Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
Typically, I would use this space to set the stage for this week’s question-and-answer session. But with about a month to go until Election Day in the U.S. (November 3)–and the fact that these X of Swords editions of X-Men Monday are attracting a lot of attention–I’m going to use whatever platform I have to remind American readers to make sure they have a plan to vote. Every election is important, but far too much is on the line this time around, from the health and safety of everyday Americans during this deadly pandemic to democracy itself. If you’re not registered to vote, register today. If you’re concerned about COVID-19 and want to vote by mail, request your ballot today. The I Will Vote website can help you address these essential tasks and any questions you might have better than X-Men Monday.
And, of course, I’m voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and you should too! (Trump and his Republican sycophants would greenlight mutant-hunting Sentinels and you know it.)
OK, with that political detour out of the way, we can resume this column about the X-Men, Marvel’s most apolitical characters!
X of Swords: Creation #1 by the astonishing team of Jonathan Hickman, Tini Howard, Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia, Clayton Cowles and Tom Muller. It was gorgeous, it was epic, it… raised a few questions among X-Fans. So without further ado, here’s X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White with some answers–including new details about Al Ewing and Valerio Schiti’s upcoming S.W.O.R.D. series!
AIPT: Welcome back, Jordan! Tini Howard and Jonathan Hickman definitely have distinct voices in Excalibur and X-Men, respectively, but in X of Swords: Creation #1, the story flowed seamlessly. X-Fan Julian Keller (@alittlebitton) wanted to know what you can share about how the issue came together. For instance, Julian felt maybe Tini primarily focused on Otherworld while Jonathan covered the Summers family’s space adventure. Is Julian onto something?
Jordan: No, it wasn’t anything like that. They came up with the idea together and it was then written. It wasn’t like, these pages are Jonathan, these pages are Tini. I think people figured out that Empyre: X-Men was written a lot more divided and passing the Baton from one writer to the next. Each of them wrote a number of pages and that was it. But this one was not like that at all. This was a collaboration.
AIPT: Well, they did great. Next up, X-Fan Eric P. pointed out that in X of Swords: Creation #1, we learn that Otherworld is divided into vassal states and that key characters like Roma, Merlyn, the Fury and Mad Jim Jaspers are hanging around offscreen. Eric was curious, do you think Otherworld has the potential to become the X-Men’s response to Asgard?
Jordan: Oh, well I hope not, because I think Asgard is real boring–Otherworld is way cooler than Asgard. I mean, yeah, sure. I think that’s a neat idea. I think that there are a lot of ideas. So, I was dancing around Otherworld last week when you were asking me about Jonathan and Tini creating the mythology of things–the backstory of Arakko and Amenth. And I was forgetting that it’s not public knowledge that there’s a lot more going on with Otherworld than we’ve seen in the past.
There’s a lot in it, and how it’s used going forward, I think will end up being fun. I mean, it’s weird to call another dimension that has these giant realms within it another piece on the board, but it’s another piece on the board. Maybe it’s another 10 boards that were put on the table next to the pieces and yeah, I mean, there’s a lot there and there’s a lot that can be mined from it. Both in this story and in the future.
AIPT: Is it safe to assume that post-X of Swords, the many realms of Otherworld will be explored in Excalibur?
Jordan: I mean, maybe. Although, it could be in other books too. You never know.
AIPT: I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Something a lot of people saw–including X-Fan Lolo (@ChildOfTycheI)–was that in Free Comic Book Day X-Men, “The Hanged Man” tarot card originally featured Banshee, Glob and Trinary. Lolo asked if this was meant to be misdirection. Or was this simply a story change that came about when the crossover was reworked and expanded?
Jordan: So, this is a little inside baseball, but Free Comic Book Day issues have to be done really, really early because of the extremely high print run. So even back when this was a July book, Free Comic Book Day was done like significantly early. So I think it was a story change, but it was a story change that happened even before we revised everything. And in fact, I think when we sent Free Comic Book Day X-Men to press, we literally knew like, we’re going to change it. And not necessarily those characters, but in general. Like specifically, I know that the descriptions of the card, the reading that Saturnyne gave, Tini wrote the version that was there and we went, “Yeah, but we’re probably going to change that when we know all the details of the story so it’ll fit better and it’ll do more.” So again, this is the real version. I don’t think they are significant enough changes–unless you’re the world’s biggest Glob Herman fan, which I know there are a lot of now. I don’t think there are any changes in this that are so significant that you will be devastated that the story has changed.
AIPT: I’m sure Glob himself is upset. Now, speaking of tarot cards, is there a reason the Hellion Tarot is allowed on Krakoa even though she’s a precog? X-Fan Nick wanted to know.
Jordan: Well, first of all, the use of tarot–the not person–the cards thing, I think is kind of intentional in the sense that it’s working against that. That said, Tini does like to talk about the fact that tarot cards are not the future-telling cards. That’s not like the purpose of them. They are mostly a tool to examine the world and yourself. And you can use them to glean information that can possibly affect the future.
Now, generally speaking in stories, they are portrayed as 100% magical and they can literally tell the future. And in defense of that, yes, in this story, she literally turns over a card and sees a picture of people who are going to be in this story. So clearly, there’s some magic in these cards. Clearly, they have some foresight into the future. But I think that Tarot, the character, is not the world’s most powerful precog and that’s not the main thrust of her power.
And also, technically, she was alive before Krakoa started and the not wanting precogs on Krakoa isn’t like a public law. Nobody knows that that’s happening. Because if they did, they would go, “What? Why?” So I think it’s more of a subtle thing. So, my guess would be that they have done what they can to keep her from finding out the important things in some nefarious Xavier-and-Magneto way. And that if she ever did die again, it would be a question of where they would put her in the ranking of the resurrection waiting list.
But listen, I brought her back with no explanation in an issue of Spider-Man/Deadpool because it was an issue written by Penn Jillette and he wanted them to fight Tarot–he was like, “Yes, of course, that’s perfect.” And I went, “Yeah, it’s worth it.” I don’t care. So we just brought her back, no explanation whatsoever. She just shows up and pulls out tarot cards and has them–has people jumping off of the tarot cards and fighting and stuff. It’s ridiculous, but I don’t care.
AIPT: So you and Penn doomed Krakoa.
Jordan: Again, it was worth it because it was a super-fun issue. It’s an issue where Penn wrote Penn and Teller meet Spider-Man and Deadpool and, basically, they meet at a poker game and they make a bet that Teller and Deadpool could swap places. So Deadpool is doing magic with Penn in their stage show where he’s wearing a Teller mask and Penn is doing tricks like stabbing a million swords through him, very blatantly, and him surviving. And meanwhile, Teller wears the Deadpool costume–it looks kind of schlubby–and teams up with Spider-Man without ever saying anything, which is very, very silly.
AIPT: OK, well, swerving from the very silly to potentially deeper stuff, X-Fan Emmanuel Boyd (@Eman419Boyd) said now that we know the original Four Horsemen were Apocalypse’s children, will there be any exploration of these characters’ feelings about being replaced countless times over by characters like Warren and Logan?
Jordan: Will there be an exploration of their feelings? I mean, in a sense this whole thing is about all of their feelings, but about that specifically, I think that that reading is relevant and interesting, but I don’t think Apocalypse treated those Horsemen–his replacement Horseman–like his children really. I like the idea that yes, he was recreating his family over and over again. Yes. That is valid and true. But it’s not like he hugged Warren a lot. Like, they didn’t. I don’t think they replaced them in that sense.
But again, that also is relevant to the thing Tini established, which is the idea of magical covens and there being a five-person number of power there because of the four points of the X and the one in the middle. So I think that the question also could be asked, is the reason that he has four children who are what they are because of that as well? And it’s hard to say what the chicken or the egg is in that situation and maybe we’ll find out.
AIPT: I’ve noticed that Monet has been getting a lot of attention in the Dawn of X, which is making a lot of her fans very happy. Is it safe to assume M has reached that Emma Frost level among creators–a character everyone can’t wait to write?
Jordan: That’s a great question. But I think the answer is no. I think there are a couple who very much want to use her. Specifically, Jonathan and Tini very much want to use her, but I don’t know that like every creator who works on the X-Men and is clamoring for her. That said, if they keep writing her the way they do, I think everybody will start. So I think they’re setting a great example with her and I think that she will get more popular by the day.
AIPT: What are your thoughts on M as a character?
Jordan: She’s interesting. She’s got that real weird and confusing beginning bit, where she started out as a character, then it turned out it wasn’t her. Like, that’s always a real rough thing to overcome. We got that with her, we got that with Domino. We got that with Mondo, who people are like, “Oh, they brought back Mondo.” It’s like, yes, but technically it isn’t that guy. It complicates the character in a weird way. That said, she also has had a life in Peter David’s X-Factor that then explored her a lot. And I think a lot of fun stories happened there with her. So I think at this point, there’s enough about her that makes her really interesting and fun.
The one criticism I have about her–and I know this is part of her thing–I think she’s a little overpowered. She has a little too many powers for my taste. I do wish she had a few more limitations and, again, I do get it. That was part of the deal. She’s good at everything. So she had this arrogance, but again, that wasn’t her. I like her, I like the way they play her. I like the way they write her. I liked the way she was in X-Factor back when I worked on that book as well. So yeah, I’m all for her showing up.
Oh, and I do like the twist Jonathan introduced to her that she can go back and forth between the Penance form. I think that’s good.
AIPT: Especially when drawn by Russell Dauterman. So, from Apocalypse and his children to Scott, Jean, Cable and Rachel’s interactions–so far, there’s a strong emphasis on family in X of Swords, as X-Fan Bagalotnibba (@ratchetkick) pointed out. Was that intentional on the parts of the writers or is that just the result of this new Krakoan era?
Jordan: I would say that there’s, in some ways, been an emphasis on family in all of the Dawn of X stuff, because, again, one of the things that Tini has always talked about is them being able to do more than just survive now because they have a place of their own where they can live instead of just barely escaping death all the time. So I think that allows the family connections to shine. And again, it’s right there from issue one of X-Men where the whole issue ended with the Summers clan getting together for dinner. So I think Jonathan has brought that idea to the forefront in this era. And I think this is a continuation of that.
AIPT: Speaking of that wacky Summers clan… what does Cyclops’ X-Mug say? There’s clearly Krakoan lettering on it that Jean’s doesn’t have.
Jordan: Let me look at it…
[Jordan pulls up the page]
Oh, wow. That’s real small. Let me… let me see what I can see. Oh yeah, no, no, no. It’s just, it’s squiggles. It’s squiggles, but it probably says “World’s Best Captain Commander.”
AIPT: It’s not “Krakoa’s #1 Dad?”
Jordan: Ah, he’s got some competition!
AIPT: So, another fun moment in X of Swords: Creation #1 was turning the page and getting to see a pterodactyl. Was that all Pepe or was that in the script?
Jordan: That’s a really good question. I think I have the script here. Let me see…
AIPT: Thanks for sharing that script snippet! Another amazing page turn was the S.W.O.R.D. reveal on the last page. X-Fan HED asked how early on did the idea to include the Peak come up?
Jordan: Oh, like almost immediate. I mean, yeah, almost immediately. Once we said it was going to be about having swords, it was like, well, you know, there’s this one sword that the mutants used to be in control of or at least one mutant used to be in control of. So yeah. We were very excited to bring that into it.
AIPT: Now that S.W.O.R.D. has been revealed, let’s rewind the clock. We’ve seen photos of Al Ewing at various creator summits, both in person and via Zoom.
Jordan: Finally, everybody knows the truth.
AIPT: Well, X-Fan Mark Turetsky (@mturetsky) was curious to know how early on in the X of Swords planning was Al brought on?
Jordan: So, mostly people have seen that Al has been on our Zoom calls–what used to be BlueJeans calls that are now Zoom calls–and we loved teasing that. We loved just having him on there and with no explanation and people freaking out–it was the best. But I do think a couple of people did notice that he was actually at our C2E2 summit as well. And he was there because we have been wanting him to do an X-Book for awhile.
I love Al and I love his writing and I love working with him. I’ve only worked with him a couple of times before, but I absolutely adore the books I did with him. That was the Rocket mini-series, which is amazing. It is literally Rocket Raccoon as Parker from the Parker novels. Space, crime–it’s so good. And if you’re an obscure X-Men fan, like I am, it has the Technet in it, so you should totally read it. Oh, the other thing being You Are Deadpool, which was a Deadpool mini-series he did that is mind-blowingly awesome. It’s a game that you play. It’s a choose your own adventure, but it’s a choose your own adventure you play as a game and you’re trying to win or lose and get points. It was so elaborately thought out and so smart and so good. That’s another one that, if you don’t have it, I absolutely recommend you get it. You can buy it digitally. It’s a little trickier to read digitally, I’ll be honest. So I recommend getting a physical copy, but it still works digitally. It’s just a little trickier.
Anyway, I’ve loved Al for ages. Everybody loves Al. We knew we wanted him to be involved in some capacity. We’ve talked about various things. He was at C2E2 for other reasons–probably to talk about Empyre I would think, but since he was there, we said, “Do you want to stay for at least the beginning of the X-Summit?” And he said, “Yeah, of course.” And he did. And it was there that we ended up saying, “Well, listen, we want to do a S.W.O.R.D. book. Do you just want to do it?” And he was like, “Yeah, of course.” So he has been loosely involved with the planning of the whole thing since then. He’s not writing any part of X of Swords, so he wasn’t involved in quite the same way that all the rest of the writers were, but he was still involved in throwing in ideas and planning his S.W.O.R.D. series for afterward.
AIPT: Very cool. So, related to that new series, X-Fandom is among the most diverse in comics, and the diverse teams in X-Factor, Children of the Atom and now S.W.O.R.D. have been met with excitement. X-Fan Obella (@obellaobbo) said, with characters like Frenzy, Manifold and Wiz Kid getting a greater spotlight in the not-too-distant future, would you say there’s been an intentional push in the X-Office to showcase more diversity in the mutant community?
Jordan: Yes. It’s not like it’s an edict. We’re not like, everybody has a quota to fill, but it’s a thing that is on the minds of us editorially and on the minds of our writers and, therefore, a thing that everyone is working toward. Like I said, we don’t have a checklist where we go, “Have we covered everything?” But we are making an effort to not just do a team of white guys getting together and punching things. We want a lot of different kinds of people punching things.
AIPT: Well, even seeing a character like Wiz Kid in a lead role is so important. I still remember how in DC’s New 52, Barbara Gordon returning to the Batgirl role meant losing Oracle. And that loss of representation had an impact.
Jordan: Al, in putting together the cast for that book, he picked all of the characters and, you know, obviously there was back and forth about what characters to use and everybody chimed in and everything, because it’s very collaborative in the X-Room. But for the most part, he got the guys he wanted or ended up wanting the guys he got at the same time. And Wiz Kid–when he brought him to the table–we were like, yeah, that’s great. Nobody’s used him in a while. And he does have really interesting powers and it’s fascinating to see him on the S.W.O.R.D. station interacting with that, which obviously, you guys have to wait a little bit for it, but it’s great.
AIPT: Frenzy, too, is a character X-Fans have wanted to see back in the spotlight.
Jordan: Yeah, Frenzy is a character who had a real spotlight. I mean, this is the thing that happens with so many X-Characters because there are a zillion of them. Sometimes, it happens that a character will get a real spotlight in a prominent X-Book. And then, when that creative team leaves, a new creative team comes on and they’re not typically looking to just do what that team did and continue it–they want to make their own stamp. So a lot of times they’ll bring out their own, more obscure characters instead of sticking with the same ones that just got the spotlight.
And so that happened with Frenzy in Mike Carey’s run. Then when Mike left, she kind of faded into the background more and, you know, as a fan of that character, it is a bummer to see that happen. But what happens is the wheel turns and eventually people who love that series will come back and want to write the series. And they want to call back to that. I mean, the same way that we haven’t really seen the Children of the Vault in a long, long time. And then Jonathan came in and was like, “No, that was brilliant. We’re bringing that back.”
AIPT: And now we haven’t seen X-23 in a long time because of them.
Jordan: Yes, but that’s a little bit more intentional. And by the way, you should call her Wolverine. [Laughs]
AIPT: I know, I know, my brain just broke and I actually couldn’t remember if her name was Laura or Lauren so I went with X-23. I’ll change that one when writing.
Jordan: No, NO, you can’t change it! You have to have that I corrected you! [Laughs]
AIPT: X-Fans will kill me. Maybe I can win them back with this question: Can we expect more new X-Book announcements in the future? I know you were teasing a December series which we now know is S.W.O.R.D.
Jordan: Yes. S.W.O.R.D. was our classified X-Book that we, I mean, the intention was to try not to spoil the last page of creation by holding back what the book was. Depending on where you are on the internet, you might’ve seen it before you read Creation, which is sort of a bummer, but still, I think it lands pretty good. And yeah, I’m very excited. Like I said, I’ve been wanting to work with Al for a long time. His ideas are so great and nutty and big and it’s going to start big and then it’s only going to get bigger from there.
AIPT: But do we have more new X-Series announcements to look forward to?
Jordan: Yeah, not in December, but sure, absolutely. I mean, in January we have already said that’s when Children of the Atom’s going to launch. And then after that, there will be more X-Stuff to come, in general. Yeah, there’s a lot, there’s a lot going on in the X-Universe. That said, of course, obviously, during X of Swords, it’s chapters 1 through 22. And so, you know, ideally, you’re going to want to read the whole thing.
That’s not necessarily the case coming out of it. Read the books you love. They’re all slightly different. The purpose of that is to give all these different options and show different aspects of Krakoan society and mutant life. And if you don’t like books about magic, you might like books about covert CIA missions. And you might like books about teenagers who were inspired by the X-Men. And you might like books about mutants taking to space. That’s why we have all the different books. If they were all the same book over and over again, that would be pointless.
AIPT: Well said. So finally, what can readers look forward to in part 2 of X of Swords in X-Factor #4 this week?
Jordan: X-Factor is an oversized issue written by Leah Williams and drawn by Carlos Gomez. It is beautiful looking and there’s a lot riding on this tournament already and it raises the stakes a bit and makes things a little bit more difficult for mutantkind.
AIPT: Certainly a dire note to end on, but I feel like these eXclusive preview images will help relieve tension…
Thanks for those and thanks for taking the time to talk X of Swords: Creation #1–and tease the X-Men’s cosmic future, Jordan!
X-Fans, we’ll do this again with X of Swords part 2 in X-Factor #4, so be sure to read it as soon as possible this Wednesday. Then, look for the official call for questions on this very website at 12 noon EST that same day (September 30). You’ll be able to fill out the questions form between then and 5 PM EST the next day (October 1). There have been a lot of great questions so far, so keep ’em coming!
Until neXt time, X-Fans–stay safe–make a plan to vote–and continue to be eXceptional!