The X-Men’s X of Swords event started off big, then quickly petered out into a bit of a whimper. But in X-Men #15, the event gets back on course to go out with a bang.
The issue’s opening segments are by far its weakest part, providing writing that tells rather than shows. Once again, Cyclops exposits what makes Krakoa so special and why he and the other X-Men will fight for it. This rhetoric has been sold to readers before, but it often feels inorganic since it’s told rather than shown via their interactions. We understand why Krakoa matters on a functional scale, but it would be nicer to see these quiet moments the characters mention more often to really prove that point. After all, the X-Men have always thrived in those issues all about team bonding and exploring characters’ inner workings.
Jean’s writing is admittedly a bit flat, as it has been most of the Dawn of X era. However, the issue picks up once Scott and Jean approach the Quiet Council with a plan to get their son, Nathan, back. For the first time in the Dawn of X era the X-Men feel like themselves and they feel like a family, with Kurt and Kate Pryde immediately offering their services to help their friends. When the Council decides that anyone who leaves will be kicked out of their ranks, this doesn’t dissuade Kurt and Kate in the least. It’s a sweet moment between teammates and friends.
One of the best pieces comes when Scott and Emma interact, during which she cheekily calls him out on lying to Kate in order to protect her. The moment is reminiscent of their relationship during the Utopia era, in which Emma once again proves she still knows how Scott works effortlessly. She also offers to give up her space on the Council to help him, which Scott says he could never ask her to do. It’s a great moment between Scott and Emma, a couple who hasn’t been quite as heavily in the spotlight in recent issues. Reading this interaction, one can’t help but want to see more scenes between the couple in future stories. Short (and sweet) as it is, it’s a perfect demonstration of their dynamic and the extreme lengths the two are willing to go for one another. These kinds of subtle character moments have always been highlights of the X-Men and it’s certainly welcome to see in this new era.
Jean losing her spot on the Council makes sense –she’s a mother who wants to protect her child– but it’s also a bit troubling. During the Dawn of X era, Jean has sadly had little to do outside of being a housewife, a far cry from the tremendous work Tom Taylor did with her character on X-Men Red just years prior. One can’t help but read her exit and hope that in the coming issues, Jean finds a way to have a bigger role in future Krakoa stories instead of just being relegated to the Summer Home.
The absolute shining moment of the issue comes when Scott speaks to the Council, highlighting the difference between him and the politicians before him. Scott has been a troubling character this era, oftentimes being written in a near unrecognizable way, though this issue proves Hickman has the ability to write a truly great Scott. He says he’s not here for diplomacy, but for heroism, vowing to fight for his son and his friends because that’s what the X-Men do. It’s one of the best moments in the Dawn of X series thus far and a moment nearly all Cyclops fans can cheer about upon reading. In fact, it’s some of Hickman’s strongest work on the title as a whole since he became the Head of X. Scott doesn’t just prove what makes him a great leader, he proves what makes him a great hero.
The Cyclops bits are so good it’s easy to forget that the Apocalypse/Genesis fight is the issue’s main attraction. Genesis has been one of this era’s most interesting characters and her battle with Apocalypse is just as intriguing, never quite being as cut and dry as one would expect from a sword fight. The fight is emotional, tragic, and surprising in many ways, making it the perfect fight to “end” the tournament with.
Even when the fight between the star-crossed lovers finishes, it’s clear there’s more excitement to come and X-Men #15 expertly sets up its following issues. Asrar’s pencils are gorgeous throughout, once again proving that he’s one of the best artists in the industry. Out of the three issues released for the X of Swords finale, X-Men #15 is by far the strongest, setting up an interesting conflict for future X-Men issues and upping the stakes for the X of Swords event.
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