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Oct 1

S.W.O.R.D. #8 annotations

Posted on Friday, October 1, 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 #8
“Unbroken”
by Al Ewing,  Guiu Vilanova & Fernando Sifuentes

COVER / PAGE 1. Storm fights some Arakkans.

PAGES 2-3. Storm descends to Arakko.

Storm is making a point of using her powers to return through space, rather than doing the sensible thing and taking a gate, in order to assert her authority over the bunch of lunatics who live on Aarakko. As she descends, we get to see some of the landmarks of Arakko that were established in Planet-Size X-Men #1: the statue of Apocalypse in the sacred valley (there’s one of Genesis next to it), the Lake Hellas Diplomatic Ring, and the town of Port Prometheus.

Although Mars is terraformed, the art in this issue still largely depicts it as something of a desert wasteland.

PAGE 4. Recap and credits. Storm isn’t technically a member of S.W.O.R.D., but she’s joined the cast by virtue of her role on Arakko, and she’s our star character for this issue.

PAGES 5-7. Storm disposes of Calderak’s challenge.

Calderak is a new character. Since he’s challenging for a seat on the Great Ring, presumably he’s either an Omega mutant, or fancies himself as one. In line with the usual tropes for this sort of society, we establish that you get a seat on the Great Ring by challenging the incumbent and then defeating them in battle. This indirectly answers the question of how Storm got her seat on the Great Ring, which hasn’t really been addressed yet.

There’s also a parallel here with the ritual combat of Crucible on Krakoa. Of course, on Krakoa, the death is largely symbolic because of resurrection. Death on Arakko appears to remain permanent – either the technology isn’t being offered to the Arakkans, or they don’t want it.

Since we’re on Arakko, Khora gets to play the role of the local who understands the culture and interprets for Frenzy’s benefit. That’s an inversion of her normal role to date, as the character who doesn’t quite understand the values of her S.W.O.R.D. teammates. The story is also at pains to let us know that the Arakkans are warlike but they’re not irrational – they do understand the difference between dodging a challenge and just running late.

PAGES 8-9. Data pages on the nine seats of the Great Ring.

The nine members are collected into three groups of three: Dawn, Dusk and Day. All that was established in X-Men vol 5 #16. The data page in that issue also established that there were three rumoured “Night” seats, and that only Omega mutants are allowed on the Council.

The material about the specific roles of the Dawn, Day and Dusk groups – and the symbolism of the individual seats within them – is all new. All of the individual characters have been mentioned before; Isca appeared extensively in “X of Swords” and Tarn is a Hellions villain (a rough counterpart of Mr Sinister). The others are mostly bit characters. The name “Xilo Who-Was-Stulgid” squares away a conflict between the names given in X-Men #16 and Hellions #14.

Interestingly, while the three Dusk seats are clearly secondary, they’re still apparently recognised as serving an essential role – speaking, effectively, to law and the humanities. So the Arakkans aren’t completely uninterested in such things. Indeed, they seem to stick firmly to their rituals and traditions.

Storm’s seat, apparently, represents matters such as the weather and the environment, making it a natural one for her to challenge for. We’re told that she’s the “Regent” because her seat has an additional casting vote. I’m not exactly clear how that works. If everyone just defers to the Day seats, that’s three votes. If all nine can vote (and deference to the Day seats is merely a cultural value or convention) then that’s, well, nine votes. Either way, it doesn’t seem like ties should come up that often, though of course someone could always abstain. If she simply gets two votes then I suppose it gives her the ability to block things that would otherwise have passed with a majority of one…

Arakko’s interpreter Redroot (the Cypher counterpart) has been a prisoner in the Crooked Market ever since X-Force #14 (part of the “X of Swords” crossover).

PAGES 10-15. The Great Ring meet.

Your easy guide to recognising the members of the Great Ring, in page 10 panel 4, from left to right:

  • The underwater creature is Sobunar.
  • The one in the gown is Lactuca. Both are members of the Day group, so the empty seat between them is the third Day seat and belongs to Storm.
  • Storm, obviously.
  • Xilo, the big caterpillar.
  • Tarn, familiar from Hellions.
  • Lodus Logos, making his first on-panel appearance. He apparently has the power to create things by words (or perhaps art generally, but his name suggests he has word-based powers.
  • Isca the Unbeaten is second from the right.
  • The one with the snake coiled around them is Idyll.

As the footnote indicates, the previous Great Ring meeting – where Storm told Tarn that an act against Krakoa would be an act against her – took place in Hellions #14, and he gave his word and broke it. Obviously, Tarn is challenging her authority and she has no real alternative but to take on the challenge.

The two-panel flashback on pages 13-14, in which Storm fights a doppelganger, apparently shows her defeating her predecessor as the holder of that seat. This character hasn’t been named – their name was blanked out in X-Men #16. For some reason, the doppelganger Storm is wearing Storm’s 1970s costume. No doubt we’ll find out more about this eventually.

Note that Storm leaves still carrying the knife that Lodus Logos threw at her, which will be important later. Since this is the first time we’ve seen them, it’s hard to tell whether Lodus was being sincere in offering it as a gift by throwing it at her without warning; Storm does imply that this is something of a routine.

PAGES 16-21. Storm and Tarn’s duel.

All this is pretty much in line with Tarn’s portrayal in Hellions as a sadistic nihilist – while his followers tended to be devoted to him, you got the distinct impression that other Arakkii would generally prefer to keep him as marginal as possible. Tarn hasn’t gone in for quite this sort of casual rewriting of other people’s bodies in Hellions, though that may be more because he prefers to amuse himself by getting the Locus Vile to fight for him.

Presumably Storm does her research and knows in general terms what Tarn’s powers are – which is why she’s still got the knife she took from Lodus. Tarn’s fatal error here is that he thinks of power entirely in terms of mutant powers and is completely unprepared for any other sort of attack. Obviously, this is meant to bring to mind the lengthy 1980s storyline in which Storm lost her powers, where she also tended to use knives.

Storm has the opportunity to kill Tarn but doesn’t. Either she’s showing traditional superheroic morality, or she figures that humiliating him by making him submit will bolster her authority even further. Either way, Tarn doesn’t seem that bothered – he seems to restore because he’s genuinely impressed by her.

Tarn acknowledges that Storm is “of Arakko”, but adds “perhaps even of Amenth” – the hell dimension where Arakko existed for centuries, before returning to Earth in X-Men #16.

PAGES 22-23. Storm debriefs.

Storm’s quarters in Arakko have a picture of the X-Men team from Giant-Size X-Men #1 on the cover. (It’s the group who actually raided Krakoa – the presence of Sunfire means it’s not the line-up that actually stuck around subsequently.)

The image of Storm that she sees in the clouds (presumably not literally) has her 80s mohawk, again referring back to the period when she didn’t have powers.

PAGE 24. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: LETHAL LEGION.

Bring on the comments

  1. Daibhid C says:

    Obviously, this is meant to bring to mind the lengthy 1980s storyline in which Storm lost her powers, where she also tended to use knives.

    And, shortly before that, she had a knife-fight for a leadership position in a group of mostly non-human-looking mutants…

  2. Paul says:

    Yes, absolutely – it’s also referencing the fight with Callisto for leadership of the Morlocks.

  3. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    I enjoyed this issue and I enjoy this book.

    But it’s the same as Marauders.

    It’s been eight issues and we’ve barely seen most of the cast, they’ve interacted very little, and collectively done very little.

  4. The Other Michael says:

    I immediately flashed back to Storm’s duel with Callisto for control of the Morlocks. I’m surprised she didn’t comment on how this isn’t the first time she’s stabbed someone for control of a mutant society. 🙂

    Mind you, she was an absentee leader for the Morlocks, so I guess she intends to be more hands-on (knives-in?) this time around.

  5. ASV says:

    This could’ve been a lot more interesting if it turned out that her “I understand Arrako” thing really was hubris. As it is, despite pouring out more silly Hickman stuff in the data pages (how can the existence of seats on a governing body be “rumored”?), this reads like an inventory story.

  6. Si says:

    Look, I play D&D, I don’t mind fantasy macho warrior cultures with made up names, in a decent context. And I’m sure Al Ewing could write a compelling Hostess Twinkies half-page comic if he put his mind to it. But man I hope Galactus eats Mars soon. It’s just so pointless.

  7. Person of Con says:

    @Uncanny X-Ben: That’s a good point. It’s weird that Ewing’s done more with the ensemble SWORD team in the Cable oneshot Annihilation crossover than in the actual SWORD comic.

  8. Ben Johnston says:

    I agree. SWORD is a perfectly enjoyable book, but it doesn’t seem to have an overall direction, which is very unusual for an Al Ewing comic. The scope might just be too big to be workable. Of course, as people have noted on previous posts, the fact that 3 of the first 6 issues were crossovers can’t have helped.

    I hope Ewing is sticking around after Inferno to write an X-Terminators series. That Cable oneshot was much better than I’d expected.

  9. JCG says:

    The word is going around that Ewing will write an X-Men titled book after the relaunch.

  10. Jon R says:

    Ewing’s Hostess ad would probably involve cosmic shenanigans and revealing the previously unknown version of the multiverse that happened just before the MU as we know, where Science and Magic combined to build a utopia of baked wonders that lasted but one perfect day, too sublime to continue longer. In passing through this multiverse to our own, Galen’s hungers truly awoke and put him on the path to becoming Galactus.

  11. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    I would read that.

  12. Thom H. says:

    Isn’t that basically the plot of the current Defenders mini?

  13. Luis Dantas says:

    I want to read that as well.

  14. Chris V says:

    You can read the current Defenders mini-series, by Al Ewing!
    It is great and you should read it! I am.

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