It’s no surprise we’re getting an X of Swords Handbook — X of Swords is one of the most hyped events in Marvel history. It follows House of X and Powers of X as well as the Dawn of X line of comics. It’s also 22 chapters long and it plays out over eight X-Men titles. If there was ever an event that needed a handbook, this is it. Out this week, this 56-page handbook is dense and incredibly helpful.
Head writers Mike O’Sullivan and Carl Farmer do a great job with this book. This comic features encyclopedic entries on Apocalypse, Broo, Captain Britain (Brian Braddock), Captain Britain (Elizabeth Braddock), Cypher, Gloriana, Gorgon, Krakoa, Moira MacTaggert, Magik, Wolverine, and the X-Men. Each entry features multiple paragraphs detailing each character’s known history up until this event. Each entry also gets a full breakdown of the character, from aliases, place of birth, height and weight, powers, and power rankings from one to seven. It’s quite thorough.
Each entry uses art from various artists in the series laid out in clean and sensible ways. The highlight might be the Krakoa chapter, which features key locations from across the island. To see all the locations over five pages–with eight to 12 pages per page–is incredibly helpful to gain a sense of what Krakoa looks like.
There are hidden gems of information for die-hard fans to disseminate and compare with what they know, but the most interesting thing for everyone to glean from this work might be who is represented. Since the event features every mutant under the sun, this work helps tell us who the major players are. Can we now expect Moira to show up at some point, or is she simply here since her history is so important to where mutants are currently? That’s hard to say, but it’s quite clear Apocalypse is a major player while Cypher, Gloriana, and Gorgon are surprising entries. With only five chapters released so far, it’s exciting to think about how this handbook informs what we might expect from the event.
It’s possible we’ll get another handbook, but none have been solicited so far. Knowing that, it’s a bit of a bummer that this isn’t longer with more entries. The Swordbearers of Arakko have barely been touched upon in the event itself, but a handbook like this could be hugely helpful to keep them all straight. It’s a compliment to the book that I wish it was longer, but it’s also a downside, as it feels like it could use more to truly be all-encompassing.
At $4.99, this book is well worth the money. If you read every word from cover to cover it’d take you quite a while to finish since it’s so dense and thorough. I’d argue it could use more entries, however, as it only contains 11 in an event that has hundreds of characters and a very complex backstory for each. Overall, though, the X of Swords Handbook is thorough, entertaining, and a must-read for casual and hardcore fans alike.