The tournament begins –this time for real!
In part 15 of the 22-part X of Swords event, the deadly competition between Arakko and Krakoa finally kicked off –and it’s not at all how you’d expect things to go. Even with the tarot cards from X of Swords: Stasis giving away several hints, there are plenty of shockers in store.
While the X-Men have spent the chunk of these last 15 issues getting their swords and preparing for the tournament itself, the official fight between the two mutant nations is more of a free-for-all played by Saturnyne’s rules.
The first fight takes place between Isca the Unbeaten and Betsy Braddock aka Captain Britain, found in the pages of Excalibur #14. In Stasis, Betsy was given the Nine of Swords card, hinting at a downfall because of her own fears and worries. Both Marauders #14 and #15 showcase what a threat Isca is, displaying how no matter what, she cannot lose. By the time Betsy and Isca square off, Betsy mysteriously breaks into shards, giving Isca the win.
Betsy’s card, showing her being stabbed with multiple swords, could have been a subtle giveaway to her future, in which she is sliced to pieces. The White Sword is quick to name this victory a typical one for Isca, however, it’s also worth noting that Jim Jaspers and King Jamie Braddock have significant hands in this tournament, meaning Betsy’s loss might not have been so cut and dry.
In Wolverine #7, Jaspers is seen making a deal with the horseman Death. In the data pages of Excalibur #14, Jamie Braddock reveals that he bet against Betsy, giving him a large sum of cash when Isca won. Since both of these characters are reality warpers and neither Krakoa nor Arakko are above cheating in the tournament, it’s also possible one of these two characters used their powers to help secure Isca’s victory. After all, the way Betsy died seemed to resemble reality breaking to ensure her defeat.
Doug Ramsey spent his New Mutants tie-in fretting over his seemingly-inevitable loss, training with Illyana in sword combat. In Stasis, he was handed the Two of Cups card, which hinted at a favorable future for him, one involving love. Marauders #14 hinted at the identity of the other member on the card, depicting a humorous interaction between Bei the Blood Moon and Doug. However, it was Excalibur #14 that confirmed she was indeed the character on that card.
Two of Cups became quite literal, depicting Doug and Bei’s marriage as the two were each given a golden goblet to drink from. Amongst the clash of war, Doug found love, intrigued by the fact that despite his translation powers, he cannot translate Bei’s death note.
With Wolverine #7, three more battles go underway. The first is a fight between Magik and Pogg-ur-Pogg. There’s a bit of an interesting situation here, as the card Magik has in Wolverine #7 isn’t the Page of Wands card given to her in Stasis. The card in Stasis featured Illyana solely, but in Wolverine #7, she approaches her battle with a nameless card, the picture depicting her arm interlocked with Pogg-ur-Pogg’s. This is, of course, to set up the arm-wrestling fight between the six-armed crocodile and Illyana.
The Page of Wands card talks about someone who is arrogant, but “a good friend to have.” This seems to perfectly encapsulate Illyana’s place in this tournament as her entire concern thus far has been keeping Doug safe. She even checks in on him right before his marriage to Bei, making sure that he’s ok. Her arrogance is also fitting, since she routinely trash talks Pogg-ur-Pogg with confidence and is ultimately taken down by him in their arm-wrestling contest.
In Stasis, Wolverine received the Strength card, depicting the Summoner with Logan in a headlock. The card spoke of someone who endures, which alone is fitting for Wolverine though that sentiment is echoed again in X of Swords‘ tournament itself. The two fight across the fabric of reality until Wolverine ultimately kills the Summoner.
The tarot card seemed to imply Logan would lose the fight, which isn’t entirely incorrect, making this one of the more peculiar cards. While Logan “won” in the sense that he defeated the Summoner, the lawlessness of the X of Swords tournament meant that by winning, he lost, thus meaning the Summoner got the upper hand on him after all in a sense.
Logan’s endurance is put to the test once more when he and Storm undergo a drinking contest. While he’s feeling the effects of the alcohol, Solem calls him for his boon, instructing him to fight War for him. Still intoxicated, Logan must wield his blade and take on War, giving him yet another challenge. While he is victorious in this fight, his ability to survive the fight despite his drunken state once again echoes the Strength card’s promise of “endurance.”
If anything, the first slew of battles in X of Swords proved that nothing is off-limits and the fortunes on the tarot cards are hardly what they seem at first glance. Most of the meanings on these cards can be found in hindsight, making them quite clever in their original depiction. The dubious nature of these cards is quite fitting for the tournament as a whole, which seems to operate on pure anarchy, entirely ruled by Saturnyne’s whim.
Since it was Saturnyne who gifted the swordbearers their cards in the first place, this makes a lot of sense. The X-Men –and by extent, the Arakkii swordbearers– are all pawns in her larger game, despite the fact that they may think otherwise. No rules are set in stone, and it proves that while the two nations war with each other, their greatest threat is one common enemy: Saturnyne.
While it’s always been known that X of Swords would provide quite a challenge for the X-Men, it seems the only guarantee is that more surprises in store.
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