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Mar 17

S.W.O.R.D. #4 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, March 17, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

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

S.W.O.R.D. #4
“The Krakoan Sun”
by Al Ewing, Valerio Schiti & Marte Gracia

COVER / PAGE 1: Knull corrupting Cable. Yes, it’s still a King in Black tie-in.

PAGE 2. Cargill’s monologue.

Cargill is stuck inside Knull’s black symbiote goop stuff, following the previous issue. She experiences this as a sensory-deprivation void, which she’s trying to find a hook for. We can see on the next page that she’s not actually surrounded, so this must be some sort of mental effect that the symbiotes have.

When she says that “something stole Cable’s face”, she basically means that one of Knull’s symbiotes has taken him over.

PAGES 3-4. Symbiote Cable rants at Manifold.

Manifold addresses this character as Knull later in the issue, so we should presumably take it that Knull is speaking through the symbiote.

The two prisoners that get killed are Sunfire and Fabian Cortez (the “immaculate friend”). Cortez gets killed because he powered-up Sunfire last issue, allowing him to do immense damage to the symbiotes.

PAGE 5. Recap and credits. Cable is shown on the gallery with a black framing instead of his usual colour.

PAGE 6. Wiz-Kid and Abigail Brand.

Self-explanatory, really. The problem isn’t that they can’t get a signal to Krakoa, the problem is that nobody’s there to answer.

PAGES 7-11. The Five are not convinced by Abigail Brand’s plan.

Mentallo was meant to be evacuating the Five to safety, but evidently he hasn’t had much luck in convincing them. There’s no suggestion that he tried to influence them telepathically, though doubtless he wouldn’t have got anywhere with Hope anyway. It’s not exactly his fault – he’s been left with quite a few problems to overcome. Nobody has bothered to tell the Five about this plan (more about that in a bit), the whole thing seems suspiciously haphazard, and the guy who’s been sent to explain it is a D-list villain. What did Abigail Brand expect?

Hope Summers acts as the spokesman for the Five here, which is preferable to trying to give them all dialogue. She can see glimmers of sense in this plan, but she’s not up for abandoning the Cradle, and certainly not up for being bounced into this. Part of this is dogmatic – the Five’s role is to bring every mutant back and she won’t accept any compromise on that even in an existential crisis. But Hope is also serving here as a voice of reason to gets to tell Abigail that this plan is fundamentally defective – reversing Abigail’s normal role as the hyper-competent one.

Abigail Brand. So what’s Abigail up to here? A couple of things are worth noting. First, her priorities are entirely different from the Five’s. They take the standard Krakoan line that this is all about mutantdom. Abigail is simply not interested in mutant nationalism; her perspective is interplanetary, and mutant exceptionalism doesn’t motivate her in the slightest. The reason she’s interested in the Five is not because they can bring back mutants, but because they’re the best option to bring back humans. (Hope attacks this as “the same old human thinking”.)

Second, Abigail seems to have made a conscious decision to keep this plan need-to-know for reasons that she doesn’t explain. Either she has an ulterior motive, or she simply doesn’t believe that the Krakoan authorities would go along with this if they had a chance to oppose it. Most likely, it’s the latter, since the Krakoans are very, very protective about their resurrection technology.

Abigail says that she doesn’t “blindly serve Krakoa” – but then who does she answer to? Presumably she just has her own agenda which she wants to get on with, and would prefer Krakoa to give her the budget and get out of her way.

Maybe worth noting here that S.W.O.R.D. – both Mentallo and Wiz Kid – are showing up on Krakoa in conventional technology, which is a bit of a no-no in normal circumstances.

“We’re all still reeling from losing Rockslide and Gorgon.” In X of Swords; they’ve both been resurrected, but as new versions with different personas.

PAGES 12-18. Manifold and Symbiote Cable.

Manifold. Our attention is drawn to the fact that Manifold is not classed as an omega mutant, despite his seemingly unprecedented teleporting powers.

Traditionally an “omega mutant” was just a flashy term for a really, really powerful mutant. A much more specific definition was given in House of X #1: “a mutant whose dominant power is deemed to register – or reach – an undefinable upper limit of that power’s specific classification”. However, House of X #1 specifically said that you can be the most powerful mutant of your type without being an omega – Forge was given as an example. He’s not an omega mutant (according to House of X #1) because the upper limit of his powers is measurable.

Presumably, then, the point Knull is making is that there theoretically could be someone more powerful than Manifold, rather than that there necessarily must be.

Manifold claims, a little unconvincingly, that he has never really though about who else might be out there. On the face of it, he’s not particularly good as a conventional fighter, and he seems mainly to be stalling in the hope that someone will turn up. But he ultimately wins by using his powers in a more creative way than simply teleporting (which is kind of the point the book was making last issue). He can warp space (or persuade it to warp, if you prefer), so that sunlight appears on Krakoa despite the symbiote shell currently surrounding Earth.

“Bodyslide” was Cable’s traditional instruction when using his teleporter. The idea that his cyborg arm is outright prosthetic (as opposed to just infected by the techno-organic virus) has come up before, and of course was standard in the character’s early appearances before anyone had figured out his back story. Most recently, see Cable #3 for an example of the arm being treated as a detachable thing full of goodies.

Cargill says that she’s “only ever loved one person. And if he’d felt the same, you’d be my stepson.” Cyclops, in other words. This refers back to the “Age of X” storyline in Mike Carey’s X-Men: Legacy, which involved a reality warp to a pocket world in which she and Scott were married; she remained infatuated with him in subsequent issues. See in particular X-Men: Legacy #248 for Scott rejecting her.

Knull’s comments weren’t specifically about romantic love – on the contrary, he specifically included family members. Cargill apparently doesn’t consider that she loves her immediate family either. The main source of information on her back story is X-Men: Legacy #268, which has a string of flashbacks about her abusive father.

PAGE 19. Five have a party.

Meanwhile, the Five, Mentallo and Wiz-Kid are just blasting the symbiotes with light and sound, i.e. having a party.

PAGES 20-21. The aftermath.

Other than Random and Banshee, the characters in the background seem to be generics.

Cable feels like he’s let the side down again. His complaint that “this keeps happening” presumably refers to his underwhelming performance in “X of Swords” – he had a similar reaction to losing his fight with Bei in Cable #6.

Magneto takes charge, which is fair enough, since he’s the only Council member present. And, well, he’s Magneto. Note that Cargill immediately defers to him, but Manifold is more worried about what Brand will think. As a non-X-character, and one with an intergalactic canvas, maybe his perspective is less mutant-nationalist and more aligned with Abigail Brand’s.

Magneto isn’t being unreasonable in fast-tracking Cortez’s resurrection – people who died in battle always get fast-tracked, and Cortez is an essential member of the Six. But he’s clearly interested in Cortez’s pitch from the previous issue.

PAGE 22. Data page, convening a Quiet Council meeting to discuss “the second law of mutantdom and potential amendments thereto.” The second law is the one about not murdering humans.

Magneto’s memo says that the meeting will have a quorum of eight “as certain members of the Quiet Council are unable to attend”, but that any decisions will be revisited by the full council of twelve at a later date. Note though that it’s presently impossible to convene the full council, because two of the seats are vacant – is Magneto trying to bounce something through? The vacant seats formerly belonged to Apocalypse and Jean Grey. It’s not immediately clear who the other two missing members are, or why.

PAGE 23. Another almost completely redacted data page, this one saying something about the current Snarkwar (the war over the succession to the Snark throne), Amelia Voght (who we saw on the SWORD station in issue #1 as one of their teleporters) and the sun. The small print reads “deep secret” and “burning heart”.

PAGE 24. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: MURDER.

Bring on the comments

  1. Jon R says:

    In theory I could get Magneto putting through some sort of exemption to not killing humans after this. If their defense against Knull had been held back by him possessing a human, sure, I think Magneto would be okay with killing the poor soul and sorting it out later. “Do not kill humans… unless they’re about to screw over all of mutantkind.”

    In practice I’m not sure what exactly happened to make Magneto more likely to listen to Cortez. They dealt with a pure-symbiote dragon and a possessed Cable, so having to hold back against a possessed human didn’t enter into it. I mean, it’d be great if Magneto wanted to clarify that, oh yes, we just said ‘human’ in the rule but this god-monster reminded me about aliens, let’s add those to the list of things we can’t just kill too. But that wouldn’t require Cortez, since Cortez probably doesn’t care a whit about a Kree dying either.

  2. Edlar says:

    We know there is upper limits to Manifold’s power that he can’t reach. Hickman showed there were multiversal Manifolds created by the Builders in New Avengers 30. Ordinary Manifolds are limited to their home universe.

  3. jim harbor says:

    In New Avengers/Avengers Hickkan stated Manifols’s powers only work in his universe but then later showed engineered multiverse warping Manifolds

  4. Bengt says:

    I’m just glad that someone (Brand) calls out the bullshit that mutants and humans are different species when they obviously are not.

  5. Chris V says:

    It’s been highlighted before during Hickman’s run.

    The first time it’s been shown to be questionable was a comment from Nimrod in Moira’s life six.

    I was reading a review of an older comic recently, and it mentioned a scene from Secret Wars which I had forgotten.
    Johnny Storm was being played as an ignorant youngster type. He said that mutants were a different species from humans.
    He got taken to task for his ignorant views, at that time.
    Both members of the X-Men and Captain America correct Johnny Storm.
    Now, here we are in the current day, and it’s become accepted that mutants are somehow a separate species.
    At least, that has been the ideology of the mutants during this era. In the end, it may not be meant to be a true belief.

  6. CitizenBane says:

    Unless I’m reading it wrong, Manifold didn’t just blast Cable with sunlight, he punched him with a piece of a star. Ewing’s interpretation of Manifold’s powers seems stupid powerful.

  7. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Eh, with Manifold’s insistence that he doesn’t warp space, he only asks it to, there’s plenty of wiggle room to curtail that sort of thing.

    ‘Space wasn’t feeling like it today’, ‘Space is angry at me’, ‘I’m not on speaking terms with Space at the moment’.

    Kudos to the art, Manifold sun-punching Knull was a great dynamic image. Also very anime. Basically Naruto.

    The scene where Cargill was telling Knull about how ‘this must feel like a win’ seemed like a long walk to a not that great punchline, but I love Carey’s run and I welcome any reference to it I get. Which doesn’t happen often.

  8. Dave says:

    I’m not usually one to have this kind of reaction, but I really felt like the crossover was an unwelcome interruption this early in the series. Maybe it should have been a ‘King in Black: X-Men’ mini with SWORD included. It doesn’t help when Magneto points out the Krakoan era has had an alien invasion tie-in already.

  9. Adam says:

    Yeah, same.

  10. Joseph S. says:

    Nowhere in the Hickman era have mutants claimed to be a distinct species. They do claim to be a distinct people with their own culture, norms, and values. That isn’t at all the same thing.

    Anyway, the Manifold buffer issue was handled very well. Last month it felt like a diversion, so I’m glad this issue built directly upon that. Good pacing from Ewing, no surprise of course.

    As for Cortez, I suspect Magneto is playing some kind of long game. Given his comical rejection of Cortez and exaggerated greeting of Mentallo, it seems like he’s surely the one doing the manipulating.

  11. Chris V says:

    I’m pretty sure that mutants are acting as if they are a separate species throughout the run.

    The promo for Hickman’s relaunch reads, “When two aggressive species share the same environment, evolution demands adaptation or dominance”.
    You could argue that this wasn’t part of a comic or written by Hickman. Yet, many things written in the comic seem to point towards this idea.

    In House of X #3, as the team prepares to destroy the Mother Mold, Cyclops addresses the team by saying that they should try to keep casualties of innocent civilians to a minimum.
    Wolverine responds, “Innocent civilians don’t build machines to exterminate a species, Slim.”

    Xavier has blamed humanity for the events on Genosha.

    Moira wanted Xavier to understand that humanity is horrible.

    There have been repeated mentions about how mutants and humans are fundamentally different.

    Those are pretty odd statements for even extreme nationalists or racists.

  12. MasterMahan says:

    Billing mutants as a separate species has happening on and off since at least Decimation and Endangered Species. It’s certainly where the mutant separatism direction kicked off.

  13. Doom says:

    I would assume outside of Jean & Apocalypse the other two members unavailable would be Shaw & Sinister without listing spoilers.

  14. Joseph S. says:

    I would strong reject the implication that Krakoans are racist, which reeks of the insidious “reverse racism” nonsense. There’s nothing racist about a marginalized, oppressed, and persecuted group demanding self-determination. Mutants aren’t in turn oppressing and marginalizing humans, so there’s no racism in there assertion of mutant culture. That said, I think the retreat into nationalism is destined to fail because it is a fantasy of retreat, the fantasy being that politics will somehow disappear by removing mutants from humans. The same dynamics will inevitably reappear within Krakoa, or any group. Which is why, to this reader at least, the slow burning political divisions of Krakoa are ripe with story potential.

  15. CitizenBane says:

    The vast majority of mutant deaths occurred at the hands of Xavier’s sister and Magneto’s daughter, not Stryker or Hodge. That chart in HoX showing that humans had killed a few hundred mutants while Genosha and HoM killed millions of mutants really puts mutant claims of oppression and persecution into some perspective.

    Apocalypse was bragging about causing the Bronze Age Collapse in HiX-Men #4, so there is an argument to be made that mutants have been terrorizing humanity since time immemorial. This isn’t the claim Marvel wants to make with the oppression metaphor, of course, but the gulf between mutant crimes and mutant rhetoric is quite vast. It’s probably also true that leading mutants are racist to some degree, and that this predates Hickman – Guggenheim’s run with Kitty Pryde leading the team had Kitty being quite nonchalant about a mutant who killed his entire neighborhood when his powers manifested. That sums up the general attitude a lot of mutants seem to have about humans – that if they die because a mutant has to express his beautiful and unique mutation, that’s just something humanity will have to swallow down.

  16. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    “You can’t live on our cool island Juggernaut because you aren’t one of us.”

    Professor Charles Francis Xavier

    Definitely not being racist.

    Or a shit step brother.

  17. Chris V says:

    Joseph-I think you’ve missed some of the commentary Hickman has made with Krakoa.
    There were comparisons made between the mutant supremacist ideology being promoted by Krakoa and the bigoted anti-mutant humans during House/Powers.

    Magneto has declared a few times that “mutants are your new gods” in regards to humanity.
    That’s outright the very definition of “racism”, in that mutants believe they are superior to any other race.

    The idea that mutants are persecuted by humanity and have a right to self-determination is certainly apt.
    That’s exactly the goal that was pursued by Moira in an earlier life when her and Xavier formed an isolationist island community to stay away from human bigotry.
    That plan failed.
    It is also a story told earlier, when Scott Summers founded the island of Utopia.
    That’s not really the story that Hickman is telling anymore.

    I think that people still want to read the X-Men as a metaphor for oppressed minorities which it has stood since sometime during the Claremont run, at least.
    I’d argue that this is not Hickman’s intent.
    In the earliest Lee/Kirby X-Men issues, the creators didn’t see the X-Men as a commentary on minority rights.
    Kirby saw mutants as the “next stage in human evolution” and worried about how a superior race would see lowly humanity, coming off a time not too long ago when a certain race espoused that ideology and murdered millions of innocent people “not like them” in the name of that ideology.
    So, he wanted Magneto to be a mutant supremacist, akin to Hitler.
    That’s how Kirby saw mutants. The X-Men were mutants who fought against those mutants who would persecute those weaker than them.
    That is why the original X-Men came across as so conservative. It wasn’t Lee and Kirby’s original intention to write a metaphor about persecution of minorities.

  18. Chris V says:

    By the way, I’m not saying that the way Hickman is writing mutants is analogous to Kirby’s “Magneto is like Hitler” idea.
    I was pointing out that Hickman is writing a deconstructionist approach of the X-Men, dissecting them as originally presented under Lee/Kirby as a different species.
    I believe that we are supposed to see Krakoa as still being presented as the heroes in the story.
    It’s just Hickman’s pretentious to write characters in this manner.
    He’s interested in telling a sci-fi story.

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