We’re nearly halfway through the 22-chapter X of Swords event, as X-Men #13 reaches the 10th chapter. As the preview shows, Apocalypse is in great pain, but he is the key to everything. Not only because he opened the door to Arakko putting all of Earth and all mutants in danger, but because it’s his children behind the duel forcing 10 mutants to fight to the death in X of Swords. X-Men #13 further explores the character, his past, and how we got here, and it’s one of the most pivotal and important chapters to the event yet.
Much of this issue occurs while Apocalypse is in great pain being healed as he lays dying. He was mortally wounded by his children in Otherworld and now a few mutants are attempting to stop his death in Krakoa. As he lays dying, he thinks back to how this all came to be, and likely, why his kiddos wanted him dead. That makes much of this issue take place in a flashback to another time and place we’ve never seen.
Mahmud Asrar was the perfect choice for this book. If you’ve seen the monsters and war-like scenes he’s drawn in Conan, you’ll know what you’re in for in this issue. Over two pages and eight panels, Asrar conveys an entire war in epic detail that is efficient and momentous in feel. This leads to quieter, solitary moments as Apocalypse and his companions begin to understand what they face. Asrar is incredibly good at capturing an atmospheric and powerful beat of a moment. Major turns are incredibly important in this issue as Apocalypse is deeply affected by what we learn.
The colors by Sunny Gho take on a darker tone here with much of the book dealing with war and the end of all things. Even still, when Apocalypse has a moment with his wife the sky lights up beautifully. Gold and its reflective nature is a key element of this issue that Gho nails wonderfully.
Like a dream, Jonathan Hickman writes a strong narrative that feels untethered, yet deeply important to the psyche of Apocalypse. As events transpire and key details are being imparted to the reader, we never lose sight of Apocalypse’s struggle. He fights in a great war, stands by his children, and faces a new kind of threat. It’s quite clear he barely wins this battle, and after all this, we are even given new insight into why he’s been on Earth attempting to save us all. It puts a reasonable and heroic slant on Apocalypse that doesn’t absolve him of his past sins, but it’s a start.
As he awakes, the reader has new insight on Apocalypse while Apocalypse has new insight into what he now faces. It’s an impactful issue that connects the reader to the character, his struggle, and what lies before him. X of Swords isn’t just some duel with cool swords (though it is that too), but instead a fight for his very purpose and soul.
Not only does X-Men #13 issue invigorate the series, but places Apocalypse as a heroic character. I never thought I’d see this character as any more epic in nature, but Hickman and Asrar have done so and more here. It’s an impressive work that’s efficiently done in 20 or so pages, further showing the medium can tell any tale with the right creators. I can’t believe I’m saying this given how great most of the last nine chapters of this event have been, but X-Men #13 only makes X of Swords more exciting, invigorating, and interesting.
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