The moment has arrived! Another exciting event in the Jonathan Hickman X-Universe has begun and here at the Blog of X we are ready to give you our thoughts! If you missed my blog covering EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW before reading X of Swords, maybe you'll want to look back through the Blog of X to see how close I was in some of my predictions. But for now, on with this first issue!!
SPOILER WARNING! I am assuming that if you're visiting the Blog of X right now, you're ok with some minor spoilers but I didn't want to proceed wildly without a warning. I will be dropping a few minor spoilers in this article so readers beware.
First off, let me say that I really enjoyed this issue. It was a very effective first issue for a big event series. It set up the stakes, introduced the key elements on either side of this battle, and put the pieces into motion. I loved the action, the reveals, the new worlds they presented, and I can see this being something special. Overall I think I'd give this an 8.5/10 although I might upgrade that to a 9 given enough time.
WHAT WORKED BEST:
Apocalypse being front and center in this issue was excellent. I think he hasn't gotten enough time in the spotlight during Hickman's run and he gets a lot of chances to shine here. I have several friends predicting this saga as leading to his death in the end. I really hope not because he's such a great character. Instead, my hope is that he grows in a big way, into an important leader for this new mutant community. The use of his first wife Genesis, as well as his original horsemen, was excellent and I look forward to more backstory for this part of his life. In short, more Apocalypse is ALWAYS going to be a good thing.
The artwork is another HUGE part of what makes this issue work. Pepe Larraz is incredibly talented and he is given a lot of room to play here. He designs the various portions of Otherworld (the Citadel, the battlefields, the portals) with a wonderful eye. The light and movement are beautifully rendered. I also love the designs for the new characters. The four horsemen are each given a fun mix of old culture elements as well as modern tech style. I look forward to seeing them in battle more and using all of their abilities. Overall, I think if Larraz can draw a lot of this series it will be something special to absorb.
The Quiet Council scene is a great moment that deserves a little discussion. Apocalypse finds out about the coming invasion and brings Summoner before the mutant council to help them decide what is next. While everyone debates, the island of Krakoa speaks up. Using the mutant Douglas Ramsey (Cypher) as its translator, the island stands up to Magneto and lets them know that the portal to Otherworld will not be closed. I loved these seven pages and all the perspectives presented. All the characters are given a moment to shine and, in the end, the island (and Apocalypse) gets what it wants. The two islands of Krakoa and Arakko will not be split apart again.
One last story item I really enjoyed is the reveal of the 'gladiator-like' battles that are on the horizon. This concept of ten champions from both sides battling it out to decide the fates of them all is exciting. Over these next 21 issues we are going to see how the preparations for this coming competition will shift alliances and set the stage for some intense confrontations. I am looking forward to seeing the many new weapons and warriors that rise up to join the fray. This is the essence of a quality event story: playing in a large playground, with intent to shake things up. I believe that this is what's going to happen in X of Swords. There will be big stakes and significant ramifications.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK:
The Omniversal Majestrix, ruler of the Otherworld (and Emma Frost look-alike), is not given much of a personality as of yet. I don't know that I fully understand her and I definitely don't care much about her at this point. She is clearly at war with the four horsemen, but at the same time she doesn't seem all that concerned with them and has little to no interest in battling them until Havok and Polaris force her hand. I feel like she could become a character that I dislike if the writing team isn't able to bring her into greater focus. As of now, I just don't care for her at all.
This book also suffers from a potential Hickman problem. He sets up a lot of things but struggles to have huge payoffs. This was a repeated complaint that I heard all through Dawn of X. People loved HOX/POX but were disappointed that Dawn of X didn't hit the ground running with self-contained action stories. I don't agree with that sentiment, for the most part, but I also know that, at times, I have been frustrated. If X of Swords becomes similarly problematic, then we might see a lot of fans jumping ship because they aren't getting the payoff they've been waiting for all this time. I can see this series, with its 22 issues, feeling like a lot of setup for people. This issue has some of those qualities and, while I enjoyed it, I can see those nagging possibilities.
THE EXCITING TEASES:
There were many exciting teases about what's ahead but, for me, the biggest one was the attack against Apocalypse by the horsemen. I doubt this will be the end of the big blue baddie, but I have the feeling this isn't the final betrayal he will have to endure either. It was made all the worse by the Summoner's own lies. I knew he was keeping secrets but his turn in this issue was a fun and exciting one. I have a sneaking suspicion that Apocalypse's 'dead' wife will end up being the mysterious leader behind the Sword of Twilight. I hope that's true because it will make for an even more exciting confrontation in the end.
The other big reveal was the use of the agency S.W.O.R.D. and their Peak space station. For those, like me, who don't know much about this team, here's what I've learned: This is the interstellar arm of S.H.I.E.L.D., with a space station (PEAK) as their base. They were introduced in the mid-2000s and have since had a spotty history. Their original Peak station was destroyed and a later model was overrun with Brood aliens. I don't know what this will mean for our mutants who have boarded the current station, but clearly an event with Sword in the title should make good use of these resources.
So that's it for me, my mutant mates. I hope you enjoyed this issue as much as me. Please let me know you thoughts in the comments below. I appreciate all of you who have been joining the Blog of X each week with your comments and views. As always, here is an eBay affiliate link if you want to buy anything off of eBay and help support the blog. Any purchases made in the 30 minutes after clicking the link, will give some of eBay's fees to me instead.
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