X Of Words: The Contest Begins In ‘Marauders’ #15, ‘Excalibur’ #14, ‘Wolverine ‘#7

by Tony Thornley

We’ve built up to it for months now. Every Dawn of X title has led to it. Every fan has anticipated it. Now, the contest begins in X of Swords and fans were truly not expecting what they were in for.

With the contest beginning in earnest, let’s just dive into this week’s dense and complex titles.

Marauders #15

Written by Gerry Duggan & Benjamin Percy

Art by Stefano Caselli & Edgar Delgado

Letters by Cory Petit

Cover by Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson

Last week we were left with a massive cliffhanger- Wolverine stabbed Opal Luna Saturnyne at the Otherworld state dinner. Immediately we see the resolution. Krakoa forfeits. The forces of Amenth and Arakko invade Earth. And Earth loses.

However that’s just an illusion, as Saturnyne shows Logan what’s at stake. From there the dinner continues. Another assassination attempt is made (and prevented). Cable and Magik challenge Isca in a series of silly contests to see if she’s truly unbeatable. Wolverine tries unicorn (it’s damn good).

This is a silly calm before the storm issue. Maybe it would have been better if last issue had been combined with this one as a double issue. However, given the pacing of it all, it worked, and it was incredibly funny. It also gave us more insight into Arakko’s champions- particularly the White Sword, who suddenly gains multiple incredibly interesting layers in this story.

Caselli is a huge part of why this issue works so well. He’s able to shift from serious superhero action, to silly humor, to interpersonal drama, back into the humor. He sells this story better than any other artist in the X-office probably could have (except maybe Cassara who is used to much greater effect later this week). Add Delgado’s always great colors, and it’s a great looking book.

Excalibur #14

Written by Tini Howard

Art by Phil Noto

Letters by Ariana Maher

Cover by Mahmud Asrar & Matthew Wilson

The first challenge has arrived- Captain Britain versus Isca the Unbeatable. Betsy Braddock faces an impossible foe, however she doesn’t realize the true threat isn’t the one standing in front of her. Meanwhile, Doug Ramsey is drafted to his battle… and it’s not what anyone would expect.

This issue starts knocking readers off balance. Betsy Braddock is one of the X-Men’s greatest warriors, partly thanks to her upbringing, partly thanks to her time merged with Kwannon. If anyone could have defeated Isca, it’s her. However, we immediately see things are not as they team as Betsy literally falls to pieces after a few parries.

Is Captain Britain dead? Or is someone (such as Saturnyne or Jamie Braddock) pulling strings? It’s not clear here, but considering the transition into Doug’s “challenge” we’re immediately thrown off balance. The pace is off-putting and it feels like there’s some story missing. However, it’s more satisfying to read more than once, as that helps the fuller picture take shape.

Noto was the perfect person to draw this chapter, just as Cassara is for the next chapter. He’s an incredible artist on his own, but on a meta level, seeing his art sets the reader at ease as the rug gets pulled out. And that’s just what we needed.

Tournament Score: Arakko 2, Krakoa 1

Wolverine #7

Written by Benjamin Percy & Gerry Duggan

Art by Joshua Cassara & Guru-eFx

Letters by Cory Petit

Cover by Adam Kubert & Frank Martin

If Excalibur pulled the rug out from under us, this issue shows us there was a pit full of alligators underneath the rug.

The contest is in full swing, and no one knows what to expect. Magik and Pogg Ur-Pogg battle it out… in arm wrestling. Wolverine and the Summoner duel to the death… against the Otherworld realm of Blightspoke. Logan and Storm face each other in a drinking contest. And Solem calls Logan’s debt due.

Suddenly the contest gets flipped on its head (which is wonderfully established in the opening scene and Magik steps into an upside-down world). All this time readers thought the threat was the combined forces of Amenth and Arakko. However, it’s obviously not.

The enemy, the master villain of the story is made clear in this issue. It’s not Annihilation and her forces. It’s Opal Luna Saturnyne.

I struggled with this issue at first. But upon another read through I saw some of the additional layers. Is there context missing? Yes. What’s Saturnyne’s motives? Is she even actually who we think she is? Is this just a fae queen screwing with mortals because she can?

It’s intentionally off putting and disorienting. It’s not just the readers facing that, it’s the characters. So this issue works on several levels, but it’s not one you can just pick up and walk away from.

Percy and Duggan just let Cassara cut loose though. After the opening sequence, with Magik versus Pogg Ur-Pogg, there’s obviously several pages where the two scribes sat back and said “Okay, here the plot beats that need to happen here, otherwise go nuts.” And it looks GREAT. Cassara deserves every bit of credit for this extremely dense and difficult issue.

Tournament Score: Arakko 5, Krakoa 2

After these three issues, I’m surprised to see where the story is going. I thought Krakoa was going to have an uphill battle. However, that may not be the case. The tournament might be outright rigged, and what that means for Krakoa is yet to be seen. We hope they can pull it through in the next two weeks.

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