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Sep 23

X of Swords: Creation #1 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, September 23, 2020 by Paul in Annotations

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

“X of Swords, Chapter 01”
by Jonathan Hickman, Tini Howard, Pepe Larraz & Marte Gracia

X OF SWORDS. Welcome to the big crossover event of 2020. It runs through every X-book for the next couple of months (aside from the Juggernaut miniseries), and this is one of several one-shots dotted along the way – the next one will be X of Swords: Stasis, due out at the end of October.

As with Powers of X, the title is a Roman numeral, and you’re meant to call it “Ten of Swords”. It’s a tarot reference, but we’ll get to that.

COVER / PAGE 1. In the background, the Original Horsemen; the main group of Summoner, Cable, Apocalypse, Prestige, M and the Beast; and in the foreground seem to be some of the hordes of Arenth.

PAGE 2. The epigraph is a line from Saturnyne, the Omniversal Majestrix and ruler of Otherworld from Excalibur – somewhat surprisingly, the big X-books event turns out to come not from the pages of X-Men, but from Excalibur. I’m not sure Saturnyne exactly owns the magical dimension of Otherworld, but she certainly rules it.

The small print reads “Otherworld”, “Arakko” and “Dryador Falls”, all of which we’ll come back to.

PAGES 3-4. The Horsemen and their forces besiege Del Di’Lorr.

The Horsemen. If you’re just joining us, previous issues of Hickman’s X-Men have established that in ancient times, Krakoa was part of a single island called Okkara; that demonic monsters invaded; that Apocalypse led the battle against them; but that at the end, the island was split in two, with one half becoming Krakoa and the other half becoming Arakko. A whole bunch of ancient mutants on Arakko wound up trapped in the bleak, demonic dimension of Arenth, including Apocalypse’s wife Genesis and their four children, who are the original Four Horsemen. The people of Arakko have been at war with the rest of Arenth ever since. Genesis is believed to have died, and the Horsemen are now in charge and (evidently) leading an invasion. They appear to be marching through Otherworld to Krakoa – we get more on the cosmology later, but Excalibur had already established that there’s a path from Krakoa to Arakko via Saturnyne’s dimension of Otherworld.

We’ve seen glimpses of these Horsemen several times, but this is the first time we’ve seen them speak at any length. The one with the flaming head is War; we haven’t strictly speaking established the names of the others, but it seems a reasonably safe bet that the guy with the scythe is Death (especially given his dialogue on page 4). The one covered in bandages is evidently Pestilence (we’ll see later that their arrow makes the king’s messenger to Saturnyne diseased). So the sarcophagus-looking one must be Famine.

Dei Di’Lorr. The city is new, as is the Kingdom of Dryador (of which it forms part). A dryad is a wood-nymph, so it’s probably got something to do with that.

PAGE 5. The King of Dryador sends a messenger to Saturnyne.

In X-Men #12, Summoner related the history of Arakko to Apocalypse and mentioned in passing that others from Arakko “sought out a different kind of salvation”. The accompanying panel showed people dressed exactly like the soldiers here, implying that these people are some sort of splinter group from Arakko. However, as we’ll see later, Summoner is a very unreliable source.

The Starlight Citadel is Saturnyne’s palace, as seen prominently in Excalibur. We’ll get to the cosmology shortly, but basically, Otherworld appears to be a number of smaller kingdoms (such as Avalon), all ultimately answerable to Saturnyne as the overall ruler. The kind of Dryador is sending a warning up the chain of command.

PAGE 6. The Horsemen mortally wound the messenger.

As we’ll see, he gets there anyway.

PAGES 7-8. Credits and recap. For the first time, the design has changed to include colour, and there’s no Krakoan text on the credit page. Both pages have small print reading “Creation Crossover”, which speaks for itself. Page 7 also has the “Mutants of the world unite” text which usually appears on X-Men‘s credits.

The “recap” just spells out the status quo established in House of X.

PAGE 9. Saturnyne receives the messenger.

Saturnyne is taking the typical Marvel cosmic role of a character who isn’t doing conventionally heroic things because her focus is on a much bigger picture. She doesn’t seem remotely bothered by the dying messenger, but she’s very trouble by the fall of Arakko.

Note that the messenger says that Arakko has fallen – not Dryador or Del Di’Lorr. The “Tower” he’s referring to may not be the one we saw in his own city.

The two aides with Saturnyne were previously seen in Free Comic Book Day: X-Men. The minotaur guy is Quaddeus Quo, and the fish-like woman is named later in the issue as Ryl.

PAGES 10-12. Quaddeus Quo summons up a creature for Ryl.

This is a reprint of the first three pages of Free Comic Book Day: X-Men, with a slight tweak to the last line of dialogue that doesn’t really change the meaning. Apparently they’re gathering some sort of creature to be used in making an as-yet-unexplained device for Saturnyne to use. According to promotional art for X of Swords, the other two characters accompanying Ryl and Quaddeus are called Sinner Rose and Temple.

Summoners. X-Men #2 and #12 establish that Arakko and Arenth have magical Summoners who can summon and control demons. Quaddeus Quo appears to be another Summoner, or at least to have some sort of vaguely comparable power – at any rate, the use of the word “summon” to describe what he does is unlikely to be a coincidence.

PAGE 13. Data page about the Starlight Citadel. This largely speaks for itself, in terms of describing the Citadel.

“[W]hen the original Captain Britain Corps was destroyed”. In New Avengers vol 3 #30, another Jonathan Hickman story.

The Priestesses of the White. Previously introduced in Excalibur. For present purposes, basically Saturnyne cultists. A more moderate group, the Priestesses of the Green, also exists, but isn’t defending the Citadel.

The External Gate. A gate from Krakoa which Apocalypse created in Excalibur #12, using the life force of four of the Externals (ancient immortal mutants who we don’t need to worry about because they’ve been turned into power stones).

PAGES 14-15. Saturnyne receives her newly forged device, and starts her tarot reading.

More reprint from Free Comic Book Day: X-Men. The newly forged device seems to be some sort of thing for helping to tell the future using tarot cards – I guess?

PAGES 16-20. Saturnyne reads the Tarot cards.

These pages are reprinted from Free Comic Book Day: X-Men, but some of the dialogue has changed.

Judgment. My tarot knowledge is pretty superficial, but this card is usually about rebirth and second chances. Traditionally, it would depict the Christian scene of the Resurrection at the Last Judgment. The card here shows Apocalypse with Summoner; presumably Apocalypse is getting his second chance to save Arakko, which seems to be a matter of genuine concern to him.

The original text read: “Finality. An irrevocable change. From here, there is no going back. Surrendering to rebirth is the only path ahead.” The new text stresses rebirth and the fact that the mutants are now engaging in wholesale resurrection, which absolutely cannot go well.

The Four of Wands. Obviously, the Four Horsemen causing devastation. Normally the Four of Wands is seen as a positive card, with connotations of harmony and the good results of hard work – given their behaviour in earlier scenes, perhaps that’s how the Horsemen would see it. Also, here they seem to be fighting the monsters of Arenth, not leading them. The original text read: “The labours of a community – a family. Coming together for a black ceremony. A baptism of blood.”

The Hanged Man. A card open to various interpretations (tarot wouldn’t have lasted so long if it was ever specific enough to be falsifiable, after all). The traditional image shows someone being hung upside down, which sometimes means a traitor’s execution, but is also sometimes equated with Odin suspending himself from a tree to gain knowledge. Means whatever you want, really.

The interesting thing here is that not only has the text changed from Free Comic Book Day: X-Men, but so has the art. The art shown here has Siryn, Archangel and Polaris in the front row, Beast, Rictor, Rockslide, Summoner and Havok in the second row, and Apocalypse in the foreground. This is the team that accompany Apocalypse into Otherworld later in the issue, minus M. However, the original art had Banshee in Siryn’s place, Glob Herman in Rockslide’s, and M in Summoner’s. Make of that what you will.

The original text was “Sacrifice? Curious. Can any of them be trusted to throw themselves on the pyre of change?”

The Eight of Cups. Apparently indicates changes of affection, and breaking with the past. According to Summoner’s highly-unreliable flashback in X-Men #12, the woman on the left side of the picture is Apocalypse’s long-lost wife Genesis, and the woman on the right is the evil queen of Arenth, Annihilation. The original text read “Disillusionment. Abandonment. That which was once the harmonious lifting of voices is now a mocking echo – then silence.”

The Ten of Swords. The Ten of Swords is the tarot card that shows somebody with a bunch of swords in his back. You know, that one. Unsurprisingly, it’s a bit ominous.

Naturally enough, it represents the X-Men. In the foreground are Cable, Apocalypse, Wolverine, Magik and Captain Britain, all wielding swords. There are five more shadow figures in the background, two of whom are obviously Storm and Magneto; the others are less clear. The original text read “Betrayal. Betrayed. By those you would show your back. A loss, but an expected one. One always expects a sunset hours after the dawn.”

This concludes the reprint section.

PAGES 21-22. Data pages. Tarot explains the tarot reading we’ve just seen (and which she’s drawn independently).

Tarot is a member of the original Hellions, the opposite numbers to the original New Mutants. Her power is to bring the images on her tarot cards to life, but she was also quite keen on using them the conventional way.

“The Xorn brothers.” The two Xorns are Chinese – this is not the place to get into the horrible continuity trainwreck that led to there being two of them. Four is an unlucky number in China because it sounds very similar to the word for “death”.

PAGES 23-24. Summoner returns through the External Gate with a monster and a badly injured Banshee.

In X-Men #12, Apocalypse sent Summoner through the portal to deliver a message to Arakko, accompanied by Banshee and Unus the Untouchable. As we’ll see, Summoner has double-crossed them and is luring Apocalypse into bringing a bigger force.

Normally only mutants can pass through the Krakoan gates, but Summoner’s giant monster can get through. That’s not good news.

The three characters waiting by the gate are Rockslide (the rock guy), Prestige from X-Factor and Magma from New Mutants.

PAGE 25. Banshee is brought to the Healing Gardens.

The doctor is the Healer, once the in-house medic of the Morlocks. He’s been seen regularly serving as a doctor on Krakoa, and for some reason chooses to keep his old tattered costume.

PAGES 26-32. The Quiet Council meet.

In case you’re new, this collection of heroes and villains is the unaccountable ruling body of Krakoa. Apocalypse is a member, which is why his chair is empty. The other members are Professor X, Magneto, Mr Sinister, exodus, Mystique, Storm, Marvel Girl, Nightcrawler, Sebastian Shaw, Emma Frost and Kitty Pryde. This is the first time we’ve actually seen Kitty attend a meeting. Cypher, in the background, is serving as Krakoa’s translator, but is not actually a member of the Council.

“We recently constructed an External Gate on the Arakko remnant that joined with Krakoa.” The Arakko remnant showed up and joined with Krakoa in X-Men #2. The Gate was constructed in Excalibur #12. As Magneto points out, there is no “we” here – Apocalypse acted on his own. Apocalypse makes two arguments in response to that. The first is somewhat tendentious – Council permission isn’t generally required to make gateways. This is true, but this is not a normal gateway. The second is more compelling – Krakoa wants it there.

Krakoa. We established back in Powers of X #4 that Krakoa really wants to be reunited with Arakko. Its dialogue with Cypher on page 27 is exactly what you’d expect from context: “Well?” “I acknowledge and accept the gift of the External Gate.” “Really? That’s it?” “Yes!”

Krakoa’s second speech is “You need to understand, you are guests here. Our co-existence is collaborative and wonderful but I am the land. And the land is mine.” Note that Cypher adds the line “It’s a union of shared interests” – it’s possible this is just artistic licence due to the size of the Krakoan font, and that we’re meant to assume that Cypher’s version is the accurate one.

Its third speech is “Unless there is a known, greater threat (sic), the gate stays open.”

By the way, as best as I can tell, Krakoa’s dialogue in Powers of X #4 was gibberish even in translation.

Apocalypse’s flashback on page 27 is a straightforward recap of the origin of Arakko as seen in Powers of X #4, Summoner’s arrival in X-Men #2, and his role in Excalibur #1-12.

Summoner’s flashback is a complete fiction, as we’ll see later – though Unus really is a prisoner.

Nightcrawler’s list of villains. Homines Verendi are an anti-mutant group from Marauders. The Flower Cartel are a drug cartel from Wolverine. Xeno are the anti-mutant organisation from X-Force. Mystique chips in to add Orchis, seen principally in House of X and also in X-Men – Mystique has a particular interest in them because she’s been strung along in anti-Orchis missions with the promise of her wife Destiny eventually being restored.

Kitty Pryde is “the only person in this room who hasn’t walked through a gateway” because, for some reason, her powers don’t interact with them properly – this is a central plot point of Marauders.

The other gate to Otherworld was established in early issues of Excalibur. As Apocalypse acknowledges, it provides a portal to Avalon. His argument for needing a larger gate is that Krakoa doesn’t have full control over it – which isn’t really an answer. Why would that be a good thing? Not unreasonably, several members of the Council promptly argue for destroying the second gate, since it’s a security breach and it isn’t even needed in order to mount a rescue mission to Otherworld. That motion passes – the dissenters appear to be Apocalypse, Marvel Girl, Storm, Kitty and possibly Mystique (I can’t quite tell if that’s her arm of part of Exodus’s costume).

PAGES 33-34. Apocalypse’s group of volunteers gather by the External Gate.

The group are:

  • Polaris from X-Factor, here at the request of her father Magneto.
  • Havok from Hellions, here at the request of his brother Cyclops.
  • Rockslide, who was ill-advisedly befriending Summoner in X-Men #11-12.
  • The Beast, from X-Force, who usually has ulterior motives these days and dodges the question of why he’s there.
  • Rictor from Excalibur. As Archangel points out, Rictor has been clearly enthralled by Apocalypse in that book.
  • Archangel, who was turned into a Horseman by Apocalypse back in the 80s.
  • Siryn, who is Banshee’s daughter and has the most obvious reason to be here.
  • M, who has no discernible reason to volunteer, but suggests that she has an interest in the “job”. Saturnyne started out as a normal human, so does M have her eyes on the job?

PAGES 35-37. Data pages on the cosmology of Otherworld – basically, the Starlight Citadel in the middle, ten sub-worlds around it, and links to Krakoa on one side and Arakko on the other. Most of these are new.

Dryador Rift. The gap between Arakko and Otherworld proper. Previously mentioned in passing in X-Men #2.

The Floating Kingdom of Roma Regina. Apparently referring to Roma, the daughter of Merlyn and at one point the character who used to be depicted as Saturnyne’s equal or superior. She originally comes from Captain Britain’s back story and was brought into the fringes of the X-books in the late 80s, where she helped the X-Men start new lives in Australia.

Infuri the Evergorge. Apparently ruled by something called Forgemaster Federal – Fury 005. The Furies were anti-superhero robots from 80s Captain Britain.

Avalon is exactly what it sounds like. Currently ruled by Apocalypse’s puppet Monarch (Jamie Braddock) following early issues of Excalibur – however, King Arthur had inexplicably vanished before Excalibur #1, a plot thead that remains unresolved.

Sevalith, Mercator, Hothive and Blightspoke all seem to be entirely new. Mercator’s spot colouring suggests it’s particularly significant.

The Holy Republic of Fae is apparently the current kingdom of Roma’s father Merlyn, responsible for empowering Captain Britain.

The Crooked Market is apparently ruled by the 80s Captain Britain villain Mad Jim Jaspers, or perhaps a counterpart from another world. He’s a dangerously powerful reality warper. In the original storyline he created something called the Crooked World, and the Crooked Market is obviously named in reference to that.

PAGE 38. Prestige and Cable try to read Banshee’s mind.

PAGE 39. Apocalypse and Archangel exchange words.

PAGES 40-41. Apocalypse is horrified by the sight of Otherworld and approaches his children.

PAGE 42. Prestige and Cable read Banshee’s memories.

PAGES 43-45. The Horsemen and Summoner turn on Apocalypse.

In X-Men #12, Summoner suggested that in one interpretation of his people’s history, Apocalypse had betrayed them and wilfully dumped them in the hellish dimension of Arenth. The suggestion seems to be that this is indeed what the Horsemen and Summoner believe, and they’re out for revenge.

PAGES 46-47. Cable and Prestige learn that Summoner betrayed Banshee; Saturnyne intervenes to give them a steer.

PAGE 48. Saturnyne decides not to intervene in the big fight.

Standard cosmic character behaviour.

PAGES 49-50. Summoner kills Rockslide.

In X-Men #11-12, Summoner lured Rockslide into playing a game to explore each other’s vulnerabilities. He learned that Rockslide’s true form is an energy being inside his rock shell, and thus how to kill him for real – which is what he apparently does here.

PAGE 51. Cable goes to Cyclops and Marvel Girl for help.

The Summer House is the Summers Family’s home on the Moon.

PAGES 52-53. Havok and Polaris lose patience with Saturnyne’s failure to help, and attack the Citadel.

PAGE 54. Cyclops leads Cable and Marvel Girl to the object that Saturnyne showed.

They’re breaking into a facility belonging to AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics), beating up the henchmen and using their teleporters. Presumably – it’s possible that the AIM guys are already unconscious when they arrive but that doesn’t make much sense.

PAGES 55-56. Saturnyne finally gets involved and freezes time.

PAGE 57. Cyclops explains what the thing is.

As we’ll see later, they’re aboard the Peak, the orbiting (and apparently abandoned) headquarters of SWORD, the alien-focussed sister organisation of SHIELD.

The sword which Cable uses as a power source is the Light of Galador, a Spaceknight artefact which he picked up in Cable #1.

PAGES 58-64. The contest is announced.

Saturnyne treats Death as the acting regent of Dryador (on the basis that he conquered it by killing the previous government) and gets him to agree to a challenge. In three days, the champions of Arakko will duel the champions of Otherworld, who are going to be the X-Men whether they like it or not. Each side then lists ten swords which they’re apparently going to hunt down in advance of this big fight. Most of these are new, but a few are not:

  • The Twilight Blade is the sword that was used in the original attack on Okkara, and apparently had something to do with the death of Genesis. It may be the same thing as the Twilight Sword used by Surtur in Thor.
  • Muramasa is the only blade to appear on both lists, and presumably refers to the Muramasa Blade which appeared prominently in Wolverine: Origins.
  • The Sword of Might is one of the artefacts involved in empowering Captain Britains.
  • Grasscutter is a sword of the Japanese god Amatsu-Mikaboshi; Hickman used it in a Secret Warriors story in 2010, in which it was seemingly destroyed.
  • Godkiller is Grasscutter’s flawed sister sword, destroyed at the same time.
  • Warlock could simply be a reference to the former New Mutant, currently disguising himself as Cypher’s weapon arm.
  • The Light of Galador is already in Cable’s possession.

PAGE 65. Data page about the Peak’s mysterious shutdown. It became incommunicado three weeks ago and nobody knows what’s going on. The small print includes the words “Invasion” and “Brand” (referring to SWORD’s leader Abigail Brand).

PAGE 66. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: A NEW DEATH.

Bring on the comments

  1. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    [i]Isn’t Professor X shown using the Cerebro sword in promo art?[/i]

    I’m pretty sure there were a lot more than ten X-Men with swords on that promo art, so it was probably a ‘look, mutants with swords, some of whom may get some of those swords in the actual story’.

    Kind of how there still hasn’t been a Bill the Lobster sighting in HoXPoXDoX despite Bill the Lobster being there on the promo art for HoXPoX. (I’m pretty sure some of the X-Babies were there as well. And many other things that don’t make sense with regards to the actual HoXPoX).

  2. Adam Farrar says:

    I think Bill the Lobster was only there to remind people about Fallen Angels since they were reusing that title. If anyone reappears, they should bring back Gomi who was not a mutant but instead a human made cyborg in an attempt to replicate Jean Grey’s powers.

  3. JCG says:

    I think Bill the Lobster made a quick cameo in Marauders already.

  4. Allan M says:

    Gomi and Bill show up as members of the Avengers in Avengers: No Road Home #9. They don’t say or do anything, but they’re there. There are multiple writers on that book, but that page is stacked with Al Ewing pet characters so it’s almost certainly him. So maybe they’ll show up in SWORD.

  5. Dave says:

    Having read this issue properly now, my reaction is the same as JOHN WYATT’s – Why does Saturnyne start this contest? Just because it’s prophecised? She only even begins to act here when Polaris starts toppling the citadel, but then shows she can EASILY stop the X-Men doing anything whenever she wants. So why get involved in the Amenth v Krakoa fight at all? Does she care who wins? Either she does (so take a side!), or she doesn’t and could just let -[A]-‘s kids march on through Avalon unopposed.

    The way the ‘geography’ is set up in the map, is Amenth supposed to be an opposite of Earth, or just one of many worlds that intersect with Otherworld? The latter seems like it should make more sense, and it’s just given prominence because it’s what this story is about, but then it connects to the part of Otherworld that just happens to be exactly opposite Avalon. Plus, the fair and foul courts are categorised by whether they’re ‘North’ or ‘South’ of centre.

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