Our massive crossover reaches a point of equilibrium, a calm before the storm. There’s only one chapter of X of Swords this week, but it’s a big one. We have reached our midpoint in X of Swords: Stasis which lives up to its title in many ways.
X of Swords: Stasis
Written by Tini Howard & Jonathan Hickman
Art by Pepe Larraz, Mahmud Asrar, & Marte Gracia
Letters by Clayton Cowles
The swordbearers have been gathered. The Krakoans have been drawn to Otherworld. The fate of multiple realms are about to be decided. And in that, Saturnyne’s great game has begun. Can the gathered X-Men be enough to stop the end of all things before the combined forces of Amenth and Arakko overwhelm all of Otherworld?
Anyone coming into this story expecting anything other than what the title suggests is going to be disappointed. However, I got exactly what I needed out of it. This was a feast of new world building, character introductions, and ominous portents. It was exactly what the story needed at this point.
The first act of the story- the Otherworld Council- was a rich and jam-packed bit of set-up. I want an ongoing series that explores these realms, fights these battles, and meets these characters. Even though we only get a few pages- some only a single panel- this is a rich and fully realized world already. Both Howard and Larraz do fantastic work here, teasing something much bigger than we see on-page.
The second act- the Arakko and Amenth forces gathering their swords and swordbearers- was almost too short. This was a fascinating glimpse into the characters and the world they’ve found themselves in. In just a few short pages, we get a twisted parallel to the story we saw play out between Creation and now. It also sets up the fact that the X-Men are likely outclassed- where they’re noble heroes, these characters are brutal warriors. It helps that this chapter is beautifully drawn by Asrar, whose art shares similarities to Larraz, but is a bit looser and sketchier.
Which brings us to the last chapter of the one-shot: the X-Men coming to Otherworld. Now, this last act is primarily to tease out more of the tarot connections that we’ve seen earlier in the story. We find out who is The Fool, whose future holds the Death card, and the Nine of Swords, Knight of Pentacles and more. I’m not going to spoil it here, but Howard helpfully includes a data page from the perspective of former Hellion Tarot to give readers some perspective on what these cards mean.
Now, all of this is fantastically done. Howard and Hickman’s story is dense and full of detail, but it’s weirdly satisfying. It’s a mid-way set-up issue, but it’s a good one, full of satisfying detail. It’s also absolutely gorgeous, thanks to Larraz and Asrar’s linework and Gracia’s superb coloring.
Featured Realms: The Starlight Citadel
Featured Swords: Vermillion, Purity, Colony, Muramasa, Alluvium, The Black Bone of Amduat, Seducer, Mercy, Pogg Ur-Pogg, the Midnight Blade- the swords of Amenth and Arakko
So what’s next? After this final page, I’m not sure, but it looks like we might get some family drama alongside our sword fights, as well as some political maneuvering by Saturnyne. It’s a fascinating set-up that we have going into this more meaty part of the story. It’s going to go poorly for someone. The question is who?
Next Week: X-Men #14, & Marauders #14!