After 22 issues of setup, buildup, and execution, “X of Swords” has come to an end. Is it an epic conclusion, or a meandering crawl to a close? As the finale, how does the entire “X of Swords” event end up working overall? Read on and take a look, as we see how the latest X-event concludes.
There will be some spoilers for this issue and “X of Swords” in general.
Written by Jonathan Hickman & Tini Howard
Illustrated by Pepe Larraz
Colored by Marte Gracia
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
The wheel of fortune turns. The unfortunate fall. A sword against the darkness.
“X of Swords” has been a mixed event in many ways. While the story carried across multiple X-titles, the writers each did a good job maintaining continuity from issue to issue while still giving each of their own series’ characters a chance to stand out and contribute. It was building up to be an epic conflict between two different worlds and their mutants within, with an intense competition of sword fights where death would be permanent. (Of course, that permanence was established by killing off Rockslide, but that’s another issue from earlier on.)
Yet when the actual competition began, the contests therein were… different. Sure, there were still some sword fights, including beautifully bizarre matches in Blightspoke and a fantastic last stand for Gorgon. But between those we also had inexplicable competitions like dance-offs, bolder rolling contests, arm wrestling, and for some reason, a wedding. (In fact, half the swords the characters spent the first part of the event gathering are never even put to use.) It often created sudden shifts in tone that were rather jarring, and made it hard to tell what kind of atmosphere the comic was going for.
That is not the case in this issue.
In “X of Swords: Destruction,” there’s no stop to the action. The conflict in Otherworld has grown past the duels and games, giving us page after page of intense battle. Artist Pepe Larraz and colorist Marte Gracia go all-out, giving us full-page panels and multi-page spreads filled with characters, monsters, and action. We get a three-quarters page panel of the Captain Britain Corps, filled with an insane array of character types (including a goose Captain Britain and a dragon Captain Britain), equally large spreads of enemy reinforcements featuring Lovecraftian monstrous designs, and an excellent scene of the X-Men leaping into action.
(On a personal note, I’m very glad they made sure to include Gwenpool in the crowd shots, since she joined the mutants on Krakoa in the pages of “Gwenpool Strikes Back.”)
The action is equally intense when it focuses on individual characters, like Apocalypse and his battle against Genesis/Annihilation. Pepe’s character work is made for these kinds of gritty scenes, and Marte Gracia brings them to life with color work that uses both dark shades and glowing lights to equal effect.
Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard bring in multiple plot points from the comics leading up to this for the conclusion, including the S.W.O.R.D. station and the creatures sealed by it, Shogo’s dragon form, and how Isca’s power to “never be defeated” means she’s compelled to switch sides in order to always be on the winning team. Some of these are put to better use than others; Isca, for example, doesn’t actually do anything after changing teams, it’s just used to signify the tides are turning.
The writers also know how to escalate the scale of the battle. Each time the heroes start turning the tide, their enemies do the same. Everyone gets some nice moments to shine, no matter whose side they’re on. The story is primarily focused on Apocalypse, but Cable also plays a significant role, and Saturnyne gets more than her fair share of speeches and narrations.
Yet the overall story and the driving conflict behind it is dense, to say the least. With all the talk about Otherworld, the Helm of Amenth, Arakko, and so forth, it feels like readers have to learn an entirely new mythos just to understand half the story. It may be easier for longtime “X-Men” fans who have followed Apocalypse and his lengthy backstory, but anyone who started with “Powers/House of X” may be lost. That has been an issue with “X of Swords” in general, but at least by this point we as readers have a little more understanding of the Otherworld and Amenth sides of the story.Continued below
To say “X of Swords: Destruction” changes everything would be an exaggeration, but it is still going to shake up the X-Men and life on Krakoa a little bit. In addition to the (apparent) character deaths we’ve seen so far, it ends with one major character leaving Krakoa and a potential seismic shift to Krakoa itself (not to mention questions about where Cypher’s marriage goes from here). At the very least, it will add new complications to the X-comics to come.
“X of Swords: Destruction” is a good conclusion to the “X of Swords” event, but the event itself is mixed. This was a big undertaking for all the creative teams involved, telling a massive story across multiple X-Men comics, although the results were inconsistent. The sheer amount of lore needed to fully grasp the story can turn some readers away, while the actual competition sometimes had tonal shifts that make one wonder why they even needed half the swords to begin with.
Despite all that, “X of Swords: Destruction” still proved to be an exciting conclusion, with no shortage of action or thrilling, imaginative artwork. So if you’ve been interested in the “X of Swords” event, take a stab at this issue.
Final Verdict: 5.5 – A solid conclusion to a mixed event, but visually impressive if nothing else.