It’s a bold move to slap “1 of 22” on your first event issue, but Marvel is confident we’ll want to read every chapter of X of Swords. After putting down X of Swords: Creation #1, it’s quite clear Marvel is quite certain what we have here is a must-read comic story. The first issue is extra-sized, running over 60 pages long and very much earns the $6.99 price tag by weaving in main plots, subplots, and plenty of surprises. Now that Empyre is over and much of its tie-ins were scaled back, it’s clear X of Swords is the return to normal Marvel fans have been waiting for.
This issue is so long and comprehensive it reads like the first two or even three issues in the event itself. The book is literally the length of three issues, so that may not be a surprise, but there is nothing in this book that’s a waste or filler. Seeds are planted in one moment, the comic swoops to some other reality in another, and then we cut to characters in an entirely different location dealing with another aspect of the threats at hand. There is a juggling act going on in this book that makes it exciting to see what comes next, knowing full well it will all come together at some point.
When the X-creators said on X-Men Monday #75 this is a good jumping on point, they weren’t kidding. There are well-timed flashbacks, recaps of key characters and locations, and clear terms in regards to who is most important to the event itself. There are plenty of surprises and questions to be answered, but there’s a level of understanding as far as where we go from here, the stakes in play, and how this event upends everything. You’ll put this book down and realize the complexities of Krakoa are in danger, some of your favorite characters will not be able to escape the conflict in this event, and have enough information to start imagining what may happen next. Simply put, this book establishes things very well.
Part of that is how the narrative zooms out to big picture stuff and zooms back in to reveal stakes for characters at the drop of a hat. Your attention is never stuck in a boring conversation for too long, or on a battlefield for too long either. This is the benefit of a book with such a large cast, but so often in stories like this the narrative can focus too closely on one thing, or exposition for that matter, that it can kill the buzz and excitement of the story. Your interest may vary in aspects of the story, but there is something for everyone here.
The zooming in and out to large battles and close-up character beats is largely successful because of artist Pepe Larraz. His ability to key into a character moment is exceptional, making you feel for a character who may be feeling doubt or fear only to zoom out with glee to show a fight taking place among many characters. The sweeping wings of Archangel and the tactical strike of Cyclops look cool, and inform readers that we’re dealing with some of the greatest heroes in comics.
Marte Gracia, who just came off an exceptional run on Empyre, continues to add texture and volume to large in scope epic scenes of violence and drama. The use of light is particularly good, like the shine of light on a diseased character early on as if to convey a false sense of hope, or later how a faint blue light wafts off a character to show they are coming out of a telepathic moment. These touches add important information in each scene to help the reader know how to feel or hint at something more beneath the surface.
A lot of this book revolves around Apocalypse, and if you read Excalibur #12 you’ll know why. His complex backstory helps make him a good vessel for the story to build off of, not to mention his past as a supervillain. His ties to the past connect well with the modern nature of Krakoa and by the end series writers, Tini Howard and Jonathan Hickman establish stakes that matter on multiple levels. There are themes here about family, about brotherhood, and about kings in high places seeking to increase their power. In a series about kinship, it all works very well.
For such a long issue, one might assume your attention would waver over time, but there are also satisfying resolutions within the narrative itself. A subplot with Cyclops, Jean, and Cable, is a good example of how the vastness of the story can bear fruit for short term problems that need resolutions.
Despite everything happening, when you boil this book down, it’s really pretty simple — it establishes a confrontation with rules that characters can prepare for, and yet there is layering to the characters and the many alliances that make it feel complex. It’s easy to follow, but if you so choose you can let your imagination run wild with what has been established.
X of Swords: Creation #1 is an epic start to an event that is vast and daring with its ideas. Visually striking, the X of Swords event is already tremendous and awesomely entertaining.