X-Force #14: Chapter 17
Writers: Benjamin Percy & Gerry Duggan
Artist: Joshua Cassara
Colors: Guru- eFX
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Design: Tom Muller
Hellions #6: Chapter 18
Writers: Zeb Wells
Artist: Carmen Carnero
Colors: David Curiel
Design: Tom Muller
Cable #6: Chapter 19
Writers: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Phil Noto
Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino
Design: Tom Muller
The tournament between the mutants of Krakoa and Arakko is in full swing and anyone expecting a tournament of straight up sword fights, in an event titled X of Swords, are no doubt disappointed as this tournament is short on sword fights but big on contests of every variety, contests that suit the whim of the Omniversal Majestrix as this tournament is obviously fixed and heading toward a conclusion of her choosing.
X-Force #14 is the seventeenth chapter of this Mega Marvel Mutant event and the best way to describe this issue is contests galore as we get an incredible look at all of the challenges that Saturnyne has concocted for her tournament. X-Force #14 is grounded by three big contests with short vignettes showing the variety of games that will decide the fate of Krakoa. X-Force 14 kicks off with a rematch between Magik and Pogg Ur-Pogg. There first match, arm wrestling, ended with a win for the Arakiins. Yet since that contest Magik has studied her opponent, a very formidable opponent, and realized what his sword is and how to use that to her advantage in a somewhat gruesome display. X-Force #14 then offers a glimpse at a plethora of challenges taking place all throughout Otherworld. There is a contest to see who can withstand torture the longest, a good old game of boulder rolling, a disgusting eating challenge, a fantastic dance off, a game of puzzles, then on to a fashion show runway walk off (to quote Billy Zane- “It’s a Walk Off!”) and then some orienteering. Each challenge is shown only in a panel yet somehow the art conveys everything the reader needs and it is so much fun to behold. While I was one looking forward to a lot of sword fights, I can’t deny that I am enjoying the variety of challenges that are making up this tournament.
The second major contest of X-Force #14 is a foot race between Captain Avalon and Redroot through Jim Jaspers Crooked Market. While not as interesting as the Magik-Pogg Ur-Pogg face off this little scene once again shows us how biased Saturnyne is when it comes to Brian. There’s a huge sense of nostalgia in this scene by including Mad Jim Jaspers and the appearance of the Fury’s, both of whom were the bane of the then Captain Britain’s existence in the early ‘80s under Alan Moore and Jamie Delano and beautifully illustrated by a young Alan Davis. It truly is a crime against comic readers that these classic tales aren’t in print right now, especially with X of Swords dripping in nostalgia from this era. After the foot race we jump back into the vignettes yet these short snippets are all overpowered by one. Wolverine and the White Sword are challenged to look in a mirror to bear witness to all of the people they have killed and the first to look away loses. The emotional toll this takes on Wolverine is powerful and the cool disregard of the White Sword is telling how different life in Krakoa is to Arakko. It really is a powerful scene.
X-Force #14 ends with a conclusion to a dance that began in Marauders #14, a dance with Death. Storm is no stranger to Death as the two have been infatuated with each other since their first meeting. While their first dance was a beautiful expression of confidence in the face of one’s doom this battle is instead a dark dance with dire ramifications. Where their first dance was amongst beautiful mermaids and intense aquatic life this dance is among the undead, vampires who will feed upon the loser. Amongst all the battles in X of Swords this could be the most brutally beautiful as an intoxicated (see Wolverine #7) powerless Storm shows Death who she truly is. I was blown away by the end of this issue and craving more…. instead I got Hellions #6.
Hellions #6 is the interlude that we needed even as we didn’t know that we needed it. Since their arrival in Otherworld in Hellions #5 Mister Sinister and his group of expendable mutants have been absent from X of Swords as they made their way to Arakko to ‘steal’ the swords before the contest. Yet their journey has apparently been less then ideal, not that we will ever know as the Hellions look like hell but other than a bit of dialogue, we never see how Havok lost an eye or why the team is beaten and bruised. It’s genius and perfectly fitting with this book. The snark and verbal jabs are brilliant and the annoyance and pain is apparent by some beautiful artwork. There is one thing that is apparent to everyone but the Hellions (minus Sinister); they are to late. The Champions of Arakko have already travelled to Otherworld and the Hellions are out of luck. Unless stealing the swords was never actually the plan and anyone who’s read a story with Mister Sinister over the last three decades knows that Sinister always has an agenda, has a specific interest in genetics, and the culmination of those two things becomes apparent.
Unluckily for the Hellions their greeting in Arakko goes about as well as their trip to get there. Standing between the Hellions and Arakko proper is the mutant telepath Tarn the Uncaring and his Locus Vile. Mutants breed for combat and forged in hardship. The Hellions are in no shape for a fight and never stand a chance. The book quickly devolves into the base instincts of all living things, fight or flight and in the condition the Hellions are in they choose the latter but even that doesn’t go well. As the team falls apart, they become nothing but pawns in a greater plan and then Hellions #6 ends with nothing short of an ultimate betrayal that leaves me wondering how this book goes forward. I can’t wait to find out.
Our interlude continues into Cable #6 as the issue opens with the Quiet Council, still sitting in Krakoa but beginning to feel useless. Especially when they hear reports from Otherworld and discover that their Krakoan brethren are suffering heavy losses in the Tournament. While Kitty is ready to storm through the External Gate the remainder of the council is unwilling to violate the boundaries established by Saturnyne but they are aware that they need to prepare for the mutants of Arakko, who could be upon their gate at any time. It was nice to see the Quiet Council, who have been noticeably absent from the majority of this event as they have had very little to do. I have a feeling we will be seeing more of them in the last three chapters of this series but after this interlude we return to Otherworld and another sword fight.
The latest pairing is Cable vs. Bei the Blood Moon, speaker of the Death Note and new bride of Doug Ramsey, Cable’s fellow Krakoan champion. Throughout this challenge, and really since his first appearance in Extermination a few years ago ‘young’ Cable has felt like he is in the shadow of his elder predecessor, the established ‘old soldier’ Cable who has been a staple in the X-Universe since the ‘90s. These negative thoughts have a heavy impact on Cable’s mindset during this fight and it does not end well. Thankfully Saturnyne has some compassion, especially for the newlyweds whose marriage she arranged last week as part of the tournament. Cable’s dejection does reveal that he has been in telepathic communication with his parents, and with the latest information dump Cyclops and Marvel Girl may want to seek out Kitty Pryde as they are all of the same opinion on storming Otherworld.
Yet the main event of Cable #6 is the second match, Gorgon vs. the White Sword. I, like many readers, wondered why Gorgon was included as one of the Krakoan champions. Even as he possessed 2 of the 10 blades (Godkiller & Grasscutter) it still seemed like the most eclectic choice of an already eclectic group. Primarily an antagonist of Wolverine’s and a sometimes member of Hydra (See Secret Empire) Gorgon has never been a mutant I had much interest in. That all changed with Cable #6 and the amazing sequence that saw Gorgon stand against the White Sword sword’s, his 100 mutants who have pledged their lives to him for his gift of healing them. Gorgon’s prowess with a sword will never be questioned again and it becomes apparent from the scoring as to why Saturnyne saved this for the penultimate contest as it sets up the fight that this entire event has been building toward since its beginning. A fight that has been obvious for weeks and now my anticipation for next week is palpable. At this point as I cannot wait for week 10. So, join me again next week, for the final week of X of Swords!