When House of X/Powers of X came out, it was a shock to the system of the X-Men, and honestly Marvel as a whole. Everyone knew Hickman taking over the X-Men line was going to be big, but we didn’t know how big it was going to be. But once it was over, the magic… disappeared. It’s not that the Dawn of X series weren’t good, but they were lacking the drive and sense that everything was new and different and the world was changing beneath our feet. Hickman’s own X-Men title was relatively mundane, a series of one-shots and two-parters that served to establish a new conflict for Krakoa, but not delving into any specifics. Both it and Excalibur were big parts of the lead-up to the X of Swords crossover, which was exciting but ultimately did very little to deliver on the giant promises made by the opening salvo to this era of X-books.
But just when hope seemed lost, just when the line seemed to be unable to meet its potential, a new series began: S.W.O.R.D. by Al Ewing and Valerio Schiti. From its very first page, it was something fresh. By the end of the first issue, it was clearly aiming to shake the foundations of our status quo as radically as House of X/Powers of X did. We’re thrust into a whole new world, one unlike all we’ve seen before. Sure, S.W.O.R.D.’s existed before, and Brand’s been the head of it, and mutants have been to space plenty of times. But never with the sense of style that Valerio Schiti brings to them, and never with the significance that Ewing’s writing convinces you exists.
We’re introduced to the Peak, S.W.O.R.D.’s base, through the lens of Magneto performing an inspection on behalf of the council. We’re introduced to the various members of the team and their ostensible roles, and we’re given some delightful interactions between characters, like Magneto’s dismissal of Fabian Cortez and genuine adoration of Peepers. And then, to cap it all off, we’re given a sneak peek at just what the team’s real purpose is: the extraction of fire from the gods. Or, more accurately, Mysterium from the heart of the universe. Magneto’s commentary sells just how important this is for Krakoa and society as a whole, and while we don’t get a full explanation of its significance in this volume, it’s left as a genuinely compelling reason to continue the book. And that’s just the first issue!
After the issue ends, we’re immediately thrust into an event as Knull attacks earth in King in Black. It’s a bit of a weird transition, but this short tie-in arc serves to show S.W.O.R.D.’s other purpose: the defense of the Sol system. Plus, we get a fantastic issue focused on Manifold as Ewing explains how his powers work and gives him a better-defined personality. We get a look at the potential antagonists and threats to S.W.O.R.D., with Henry Peter Gyrich and the revelation that he has a mole in the organization. Brand’s ruthlessness, Mentallo’s cowardice, and Wiz Kid’s usefulness all come into play here, as we get to see this honestly super cool team do awesome superhero stuff to fight off an endless invasion of symbiotes. All of this is compounded by Valerio Schiti’s artwork bringing dynamism and scale to everything Ewing writes. In a word, the creative team for the book is perfect.
S.W.O.R.D. by Al Ewing Vol. 1 is gorgeous, it’s incredibly well-written, and it’s the X-book that best carries the forward-moving spirit of House of X/Powers of X. If there’s any Krakoa-era X-Book that you should read, it’s this one.
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