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Oct 28

S.W.O.R.D. #9 annotations

Posted on Thursday, October 28, 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 #9
“Friends in High Places”
by Al Ewing, Jacopo Camagni & Fernando Sifuentes

COVER / PAGE 1. Henry Peter Gyrich holds Abigail Brand, Manifold and Frenzy in a globe, with the Orchis symbol behind him. Don’t worry, it’s purely symbolic.

PAGES 2-4. Guardian and Gyrich talk.

Guardian. We last saw Guardian in issue #6, leaving the Hellfire Gala. He was overwhelmed by the terraforming of Mars, and Henry Gyrich was moving in to recruit him for Orchis. It’s interesting that Gyrich chose to make his pitch in the name of Orchis, rather than in his official capacity as commander of Alpha Flight. It’s still not exactly clear how much Guardian knows about Orchis, or what he’s been told about their agenda – we know from issue #3 that aspects of Orchis’s organisation are internally confidential and that even Gyrich has only seen a redacted version of their organisation chart.

As a proper, long-established superhero, Guardian is by far the least villainous character to align himself with Orchis to date – though the group does already include Omega Sentinel, who was briefly an X-Man. (More of her when we get to Inferno.) Guardian has often been written as a morally dodgy character – there’s a string of Alpha Flight stories which strongly imply that he had a hand in Wolverine’s creation and that it wasn’t just coincidence that he happened to stumble across him in the wilderness. On that reading, he’s one of the “proper superheroes” most likely to sign up for something like Orchis. At the same time, he’s certainly not an anti-mutant zealot, and Wolverine has long been written as regarding him as a close friend.

Gyrich’s line of argument focusses on the antics of  Omega mutants as the concern, and grand-scale world-changing stuff like annexing Mars. He suggests that the concern isn’t really lower-powered guys like Wolverine, and generally tries to dissociate Wolverine from being involved. That’s clearly his angle for Guardian. How far it reflects Gyrich’s own concerns is another matter – he’s been involved in anti-mutant projects going back to Project Wideawake in the 1980s.

What exactly does Guardian think he’s signed up for? Is he trying to reclaim Mars for humanity?

Gyrich’s office, with the traditional office furnishings in the middle of a space station, was previously seen in issue #3.

“Mutant revolutionaries – some of them known terrorists…” “Revolutionaries” is highly dubious, at least if it’s referring to colonising Mars. “Terrorists” is fair enough, though, given that the Omega mutants involved in the exercise included Magneto and Exodus.

PAGE 5. Recap and credits. Incidentally, the small print has been changing over the life of this book:

#1 – “Mutants of the World Unite – Reign of X”
#2 – “King Black – Knull”
#3 – “King Black – Knull”
#4 – “King Black – Knull”
#5 – “Snarkwar – Death is Near”
#6 – “Hellfire Gala – SWORD”
#7 – “Annihilation – Death is Here”
#8 – “Planet Arakko – Death is Here”
#9 – “Planet Arakko – Death is Here”

Make of that what you will.

PAGES 6-7. Empress Xandra and her entourage arrive on Arakko.

Cannonball is accompanying this group because they need a mutant in order to use the Krakoan gates. (The Krakoan gate on Chandilar was planted back in the first New Mutants arc.) As Abigail says, Cannonball now lives mainly in the Shi’ar Empire and has been deputised into the Shi’ar forces.

The security team standing behind Frenzy are Random and Forearm, who are named later in the issue. We last saw them in this role in issue #5. Forearm isn’t normally drawn with grey hair, though, so I’m wondering if something’s gone wrong here. (He’s shown in issue #5 in weird lighting and it might be that the panel was misread.)

The Shi’ar delegation (from left to right) are Deathbird, Titan, Cannonball, Fang, Quantum, Xandra, Gladiator and Manta. Xandra is the current Shi’ar Empress, as seen over in New Mutants and X-Men. Deathbird’s role as her mentor was also established in X-Men. The others are all established members of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, the Shi’ar superheroes who started life as knock-offs of the Legion of Superheroes back in the 1970s.

Storm is absent because she’s facing yet another challenge from a random Arakkan, under the system that was established in the previous issue (which is where she defeated Tarn). The “noontide seat” refers to the grouping of the seets on Arakko’s ruling Great Ring into dawn, day and dusk. Storm sits in the middle of the day grouping.

PAGE 8. Data page. Abigail Brand’s top secret notes on Cable. The small print reads “Deep Secret” and “Deny Everything”.

In the top half (which is apparently the slightly less secret bit), Abigail basically acknowledges that she appointed teen Cable as S.W.O.R.D.’s security chief because of his family connections rather than because of his innate abilities. Cable pretty much figured this out for himself in the Cable Reloaded one-shot.

Abigail now views Cable as a nuisance. Scott and Jean, she says, have “excised themselves neatly from Krakoan politics” – she’s referring to them moving to New York to lead an X-Men team, which does indeed seem to be distancing itself from Krakoa in some respects. And now Abigail is saddled with a Cable who’s potentially a threat to her schming.

The other part of the note suggests that Abigail has plans of some sort that involve exploiting Cable’s techno-organic virus, potentially as a way to get rid of him. She makes the point that Cable’s virus has sometimes been claimed to be essential to keep his psychic powers under control – which would explain why he was resurrected with the virus intact. Al Ewing also takes the opportunity to tell us that Cable sometimes uses prosthetics for his left arm (as in recent stories and his earliest appearances), and sometimes uses his techno-organic infection to form a left arm (as in… a lot of the intervening years), thus resolving that apparent contradiction.

PAGE 9. Abigail talks to Cable.

“That debacle with Phobos” refers to Way of X #5, where Nightcrawler had to stop the moon from crashing into Mars. The S.W.O.R.D. personnel didn’t do a great job in dealing with the emergency.

“The space threats the X-Men are having to deal with for us” refers to the current storyline in X-Men, where alien gamblers have been sending assorted attackers against Earth.

PAGE 10. Xandra asks to see Storm.

Xandra calls Storm “my saviour”, referring to X-Men vol 5 #17 , where Storm rescued her from a kidnapper.

PAGE 11. The new Lethal Legion attack.

There have been several “Lethal Legions” over the years, most completely irrelevant for our purposes. The last version was an assembly of aliens put together by the Grandmaster as opponents for the Black Order in Avengers #676, which was co-written by Al Ewing. These characters, however, seem to be entirely new, and are apparently bio-weapons being sold by some sort of interstellar arms manufacturer.

PAGE 12. Data page, with the sales pitch for the Lethal Legion. As I say, they’re all new characters. Orbis Extremis is said to be using “an ‘Orbis Stellaris’ brand organo-mechanical fusion shell, routed through the brain of an Alpha-class psychic sensitive”. “Orbis Stellaris” was the name of the alien ambassador representing the Galactis Rim Collective in issue #6, and we’ll see later that Gyrich has a connection with them.

PAGES 13-20They fight.

It goes badly until Storm shows up.

The idea that Gladiator’s powers are linked to his self-confidence dates back to Fantastic Four vol 1 #250 from 1983. I love the line “extreme frequencies of infrashame”. And the sequence of a cheerful Titan stopping and dropping dead.

PAGES 21-22. Gyrich and Guardian watch.

“In my experience, getting past Storm’s powers just takes the right weapon.” Gyrich shot Storm with a Neutralizer in Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #185, causing her to lose her powers for the next 40 issues.

Gyrich’s mole in S.W.O.R.D. was previously mentioned in issue #3. Wiz Kid’s an unexpected choice – but at the same time, his history since the 1980s is a bit of a blank. Still, he’s sitting right in front of Abigail Brand as she says this – is he really on Gyrich’s side?

PAGE 23. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: INSIDE MAN.

Bring on the comments

  1. GN says:

    This new Lethal Legion is based off of the Legion of Superheroes villains The Fatal Five, right?

    Half-Bot – Tharok
    Mr Eloquent – Persuader
    The Electric Brain – Validus
    Orbis Extremis – Emerald Empress
    Death Grip – Mano

  2. The Other Michael says:

    @GN – Good catch. I didn’t think about it, but now that you mention it, it seems pretty obvious. And quite appropriate for taking down the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, who are, after all, almost all Legion homages in their own right.

    While I’m sad to see the Guard get their asses handed to them in a spectacular case of jobbing, I’m sure that the dead ones will be replaced by near-identical members from their respective homeworlds, as has often been the case before. How many Fangs have there been again? 4 or 5? Not to mention the one who is apparently immortal as of the Wolverines series.

    Forearm will be resurrected as soon as convenient. I wonder about his more mature appearance also. Poor guy can’t catch a break, especially as there were hints as far back as the back half of X-Force that he was one of the less despicable members of the MLF.

    Wiz Kid being the mole would suck.
    However, given Brand’s penchant for scheming and planning ahead, it would be entirely within character to take the initiative and maneuver a double agent into place. I’d be disappointed in both her and Wiz Kid otherwise.

    Guardian as part of Orchis is disappointing but hardly a surprise. It’s not like he doesn’t have a long history of being manipulated and/or dead. I just looked back at his resume to date and I think he’s died at least four times, been cloned once, been temporally duplicated once or twice–we only have it on faith that the Guardian we see is the real one (returned as of Chaos War) and not a temporally-duplicated time traveling clone or some other nonsense. His cybernetically-controlled battlesuit is probably of great interest to Orchis… assuming he’s not still a cyborg as per one of his earliest resurrections. Regardless, Hudson is such a tool.

  3. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Another issue of this book that is technically well written but… I still don’t really care?

    The Wizkid reveal would be shocking if he had ever done much or interacted with the cast.

    But he didn’t, and none of them really do.

    Wouldn’t it be more fun to see the Brand/Cable dynamic actually play out in the story instead of reading an email about it?

    Would I care about the Arakko stuff if there were Arakkan characters to be interested in and the world was anything more than a backdrop?

  4. Ceries says:

    I honestly would find it most interesting if Wiz Kid really genuinely has turned against Krakoa and SWORD. We haven’t gotten a lot out of him, but surely a mentally and physically disabled young man would have interesting thoughts on Krakoa’s borderline (and occasionally over the line) eugenicist rhetoric. What does Wiz Kid think about the tradition where mutants are killed and returned “whole?” Has anyone tried to pressure him into Crucible? What does Gyrich think he has on Wiz Kid, anyway?

  5. Chris V says:

    Except, we’ve learned that Krakoa resurrects mutants physically like they were before they died.
    Karma wanted to be resurrected with her prosthetic leg.
    Cosmar was actively prohibited from being resurrected due to being deformed by her mutant power. They told her she was beautiful because she is a mutant and to give up human ideas about physical beauty,
    Krakoa is billed as being inclusive, so long as you have the X-gene.

    The Crucible is reserved for mutants who lost their mutant powers.
    Whiz Kid wouldn’t be expected to undergo the Crucible. He has his mutant powers, so he is superior.
    Everyone on Krakoa is superior because they were born with the X-gene.

    Meanwhile, Orchis wants to wipe out mutants because they are born that way and eventually more and more mutants are going to be born leaving baseline humanity to go extinct.
    Orchis doesn’t have the high-ground.

  6. Jon R says:

    I’m not sure that Cosmar was actively prohibited so much as Dani wasn’t interested in being her opponent, and then she and others tried to convince Cosmar she didn’t need it. I don’t think there was anything stopping Cosmar from going to someone else to be her partner in the Crucible, aside from the fact that she’s a rejected teenager and not likely to shake off that rejection easily.

    Not that it doesn’t suck for Cosmar, I just don’t think that it’s necessarily a policy as opposed to the Dani and company’s personal preferences.

  7. Si says:

    ” Al Ewing also takes the opportunity to tell us that Cable sometimes uses prosthetics for his left arm … and sometimes uses his techno-organic infection to form a left arm …”

    This kind of thing is why Ewing is the king. Simple, elegant, and retcon-free.

    I don’t know about the cover though. There seem to be an awful lot of covers showing a bad guy leering over an orb/photo/chess piece lately. It’s a classic trope, but maybe a bit overused recently.

    As for the resurrections, I think it differs from writer to writer, but generally it seems a person’s body by default is recreated as it was before it died, but can be changed quite substantially if desired. So a depowered mutant can be given their X-gene back, Quire can have his hair turned pink, and presumably Wiz-Kid could have his spine repaired if he asked. It would be a good assumption that The Five don’t make any changes unless specifically asked, for ethical reasons if nothing else. Though there was that one mention of people coming back better?

    Characters like Somnus do raise some questions, but as I said, it would differ from writer to writer.

  8. Chris V says:

    I think when it was mentioned that “they come back better”, it had something to do with each resurrection their mutant powers are enhanced slightly.

    I agree that Wiz Kid could be resurrected with his spine repaired, but it wouldn’t be expected of him on Krakoa.

  9. Jon R says:

    In a more fleshed-out Krakoa, there’d probably be a Crucible Counselor there to talk about your options. Including referrals for alternatives (Masque, Sinister, Forge, etc) not because you shouldn’t go through the Crucible to fix your problems, but because the whole thing is there to help meter the flow of people dying to fix their damages. And also because maybe the people willing to beat you to death in the Crucible aren’t usually the people you’d *want* to, ah, shepherd your test?

    Once more, I’d really enjoy reading about an actually planned out Krakoa.

  10. Jon R says:

    X-Ben: I enjoy it more than it sounds like you do, but I definitely agree with all your points. For one, I wish Ewing could just do two books — SWORD and Amazing Arakko Adventures. There’s overlap between them as this issue showed, but AAA needs its own book to flesh things out more, and SWORD needs more space for its own ideas and plot.

  11. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    That’s the thing, I do enjoy it.

    But it’s kind of … cerebral fluff?

    Like there are fun bits and ideas.

    Good dialogue and art.

    But not much in the way of story or character to sink my teeth into.

    It’s “here’s a book about Krakoan Era space stuff” not “here’s a book about a team of characters dealing with Krakoan Era space stuff.’

    The fact that it may be ending soon and I’m not upset says something.

  12. Jon R says:

    Oh yeah, then I totally agree. Unfortunately.

  13. The Other Michael says:

    @Jon R –
    “Once more, I’d really enjoy reading about an actually planned out Krakoa.”

    I agree. There’s so much that could be done with a Krakoa that was actually thought out in terms of a full society populated only by mutants and relying, for the most part, on a synthesis of mutant powers and plant technology.

    Assuming that 99% of mutants are “normal” people who don’t dress up in garish outfits to fight each other, you -should- everything needed for a functioning society in terms of professions, experience, and resources. Teachers, medics, lawyers, tradescraftspeople, etc.

    I mean, why doesn’t Krakoa have therapists to handle “you were dead, now you’re alive” and “so you’ve gotten your powers back” “here’s what you missed in the past few years”?

    An educational system to properly deal with the massive amount of kids and teens running around… although let’s face it, it’s not like either Xavier or Emma’s schools were all that keen on traditional educations, it’s a wonder anyone learned anything practical. (It was a rare day when we saw the New Mutants take -normal- classes!)

    A healthcare system that doesn’t rely upon a dude with the healing touch, for normal physical injuries, exotic injuries, the inevitable STDs…

    Let’s face it: Krakoa is being written as though no one has ever taken any sort of sociology or civics or whatever classes in school, and have no idea what it takes to make a society of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people work–instead, they settled for this free-range hippie commune concept as though it wouldn’t implode after a week of no one doing the dishes or cleaning the bathrooms.

    My kingdom for a book that was just “Krakoa: A functional society.”

  14. Chris V says:

    There’s no money. Good luck getting anyone to do menial jobs for free.

    Either there is a mutant with a power to take care of the job…or, with stuff like bathrooms, they probably just go wherever they are and Krakoa uses it as fertilizer.
    There’s no plumbing on Krakoa.

  15. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Until I’m told differently I’m just assuming the pit they threw Sabertooth in is some sort of giant horrific septic tank for 20,000 people.

    But yes, I would be a million times more on board with this era if anyone had filled in the details in the passed two years.

    Does no one miss eating pizza?

    Going to church?

    Driving a car?

    Watching TV?

    Having literally any purpose to get out of bed?

  16. Thom H. says:

    @The Other Michael: I 100% agree. I get why Hickman didn’t create the new characters necessary to make those ideas work, but it’s too bad none of the other writers could be bothered. Those are some good angles on Krakoa.

    I guess it’s true that work-for-hire writers want to keep all their new characters to themselves. Even Hickman’s contributions on that front were mixes of pre-existing characters. Or the slug people who inhabit Arrako. Nothing truly useful or interesting.

    I guess we’re getting Captain Krakoa soon, but…

  17. The Other Michael says:

    Even the Morlocks had a more functional society, and they all lived in the sewers. Genosha might have run on slave labor, but at least it had an infrastructure. Hell, same for the Inhumans.

    With every title focused on its specific cast of characters doing their things, all we’ve gotten are hints of what background characters do. Like kids going feral in New Mutants, or the pool hall/biker bar/whatever that’s home to the former MLF, and wow, New Mutants has done more to actually showcase normal life on Krakoa than almost all the other titles combined. Excalibur has its collective head shoved firmly up Saturnyne’s rear, X-Force is really into Beast’s catalogue of crimes against humanity, X-Corp didn’t even have the first clue of what corporate world was really like…

    I mean when all we see is people having karaoke orgies in the grotto while Blob serves drinks and Dazzler rocks out…

    Yeah, it bothers me that in creating a whole new society, no one’s done the actual heavy lifting and homework for the world building.

  18. MasterMahan says:

    Yeah, you’re not wrong. In his own way, Ewing focuses more on big ideas and cool moments over character beats. Unlike with Hickman, he has them – like the Guardians of the Galaxy issue of Nova getting therapy – but they’re definitely second fiddle to the big ideas like Planet Dormammu.

    Though I still appreciate the fun of an Ewing comic.

  19. DigiCom says:

    It’s probably important to note that when Wiz Kid revealed his mole status, Brand was not only on-panel, but well within earshot.

  20. Allan M says:

    This comment also kinda applies to the Marauders annotations, but it baffles me that we have this era where there’s a huge, barely-defined new setting (two, actually, with Arrako/Mars), we have data pages for exposition dumps, and somehow only New Mutants connects those two dots on occasion. We arguably have better information about the various realms of Otherworld than we do about the main setting of the entire line. Nearly every Krakoa-era X-book spends most of its page time avoiding being on Krakoa. Way of X is flawed but I give Spurrier credit for putting something on the page about how Krakoa works.

    SWORD is probably the weakest Ewing work I’ve read. Unfocused and there’s no character dynamics. Is Wiz Kid a traitor? Maybe? He’s said, what, ten lines of dialogue to date? There’s no weight to the reveal that he’s the Orchis mole because he hasn’t done anything much, nor are there other likely candidates where there are hints on the page. Mysteries need clues and SWORD gave us nothing.

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