Welcome back to Mutantversity, a class offered at the Krakoan Akademos Habitat. This isn’t a place to find big reviews of X-books, (that’s what our Review section is for!) but it’s a great way to keep up with one of the most complicated superhero series around. We’ll learn, we’ll laugh, and when we find ourselves with enough swords, we’ll keep ’em and double ’em. But most of all, we’re going to dive into the deep end as we try to parse all the secrets of this new era of “X-Men” comics. As your designated X-Pert, I will do my best to help you work through everything Marvel’s Merry Mutants have to offer!
Here’s how it’s going to go. First we’re going to recap the last month of the ongoing superhero soap opera that is “X-Men,” focusing on the titles that are really driving the story. Think of it as your monthly headlines into all things “X-Men.” Next, I’ll tell you which X-books I looked at this month, and whether I thought they were worth reading. Finally, we’re going to award our very special Monthly Mutantversity Medals of Merit to close out these issues of “X-Men.” Stick with me true believers, and maybe we’ll survive this experience!
The Quest For the Swords
The main event in X-comics this month was “X of Swords” and all of the sword hunting that entailed. Immediately, Magik understood that she was a sword-wielder. And if you’ve been following this column for any length of time, you will know this is as surprising to me as it was to Ilyana. Her participation was a certainty. So she was the first to stand in the magic circle made of the body of Rockslide, our MVX from last month.
Next up was Logan. The man called Wolverine went to Japan to find a swordsmith, the legendary Muramasa. Shenanigans ensued, but Logan walked away with a brand new blade, one forged in the literal fires of Hell. The adventure wasn’t all that memorable, but the result is admittedly pretty metal.
Storm went looking for her sword in Wakanda and unlike her old ally, she started by asking for it nicely. Her ex Black Panther was out of town, so Storm had to negotiate with T’Challa’s mother and sister. Their answer was ultimately no, but whatever. Storm’s first big career was to be a pickpocket and master thief. Our girl just went and stole Skybreaker, the first vibranium blade of the Wakandan Kings. Fabulously metal!
Cypher has never been much of a warrior, but he is expected to take a sword into battle. (Sidebar: there was a brief period where one of the languages Cypher mastered was “body language” and he became a martial arts master. The less said about that story, the better). Lucky for him, he’s got a lot of friends looking out for him and one of those friends is his sword: Warlock! Still, the two of them need training, and it came from one of the most accomplished sword fighters on Krakoa- Magik. It was really sweet to watch the two of them try to work together, but the end result was ominous. Magik doesn’t think Doug is learning fast enough. She thinks Doug is going to die. Uh-oh.
Cable doesn’t need to find a sword. He found one in the first issue of his solo series. Having this sword has become 70% of his personality. So instead of a sword quest, we get him and his parents reenacting a weird version of Alien. And I ain’t complaining! It’s a weird diversion. He and Magik bond, when she becomes concerned for Cypher, and wants to make sure her other warriors are ready for battle.
The Braddock twins probably have the most complicated sword quest. It involves a lot of double and triple crossing, double secret identities, and buried family drama. To understand most of it, you need to understand a bit about the Captain Britain Corps.
The Captain Britain Corps were an interdimensional team of superheroes. Most, but not of all of them, were Brian Braddocks. (Brians Braddock?) At a point in each of their lives, they were offered the Sword of Might or the Amulet of Right, the idea being that picking the Sword indicated an unworthy, vengeful heart. Our Brian picked the amulet. There rules to the Captain Britain Corps has changed a lot of times over the years. The Brian Braddock of Earth-13022 chose the sword and joined the Corps as Kid Briton (before he was killed by a sexy teen caveman named Anachronism). In recent days the Captain Britain Corps is shattered, and Brian woke up in bed one night holding the Sword of Might. And Brian’s twin sister Betsy has his amulet, and the rank of Captain Britain.Continued below
Here’s where the shenanigans occur, and they are very worth reading (in “Excalibur” #13) to track every move, but what you gotta know is this: Brian convinced Supreme Majestrix Opal Luna Saturnyne that he was gonna betray his family for her. She rewarded him with her own super special magic sword, the Starlight Sword. But Brian would never knowingly betray Betsy, and he gave the sword to her.
Now, Brian is wielding the Sword of Might, the symbol of his own failure and bad impulses and trying to make something of it. And Betsy wields the stolen Starlight Sword, which represents the covenant between herself and her brother. Betsy is sworn to protect Britain, but is a citizen of Krakoa. Instead of treating her as half a person for taking on all these responsibilities, Brian honors her by trying to live up to her example. That’s great X-Man-ing.
The Four Swordsmen of the Horsepocalypse
By my count we’ve followed 7 swords, leaving three more. “X-Men” #13 briefly explains the history of the swords Grasscutter and Godkiller- they were forged by a mythic smith in a cosmic war between Japan and Greece. Grasscutter is perfect, Godkiller is cursed. These swords were last seen in Marvel comics destroyed in a fight between Phobos, the Greek god of fear, and the mutant Gorgon. And now, Gorgon… just seems to have them? He just saunters over at the end of the issue and is like, “‘sup?” And he’s got both the swords and they seem ready to cut shadow monsters. Cool.
The tenth (10th) (Xth) sword is Scarab, the blade of Apocalypse. Forged by his sister-in-law at a time before Atlantis sunk beneath the waves, it’s a pretty impressive weapon. It’s made of magic gold, it can change size, but it always weighs 680,388 grams (that’s 1500 pounds). But most mythically of all, it is made of four parts, one for each of Big A’s four children, his original horsemen.
Look, the unfolding mythology of the life of Apocalypse doesn’t make too much sense. I wouldn’t stare directly at it. But this story is meant to evoke a feeling of bigness, and in that it succeeds. It’s the epic grandeur of thousands of years of secret lore and the goofy awesomeness of a bunch of mutants and spacemen battling a bunch of shadow demons in a grand game that’s half King Arthur shit and half Baldur’s Gate. That’s it guys, that’s superhero comics.
The Advent of Arrako
In “X of Swords: Stasis” we are finally, officially introduced to the ten opponents our heroes will have to face in battle. But first let’s see if I have this right- once, Krakoa and Arakko were one island, before they were split in half by the Midnight Blade of Annihilation. Now, Arakko dwells in the world of Amenth, which is a shadowy demon planet. And the two islands are joined through the Starlight Citadel in Otherworld. So if you wanted to journey from Earth to Amenth, you’d have to sail a ship to Krakoa, go through the gate to Otherworld, navigate the dangers of the Starlight Citadel, come through to Arakko, which would give you access to the rest of Amenth. Whew.
So who are these ten jamokes sent here to challenge the X-Men? Well it turns out that Arakko is also a mutant island. Specifically, the descendents of Apocalypse and his wife. Much like our mutants, the citizens of Arakko have mastered the secrets of immortality, and have been holding out waiting for this opportunity for millenia. Here’s a bit of what we know about them:
- War has fire powers, and also her head is on fire. Her sword is called Vermillion, and doubtless she knows how to use it.
- The White Sword of the Ivory Spire seems to be a whole title. He looks a lot like Apocalypse, and is said to have healing powers. His sword is also a dead ringer for the Buster Sword from Final Fantasy VII. This makes the White Sword of the Ivory Spire the favorite of 16 year old me, and yeah, me right now too. Continued below
- Summoner is the character we’ve spent the most time with. He is naturally invulnerable, but also a master of Amenth magic. His sword is called Colony. I would bet good money that he’s a villain we’re going to see again after this event.
- Solem has been built up as a rival to Wolverine. He was introduced in Logan’s solo book, has adamantium skin, and he also wields a Muramasa blade. I like his swashbuckling style.
- Redroot the Forest is an interesting one. They are said to be a “pureblood mutant,” whatever that means and their mutant power is dominion over plants. But most intriguingly, they are Cypher’s dark equivalent- they are the speaker of Arakko.
- Death is mysterious, wielding the Black Bone of Amudat. Their mutant power is “the eyes of death,” which seems kind of like a tautology. But it is also similar to Gorgon, who can turn people to stone with eye contact, so perhaps they will fight each other. That sounds pretty rad.
- Bei the Blood Moon has a pretty rad name, but we don’t know much more about them. Their power is called “the doom note;” maybe some kind of song that kills you? Banshee style? And their sword is called Seducer.
- Isca the Unbeaten is maybe the objectively coolest of the sword bearers. She is the sister of Apocalypse’s wife, and forged Big A’s mighty blade, and probably others. Her mutant power is kind of abstract. She “cannot lose.” I’m totally down to see her duel with Domino, that sounds like a cool story waiting to happen. Her sword is pretty damn Final Fantasy looking, and it is called Mercy.
- Pogg-Ur-Pogg! Is that his name or the name of his sword?? Yes!! He’s the only non-mutant in the bunch, a mercenary crocodile monster from Amenth, he loves to fight with his sword, which is also him!?!?
- Finally there is Annihilation, the wielder of the Midnight Blade. Her identity is kept a mystery for a few pages, before we learn that she is Apocalypse’s thought-to-be-dead wife, who once went by the name Genesis. I gotta admit, Annihilation is a much cooler name than Genesis if one of your titles is Bride of Apocalypse. She’s gonna wreck some X-Men.
This Month’s Books:
“Wolverine” #6 – The best issue of “Wolverine” yet is still a messy disappointment
“X-Force” #13 – Oh this is a two parter? Pretty metal, still muddled.
“Marauders” #13 – Vita Ayala fills in on writing and it is a talky issue. Fortunately, Ayala writes so intelligently that all the characters come across as smart, reasonable, and passionate.
“Hellions” #5” – A good tie-in issue, a great Mister Sinister issue, and a masterclass on how to do a villains book
“New Mutants” #13 – I really like these characters so an issue that focuses on Cypher, Magik, and Warlock works great for me. Also, that Rod Reis art, wow.
“Cable” #5 – Mostly a rollicking space adventure. Now, back to the crossover.
“Excalibur” #13 – It’s official, Tini Howard writes the coolest version of the Braddock twins.
“X-Men” #13 – A new origin story for Apocalypse. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s pretty damn metal.
“X of Swords: Stasis” #1 – I unsurprisingly continue to be all in on this event. (Pogg! Ur! Pogg!)
“Juggernaut” #2 – ‘Ol Cain got himself caught opposite the Hulk. Classic. This series is still way more fun than I would have predicted.
The Mutantversity Monthly Medals of Merit:
The Cable’s Pouch of X-Treme Grittiness Award
Given to a mutant for demonstrating badassitude and commitment to the 90s aesthetic
So I love Mister Sinister, but he’s not really who this award is typically meant for. Cable is kind of grunge verging on nu-metal. Sinister is glam. He’s got Bowie in him, and Queen. He’s also Kiss and Bon Jovi. He’s more than a little Blind Guardian. So it was a freaking delight to see him step out of his comfort zone and try to be a man of action. He was sort of terrible at it and everyone hated him for it. And now, more than ever, do I want to see a Sinister solo series that is 90% about dunking on him. What a champion.Continued below
Merriest Mutant Award
Given to a mutant who found a rare moment of happiness
Not to say Storm doesn’t contend with some real sadness and loss. She does. But I don’t think that’s ever slowed Ororo down. I know what makes her happy though. Being herself. That’s always been Storm’s journey. And what was so cool about her Wakandan adventure this month is that she got to be a number of herselves as the situation called for it. She arrived in Wakanda and she tried diplomacy. She did her best at being a queen and a goddess. But when that didn’t work out, she became a thief. She put on dark colors, cloaked herself in clouds, and snuck into a secure location. And finally when Shuri confronted her, Storm stood tall as a mutant and as an X-Man. She spoke truth to power. And she won.
What’s cool about Storm is that she is all these things; they do not contradict. And what’s rad about this story is that it gave her the opportunity to be each of them in quick succession without her different sides ever coming into conflict. At each transition, you could feel Ororo’s joy.
“Professor Xavier is a Jerk” Award
Given to a mutant who acted like a real jerk
I know, the big blue A was mean. Also, Wolverine was gruff, Sage was a know-it-all, and Nightcrawler thought about God. Water is wet. I get it, he’s an obvious choice. But man. Where in your evil ideology does it say you gotta be mean to someone trying to help you? Because while serious stuff was going down, ‘ol A was getting healed by the mutant Healer. And he was smacking him around! When someone tries to help you, that’s when you say thank you. Unless you’re a jerk, which Apocalypse definitely is.
Let’s Talk About X Baby Award
Given to the sweetest, sexiest, bestest romantic
Cypher and Warlock and Krakoa
There are people who have stronger feelings about Cypher’s sexuality than me. I just really appreciate how this ostensibly normal looking blonde midwestern guy forms these deep connections with these otherworldly beings. And there is certainly a romantic element to them. Cypher is committed to these people/robots/islands that walk like men in a truly devoted way. “New Mutants” #13 illustrated this by showing the different ways Cypher’s loved ones are protective of him. He notably did not have the same chemistry with his good friend Magik, who nonetheless proved she really cares about him. No, Doug finds himself in love with people who others might not even look to as people. And I think that’s beautiful.
Fastball Special Award
Given to a duo who exhibited great friendship, collaboration, and teamwork
Magik and Cable
I don’t normally think of these two as a dynamic duo, but in this month’s comics I started to see it. Two warriors, total badasses who are united in their confidence of their own asskicking abilities and also each other. When Magik was struggling with training Cypher, it was Cable she looked to. He’s the one she trusts to see them through the battle to come. That kind of trust can sneak up on you, and hopefully will be at the core of why the X-Men kick Arakko’s collective asses.
MVX: Most Valuable X-Man
Given to an X-Man who embodied the values of the team and showed all around X-cellence
The first time Betsy Braddock was named MVX, it was because she managed to be a hero to two nations simultaneously, and that’s exactly why she is this month’s MVX. A lot of people grapple with multiple identities, and Betsy has been struggling to reconcile two of them- her citizenship to Krakoa and to England. What rules is that by striving to do the right thing, Betsy has always managed to do right by both her nations. She manipulated a cosmic despot, stayed loyal to her brother, and stood by her friends. As a reward for her temerity, she gets to fight to protect the world, which England and Krakoa are both a part of.
In real life, things probably wouldn’t be so simple. But this isn’t real life, this is a silly-ass fantasy story in the Marvel Universe. Betsy Braddock gets to be a hero and when she steps up, the universe falls into place behind her. “X-Men” is often about a reconciling of identities. Kurt is Catholic and a mutant. Cecilia Reyes is a doctor and a mutant. Gambit is a scumbag and a mutant. Betsy represents the idea that not every compromise has to push something to the side, sometimes by remaining true to your whole self, you remain true to each part.