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Feb 12

S.W.O.R.D. #3 annotations

Posted on Friday, February 12, 2021 by Paul in Annotations, x-axis

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

S.W.O.R.D. vol 2 #3
“Everywhere Man”
by Al Ewing, Valerio Schiti, Ray-Anthony Height, Bernard Chang, Nico Leon & Marte Gracia

COVER / PAGE 1. Manifold doing his thing, with the outback on one side and the Alpha Flight station (with Henry Gyrich) on the other. Unlike last issue, this does have a King in Black tie-in banner, though it’s largely obscured.

PAGE 2. Manifold leaves Lila in charge.

Although it’s notionally a King in Black tie-in, this issue is largely a spotlight for Manifold, perhaps in part to introduce him to the X-books’ audience – although he’s a mutant, his previous appearances have mostly been in Secret Warriors, Avengers and Black Panther. And fair warning, I’m not hugely familiar with any of those runs.

As explained in the issue, Manifold doesn’t exactly teleport so much as manipulate space. The practical effect is very similar, but it’s more like he’s bringing the location to him. You might compare it to the difference between a conventional speedster and a time manipulator.

Lila is Lila Cheney, one of the five teleporters working in the Teleport Team under his command. Despite what he says here, she wasn’t actually identified as second in command on the org chart we saw in issue #1. In fact, the data page later in that issue said that no backup had been identified for Manifold as a member of the Six, indicating that his contribution to the Six depends on the unique way his powers work, and can’t be replicated merely by any old teleporter.

“Gates” is Gateway, the X-Men’s local teleporter from the Australian era, who used to sit enigmatically on a nearby hill and never say anything. Although Manifold denies that Gateway is his “mentor”, that’s pretty much how matters were portrayed in Manifold’s debut in Secret Warriors vol 1 #4 – at the very least, Gateway was teaching him. Gateway did indeed speak in that issue, and Manifold expressed some irritation at his more stereotypical tendencies.

PAGE 3. Manifold goes “everywhere”.

None of these individual locations looks particularly significant. The rainbow colouring seems to echo the colour-coding of the S.W.O.R.D. structure, but I doubt there’s any significance to that.

PAGE 4. Recap and credits. I think this is the first explanation of why Manifold is described as a “quintician” (an invented word) – it’s derived from “quintessence”, which is correctly defined here.

The title “Everywhere Man” is presumably a play on “Nowhere Man” by the Beatles.

PAGES 5-8. Manifold visits Kata Tjuta.

Kata Tjuta was where Manifold was training with Gateway in his debut in Secret Warriors vol 1 #4. It’s a set of rock formations in the Northern Territory of Australia, about 220 miles from Alice Springs. Manifold seems to be returning here partly to anchor himself because he doesn’t have the usual option of orienting himself by the stars (due to the symbiote shell surrounding Earth as part of King in Black).

As far as I know, Baz and Sammy are new characters.

T’Challa is, of course, the Black Panther. The “space business” is the lengthy Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda storyline from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther run. Broadly speaking, the storyline reveals that a group of time-travelling Wakandan explorers set up an intergalactic empire centuries ago which is now behaving in very imperial ways. Black Panther and Manifold are both mind-wiped as part of the story, and Manifold spends some time serving in the imperial forces.

“I gotta see a big lizard guy then chat with our opposite numbers.” The “big lizard guy” is the Snark from the next scene. “Our opposite numbers” are Alpha Flight – i.e., S.W.O.R.D.’s opposite numbers.

“Respect this sacred land” is indeed the third Krakoan law established back in House of X. Manifold seems to take it at face value as a sign that these people are on the same page with him. His compatriots, perhaps rightly, see it more as an attempt to engineer something that’s not innate to the culture.

PAGE 9. A data page on the Snarkwar. The Snarks are the reptilian aliens who served as the main aliens in Power Pack back in the 1980s; “Snark” is strictly just a corruption of “Zn’rx”. The Snarkwar is basically the rival clan leaders warring for control of the Snark Race, following the death of the previous leader. The current Snarkwar is a storyline that started in Ewing’s Guardians of the Galaxy run, but the basic idea that the Snarks fly into a warring frenzy has been seen before.

The Hyinar Usurpation is a storyline from Ewing’s Royals series (about the Inhuman royal family). Hyinar died in Royals #8. Stote is the walk-on emperor who was killed in Guardians of the Galaxy vol 6 #7. The “Bhadsha era’s reforms” refers to Emperor Bhadsha, the relatively-moderate Snark ruler from late-period Power Pack, who did radical things like establishing diplomatic relations with nice people, and trying to introduce trial by combat as a means of succession to the throne, as an improvement on the traditional massive war.

The Snarks listed here as contenders for the throne all appear to be new characters. Like Stote, they’re all named after animals (cougar, weasel, condor, liger and jaguar).

The “Utopian Kree” are a sort of splinter group of Kree, associated with Marvel Boy of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

PAGES 10-14. Manifold visits Djagyar.

“Your mob do a lot of stealing powers, right?” The Snarks do indeed have a long history of trying to steal super powers – or anything else vaguely useful that might be lying around – for use in the Snarkwar.

Burner and Lifter were members of Mutant Force (later the Resistants), the same outfit that Peeper was a member of. The suggestion is that they’re offering the powers of these two D-listers to the Snarks in the hope of getting the Snarks on side; hopefully the process proves fatal, and the two mutants can simply be resurrected with their powers intact. Otherwise, it’s a trip to the Crucible for them.

I don’t know who kills Djagyar, though the reflection suggests some sort of triangular headdress (which might mean Shi’ar).

PAGES 15-20. Manifold visits Alpha Flight.

As in issue #1, this scene incorporates data page elements into the regular storytelling.

Issue #1 also established that Gyrich was now running Alpha Flight, the US government space station. “Gamma Flight” is the Alpha Flight squadron assigned to tackle the Hulk, as seen in Ewing’s Immortal Hulk.

Gyrich is revealed to be associated with Orchis, the anti-mutant scientists on the space station from House of X. Pretty much everything else about the document is redacted; the dialogue indicates that (for once) this is actual in-universe redaction, and that this is the form in which Gyrich got it. Clearly, despite being the notional head of the “infrastructure / influence” division, he’s not exactly in the loop when it comes to plans.

Manifold leaves just before Gyrich mentions his “mole in S.W.O.R.D.”. The surely-too-obvious candidate would be the perennially disloyal Fabian Cortez, but he’s hardly the only ex-villain up there.

PAGE 21. Manifold checks in on Abigail Brand.

She reminds him that this is meant to be a King in Black ti-in issue, and he’d really better get back to that plot.

PAGE 22. Manifold returns to Krakoa to find…

Knull-corrupted Cable has beaten everyone – we can see Paibok, Frenzy, Magneto, Random, Cortez and Banshee among the people suspended.

PAGE 23. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: COCOON.




Bring on the comments

  1. Uncanny X-Force says:

    I enjoyed this issue.

    A nice reintroduction to Manifold and the right way to do this be of these otherwise pointless crossover tie ins.

    I do not think that’s supposed to be a Shi’ar headdress, just the shape of the Snark guy’s pupil. Manifold is reflected in his eye similarly on the previous page.

    Whoever the culprit is has black/yellow text bubbles and uses what looks like a Kukri, but I have no idea.

  2. Chris V says:

    I agree. I liked the issue. Ewing did the right thing with a mandated crossover. He told a story spotlighting a member of the regular team.
    I like the character (Manifold) he chose too.

    Ewing also seems to be carving out his own cosmic Marvel mythology, touching on a number of his prior space-oriented stories.

  3. Moonstar Logic says:

    I thought Everywhere Man was a reference to the Johnny Cash cover of “I’ve Been Everywhere,” the version where Cash rattles off a bunch of cities and states he’s supposedly visited. The chorus starts, “I’ve been everywhere, man…” which feels fitting based on Manifold’s abilities.

  4. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I liked this issue a lot – I read Secret Warriors (though I dropped off Black Panther before Eden showed up there), so I remember Manifold from there, but it was still nice to get a refresher – as well as a showing of Ewing’s take on him. (The way his powers work is, I think, Ewing’s addition / interpretation? Unless it’s from Black Panther).

    Also the Gyrich/Orchis reveal seemed like a big deal, especially since Hickman positioned Orchis as very important and then, um… forgot about them? All part of the all-encompassing masterplan, I’m sure.

    And the Snark negotiations were a fun, menacing bit as well. I’m reading GotG so I knew that part of the plot, but I had no idea the Snarks were an established part of Marvel continuity. Ewing is using continuity in a way I appreciate – it’s there if you know it, but his story stands on its own if you don’t.

  5. Omar Karindu says:

    The Snarks using names that refer to animals dates back to the early Power Pack villain Jakal.

    One of the Mutant Force members may also be a candidate for being one of Gyrich’s moles, given that they actually spent a little time working directly for the government (Defenders v.1 #87) before becoming agents of Professor Power’s ultra-patriot incarnation of the Secret Empire, the one that wanted to start a war with the Soviets so the U.S. could win it (“New” Defenders v.1 #125-130).

    It was after this that they became the Resistants (Captain America v.1 #343, 346, etc.), who turned out to be backed by the Red Skull (Captain America v.1 #350). Burner, who used the codename “Crucible” at the time, was shown to report directly to the Red Skull in Captain America v.1 #394.

    Under Crucible/Burner’s leadership, the three specific Resistants seen in this story — Burner/Crucible, Lifter/Meteorite, and Peeper/Occult — also launched an abortive attack aimed at the Mutant Liberation front in Captain America v. 1 #426, ostensibly just to displace the MLF’s status and take leadership of mutant resistance groups. It’s not clear if this involved the Red Skull or not, but as far as I know he was still supposed to be their secret backer at that point.

    Despite their ostensibly anti-Mutant Registration bonafides, then, at least some of Mutants Force’s members have a history of working for the government or for far right and fascist elements.

    Granted, this is because they were used as random flunkies in various stories, but this is also the sort of thing Al Ewing tends to weave together and retroactively justify. Also, the urge to have the character with vision powers and the codename “Peeper” turn out to be spying on everyone would be pretty irresistible.

  6. Chris V says:

    I didn’t like the reveal that the Resistants were being backed by the Red Skull.
    When they were introduced as that incarnation of the group, their mission was to fight against the Mutant Registration Act. Something the X-Men should have done. Which Claremont seemed to intend, but then he sort of forgot it. I think that the X-Men faking their own deaths and escaping to Australia in order to avoid the government would have worked so perfectly.

    Anyway, if Red Skull had been funding them to act as mutant supremacists and attempt to trigger a mutant/human war, that would have been appropriate.

  7. Nathan Mahney says:

    The title “Everywhere Man” is much more likely to be a reference to the song “I’ve Been Everywhere, Man”, as Moonstar Logic pointed out above. The original version was written by an Australian and rattles off loads of Australian place names, so it fits.

    I wanted to point out how bad Ewing’s Aussie dialogue was, but then I realised that I live something like 2,000km away from that part of the country and have never been up there. So really I have about as much idea of how they talk as he does, but it still felt very stereotypical and out of date.

  8. Omar Karindu says:

    I didn’t like the reveal that the Resistants were being backed by the Red Skull.
    When they were introduced as that incarnation of the group, their mission was to fight against the Mutant Registration Act. Something the X-Men should have done. Which Claremont seemed to intend, but then he sort of forgot it. I think that the X-Men faking their own deaths and escaping to Australia in order to avoid the government would have worked so perfectly.

    In fairness to Mark Gruenwald, nearly all of Mutant Force’s earlier appearances really had used them as muscle for various masterminds, largely irrespective of pro-mutant sentiment, so turning out to be henchmen in a scheme yet again was mostly standard form for them.

    That said, there was definitely a missed opportunity in the later 1980s X-Books to have something like this,. Mystique’s Brotherhood had sold out to become freedom Force (who were even shown trying to catch the Resistants in Captain America v.1 #346), and, as you note, the X-Men had been taken to Australia because Claremont was shifting towards a fantasy-influenced “secret war with the Shadow King” plot.

    So the idea of something more like what Mystique’s Brotherhood had been — rebel mutants willing to use violence to meet anti-mutant violence and discrimination — was definitely an unfilled gap.

    I just don’t get the sense Claremont was that interested in it at that point, instead increasingly favoring plots built around conflicts with all-evil, often nigh-invincible or at least untouchable villains (Mister Sinister, the Adversary, S’ym and Nastirh, the Shadow King) and teams of ultra-violent, basically apolitical types (Marauders, Brood Mutants, Reavers) with less “political” motivations and more “kill or be killed” action sequences.

    The older, more “political” mutant villains were basically becoming uneasy allies of the X-Men; even Freedom Force helps out against the Adversary in Fall of the mutants.

  9. Chris V says:

    The Marauders and the Reavers did present a great opportunity for politically motivated stories.
    Although, yes, Claremont’s stories became more about violence and action.
    Claremont still did touch on these issues a bit, but he was actually subtle about it.

    Claremont’s message, more and more, seemed to be that the government was the true enemy of mutants.
    Claremont was showing that mutants were redeemable characters who came to see, more and more, that they shared a common agenda, with the possibility of the looming “Days of Future Past”.
    Magneto, the original arch-nemesis of the X-Men reforms, and the ex-Brotherhood moves in to the position once taken by the revolutionary Magneto. Instead now, the X-Men arch-enemies becomes the sell-out champions of the establishment in Freedom Force.
    Eventually, even Freedom Force (mutants) becomes more sympathetic.

    I think the biggest problem is that it is hard to portray a fight against the government in a superhero comic, unless the government is symbolized with something like the Sentinels.

    With the Marauders, you can see a point being made about an irredeemable enemy. A team which is willing to betray their own kind simply for money.
    You can also see this when Robert Kelly gives the contract for manufacturing the Nimrods to Sebastian Shaw.

    Even moreso with the Reavers. Humans can’t compete with mutants so humans turn to technology in order to compete with mutants.
    Something Hickman has picked up for his version of the X-Men.

    I think this aspect of the plotting would have become clearer had Claremont remained on the X-Men longer, with his plan for a three-way war between the government (being controlled by the Shadow King and represented by Sinister), the mutant supremacists (led by Apocalypse), and the X-Men caught in the middle.

  10. Thom H. says:

    “I think this aspect of the plotting would have become clearer had Claremont remained on the X-Men longer, with his plan for a three-way war between the government (being controlled by the Shadow King and represented by Sinister), the mutant supremacists (led by Apocalypse), and the X-Men caught in the middle.”

    If that’s the case, then it sounds like the muddle is partly from the franchise becoming too big and out of Claremont’s control. The demand for a) major threats that could power crossover events and b) recurring popular villains means you have at least three big bads controlling things from behind the scenes: Sinister, Apocalypse, and the Shadow King. Not to mention the bands of thugs who do their bidding: Marauders, Horsemen, and the revolving door of government-contract baddies (including Freedom Force and whoever is manufacturing Sentinels that day).

    There’s a certain amount of chaos in real life, obviously. But Claremont, et al’s plans for the X-Men/New Mutants/X-Factor end up with so many permutations of big bad/thugs/evil alliances/good alliances that the whole thing starts to resemble story soup. Mundane elements like the government start to get lost.

    If the franchise had remained small — meaning one book like Claremont wanted — then I think the stories could have remained smaller, and we could have gotten a more coherent throughline to the Mutant Registration Act story. As it was, I think the franchise had grown too large to tell stories at a relatable scale.

  11. Chris V says:

    You are probably correct, Thom. That’s a nice analysis.

    My favourite era on X-Men was the Claremont/Romita Jr. era, and that was really the last time it was possible to tell those sorts of character-driven, relatable stories with the franchise; at least it was for Claremont.

  12. Thom H. says:

    Yeah, I was thinking the same thing re: the JRJr era. That’s when we start seeing allegiances shifting vis a vis mutants and the government. Magneto’s rehabilitation is complete as he’s tried and (more or less) acquitted. The X-Men briefly fight alongside the Hellfire Club against Nimrod. Freedom Force has chosen to cynically work for the government, but could easily change allegiances if given the chance. Forge immediately regrets his deal with Gyrich when Storm is injured.

    Even the Mutant Massacre, which starts all of the eventual crossover nonsense, whittles down the number of Morlocks and brings them into the mansion. The X-Men close ranks to protect themselves, bringing Havok and Dazzler back into the fold. We’re gearing up for some kind of confrontation.

    Suddenly magic and demons take over and we lose the thread altogether. Either Claremont lost interest in his government plot or he lost control of the franchise or both. I wonder if his shift to mystical shenanigans was a way to maintain control of his work — at least he was writing about something he liked.

  13. Chris V says:

    Claremont’s original plan for “Fall of the Mutants” involved Jim Jaspers. Marvel UK were able to veto that plan, so Claremont had to change his plot.
    I’m not sure what the original details of his Jaspers story-arc was going to be, but it may have been more political.
    James Jaspers did appear as the prosecutor during the trial of Magneto.
    So, since he had a running sub-plot interweaving Native American mythology, he decided to use “Fall of the Mutants” to wrap that up instead.

    Then, yeah, like you said, maybe he felt creative control slipping away after that point, so he decided to play around with ideas he enjoyed.

  14. Thom H. says:

    “I’m not sure what the original details of his Jaspers story-arc was going to be, but it may have been more political.”

    That totally makes sense. Thanks for the info! Imagine if all that set-up had been paid off during Fall of the Mutants instead of being delayed.

  15. neutrino says:

    Does Manifold return to Krakoa or the Peak?

    Claremont’s vision was to have the Mutant Wars, where mutants were commodities for different factions. Jim Lee wanted to continue with mutant persecution by Sentinels, etc., and his view won.

  16. Chris V says:

    The mutants as “merchandise” agenda was going to tie in with Sinister and his allegiance with the government faction.
    It was going to explain the “Mutant Massacre”, where Sinister hired the Marauders to murder the Morlocks because they were considered expendable.
    Only mutants who could serve as weapons for the governments of the world had any value.

    Shadow King would be revealed as the power manipulating the US government with the intent to create the Hounds from “Days of Future Past”.
    Claremont liked the idea of temporal causality loops.
    Shadow King discovered the Hound design after witnessing Rachel Summers, who had travelled back in time.
    Now, it was going to be the Shadow King who was manipulating the US government to begin the Hound program.

    In issue #300, Xavier would finally destroy the Shadow King, but would die in his attempt.
    Gateway would take Xavier’s place as the mentor for the X-Men.

    Claremont wanted the end of issue #300 to presage that the “Days of Future Past” reality was still the true future of the Marvel Universe.
    So, I’d assume that Robert Kelly would be killed by the mutant supremacist faction (led by Apocalypse).
    It was also going to be more ominous because Jean Grey was alive again. Before, Rachel felt that her future couldn’t be the true future anymore because Jean was dead.
    That was as far as Claremont had plotted. He was thinking about leaving the books after issue #300 and letting other writers take over from that end point.

    It wasn’t so much that Lee’s view won as far as mutants facing persecution from Sentinels (well, not until Claremont quit, although Lee got his way with events like Magneto becoming a villain again), as that Claremont did intend to introduce the elements of “Days of Future Past” within his other story of mutants becoming “merchandise”.

    I already mentioned Shadow King planning to introduce the Hound program. Also, as I mentioned in an earlier post, Robert Kelly granting the government contract for construction of the Nimrods to Sebastian Shaw.

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