The X-Men event of the year reaches its midway point this week as chapter 11 of X of Swords. After chapter 10 in X-Men #13, the event has gained a new context and a lot more steam before the must-read X of Swords: Stasis releases this week. Can this chapter keep the streak alive and readers interested? You betcha!
The last 10 chapters have detailed how our favorite mutants acquired the sword required to enter the duel for all of Earth while also reflecting on their chances of survival. With the ten swords acquired and nine challengers ready, X of Swords: Stasis sets up the second half of the event by detailing who the Swordbearers of Arakko are and what the nine Krakoans are up to as they await the duel to begin. For that reason, this issue supplies much-needed context to better understand the duel about to take place.
This is an event comic — there are only three main chapters to this event and this is one of them — and it’s presented with some exceptional, even-level art by Mahmud A. Asrar and Pepe Larraz. Running about 31 pages long — not counting data-pages — this book is gorgeous from cover to cover. From a beautiful, near full-page spread of the challengers standing on the circles that will allow them to enter the duel, to a seemingly endlessly awesome introduction after introduction to each Swordbearer of Arakko, this book is littered with pretty pages.
The book rarely opens up to grand expanses, especially with double pate layouts or spreads, which brings the art up close and personal with each character. It’s a visual reminder this is a character drama first. Marte Gracia continues to impress and after his work on Empyre it’s hard to imagine how he won’t win or at least be nominated for Eisner next year. Glow effects continue to be an excellent way to convey atmosphere and mood and there are many scene changes where the atmosphere is hugely important.
There is a lot of world-building going on in the first third of this issue, as we get to see Saturnyne’s day to day as the leader of the doorways of the omniverse. The first few pages help us understand how vast Arakko is with its many kingdoms that range from classic fantasy worlds to science fiction futures. These scenes help convince us Arakko is a place as large as, if not larger than Earth while also establishing this duel the X-Men are about to enter is legit. There are rules and they matter.
The next chunk of the issue serves as a recruitment montage as the Swordbearers of Arakko pull together their team of warriors. These scenes are economical as they color each character’s personality as well as their attitude as they enter this great battle. For some it’s deadly serious, others great fun, and that helps convey this motley crew is quite eclectic. A key data page further outlines who these characters are, including their powers and which sword they carry. It’s funny to think that one part of this issue does what it took nine or so chapters to do with our favorite X-Men, but that makes this issue feel more like an event issue as it should.
The final third of this issue is devoted to Apocalypse and the other eight Swordbearers of Krakoa as they settle in at Saturnyne’s Citadel. After getting a feel for each character’s point of view on the upcoming duel — Wolverine can’t wait to kill, while Cypher is scared to all hell — the book shifts to Apocalypse. These closing pages help flesh out his place in things as he’s clearly the leader of this crew and holds some responsibility for them.
Knowing what was revealed in X-Men #13, Howard and Hickman throw in a twist that should get fans worked up. Given Apocalypse selfishly opened the door to Arakko in the first place, and has a mission he’s been following for centuries, one might argue what is revealed here may taint his desire to let the Swordbearers of Krakoa win.
X of Swords: Stasis #1 is rich with culture, new worlds, and an eclectic mix of characters both good and bad. It sets the stage for an event that’s primed to ignite.
Don’t forget to read the weekly X-Men Monday column to stay connected with the latest scoops as X-Men editor Jordan D. White answers your questions.
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