Now that Wonder Woman 1984 & The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina Part 4 are done, I can resume blogging unpunctually! As threatened last year, here’s my review of the X-Men crossover, X Of Swords! (What is the proper formatting for a crossover’s name?) I finished it just in time for readers to have moved on. I didn’t get all the issues so it’s also recapped poorly. I still complain about earlier “Dawn Of X” stuff too. To make that go down smoother, I modified my Mister Sinister! I hear he’s a magnificent bastard in Hellions, but that’s sadly one of the books I didn’t have on my pull list because I accidentally prioritized titles I don’t enjoy.
Hasbro made a perfect classic Mr. Sinister of The Superior Science Bros, but then they had to ruin it by making his neck blue & ribbed like his outfit. Tutlenecks don’t mix with popped high collars! It made me so angry I refused to get him until I realized that’s something I could fix. I just filled in the grooves & painted over the neck. I popped the head off fine, but his cape collar being permanently attached made this mod messy. Much better! Now his neck looks too thick, although it may be an optical delusion. His chest is a bit broad too.
Here he is with the Toy Biz version that still holds up despite its inexplicable lack of wrist swivels. I had to shave the Ra’s al Ghul style beardlets off that one & apply his Goth lipstick. Both are too tall compared to She-Hulk. Since Nathaniel Essex was a Victorian surgeon, he’s definitely showing off by putting his advanced degree title in his codename. (Surgeon Sinister has a nice ring to it, too.) I remain disappointed he never made it into the movies after ample foreshadowing yet relieved Fox didn’t get to ruin him too. They’d definitely screw up his sci-fi Dracula aesthetic, including the diamond on his forehead because he’s a Mentat.
Now here’s the comic book thoughts I’ve been stockpiling. I kept the movie, toy, & general mutant musings for a future post or two. (Tell me if this was a mistake.) It starts off scattershot, but eventually my complaints become more focused as it snowballs to my chaotic crossover coverage.
Two Cyclops voice actors, Norm Spencer & Kirby Morrow, died in 2020.
Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men is ostensibly the flagship book that ties the line together, but he keeps flitting from one unresolved new plot point to the next.
Marvel won’t let mutants be friends with humans anymore. It’d undermine the X-Men’s mission statement to be as exclusionary as possible.
Why not package Krakoa’s medicine as Krak-Cola?
While it makes sense that Xavier’s clone bodies can walk (his consciousness was previously inhabiting Fantomex to counteract his death), it’s disappointing since he’s one of Marvel’s premiere disabled superheroes. Isn’t physical disability one of the many things mutants can be an umbrella metaphor for? He isn’t doing anything that would be precluded by needing a wheelchair. Does Krakoan architecture even have stairs? Somebody snapping his spine again like a Slim Jim wouldn’t even violate his country’s laws! Putting him in a hoverchair would still let him be mobile across all terrain, enhance the scifi aeesthetic, & keep artists from having to draw wheels.
Professor X’s bland redesign where he rarely removes his Cerebro helmet looks so much like The Maker, the more evil Mr. Fantastic from the Ultimate universe with a phallic helmet. This has to be intentional right? Xavier does terrible thing again! Will probably get umpteenth shot at redemption. Charles Xavier beams rant against cancel culture into minds of the entire planet.
I want one of the mutants that doesn’t associate with X-Men like Whirlwind or Skein visit Krakoa & be horrified.
I’ve never liked Vulcan, & I hate that this version only has dialogue about fire. There was speculation that Vulcan didn’t appear to recall being Emperor of the Shi’ar because his clone was made with pre-“Deadly Genesis” memories. There was also the possibility that the Vulcan presumed dead in space might return to upset the resurrection applecart. The actual reveal splits the difference in a way that’s less tantalizing than either. Vulcan did survive space, but he had something secretly done to his mind by a new cabal of nefarious aliens. So Xavier didn’t do something unethical for once. He just didn’t check that the highly volatile mutant for brain booby traps upon his surprise return.
Anybody else find it hilarious that the Acanti just flop onto Krakoa without warning? Oh, Broo is now King of all the Brood because a genetically engineered Egg McGuffin he ate overrode their matriarchy.
Many Krakoans, such the resurrected Petra & Sway, only get “drinking” as their characterization. Life on Krakoa turns mutants into alcoholics because there is literally nothing else to do aside from offscreen orgies. The only Krakoan culture happens below the waist.
This being presented as the orgy era of X-Men is peak cognitive dissonance. We’re told Krakoa is free love island but we don’t get to see most of the pairings. So whether you’re interested in raunch or emotional attachment, it still rings hollow. Sunspot is written as co-dependently obsessed with Cannonball, but they won’t admit he’s in love with his best friend. New Mutants implies Magik is bisexual, but her flirting could just as easily be interpreted as a distraction for the aliens she’s about to murder. (Her smooching the resurrected Shadowcat is stronger evidence because Marauders is a better title.) A diagram of the Summer
s House on the Moon implies that Cyclops, Jean, Grey, & Wolverine have turned their love triangle into a ménage à trois. Since these are three of the most prominent mutants, you’d expect the stories to directly address how this relationship has evolved. They don’t! This innuendo would be bold & groundbreaking if it was still Comics Code Authority Era, but nowadays it feels like queerbaiting. These are all Shrödinger’s relationships where fans & future writers will have to argue over which off-panel hook-ups were canon or slashfic.
Xavier specifically sends Mystique on an assassination mission against the Orchis folk building Nimrod in space (possibly withstandard Shi’ar holoempathic crystals not the M’Kraan Crystal shards they looked like). Taking them out in advance is wise, but she doesn’t. Killing them would put Mystique on the wrong side of the “Kill no man” law & get thrown into a pit with Sabretooth for eternity. I wonder if Xavier the hypocrite aimed to kill two birds with one stone on this? Mystique wants to destroy Krakoa from the inside because they welshed on their deal to resurrect Destiny for her. I’m rooting for Raven Darkholme! Xavier & Moira should’ve known better than to infuriate the spy who has a betrayal habit, so they’ll only have themselves to blame. Now they’ve probably hooked her up with their nation’s destroyers too! Supposedly they don’t want to revive Destiny because she’ll use her precognition to reveal to everyone that Krakoa fails, making it seem like they shouldn’t have gone to all the trouble in the first place if they already knew it was a fool’s errand.
Well reading X-Men #7 immediately after the final Unbeatable Squirrel Girl trade sure was an experience. Doreen dodged a bullet having her mutantcy irrevocably retconned away.
The Crucible directly conflicts with Krakoa’s “Kill no man” commandment. Mutants depowered to humans by M-Day have to fight Apocalypse with a sword to be reborn with their powers restored. Apocalypse, whose powers are expansively vague enough to do just about whatever a writer wants, gets his own sword as if he doesn’t already have enough advantages. It’s not like Apocalypse mercifully stabs them straight through the heart or decapitates them after their first futile attack. He drags it out so he can callously ridicule them as he brutally kills them. This is also done in a arena filled with spectators. So this is the most in character I’ve seen Apocalypse since the relaunch, but what the Hell is wrong with the rest of Krakoa’s government? Gratuitous teen killings work in The Hunger Games & The 100 to show society is barabarous & corrupt, yet here it’s presented as utopian?
The idea behind the Crucible is they don’t want depowered mutants committing suicide in order to get repowered (as there’s already a backlog of dead mutants to resurrect). That sounds noble until you realize The Crucible is just suicide by Apocalypse instead. Surely there’s a more humane way to euthanize the depowered? Since we don’t know what order the millions of deceased mutants will be resurrected in (until X-Factor hopefully fleshes it out), all of this seems arbitrary anyway. If suicide doesn’t let someone cut in the resurrection queue, it doesn’t seem like it’s a pressing issue to The Five that needed to be solved by The Crucible.
The idea is that if a human is willing to fight to the death to reclaim the mutancy that was stripped from them, they deserve to be resurrected immediately because they’ve got the moxie Krakoa needs of its soldiers. So far everybody who gets resurrected is ecstatically devoted to Krakoa. You can’t honestly expect readers to believe there’s no unsavory brainwashing at play here. Otherwise stop having everyone act like homogeneous robots, Hickman! What if one finds being killed by Apocalypse so traumatic they seek political asylum in Wakanda or Latveria so they won’t be conscripted in into a mutant army? Why is watching Apocalypse cruelly slaughter the defenseless not souring Krakoans on their nation? What happens if a human inexplicably defeats Apocalypse in swordplay?
The Crucible is gratuitous because resurrection isn’t necessary to repower mutants. Apocalypse has used his Celestial technology to empower Polaris & Gazer (he’s very obscure!) who lost their powers on M-Day. AvX undid whatever editorial malarkey prevented geneticists from restoring X-Genes, so Mr. Sinister could also prove his worth to Krakoa here. Xavier & Magneto recruited him for his extensive genetic library & cloning tech, neither of which are being used to resurrect slain mutants. Give this duty to Kavita Rao, Dr. Nemesis, Beast, or Moira MacTaggart as they’re comparatively more ethical & loyal.
Wolverine being opposed to The Crucible is in character, but he’s just resigned to it happening since he’s not on the council. Apocalypse, Exodus, & Mr. Sinister definitely voted for this. I just don’t see Nightcrawler, Storm, Jean Grey, & Emma Frost allowing this to pass. They’d been killed or sacrificed in the past & wouldn’t think there’s any nobility in one-sided gladiator matches. Devout Catholic Nightcrawler would especially be disgusted by this. He raises some religious quandaries about what happens to souls during resurrection to Cyclops & decides to form a mutant religion. It’s unclear whether Kurt wants to cow the mutant masses into drinking the cult Kool-Aid even more or overturn it. He doesn’t need a new religion to do the later. The idea that he’d invent a new religion is antithetical to his character’s core of faith. X-Men #7 can sit & spin on a rusty flagpole.
I actually liked X-Men #11? It’s Magneto a-go-go! It’s still a superfluous tie-in to a company-wide crossover though.
Franklin Richards has been revealed in not having been born a mutant. He just used his reality warping powers to subconsciously give himself an X-gene. Now that movie rights is a non-issue, this retcon seems pointless. It’s a way for the Fantastic Four to stay out of Krakoa, but this wouldn’t be necessary if Hickman wasn’t writing mutants like a segregationist cult. Mr. Sinister wasn’t born a mutant either, but they let him stay.
Krakoa only has three vague laws. At best “Make more mutants” is a pointless law because it’s an optional thing that some citizens would do voluntarily. They don’t have any rays to transform humans to mutates like the goofy first movie, so it can only apply to procreation. (Only The Five are responsible for resurrections, which is more like “restore the prior amount of mutants.”) If there’s no guidelines or penalties attached to a biological occurrence, it’s a suggestion not an enforceable law. Hickman has been very unconcerned that framing this as law implies enforced heterosexuality & motherhood. It’s not like we’ve seen any IVF clinics on Krakoa. The phrasing doesn’t even endorse adopting mutant children that already exist. I keep shuddering over how it could be used as a rape justification. There are no laws against sexual violence on Krakoa.
This is not an anarchist paradise where there doesn’t need to be codified laws because everyone respects each other. How do they have a self-sufficient nation without a legal apparatus? There are plenty of supervillains on the island who are still doing nefarious things. They even gave Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister, Exodus, & Sebastian Shaw seats in its government!
Apocalypse is acting chiller than usual, but Excalibur is all about him annexing the extradimensional Avalon (Krakoa’s portals also infringe upon the sovereignty of Earthly countries) & installing Jamie Braddock as it puppet monarch. (Quit proving The Boys right!) Then he killed four of his External compatriots to turns them into a giant crystal teleportation gate. Technically he hadn’t broken any of Krakoa’s laws (ditto Shaw murdering Shadowcat), but this behavior ought to be frowned upon. It’s odd that Apocalypse is suddenly some expert sorcerer when previously he’d been exclusively using Celestial technology. Meanwhile the even older External who’s an established magician, Selene, is just playing backup to him. Only Gambit points out that Apocalypse is still not to be trusted?
The X Of Swords crossover hinges on the weird retcon of him having a secret family trapped in a dimension called Amenth that can only be reached via Otherworld. A few issues before have been spent with a new character who’s supposedly Apocalypse’s grandson from that dimension filling him in on what’s happened since. His issue-long backstory infodumps are like someone explaining a D&D campaign inspired by The Worm Oroboros secondhand. It turns out it was a pack of lies anyway, so good work wasting readers’ time! They gave Eye-Boy a sword but not Adam-X the X-Treme? (Never mind, it was a lying advertisement.) Kylun, Silver Samurai, & Shatterstar should definitely be involved too. What about the cursed Black Blade that Silver Samurai was able to wield without being possessed like Wolverine or Spider-Woman? Where’s the special sword that Stryfe “mortally” wounded Apocalypse with?
The forces of Amenth arrive to conquer Earth. Among them are Apocalypse’s original Four Horsemen, his kids that’re miffed he trapped them in another dimension for centuries to save Earth from demons. The only way to halt them is to win a swordfight tournament in Otherworld as foreshadowed by Tarot images. So it’s like Mortal Kombat & SoulCalibur had a shamebaby that puts on airs. A bunch of the match-ups don’t rely on swordplay despite the first half of crossover being about collecting swords. Apocalypse’s Scarab sword being “infused with external sadness” is hilarious.
Silver Samurai’s ears perk up at the mention of a sword tournament. “This is my moment!” “You’re not invited, Harada!”
I probably would’ve appreciated Saturnyne’s whimsy, which I’ll attribute to co-plotter Tini Howard until proven otherwise, if it didn’t clash with the event’s portentousness. Wolverine gets a premonition of the doom that’d befall Earth if he successfully assassinated Saturnyne at her banquet, which is either too brief or too long at a handful of pages. Rockslide died earlier to show the resurrection protocols won’t work this story, not that there was a significant body count. (Young’ins keep getting murdered to to spite new generations of readers.) Captain Britain/Psylocke is one of the rare few to die by the sword but will probably be reconstituted later in Excalibur. Or they can just recruit another Betsy from the new Captain Britain Corps. I recommend Captain Baboon or the lavender-furred werewolf! (King Jamie Braddock also put in an order for a clone of his sister with Mr. Sinister, so we’ll have a dueling Betsys redux.) Gorgon perma-dies too, but screw that jerk!
It turns out that beneath the golden helm of Annihilation is none other than Apocalypse’s presumed dead wife, Genesis! Does this still count as a plot twist if everyone reading along saw it coming? This is supposed to be some tragic tale about Apocalypse’s family but there’s no emotional attachment to these new characters. (An argument could be made for Pogg-Ur-Pogg, the giant six-armed crocodile that speaks like Etrigan, but I’m not in a charitable mood.) Having his “dead” wife be the motivation for his “survival of the fittest” quest (It used to be to get mutant kind prepared for the judgement of Celestials or just because he’s a genocidal conqueror.) doesn’t make Apocalypse more sympathetic like Mr. Freeze. It sort of feels like they introduced a bunch of brand new baddies with Apocalypse’s old drive to insist he’s had positive character development. Apocalypse still hasn’t atoned for centuries of atrocities or quit his shady machinations, so it’s an unconvincing redemption arc. He even bragged about causing The Dark Ages at a global peace summit!
X of Swords should not be allowed to have more than ten installments yet it clocked in at twenty-two. I didn’t buy the first or last installments since they were separate issues rather than in titles I already follow. So I can’t really give you a comprehensive review of how this crossover began or ended. Sorry! Apparently Isca, whose power is to literally never lose even if it means switching sides in advance, suddenly loses & becomes a golden trophy because the X-Men win. Arakko stays on Earth with a million extra mutants from Amenth. (Shouldn’t the planet’s big sorcerers have been alerted to a whole island materializing from another dimension to begin with? It’s kind of a “The Draco” paradox where they couldn’t open a portal to invade Earth until they teleported in to open a portal.) Just what Krakoa needed: More background mutants! Meanwhile Apocalypse gets to be reunited with his family in the terribly named Amenth. So Apocalypse nearly gets Earth invaded by demon hordes because of his selfishness & still essentially gets what he wanted anyway?
This crossover ends DOX, the first third of Hickman’s plan. Now we’re into Reign Of X (ROX). I presume his finale will be Fall Of X (FOX). It feels bizarre to be critiquing a fictional nation when the USA is in the midst of an actual coup. Being entirely too optimistic about 2021 jinxed it.