It all comes down to this, as X of Swords reaches its 22 chapter finale today. It has been a sprawling epic that has included swords, the multiverse, and romances both thousands of years old and brand new. There are three chapters in the X of Swords event out today, and each one is nearly as epic as the finale issue of Destruction. It all has led to an epic battle of thousands running towards each other on a battlefield, but there can be only one victor between Krakoa and Arakko!
Running 39 pages not counting the cover and extra pages to start the book, this is quite a long read. It opens with war raging outside the Starlight Citadel and our favorite Krakoan X-Men are fighting for their lives. There are battles taking place on a micro-level–Apocalypse vs. Genesis–and on much larger scales–think giant worms chomping on hundreds at a time. Through this chaos, writers Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard have plotted a battle that is easy to follow, calls back expertly to key moments, and defies expectations with great turning moments of epic tenacity. The ingenuity in how they’re keeping everything clear and the stakes obvious is going to be lost on anyone who isn’t studying the book closely.
That’s not to say you have to study it, because even on its surface this is a highly entertaining finale blending fight scenes with the culmination of great efforts over the last 22 chapters. Apocalypse ends up being the main character of this narrative, but it of course started with him in X of Swords: Creation. It also does the work to make it logical for every one of your favorite mutants to join in the battle, even though it was supposed to be a closed-off duel between ten swordbearers. It also ties in Apocalypse’s desire to rekindle his relationship with his wife, for the events Jean, Cyclops, and Cable went through at the start of the event to matter, and even Shogo plays a part. Each one of these elements is introduced and allowed to shine at opportune times, keeping things interesting and always evolving over the narrative.
The art by Pepe Larraz and colors by Marte Gracia are incredible. A moment of the Captain Britain Corps flying is cast in a hazy green that makes their introduction almost heavenly. Considering how many characters are on this one page it’s incredible what Larraz has done here. In fact, there are many pages with over 20 characters on the page, and each one is rendered perfectly. Not every mutant gets a major moment, but a quick shot of Domino shooting Pogg-Ur Pogg, or Archangel tangling with a baddie in the air goes a long way to make this battle far-reaching across all its heroes. There are some gloriously cool metal reflection effects on the Golden Helm of Amenth that add another dimension, and that’s just one element among many.
I would say this ending is near perfect given how complex it all is, but it does leave characters out with most of the swordbearers playing as supporting or background characters here. Since the main purpose of this event seemed to be these “10 of swords,” it doesn’t quite come together perfectly. Given the 21 chapters that came before this issue, the duel seems superfluous. Save for key story elements brought up in this issue, one could read Creation and this issue to understand the main point of this event. Somewhat shockingly, X of Swords: Stasis and the Swordbearers of Arakko don’t matter all that much to the grander purpose of this issue or the event as a whole. So upon reflection, there could have been more done to tie everything up a bit tighter.
X of Swords: Destruction is a great end to an incredible event. This issue perfectly wraps up everything X of Swords: Creation started and then some, setting forth a new direction for key characters, the entire X-Men line, and the expectations of readers with future superhero events. X of Swords: Destruction is a towering achievement of gripping drama woven into an intense battle sequence.