Welcome to X of Swords week 4 and Comicon.com’s X of Words! If any two books of the Dawn of X era could be considered the flagship titles of the line, it’s X-Men and Excalibur. This week, those two titles enter the crossover proper as the last sword bearers enter the fray! Let’s jump in and take a look!
Written by Tini Howard
Art by RB Silva & Nolan Woodard
Letters by Ariana Maher
Cover by Mahumud Asrar & Matthew Wilson
My gosh, do things get interesting here.
One of the best things about Excalibur as a concept has been and always will be the Braddock family. It was a pleasant delight to find out in earlier story arcs of this series that Brian Braddock was going to be a regular member of the cast, even if he wasn’t a member of the team. In this issue, we get to see some major Braddock family, which considering who the Braddocks ARE means Arthurian magical shenanigans.
Betsy, Brian, and Jamie Braddock are drawn back together as Saturnyne calls a war council of Otherworld’s rulers. However, tensions boil over as Brian and Betsy confront Saturnyne over her hatred for the new mutant Captain Britain. It’s tension that could endanger all of Otherworld and Krakoa forever!
Really, this issue does so much to show who Betsy Braddock is after she’s shed her Psylocke identity. She doesn’t even need to be Captain Britain to prove that this new Betsy is just as capable as Psylocke was, but she’s also a completely different person. I really appreciate what Howard’s done to show us this. This title often goes over my head a little bit, but I can always appreciate the character work, especially on a spotlight issue like this one.
I also really like that, although the tournament against Arakko is hanging over the entire story, this issue is built entirely to bring resolution and progression to several plot points involving the Braddocks. We see Jamie actually acting like a king, even if he is still insane (and also wearing Sinister’s cape from last week’s Hellions). Brian takes up the Sword of Might, and isn’t actually overwhelmed by it. And Betsy embraces her new heroic identity by casting away Saturnyne’s trappings (and expectations). It’s smart storytelling.
I was so happy to see Silva’s art here. I’ve missed his work in the X-Line (though he did do an X-Men issue just before COVID hit). His Betsy is fiery, his Brian has an Arthurian nobility, and Saturnyne is sinister while still being regal. Woodard steps up his color work here, doing cinematic colors that evoke Gracia and Curiel’s stunning work since HOX/POX.
Featured Swords: The Sword of Might, The Starlight Sword
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Mahmud Asrar & Sunny Gho
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Cover by Leinil Francis Yu & Gho
After the information dump of X-Men #12, we get more on the history of En Sabbah Nur, and the tragic past of Krakoa.
Apocalypse is struggling to stay alive, still battling the infection of Pestilence’s arrows from X of Swords: Creation. However, as Hope and Healer try to mend his wounds, he has another battle to fight. He must relive his past to prepare for the future.
This is another exposition and history heavy issue. It’s fascinating to have the history of Apocalypse and mutantkind be given more depth and layers. However, after the previous few chapters of the story focusing on the gathering of the swords and preparing the sword bearers, this issue sort of grounds the momentum to a halt. All of it was interesting, but it might have been better placed in an earlier issue, or in next week’s X of Swords: Stasis. This is especially true when you consider the best part of the issue was the short epilogue of Apocalypse recovering his sword, Scarab.
Asrar’s pencil work is excellent. He continues to be one of the best artists in superhero comics today, giving us an emotional fight through Apocalypse’s memories. He also draws a history that feels like an epic Lord of the Rings style war movie than a comic book. Gho’s colors however, are a little dark and muddy, especially with Asrar’s thick line work.
Featured Swords: Grasscutter & Godkiller; Scarab
We’re now one chapter shy of the mid-point of the event. Every bit of the crossover so far has been enjoyable, though some chapters more than others. We have all the swords, but there are only nine sword-bearers. The tarot card of the sword-bearers from Creation and the FCBD special did feature a silhouette that looked a lot like Magneto, so clearly we’re in for some twists and turns next week in XOS: Stasis.
It’ll also be interesting to see how Otherworld as a whole factors into the story considering the data pages from parts 2-8 and the hints of a war council in Excalibur. In all, this has been enjoyable so far, and I’m excited to see what’s next.