X-Men may be the most improtant series to X of Swords thanks to its ability to deliver key backstory on Apocalypse and his bride. X-Men #13 gave this event a shot in the arm as it revealed the personal reasons for why Apocalypse brought this war on Krakoa and Earth itself. Now it’s time for writer Jonathan Hickman to reveal even more as issue #14 further delves into what has been going on with Arakko and its world. It’s a deep dive and it’s an interesting, full-bodied story worth reading.
That is, it’s worth reading if you like storytelling and a story that delivers an epic tale from beginning to end in a single comic. Truth be told, much of this book is written via captions and even reuses art by Leinil Francis Yu. This single issue serves as a history of Arakko and how Apocalypse’s wife Genesis did what she could to keep peace and push back what appears to be pure evil.
The writing in this work can feel a bit slow and long, but it’s effectively prose written over moody and atmospheric art. Mahmud Asrar draws much of this story and does well to capture the sullen and sad nature of Apocalypse while delivering on big-beat fantasy moments. Similar to issue #13, Asrar is showing how incredible he is at capturing fantastical, epic moments in great clarity with only a few panels per page. Color art by Sunny Gho enhances this art which makes Arakko quite alien and amazing to look at. It’s also worth noting Apocalypse, a traditional villain up until the X-Men reboot, maintains a heroic posture and good-guy vibe, while the design remains true to his otherworldly nature and evil tendencies.
This issue is incredibly effective in making Arakko a colorful and vibrant world that has seen many adventures. This isn’t some blip of a world that was created for this event, but a storied land with many battles and deaths. Hickman also does well to capture character traits of key fighters in the X of Swords event on the Arakko side. It’s layered in the issue in a way that makes their identity seem storied as if written into the myth of Arakko itself. Layering in these character backstories also makes it impossible to not go all-in with the narrative and discover who they are by accepting this brand new world.
Something that makes this issue work — and really X of Swords itself — is how it blends science-fictional and high fantasy aspects. There are sci-fi costume designs and weaponry throughout as well as amazing techno-futuristic structures, but a deep-rooted evil and rock tapestry of landscapes makes this work feel of the same vein of high fantasy. All this, and it also reads quite original in its depictions and ideas. There are many amazing worlds in fiction, Dune comes to mind, but here we see a brand new one that’s vast and exciting.
X-Men #14 is yet another example of how X of Swords isn’t all just fight-comics and familiar characters, but built on the back of a grand fantasy world begging to be explored. X-Men #14 shows X of Swords is built on a world that is huge, extraordinary, and an imaginative blend of sci-fi fantasy.
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