books. Since House of X Marvel has allowed the Dawn of X too flourish under the creative guidance of Jonathan Hickman. Over the course of the past year a diverse line of mutant books have hit the shelves, most with a call back to a book of X-Men past but with a modern twist or take. Any longtime fan would find a gem or gems among the plethora of titles while new fans would find the line to be easily accessible. Yet over the course of the past year Marvel has had restraint in the fact they have not launched one of their multi part magnum opus of events. Yes, the X-Men were part of Marvel’s line wide events (War of Realms & Empyre) but there hasn’t been an X-specific event, that is until now, until X of Swords.
While I have been completely content with the progression of the Dawn of X and haven’t felt a need for a mega X-Event I can’t deny that I was excited once it was announced. With a long history of wonderful events, such as the Mutant Massacre, Fall of the Mutants, X-Tinction Agenda, and the X-Cutioners Song I have high hopes that X of Swords will one day join those X-Classics on my book shelf. I was also happy to see that rather than a stand along series X of Swords will run through the monthly Dawn of X titles. Now some readers will be annoyed with this, and I understand that annoyance, but again this has a classic X-Event feel as for years the X-Events were multi part sagas that ran through the monthly books. I’m excited for the nostalgic experience and am going to commit to reading the entirety of X of Swords event and be the ‘official’ Talking Comics X of Swords correspondent as I cover each week of the event and begin with the Prelude issues.
The ‘90s were not a high point in quality comics. The speculation market along with astronomical popularity and a style over substance editorial directive led sadly to some pretty horrific comic tales. Sadly, the X-Books were not immune to this phenomenon and one of the style over substance storylines was the idea of the X-Ternals. The X-Ternals were a cadre of ancient mutants, the first of their kind who had a connection with one another and were incredibly resilient to harm and were fickle when it came to their alliances with one another. For years it was teased as to who all of the X-Ternals would be. As creators turned over it became confusing as to who was and who wasn’t an X-Ternal and it was a motif that popped up again and again throughout the ‘90s. Eventually the question of the X-Ternals diminished as creators moved beyond the storyline but Hickman is an obvious fan of the ‘90s X-Men and remembers the X-Ternal plotline and has brought it into X of Swords.
Chief among the X-Ternals is Apocalypse, the first mutant and central figure to the X of Swords. With the birth of the Krakoian nation these X-Ternals have once unified as they have come together to live among their mutant brethren. It has become apparent that throughout the entirety of the Dawn of X Apocalypse has a notion of what is coming and has a plan for his survival and for his primacy among the mutants and these machinations have been playing out in the fantastic Excalibur. So, it came as no surprise that Excalibur #12 was a prelude to X of Swords. Excalibur #12 sees the X-Ternals gathering at the behest of Apocalypse, and as any fan of the X-Ternals knows that when one calls, they are all compelled to answer said call. Yet this may be a call that none of them want to answer as he is prone to do Apocalypse is plotting and scheming.
Gates have become incredibly important to the X-Men as they are the conduit for mutants to instantly transport around not just earth but the universe as well. Yet there is a need to go beyond the known universe, a need to go to another dimension where the true threat to the young mutant nation exists. To achieve that Apocalypse needs the X-Ternals and he needs to take that gate through Otherworld, home to Opal Luna Saturnyne, the Omniversal Majestrix and commander of what remains of the Captain Britain corps. Opal has no intention of letting Apocalypse use Otherworld as a conduit and she is willing to let the last Captain Britain, Betsy Braddock, defend the land against her teammate in Excalibur… Apocalypse.
If you haven’t been reading Excalibur then you are missing out. It’s mutant heroics mixed with high fantasy with a great cast of characters. As a fan of the old Captain Britain comics and the first incarnation of Excalibur I have found this to be the most enjoyable use of the title’s name since that first series I fell in love with. Tini Howard and Marcus To have excelled on this title as it is a wonderful read full of beautiful artwork. I can’t wait to see how the storylines of Excalibur continue to play out in the coming X of Swords.
Since the Dawn of X Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Franci Yu’s X-Men has been the flagship title so it is fitting that the story behind the X of Swords would begin here. In the distant past there was a sentient island of Okkara. Yet millennia ago an enemy wielding the Twilight Sword (Surtur’s sword for Thor fans) attacked Okkara. Apocalypse and his first Horsemen came to Okkara’s defense and their only course of action was to split Okkara into two islands- Krakoa and Arrako. To seal off the threat the original Horsemen took the island of Arrako to another reality so that it could never threaten the lives of the Marvel universe again. Then a few months ago (X-Men #2) a mysterious island appeared off the coast of Krakoa and the team sent to investigate encountered the High Summoner of Arrakoa. By the end of that issue Krakoa and the island of Arrako had merged and unbeknownst to readers at that time the events of X of Swords had been put into motion.
X-Men #12 we finally get the background on the Summoner, who is not only Apocalypse’s grandson but also a refugee from a land overtaken by the ancient enemy who once split Okkara. In traditional Hickman fashion this issue is dense with material as the Summoner relays to his grandfather what happened to the original Horsemen and Arrako and the war that has been waged against their enemy and how they eventually lost. It’s an incredibly fascinating history that is beautifully drawn by Leinil Francis Yu. Yu is an established superstar and this may be his fourth or fifth go around on the main X Book but this is easily his best work. His style is still unique and it is always a treat to behold.
After reading Excalibur #12 and X-Men #12 I wanted X-of Swords: Creation #1 more than ever. I can’t wait to see the role the various blades of the Marvel universe are going to play over the course of these upcoming 24 parts. I’m fascinated in finding out even more about the history of Apocalypse and how this previous unknown enemy will impact the young nation of Krakoa. So please join me in this adventure as I give weekly highlights and reviews for the entire X of Swords event, an event that once again promises to forever change the Marvel mutant universe forever…. and this time they just might mean it.