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Jan 13

S.W.O.R.D. #2 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

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

S.W.O.R.D. vol 2 #2
“In the Dark”
by Al Ewing, Valerio Schiti & Marte Gracia

COVER / PAGE 1: Cable, Frenzy & Abigail Brand, alongside an image of the S.W.O.R.D. space station impaled into a Venomised Earth. This is a King in Black tie-in, though unusually there’s nothing else on the cover to indicate that fact.

PAGE 2. A mystery figure in New York.

As part of King in Black, New York is overrun by Knull’s symbiotes, and there’s a symbiote shield surrounding the planet. The shadow figure is a Venomized Cable, as we’ll see later on.

PAGE 3. Recap and credits. I don’t know enough about the plot of King in Black to know about the X-Men’s involvement as recapped here. The small print has changed to read “King black – Knull X”.

PAGES 4-5. Abigail Brand checks in with the Six.

Abigail’s recap is just sketching out the basic concepts of Venom and King in Black.

As indicated in the previous issue, Fabian Cortez has no real role in S.W.O.R.D., except when he’s called upon to use his powers. Predictably, he seems more interested in talking up his role – though in fairness to him, it’s not obvious that his department really should have anything to contribute at this stage.

The Galactic Council is an established UN-type organisation (or at least meeting chamber) for the major alien races of the Marvel Universe. Al Ewing has also been using it over in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Indigo – Security. The head of department is Cable; he doesn’t respond for the obvious reasons.

Violet – Analysis. This is Mentallo, who was redacted out in the previous issue. He’s an unusual case of a long-time mutant villain who has no particular history in the X-books – he debuted in the Nick Fury story in Strange Tales #141 in 1966, and he’s fought various heroes over the years. Peepers mentioned him in the previous issue as “Marv” – they were teammates together in the Resistants, a mutant-rights group which opposed the Mutant Registration Act in late-80s Captain America.

As a member of the Resistants, Flumm rode in a little tank full of weapons that he could control with his mind, and went by the name Think Tank. As we see later, he thinks this is the coolest thing he ever did, and he wants his tank back. Note that he’s reading a magazine about tanks.

Mentallo is convinced that he knows what Abigail Brand really thinks about him, but the next page implies that Abigail has more plans than he’s actually aware of, and she mentions later on that she has psychic shields. Mentallo isn’t a particularly powerful telepath – it’s been acknowledged in the past that he can’t compete with the big guns in the field.

PAGE 6. Data page, mostly with Abigail’s personnel notes on Mentallo. Abigail’s account of his history is broadly correct – he’s just a career supervillain with no particular direction. His “last foray into mutant rights” was the Resistants, and “the you-know-what” is his beloved tank. Brand describes Mentallo’s involvement in the group as a “grift”, and it was certainly an uncharacteristic period in his life.

PAGES 7-12. S.W.O.R.D. gather in the launchpad.

Paibok, the Power Skrull, was in the previous issue as well – presumably not much time has passed. Although he’s traditionally a villain, Frenzy’s quite right that he’s got every reason to help here, partly because Knull is a universe-level threat, but also because it will go down well with his new emperor, Hulkling.

“Hope you survive the etcetera.” Another reference to “Welcome to the X-Men [name] – hope you survive the experience”, which was also referenced in the previous issue.

“A Brashear portal” is presumably something developed by Adam Brashear, the Blue Marvel.

Random is presumably here because Cable is absent, and he’s the next person down in the security-department pecking order.

PAGES 13-16. S.W.O.R.D. help out on Krakoa.

“Flatscan.” A term used by mutant villains to disparage ordinary humans, which was big in the 90s and rather tailed off later. Cortez, of course, hails from that era of X-books.

The X-Men seen here – or Krakoans, at any rate – are Magneto, Banshee and Sunfire. Emma Frost is appaarently off-panel.

Cortez‘s power is not healing; it’s to supercharge other people’s powers. That seems to generate something of a euphoric / painkilling effect as well, since presumably Sunfire is still flying around fighting with two broken legs here. Cortez describes himself as “the power behind the throne”, though that was only really his role in his first storyline – he showed up at Magneto’s door with a bunch of cultists and insinuated himself into place as Magneto’s new trusted adviser, giving him power-boosts along the way. Naturally, they were bad for Magneto in the long run.

More generally, Cortez’s main schtick in the 90s was to hold himself out as a follower of the absent Magneto, and to lure a bunch of cultists into following him in turn.

PAGE 17. Data page, this time with Abigail’s notes on Fabian Cortez. Obviously, he’s been selected because of his unusual and useful powers, and Brand wants to marginalise the scope for him to create trouble. Clearly she would prefer to replace him with somebody more useful, but the examples she lists here are even less workable.

  • Michael Nowlan was a mutant with the power to boost other mutants’ powers, who appeared in X-Factor vol 1 #5-6. His power was indeed addictive. Nowlan died by reabsorbing the energy he’d given to Apocalypse’s henchmen the Alliance of Evil, so evidently he’s been resurrected on Krakoa. Perhaps Brand was pressing for anyone better than Cortez. Susan Nowlan, his wife, was also in that earlier story; she was killed by Stinger.
  • Boost was a member of the Morlock splinter group Gene Nation, and his only actual appearance was in the 1997 Uncanny X-Men Annual. He was reported to have been depowered after M-Day (see New Avengers #18), so either he’s died and been resurrected, or he got his powers back (presumably in the Mothervine nonsense).
  • Mister M is an Omega-class mutant who appeared in District X. He’s been mentioned before as a major, powerful mutant whose whereabouts is unknown to Krakoa.
  • The final one is redacted; all we know clearly is that it’s a female character and has some connection with the Snarkwar storyline in Guardians of the Galaxy. Chance from the original Fallen Angels team would tick the box of being a female mutant who enhances powers, but she has no obvious connection to Snarkwar. (Then again, she hasn’t been seen in years, so who knows what she’s up to now?)

PAGES 18-19. Mentallo rescues the Five.

Proteus is a massively powerful character, and so there’s an obvious question of why he isn’t getting more involved in a world-shattering event. The official line, evidently, is that the work of reviving the dead mutants always takes priority.

PAGES 20-22. Cortez makes his move, and Cable arrives.

Cortez gets what he wanted – a bit of attention from Magneto, which he tries to leverage into an opportunity to build some political influence. He seems to have some sort of anti-human policy that he wants to promote. Magneto seems receptive, but what he actually says is “I think that would be instructive”, which is a little more ambivalent. Frenzy, who picks up on what’s happening, was one of Cortez’s teammates in the Acolytes and knows him best.

PAGE 23. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: SIDE TRIP.

Bring on the comments

  1. Si says:

    Ew, Knull. Beside being a very rude word in Swedish (as far as they do rude), the concept is so weird. Spider-Man got a new costume in the Secret Wars toy promotion comic because it meant they could sell twice as many Spider-Man toys. That simple concept has escalated over the decades to become an evil god who just happens to look like 80s Spider-Woman’s costume, destroying the universe. A few months after a bunch of trees were destroying the universe. Which was a few months after nazis conquered the world. Remember when superheroes stopped the bad guys BEFORE they crushed humanity? I miss those days.

    Anyway, if anyone can make a good story out of this mess, it’s Mr Ewing, but still, I’m not looking forward to this comic.

  2. The Other Michael says:

    As always, I adore Ewing’s capacity for playing with and utilizing obscure characters and delving into the weirder bits of older characters’ histories. I hope we get to see Chance at some point, now that she’s supposedly been referenced.

    I -wonder- if Chance might be involved with Snarkwar as a sideline to being friends with Ariel, a mutant from the alien society of Coconut Grove… I don’t know why she’s being redacted (assuming it’s her and not someone else even more obscure.)

  3. CitizenBane says:

    I think it was about 10 years ago when Marvel published Chaos War, in which the planet-eating god of the primordial void was Amatsu-Mikaboshi, the Chaos King. Now the planet-eating god of the primordial void is Knull. Who will it be in 2030?

  4. JD says:

    In the first issue of the lead King in Black miniseries, Krakoa answered the call for help from the Avengers, with the likes of Cyclops and Storm showing up. Unfortunately, that means they got overwhelmed, captured and venomized like half the other heroes in that opening chapter.

    (Full roster shown : Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Cable (!), and someone who looks like Magneto in his white costume. The last one is not a continuity error, by the way, as he’s not among those captured on panel, and by issue #2 he’s clearly retreated back to Krakoa, helping Professor X stonewall against sending more help out.)

  5. Si says:

    Tiamat for 2030! Why settle for a lesser primordial chaos god threatening the very planet?

  6. Chris V says:

    She was already killed and cut up by Marduk to create the planet.

  7. Si says:

    So was Ymir, but he’s still kicking about the Marvel universe.

  8. Joseph S. says:

    I wonder if they’ve left the branding off intentionally, in case it might be off putting after dragging out Empyre and X of Swords all year. Cable is next in the reading order, seems the story must continue there.

    Also surely significant that Stinger (and child) have appeared in Cable recently, this the mention of Michael Nowlan might be seeding a future conflict. That’s what the people want from a Ewing x-book.

    Nice touch leaving Cable off the character page. It was pretty obvious that Cable had been symbioted from that first page, but somehow the reveal still works.

    Re-read HoxPoX the other day, so it’s fresh in my mind that Proteus burns through (Xavier-based) bodies at a rate of 1-7 days. If that’s the case, then something like putting a sun in the sky might be substantial enough of an exertion of power to justify keeping him out of the fight.

    Boosted Sunfire giving anyone else AoA vibes?

    I like this mutant tech angle. It exploits some of the less obvious innovations from HoXPoX, perfectly suited to Ewing’s inclinations. Seeing social configurations as machines also opens up these story potentials with the replacements, hierarchies, and competition.

  9. ASV says:

    Most mutants have some manner of exciting or tragic story of discovering their powers. How does one discover having the ability to boost the powers of other mutants?

  10. Thom H. says:

    Maybe it’s a power that’s always “on” unless you suppress it. So you notice that other people make strange and surprising (to them) displays of power when you’re around. Or when you touch them.

    It would have to happen repeatedly for the pattern to become clear. Which means that multiple unsuspecting mutants suddenly make fools of themselves in your presence. Or worse, destroy property or injure someone.

    And then you seek out one of them to confirm your theory and start learning how to turn your power switch to “off.” At first, they resist because they’re still miffed that you outed them in public. But then they realize that it’s better to have you as a friend than to have no friends at all.

    Does this get me a No Prize?

  11. NS says:

    I’m still not sure why Brand can’t use Sage in Cortez’s role. Sage was enhancing abilities left and right in X-Treme X-Men. She enhanced the powers of Lifeguard, gave Rogue access to every power she ever absorbed, and turned Beast into a cat (for some reason. To heal his injuries?).

  12. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    A good issue that actually did something interesting with the premise of the crossover.

    They really should let SWORD help Venom save the day to sell they’re really competent.

  13. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Two answer come to mind. The simple one is that Sage is unavailable to Brand due to her duties on Krakoa. The fact that Brand has to work with whoever was available has been repeatedly mentioned in issue #1.

    The more no-prize-ish answer could be that Sage can alter the scope of a mutant’s abilities but she’s not doing what Cortez does – she’s not boosting the existing power. Brand needs Cortez to simply boost the range of the teleporters’ power, Sage would make them dimension hoppers or turn them into pug people or something like that – maybe useful, but not what is asked for.

  14. Mathew says:

    A Snarkwar also took place in Ewing’s Inhumans book, “Royals”, so there’s a decent chance the redacted option comes from there. “Primary loyalty is most likely [Inhuman]” certainly looks a good fit. The female members of the team were Medusa, Crystal, and Swain, but none of their powers suggest an obvious replacement for Cortez.

    The Zn’rx used power-stealing tech during that story, so another possibility is to use that to transfer Cortez’s power to someone else.

  15. Mark Coale says:

    Hopefully, Sword’s higher profile will help the book’s sales.

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