S.W.O.R.D. #1 introduced readers to a very different mutant-adjacent book, not quite entrenched by Krakoa though the ties to the new mutant nation are certainly present. S.W.O.R.D. #2 continues the mutants’ space operations, tying them into King in Black.
Since S.W.O.R.D. exists to deal with all sorts of intergalactic drama, King in Black is a natural fit for the title. But what S.W.O.R.D. #2 does best is creating complicated ties between the team’s many members, creating a bridge that remains sturdy but has the potential to become quite rickety.
Like Hellions, one of S.W.O.R.D.’s biggest strengths thus far is how the book uses underutilized, often overlooked or forgotten characters. Mentallo and Abigail Brand’s banter is easy enjoyment, mostly because it’s quite clear Brand can’t stand him. But it’s Brand’s data pages that reveal something far more interesting about S.W.O.R.D’s team dynamics: certain members of this team are here for a very strategic reason. Almost like the Suicide Squad in a sense, Brand has put Mentallo on her team to watch him, to give him purpose and prevent him from making trouble. This plants an extremely interesting seed for this team dynamic moving forward as Ewing crafts this intricate web between his characters.
Brand says Krakoa has “no use for money,” which is somewhat odd since each X-book seems to have a different take on how currency works in Krakoa. In Hickman’s mainline X-Men title, currency is brought up quite frequently, perhaps most notably when Jean Grey lets Emma Frost know that once she’s done “borrowing her things” (an obvious innuendo for Grey’s husband, Scott Summers), Frost must pay for drinks. In Leah Williams’ X-Factor, Dani Moonstar tells Emma that in actuality, everything is free on Krakoa. It seems like, as far as S.W.OR.D. is concerned, Ewing prefers Williams’ interpretation of currency on Krakoa, though this is an odd inconsistency between titles.
The pages of Mentallo and co. fighting the space dragons are certainly neat to look at (and props to Valerio Schiti for making every page look beautiful), but it’s the team drama that seems to be brewing that really steals the show. Oh, and Sunfire being used again in an X-book is absolutely awesome.
Fabian Cortez meets up with Magneto again (though this time Erik does remember his name), much to Frenzy’s dismay. It’s clear Ewing did his research since Fabian is using the derogatory term for humans he and the Acolytes previously coined back in 1991’s X-Men Vol. 2 #1, “Flatscans.”
Though the term has history in the 616, like in the image pictured above, it’s perhaps most famously used in Age of Apocalypse. Most X-Men fans will remember that before Dawn of X launched, Age of Apocalypse was highlighted as a pivotal run — what’s more, issues of the series recently got printed in a trade again. Marvel.com even highlighted the event again in a 2020 article, which begs the question: is this intentional? Are we supposed to be seeing these references as Easter Eggs of sort? It’s certainly an intriguing thought to play around with.
As Fabian and Magneto converse, Frenzy looks on disappointedly, saying, “history repeats itself.” In a way, much of the Hickman-era has this idea of “history repeats itself,” making Frenzy’s comment quite interesting. After all, the nation of Krakoa exists in its current state so Moira can prevent her own past “history” from repeating itself, hopefully giving mutants their first success in all her lives. Certain plots of Powers of X are alluded to at times, including Sinister’s inevitable betrayal. The first event of the era, X of Swords, was about Apocalypse’s own past coming back to bite him, highlighting many similarities between Arakko as he once knew it and Krakoa today. This theme of history repeating is certainly very interesting to toy with as a reader. What’s more, it’s clear Frenzy and Cortez have a very different outlook on this team’s relationship with Magneto.
Since they’re always so busy saving mutants, The Five have rarely gotten a chance to have panel time. In Leah Williams’ X-Factor series, we recently saw them get some downtime and have some fun. In Ewing’s S.W.O.R.D. #2, the team reflects on how they never quite get a chance to join the fight like the other X-Men. Their jobs are too important to skip out on, even if they’re helping Krakoa. It’s a somewhat somber but realistic look at the lives of these kids. And of course, Mentallo crashes the party in a huge way.
While the issue ends with a huge cliffhanger, revealing a familiar Knulled-out character, it’s the quieter moments that seem the most impactful in this issue. S.W.O.R.D. #2 is Ewing and Schiti at their best, showcasing epic battles and a narrative that respects the history of what came before it.
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