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Nov 4

X-Men #14 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, November 4, 2020 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

X-MEN vol 5 #14
“X of Swords, Chapter 12”
by Jonathan Hickman, Mahmud Asrar, Leinil Francis Yu & Sunny Gho

COVER / PAGE 1: Apocalypse with his sword and a bunch of skulls.

PAGES 2-3: Recap and credits.

PAGES 4-7: Apocalypse and Genesis meet in the Starlight Citadel garden.

Genesis. This is the first time we’ve seen her speak at any length, and she seems to be if anything more “survival of the fittest” than Apocalypse himself. Presumably she was a big influence on him. She does seem to still have some genuine affection for him, but we’ll see later that she’s now at least merged with Annihilation, and driven by Annihilation’s goals.

The Twilight Blade. We’ve been told repeatedly that the Twilight Blade was involved in the Amenth invasion that led to the split between Arakko and Krakoa; Apocalypse obviously sees it as a symbolic defeat for Genesis now to be wielding it herself. Genesis seems simply confused by that, apparently regarding the Blade as nothing more than a straightforward weapon.

“The High Summoner has kept us informed while keeping you misinformed.” In particular in X-Men #12 and X of Swords: Creation.

PAGE 8: Data page. It’s identical to the one that introduced Summoner’s version of this story in issue #12, except that the small print at the bottom has changed from “Krakoa weeps” to “Summoner lies.”

PAGES 9-22. Genesis gives her account of the history of Arakko.

This is an alternate telling of the story that Summoner told in issue #12, largely repeating the same art. I’ll go through the details, but I’ll warn you now – most of this is basically the same with slightly different dialogue, and it really didn’t merit being reprinted in full.

Page 9 panel 1. The opening caption is different, but otherwise this is identical to Summoner’s version. Genesis repeats the same “It was ancient before that word existed…” routine which we’ve heard several times before.

Page 9 panel 2. Identical to Summoner’s version (unless you’re very excited about lettering placement).

Page 9 panel 3. Identical to Summoner’s version, except he said “from that dark world”, and she says “from Amenth”. No obvious significance to that.

Page 10, panel 1. Identical to Summoner’s version, except Genesis adds the detail that the “enemy” is Annihilation.

Page 10, panel 2 to page 11, panel 1. Summoner’s version of this scene claimed that from the perspective of his people, the reasons why Apocalypse had stayed behind were a matter of speculation and myth. Genesis’s dialogue is different, but it covers the same basic point in a higher-level way. She says that they “both know the real reason you stayed”; in a flashback in the previous issue, she was shown bidding him farewell and saying that he couldn’t come because he was “not strong enough”. Why that is remains unrevealed.

Page 11, panel 2. Identical to Summoner’s version.

Page 11, panel 3. Different dialogue, but no obvious change of substance.

Page 12, panels 1-2. This is a slightly clearer version of Summoner’s story, but not significantly different.

Page 12, panel 3. Again, different dialogue, but not significantly different from Summoner’s version. Both Genesis and Summoner specifically refer to “mutant alchemists and engineers”.

Page 13, panels 1-2. Once again, the dialogue is different but the substance is basically the same. Summoner’s version put more emphasis on the towers eventually failing, Genesis stresses more how long they thrived.

Page 13, panel 3. The first line is identical in both versions, which might suggest it’s part of the folk-tale version of these events. The second line is understandably different, since this panel depicts the birth of Summoner, who was talking about himself in the original; Genesis refers more generally to “children of War”, but appears to be referring literally to the Horseman War (Summoner’s mother). She also talks about the mutants of Arakko being strong and fit.

Page 14, panel 1. Different wording, but no fundamental difference in the content.

Page 14, panel 2. Both versions use very similar wording here. Summoner has an extra line to explain who Genesis is, because he hasn’t mentioned her before. He also describes Idyll, the Arakkan prophet, as his “crib mate”, and says that Idyll’s vision was specifically of “the fall of our great towers”. None of that is obviously contradicted by Genesis here.

Page 14, panel 3. Genesis’s version is slightly fuller about her reaction to getting a warning; Summoner’s version mentioned that she didn’t follow through on her threat to punish Idyll, but Genesis skips over that.

Page 15. Broadly the same; the dialogue is paced a little differently, but there’s no change in the content.

Page 16: In Summoner’s version, Genesis is missing for six years following her encounter with the White Sword, and “escaped by untold and never spoken means”. In Genesis’s version, he simply “drove us out”, and there’s no suggestion that she was gone for anything like that length of time.

Page 17: In Summoner’s version, he simply said that Isca had been sent to invite Genesis to a parlay with Annihilation, and that nobody knew what the two had said. Genesis adds the detail that Isca is her sister, and suggests that Isca was desperately trying to save Genesis from herself by getting her to sign up for the parlay.

Page 18: Genesis actually does add some significant new material here. According to her, she discovered that the mutants who fled at the outset didn’t die, but instead wound up being captured and crossbred with demons to form a warrior race. She describes this as “the birth of Summoners”, which is curious, because we’ve already seen that Summoner himself was born in Arakko. The data page at the end of the issue refers to “the Summoners of both Amenth and Arakko”, so presumably Genesis is only referring here to the birth of the Summoners of Amenth.

X of Swords: Stasis indicates that not all the mutants were hybridised over the years, since it describes Redroot as a “pure-blood mutant reclaimed from Amenth”.

Genesis also says that this hybridising was something to do with “the origin of the black experiments of the vile schools”. We hear more of the Vile (capitalised) on a data page later.

Page 19: Summoner’s version implied that Annihilation had killed Genesis. Genesis explains that she killed the previous wearer of the Annihilation helm and inherited the right (and duty) to wear it next.

Page 20: In Summoner’s version, he suggested that having killed Genesis, Annihilation launched an attack on Arakko over the course of a century. In Genesis’s account, the demons ran wild because she refused to take on the mantle of Annihilation; she allowed Arakko to risk defeat because the whole point of coming to Amenth in the first place was to slow down the hordes and protect Earth.

Page 21 panels 1-2: Different dialogue but no real changes.

Page 21 panel 3 and page 22 panel 1: Summoner presents the first of these panels as being something to do with him, and makes only a few vague remarks about what’s going on in the second. According to Genesis, these are some of the greatest citizens of Arakko trying to re-open the portal back to Earth, presumably in an attempt to escape Amenth. She regards that as a retreat which makes all the Arakkan sacrifice pointless.

Page 22 panels 2-3: And so, in Genesis’s rather clearer account, she succumbs to putting on the Annihilation helm. It becomes the dominant part of her, and she leads the hordes into Arakko. Presumably, Arakko falls because the hordes now have a proper leader, and most of their big guns have already left in the previous escape attempt.

I’m really, really not convinced that that merited 14 pages of reprinted art.

PAGES 23-24. Genesis/Annihilation bids farewell.

PAGE 25. Data page. This is based on page 18 of House of X #6, which showed the three laws of Krakoa. The first law is the same; the second has changed from “Murder No Man” to “Destroy Our Enemies”; and the third has changed from “Respect this Sacred Land” to “Defend this Broken Land”. The Krakoa/Arakko scoreline in the small print at the bottom has been reversed.

Why Krakoa and Arakko would coincidentally come up with three such similar laws is unclear, unless some sort of ongoing link between Krakoa and Arakko has something to do with it (or perhaps both are drawing on some sort of echo of the original joined island of Okkara).

PAGE 26. Data page on “The Mutants of Arakko”. The first section is talking about what happened to the remaining mutants of Arakko when Annihilation conquered them. It mentions the “Vile school” from earlier in the issue, without really explaining them. It also mentions that the Summoners of Amenth and Arakko differ; the Arakkan Summoners are apparently not loyal to either Arakko or Annihilation, but only interested in pursuing their own power base “and twisted religion”.

The second paragraph is a prophecy from the latest Idyll (a name apparently passed down the generations) which seems to be something to do with reuniting the two islands.

PAGE 27. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: PARLEY.

Bring on the comments

  1. Chris V says:

    I’m glad that this issue clarified where that comma versus that period should be placed.
    Great use of time.
    Out of fourteen issues of X-Men now, I assume there has been enough content to fill two issues of a comic.

    Based on the X-Men issues contribution to X of Swords, I’d say it’s pretty obvious that Hickman has little interest in the ideas being used.
    Some of it obviously reads as similar to standard Hickman writing: throw out a hundred different I’ll-defined ideas, create a bunch of randomly named characters with no personalities, hint at a lot of weirdly named historical events of great importance that are never explained….
    However, this is clearly Tini Howard’s story.

    Hickman used a number of pages with Giant Size X-Men: Fantomex to reprint pages from a Morrison X-Men issue too, also with minimal changes.
    So, him wasting lots of page space rather than fleshing out anything from House/Powers has become almost an inherent aspect of “Dawn of X” now.

  2. The Other Michael says:

    This issue felt like a waste of time. Everything we learned here could have been covered in several pages, tops.
    This is why this crossover got bloated up to 23 parts–because some of it really feels like extraneous filler. And to think this is supposed to be the franchise headliner title.
    Sigh.

  3. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    On the one hand, I sort of see how such a repetition of the sequence might work – maybe if it was a book and we got here after 400 pages of other stuff?

    But even then, for the repetition to impart new meaning, we would have to be given new context in between, or there should be some actual twists in the retelling of the tale. Meanwhile the creators seem to think that Annihilation being Genesis is some grand revelation, a twist on a scale comparable with ‘I am your father’. Which it very much isn’t. At all.

    Still, once again – the Marauders issue was very good.

  4. Dave says:

    This section of the crossover is almost a parody of stretching out a story. End the half-way point with ‘Next: Dinner’, pick up the next issue: ‘But before that, a reminder…’.

  5. DFE says:

    “Meanwhile the creators seem to think that Annihilation being Genesis is some grand revelation, a twist on a scale comparable with ‘I am your father’. Which it very much isn’t. At all.”

    I don’t think it’s intended to be a real revelation since it was drawn out pretty clearly in the two-face Tarot artwork and no effort was made to obscure her identity in the mask. I think it’s the “Why” and “How” that are supposed to be the revelation. not the actual fact. So less of a “Darth Vader is Luke’s father” revelation and more of a Why is Obi-Wan on Tatooine” question.

  6. CJ says:

    Yeah, this was frustratingly redundant.

    But man oh man, do I agree with Krzysiek: Marauders was good. Really good. The first issue of this crossover that I 100% loved.

    Hickman really wants us to be fascinated with the “Arakko is to Amenth as Krakoa is to Earth” setup, even to have the Amenthi create their own version of “post-humans” with the hybrid horde creatures, and maybe the Golden Helm is like technology in Powers of X (it defeated Genesis here, defeated Apocalypse in PoX).

    If I’m right, I don’t understand what kind of parallel he’s making here. And I don’t understand why I paid $5 USD for an issue I’ve read twice now.

  7. SanityOrMadness says:

    It’s a meta thing. This issue was ancient before it existed (because this is the third time we’ve heard this story, and the second use of the same art), but not yet old because it’s only just been published :p

  8. Evilgus says:

    I do feel a bit hoodwinked by the art reprint. And also more irritated that I barely noticed, as Leinil You’s art was so sketchy and non descript it didn’t register I was reading it again. Maybe that’s a sign of how many issues this has padded out? It’s also hard to care with the ‘twist’ that Genesis became Annihilation, when we barely know either character.

    I’m worried we will see this a third and final time, from Annihilation’s perspective. There better be an audacious twist in there to make it worthwhile.

    But still, there’s good emotional beats for poor soft little husband Apocalypse. I am liking this reversal.

  9. Jerry Ray says:

    I wonder if there’s any parallel between the Annihilation helmet and the Cerebro helmet that Xavier wears.

  10. Chris V says:

    All these parallels are really taking away from the Moira X stuff.

    I took the Amenthi hybridizing with demons to be akin to the Chimeras from Moira’s earlier life, since it involved mutants becoming hybrids, rather than the post-humans.
    Although, maybe it correlates with the post-humans instead.
    Maybe it’s supposed to be read as a warning of some kind for Krakoa.

  11. Ben says:

    Egregious Filler 2: Amenthi Boogaloo

  12. Allan M says:

    You know, for a guy whose defining trait is that he’s a liar, Summoner turned out to be very accurate and honest when he recapped Arrakan history. Introducing a twist that a character was an unreliable narrator, and then establishing that the story they told was actually 95% reliable, is so ridiculous that I’m at a loss.

  13. CJ says:

    I’m going to start calling humans “Earthi”. I feel more interesting already.

    What does it do for the mutant story to have established Okkara in the very distant past? It makes them even more like the Inhumans, that’s what. Great.

    I’m a little wary of Genesis, since it’s basically making someone “more Apocalypse than Apocalypse” is to apply a Worf Effect trope to him.

    Despite my whining, this plot does contain some decent (Cypher story in New Mutants) or great (this week’s Marauders) stories. But it could have also been told at literally any other time in the X-Men’s history.

    I hope this book returns to the themes that attracted everyone to the relaunch.

  14. Joseph S. says:

    So, the pandemic instigated a shift in plans, and the previously announced 12 issue crossover (plus how ever many tenuous Path to… issues)was expanded to 22 parts. Safe to assume this issue was part of the expansion.

    There are ways to reuse art that would have been more creative, as Silver Surfer, Deadpool, and especially Wic + Div have demonstrated relatively recently. When it was a page or two at the end of Powers of X, it worked, bu this is an awful lot of reprint to justify.

  15. Diana says:

    @Chris V: Especially because, if the catalyst for all this magic sword nonsense is that mutants settled on Krakoa, that happened in Moira’s ninth life too.

  16. Josie says:

    A Jonathan Hickman comic in which nothing happens? Say it isn’t so.

  17. Dave says:

    Remember when the first part seemed like, although it took a double issue, it really got the wheels rolling on the story?
    Here’s how I’d have spread it out more evenly:
    Part 1 – Have Annihilation giving orders to conquer Dryador and move on through Otherworld. Apocalypse laments the loss of his wife during the issue, and at the end she unmasks and sets her children on him.
    Part 2 then has Saturnyne ordering the contest with Polaris still doing her prophecy bit at the end.
    Following parts with sword collecting are the same.
    The last 2 X-MEN issues are just a single issue, where Apocalypse recovers, and Genesis contacts him while he’s getting his sword.
    Stasis has both the Arrako sword-gathering AND the dinner.
    Then you can drop the one Marauders issue as well.

  18. Chris V says:

    I knew it was going to end up as this sprawl.
    I mean, turning a thirteen chapter story (which was probably already a bit bloated, just based on modern comics) in to twenty-two chapter story is obviously going to end up as a major sprawl.

    Besides that though, this is exactly how Hickman’s Infinity event read.
    The first part was full of big ideas and seemed pretty exciting. Then, nothing happened until the very end of the story.
    After Creation, I expected that this cross-over would end up the same as Infinity.

  19. David says:

    Unlike most of the commenters here, I’ve been loving Dawn of X, and X of Swords specifically. But like everyone else, I’m mortified that they’d sell a comic with 14 reprinted pages for $5.

    I think this kind of repetition could work in a movie, a TV show or a novel- maybe even a long-form graphic novel. But you just can’t sell 14 pages of reprinted art at full price, that’s insane.

    Kieron Gillen once laid out his rules for what “counts” as a full comic pages and what doesn’t- reprinted art, text pages nos blank pages don’t count. That may not be n iron-clad industry rule, but I’ve never seen this kind of audacity.

  20. Alan L says:

    They’re just hustling to make this absurd page count. Hickman’s pace is glacial on a good day, but clearly this event has been stretched longer than even he is prepared play it out. But it certainly sucks to have this kind of painfully dull repetition, and at a high price tag as well. It’s not uncharacteristic of Hickman to repeat stories–within–stories and lines of dialogue like singsong mantras again and again until he starts to eventually change their meanings. It’s one of his most glaringly wretched tropes––the genuine height of pretention as well, because he never really pulls it off as a literary conceit. But in a way, this issue is the apotheosis of that approach. Maybe in his next massive event–– “Crisis in Infinite Comics Companies” for DC, or “Universe Collapsing Fall of the Marvel Knights”––what else is there left for him at Marvel, after all––whatever, maybe Hickman will reprint an entire issue absolutely verbatim from the previous one, and then follow that with a third version of said issue that deviates just slightly in the narration. And somewhere they’ll call it genius.

  21. Loz says:

    I stopped reading X-Men for a long time and only got back into it with Schism so I’m wondering, is there an in-universe reason why Apocalypse is just a sad tall blue guy and not the size-changing almost Celestial-level powerhouse the original X-Factor fought? The guy Cyclops blew apart in one of the most awesome single panels in X-Men comics history?I know its traditional for bad guys to become much weaker when they become good guys (see: Magneto) but even so this is somewhat ridiculous.

  22. Adam says:

    I’ve been enjoying X OF SWORDS, but yes, this issue was simply published in bad faith.

    I think you could execute a story in which recycled artwork told a very different story, but this was not anywhere close to it.

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