Marauders #15 (Chapter 14)
Writers: Gerry Duggan & Benjamin Percy
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
Design: Tom Muller
Excalibur #14 (Chapter 15)
Writer: Tini Howard
Art: Phil Noto
Letters: VC’s Ariana Maher
Design: Tom Muller
Wolverine #7 (Chapter 16)
Writers: Benjamin Percy & Gerry Duggan
Art: Joshua Cassara
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
Design: Tom Muller
It’s fitting that X of Swords kicks off this week in Marauders #15 after the epic cliffhanger last week in the previous issue. As the tournament draws near, and in medieval tradition, the champions have been wined and dined by their hostess, the Omniversal Majestrix herself, Opal Luna Saturnyne. Yet even the casual environment was enough to take the edge off of the Krakoans, especially Wolverine who knows that his fellow Krakoan Champions are outclassed and have little chance of winning unless he takes matter into his own hands, his own claws. So Wolverine took his shot in the final page of Marauders #14, and as this issue opens it both appears that Wolverine was successful, and by removing Saturnyne he simply paved the way for the Arakoans to march across Otherworld and decimate the Marvel Universe. It’s a shocking opening, and I one I was not expecting and my mind began scrambling for where this event would go next. That is until I remembered who Saturnyne is, and she didn’t become the Queen of Otherworld by leaving herself open to attacks from clawed mutants from earth 616.
Once Wolverine learns of the error of his ways the festivities can continue, that is until War, a pragmatist in her own right, poisons the sushi of the Krakoans fiercest soldier and the Arakoans main rival, the Wolverine. Unfortunately for War, Wolverine doesn’t eat sushi, but Doug Ramsey loves it and the honor of Arakko is suddenly in question as Doug begins writhing on the floor. With the tensions already high the apparent assassination of one of the Krakoan champions throws not only the Krakoans into turmoil but the Arakkoans as well. Over the course of the past few chapter of X of Swords it has become apparent that the mutants of Arakko are not villains in the common book sense of the term. Yes, they are the antagonists of the story but they are a society with deep honor forged over centuries of conflict. It becomes known rather quickly that War’s actions bring dishonor to the Arakkoans and shows the tension and dissent within their ranks, tension and dissent that might be used by the Krakoans as the tournament continues. Luckily for Doug, the White Sword is among the Arakkoans, as not only is he a man of great honor but he is also a healer and for the first time in his long life he heals someone without the expectation of life long servitude in return. Unlucky for the Krakoans is in the fact that as Captain Avalon pleads the case that the Arakkoans should forfeit their bid to the challenge over War’s treachery Saturnyne claims she would agree with them, if a Krakoan had not tried to assassinate her during the feast. As Wolverine’s actions have even more dire ramifications it’s time for the first drawing of combatants, setting the stage for the first duel. Captain Britain v. Isca the Unbeaten.
Excalibur #14 is the 15th chapter of X of Swords and the tournament finally commences. Anyone expecting sword fights will be happy, anyone expecting contests other than swordplay will also be excited as this tournament will be anything but straightforward. Excalibur #14 begins with a classic sword fight on a tourney field under the auspice of the King of Avalon Jamie Braddock. Two things become crystal clear as the tournament finally begins, the Krakoans are outmatched and there is no way that Saturnyne is going to let this be a fair tournament and the Omniversal Majestrix’s hatred for Betsy Braddock becomes apparent. In the wake of the first battle and casualty X of Swords takes its next turn as the second duel is a wedding. Not a duel I would have thought of at the beginning of this event, but to be fair, marrying someone is a dance, a contest of souls in an attempt to set asides each other’s wants to forge a union that lasts the ages. Our happy couple, Cypher and Bei the Blood Moon, are as unexpecting of the nuptials as the readers were. The coupling makes little sense, especially when you study the combatants. Cyphers mutant gift is that he can understand and speak any language. Bei the Blood Moon uses the Doom Note for communication, which is not a true language so Bei is the first person he’s ever met that he can’t understand or communicate with. Since communication is the cornerstone of any good marriage, this union will prove interesting and as a challenge, it will be enlightening and quite possibly a perfect pairing. A point to each team!
While the wedding interlude proved entertaining Wolverine #7 gets back to the bat-crap craziness that is X of Swords. Wolverine #7 begins with the duel between Magik, one of Krakoans vaunted Captains and possibly the break out star of this entire event- Pogg Ur-Pogg. If ever there was a mutant prepared for a sword fight it is Magik, who has possessed the Soul Sword since her earliest appearances in the ‘80s. From the end of X of Swords: Creation #1 it was Magik who was the first to join the Krakoan champions. Her strength and prowess with the sword have reverberated through the realms and even the Arakoans appreciate her abilities. But can she arm wrestle? More specifically can she arm wrestle a giant cross between a T-Rex and the ’90s mutated Thing? You no doubt know the answer and can easily figure out that this tournament is fixed!
The story quickly flips to the world known as the Blightspoke, a world comprised of collapsing realities where it becomes easy to lose oneself in the craziness of this reality. The Blightspoke is the chosen site of the duel between Wolverine and the High Summoner of Arakko, son of War, and Grandson to Apocalypse. Unlike many of the previous challenges this one is to the death, with the winner being the first one to death. Once this challenge is finished the next one for Wolverine begins, a drinking challenge with Storm. Odd for combatants on the same side to face off, but as the two long time X-Men see it, it’s a guaranteed win for Krakoa. The drink of choice is a vintage of Blightness, that has a profound effect on Wolverine as it is so intoxicating that it can overwhelm his healing factor, leaving him in a very questionable state, which of course is a perfect time for another challenge.
In Wolverine #6 we met Solem, the Arakko equivalent to Wolverine with Adamantium skin. A hard mutant imprisoned for a century for killing War’s Husband (and the High Summoners father). War was wary of releasing Solem, but he was named in the prophecy as one of the champions and in Wolverine #6 and X-Force #13 the two mutants met and assisted each other in gaining a Muramasa blade. The two anti-heroes quickly joined forces as they journeyed to hell and took on the Hand. At the end of that quest Wolverine had to ask for a boon from Solem so that he could gain his sword, so he could become a champion of Krakoa and defend his new homeland. Solem gave that boon and now it’s time for that favor to be called in. Just as Storm and Wolverine were pitted against each other so were War and Solem, and the first Horseman was looking for some long sought-after revenge for the murder of her husband. Yet just as that contest looked interesting Solem called in his boon, subbing in Wolverine to fight War, the man who just challenged her son, who attempted to kill the host of the tourney, and a man highly intoxicated. The fight goes just about as well as you could expect and doesn’t seem to be ending as this duel carries over to next week, Week 9 of X of Swords.
Since the end of X of Swords: Creation #1 I have been waiting for the actual tournament to begin and just as I enjoyed the buildup to these issues, I’m finding that actual duels to be incredibly entertaining and this story to be utterly fascinating as I have no idea where it is going and I love that. Overall X of Swords has been an incredibly crafted tale constructed by an absolute A list group of creators and this week was no different. Benjamin Percy, Gerry Duggan, and Tini Howard wrote some fantastic stories and the art provided by Stefano Caselli, Phil Noto, and Joshua Cassara was amazing. X of Swords is nearing its end, with only two weeks to go but I have no doubt that these last six stories will be as amazing and marvelous as the chapters that presided them so check back next week for X of Swords week 9 to see where this story goes next.