RSS Feed
Dec 22

S.W.O.R.D. #11 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, December 22, 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 #11
“Final Frontier”
by Al Ewing, Jacopo Camagni & Dernando Sifuentes

COVER / PAGE 1. Storm, Cable and Brand fight the Lethal Legion. Not quite what happens in the issue itself.

PAGES 2-3. Manifold prepares to deal with S.W.O.R.D. Station One falling out of the sky.

Apparently we’re not calling it the Peak any more (and it’s about to become academic anyway). Anyway, after being blown up last issue as part of Abigail Brand’s convoluted plan, the station is falling to Earth over Australia, and Manifold and Cable are going to their powers to stop is causing a disaster.

We saw Baz before in issue #3, Manifold’s solo story.

The Winter Soldier was “Captain America for a while” during Ed Brubaker’s run, circa 2008.

Abigail Brand has drawn our attention before to the fact that Cable’s powers and his techno-organic virus are kept in balance, so that stretching him to his limits like this causes problems for him. As we’ll see, this seems to be part of her plan to depower him and get him out of her way.

PAGE 4. Recap and credits. You surely don’t need to be told that the story title is a reference to Star Trek and to the fact that this is the final issue. (The book relaunches under a new title in spring 2022.)

PAGES 5-6. Gyrich responds to his plans going off the rails.

Gyrich’s plan was to drop the space station in the Pacific, but Brand and Wiz-Kid have engineered for it to point at Australia itself. Gyrich seems slightly shaken by this, but not to the point where he’s departing from the plan. There’s a definite sense here that Gyrich won’t admit to himself that he’s got it all horribly wrong, so he’s rationalising that everything’s fine. James Hudson is having none of it, since even the original plan was pushing up against his ethical boundaries.

Gyrich does have a valid objection to Krakoa on one level: they’ve have set themselves up as the representatives of the entire planet and don’t even listen to what the majority of the population want. That’s hubris, and we’ll come back to that later. But Gyrich both goes wildly over the top in pursuing that plan, and demonstrates remarkable gullibility in dealing with Orbis Stellaris. He thinks the plan is just to stage an assassination attempt on Xandra without actually killing her, but Orbis Stellaris doesn’t seem particularly bothered about that either. (That said, it’s not clear that Orbis Stellaris is actually planning to kill Xandra – he seems more indifferent about whether it happens or not. It doesn’t seem to come as a particular surprise to him that his forces are defeated, and he views the whole exercise mainly as an opportunity to test them in the field.)

PAGES 7-9. Storm defeats the Lethal Legion.

Gladiator is still suffering from the “infrashame” attack last issue, making his self-confidence-based powers useless.

Xandra really does seem in awe of Storm, talking about the importance of having “faith in the goddess”. This is the sort of thing that unscrupulous diplomats could very easily take advantage of. Unfortunately for Xandra, she’s going to be dealing with Abigail Brand.

Halfworld is a psychiatric hospital planet, which debuted in Incredible Hulk vol 2 #271. It’s the original home of Rocket Raccoon.

PAGE 10. Data page. An internal note by Orbis Stellaris, largely noting the areas of success achieved in his Lethal Legion test. Three obvious dangling plots are introduced. First, Orbis Stellaris is considering trying to infiltrate the Shi’ar and sell his Lethal Legion as a replacement for the Imperial Guard. Second, he reveals that he’s “originally from Earth”. And third, he’s already got a new ally “in the Sol System” lined up to replace Gyrich – probably someone on Arakko, you suspect.

PAGES 11-13. Manifold and Cable save the day.

Fairly straightforward. After the exertion, Cable’s arm is noticeably more techno-organic than before.

PAGE 14. Wiz Kid turns on Gyrich.

Hudson seems sincere in saying that he’s going to expose Gyrich’s schemes to his superiors; Gyrich is rather confident that they won’t care, and Wiz Kid seems to agree. It’s hard to tell how realistic they’re being. If the people who appointed Gyrich aren’t part of Orchis then whatever their feelings about mutants, they’re unlikely to be keen on this sort of freelancing. If they are part of Orchis then it’s odd that Brand suggests later on that Hudson could be Gyrich’s replacement – but then again, Hudson is a member of Orchis, and he might well choose to keep his head down and get appointed by people who think he’s 100% on their side, in order to keep them in some kind of check.

The art last issue made clear that much of Wiz Kid’s hovercraft is for show, and to replicate the mutant aesthetic. (Though I’m pretty sure the hover wheelchair was first created by Forge, not Professor X.)

PAGES 15-19. Abigail Brand confronts Gyrich and kills him.

Abigail basically agrees with Gyrich about Krakoa – they both think its pretensions of representing Earth to the interstellar community are hubris. Of course, this positions her as essentially the competent version of Gyrich, and a completely unsympathetic character – their core criticisms of Krakoa are  basically valid, but both have a completely amoral attitude to the consequences.

On the other hand, Abigail’s complaint that mutant culture defines her entirely by her powers and has no interest in any other aspect of her identity is entirely valid and much more sympathetic. Her general rejection of mutant nationalism in favour of representing Earth as a whole has been clear from issue #1.

Gyrich’s green glasses seem to intentionally create a visual echo of Abigail.

“I need to speak to Doctor Devo.” Gyrich is calling the director of Orchis and asking to be teleported to safety. It’s not clear why Devo doesn’t answer – he might just be busy – but Abigail tells us lately that she has her own deal with Orchis. So it’s entirely possible that Brand has set Gyrich up to fail and that the overall outcome here – the destruction of S.W.O.R.D. Station One and Abigail in charge of defence on Arakko – is something Orchis are quite relaxed about, really.

“It was my station first.” Abigail was in charge of Alpha Flight up until the “Empyre” event; Gyrich was her replacement.

“He was an Avengers for two minutes. He’s been a mutant all his life.” This is a little unfair. Abigail is referring to Wiz Kid’s stint in Avengers Academy, but it’s worth noting that he was one of a handful of mutants who deliberately rejected mutant culture during the “Decimation” period, feigned the loss of his mutant powers, and consciously chose to stay in Avengers Academy instead of going to Utopia. Gyrich had ample reason to think that Wiz Kid was a mutant who wasn’t particularly on board with the Krakoan agenda.

Axus. The planet of Abigail’s birth is new, as far as I know.

“Brand’s a codename.” This – and the connection with her powers – was established way back in Giant-Size Astonishing X-Men #1.

“Poor, sweet Hank. Trying so hard to be the necessary monster.” The Beast was Abigail’s boyfriend for a while back in the 2010s. She’s referring to his current portrayal as an amoral cynic in X-Force, where he does indeed keep banging on about how necessary he is.

“Storm… respecting Arakko’s customs instead of imposing her own…” We’ve seen over the last few issues that Storm is trying to consolidate her position on Arakko by playing along with Arakkan challenges and so forth. In Abigail’s eyes (and not unreasonably), this means that Storm isn’t taking the initiative and isn’t actually imposing herself on Arakko yet.

PAGE 20. Data page. Abigail’s note to herself (justified in story as something she might need if she gets resurrected and needs to fill her memory gaps).

“Hank might let me off.” Given the way he’s written in X-Force, he’d probably give her a medal.

“Even Erik…” Magneto was very clear in issue #5 about the importance that he attached to the law against killing; Abigail was there at the time.

“I could have lived with the station crashing into Australia.” She told Wiz Kid that she was confident Manifold and Cable would stop that happening (and maybe she was), but really, she’s worse than Gyrich. He was at least trying to minimise the risk to civilians from his plan. She wasn’t.

PAGE 21. Abigail struts off victorious.

We can see Gyrich floating in space outside the window. Note the red colouring to tie with the line “what comes next”. The red lighting started on page 15 panel 3 when Gyrich was locked in the airlock and initially seemed to suggest panic. But as the scene goes on, it becomes simply Abigail’s colour, and by this point it’s just the calm background for her.

PAGE 22. Trailers. The next season will be X-Men Red vol 2, reviving the short-lived pre-Krakoa title, but this time alluding to the colour of Mars.

 

 

Bring on the comments

  1. Michael says:

    One thing about Brand’s plot bothers me- and it bothers me about the resurrections in general. Brand explains that her scheme was to cause Cable’s techno virus to go out of control enough to weaken him but not enough to kill him. Ok but if Cable’s techno virus continues to be a problem and the Healing Gardens can’t help him, won’t they just have him write down everything important that happened since his last backup, euthanize him and then resurrect him? The resurrections often an easy out for plots like that and you have to wonder why the X-teams don’t take them.

  2. Diana says:

    @Michael: I suspect that’s one of many, *many* plot mechanisms Hickman set up that weren’t designed for long-term use, and will begin to break down the longer they’re stretched out. This won’t be the last time “Why not resurrection?” comes up as a valid plothole

  3. Ben Johnston says:

    This series was looking rather oddly structured for a while, but the revelation that it was never a team book at all, but was instead an Abigail Brand book in disguise helpfully explains a lot of the dangling characters and subplots.

    Looking forward to seeing how this plays out in X-Men Red. Al Ewing continues to be a remarkably talented and consistent writer — as Al noted a while back on the podcast, I’m not sure I’ve ever read a bad story by him.

    At this point, I’m pretty sure I’ll take a few months off the X-books during the interregnum period, and pick back up with the relaunch at the end of March. The announcements have been awfully promising.

  4. Allan M says:

    This book has been, by far, the worst thing I’ve read from Ewing. Frenzy didn’t do anything, Kid Cable got replaced and it barely mattered, Wiz Kid “betrayed” some people he’s barely spoken to (who cares?), Manifold got a solo spotlight and then did nearly nothing. Remember how Magneto was positioned as kinda-sorta part of the ensemble and then disappeared? So all we’re left with is Brand her barely-coherent scheming.

    I slot this alongside Fallen Angels, X-Corp and Excalibur as the failures of the Krakoan era. Just poor. Not sure I’m interested in X-Men Red if Ewing is still on board.

  5. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I liked it, all things considered. After the first issue I thought it’d be a book broadly focused on SWORD as an organization, with all those background characters playing small but somehow important roles. Instead, they didn’t even remain in the background, but disappeared completely.

    But as an ‘Abigail Brand plots while mutants do stuff on Mars’ book… well, it suffers a bit like the first season of Agents of SHIELD – it couldn’t really start before the Winter Soldier came out. And SWORD couldn’t really start before the Hellfire Gala brought Mars into the play.

    And the King in Black tie-in didn’t help anything, but then again King in Black really did a disservice to every title it touched. Everybody fights a goo dragon! Now back to the plot. Awful.

    Anyway. Messy, but I still had fun with every issue. I wouldn’t put it anywhere near Fallen Angels and X-Corp, as they failed on an issue by issue basis. SWORD was eleven fine to very good issues that just didn’t come together as anything much. Now it seems it was mostly set-up for X-Men: Mission to Mars, and I remain interested.

    I still would have preferred the Star Trek-y colour-coded departments competence porn I thought it was going to be, I’m slightly disappointed in what it was, but I remain interested in what it will be.

  6. Joseph S. says:

    I’m with Krzysiek here, this is miles better than Fallen Angels and X-Corp. Sure there were lots of detours but overall every issue was one I looked forward to and enjoyed. We got so many great character moments through this series, from the Manifold issue to Doom and Storm, even Hudson at the Hellfire Gala. Seems Ewing has a plan for Ororo and this might end out being some of the best Storm stories we’ve had in ages. I’m looking forward to X-Men Red.

    But anyway so what was with Cable sounding like Warlock? My continuity is muddy but didn’t they establish that the TO virus is unrelated to Warlock? And Warlock’s speech pattern isn’t the result of being TO anyway right?

  7. Chris V says:

    I don’t believe it’s ever been established if the transmode virus and the Technarchy are related or not.

    Originally, it seemed like the two were meant to be separate.
    Now, I think the idea is that the two may be related. The origin of the transmode virus is unknown and the backstory is that Apocalypse discovered it in the Celestial Ship, so it may have originated with the Technarchy.

    They are slightly different but have enough in common that I would guess the transmode virus was once the same techno-organic virus as the Technarchy, but that the differences are related to the Celestials’ experiments

    No, Warlock does not speak in that fashion due to being techno-organic.

  8. Dave says:

    They’re related enough that Cable once used a baby Phalanx as part of his arm.

  9. Joseph S. says:

    Yeah that’s what I thought. Ewing being Ewing though I suspect he’s got a plan, but that scene left me scratching my head.

  10. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    “I still would have preferred the Star Trek-y colour-coded departments competence porn.”

    Yeah I would have much preferred that book.

    I was so excited for Frenzy to be a fun punching diplomat and she did exactly fuck all.

    New fire chest lady seemed cool, and then disappeared.

    This was 11 issues of “Ewing wanders around ideas” which on a moment to moment basis was interesting.

    But as a whole feels pointless and I couldn’t recommend anyone but the biggest Ewing fan bother with it.

    Krakoa has been great for ideas, terrible for plots and character arcs.

    I’d be a lot more interested in X-Men Red if I thought we were going to get Storm the character instead of Storm the goddess boss icon with all the knives.

  11. YLu says:

    Some people are saying this book felt directionless, but I don’t see it. I felt there was a very strong throughline of Abigail building Sol/Krakoa into a galactic player.

    I liked it a lot. It and Way of X have been my favorite titles of the line.

  12. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    I think there’s a story, but not the story that was set up in the beginning.

    It’s Space Marauders.

  13. Douglas says:

    I absolutely loved this series, pretty much head to tail, and as Ben points out, reading it as a stealth “Brand sets up her long-term plans” series makes all its seeming digressions fall into place neatly. I think the peak of it (heh) may have been that Manifold story early on, for which “King in Black” served nicely as setup, but really, it’s all solid. Very psyched for Red.

  14. Bengt Strand says:

    I don’t really get what Brand’s motivation to get involved is since she claims that her main identity is spacer. Does she just get a kick out of scheming?

    Overall I thought the series was kind of meh. It has plenty of ideas, but most felt half-baked.

  15. YLu says:

    Marauders had its problems, but I never got why the small roles for some of that cast was such a big deal for folks either. I mean, I get why Iceman fans would want to see more Iceman or whatever, but beyond that I don’t see the problem on a storytelling level.

    I suspect it’s the sort of thing people are going to have the get used to in the Krakoan era. The premise basically necessitates that the roles previously occupied by the Stevie Hunters and Candy Southerns of the world now get taken up by other mutants.

  16. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    I mean Marauders was sold as pirate adventures X-Men on a boat.

    It was really Hellfire Trading starring Kitty, Emma, and Shaw.

    If Storm, Iceman, and Bishop are your Stevie Hunters you’re doing something wrong.

  17. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Bengt- Brand does love a scheme. She’s space Nick Fury.

    But she’s dedicated to the survival and prosperity of Earth and it’s inhabitants on a galactic scale.

    She (pretty correctly) views the Krakoans as massively naive and uninformed. Just because Chuck donked Lilandra doesn’t mean they know anything about space.

    They gave her enormous resources without any real oversight, in spite of the fact that they don’t know or understand her at all.

    They just assumed she’d toe the line because she happens to be a mutant, which to her proves how totally incompetent they are.

  18. Josie says:

    I haven’t read this, so I can’t judge it on its merits, but 11 issues sounds like not nearly enough time and build-up to earn a death like Gyrich’s.

  19. Josie says:

    “She’s space Nick Fury.”

    Hasn’t Nick Fury also been space Nick Fury ever since Original Sin?

  20. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    I’m a big Jason Aaron fan and even I can’t defend Watcher Jacob Marley Nick Fury.

  21. Allan M says:

    Axis, Original Sin, and DC’s Genesis are the big three for me of linewide crossovers where I am truly stunned they got past the pitch stage. There are worse crossovers, but at least, say, AvX had a conceptual draw at heart. I cannot explain Original Sin.

  22. The Other Michael says:

    Gyrich is a political cockroach, and it’s about time someone finally tried to squish him for good. I know he’ll be back, but it’s still satisfying to see him airlocked.

    I mean seriously, he’s had HOW many different government jobs, and either abused, been fired, or otherwise fucked it up? The time he tried to fire Rom’s giant neutralizer at the Earth to depower everyone… the time he got brainwashed and turned Nomad into Scourge… the time he helped Bastion as part of Project: Zero Tolerance… the time he got brainwashed and turned D-Man into Scourge…

  23. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    You’re right, Gyrich is a pretty fantastic villain

  24. YLu says:

    It’s funny because Jim Shooter says Gyrich was originally meant to be someone who the Avengers disliked at first but would turn out to actually be helpful to them, and he even named him after his brother-in-law in tribute. Given Shooter’s own reputation for micromanaging, you have to wonder if he meant the character to be a bit autobio. “The Avengers hate this guy for ordering them around, but he’s actually shaping them up into something better!”

    @X-Ben

    I know economic realities mean it will never happen, but I would LOVE it if characters could be anything from the Stevie Hunter of a series to the Wolverine, depending on the needs of the story. Beats the school of “Let’s make sure we find a role for Wolverine in this story because he’s Wolverine.”

    @Josie

    If 11 issues (almost an entire year of stories!) isn’t enough time to earn a major character’s death, what is?

  25. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Did Gyrich actually succeed at doing anything in this series though?

    Really, what have the bad guys actually accomplished in the Krakoan age?

  26. Allan M says:

    I did think the Gyrich stuff landed. It’s one of the few storylines in this series that had setup, development, and resolution. Gyrich’s whole schtick is being a total asshole while championing the national interest, and he gets off relatively easy because the Avengers aren’t going to just murder a government official. Whereas here, he’s trying to scale up and work at an intergalactic level, but he’s now moving against Brand, who does not play by the rules and kills him. It plays into the general themes that Earth/Krakoa/Arrako are now venturing in arenas where they are woefully unprepared and naive of the consequences.

    He’s too good a character to stay dead for long so I’m fine with parking him for a bit.

  27. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Gyrich entering the resurrection pool because he was a mutant all this time and didn’t know would be pretty fun.

  28. Josie says:

    “If 11 issues (almost an entire year of stories!) isn’t enough time to earn a major character’s death, what is?”

    He has presumably (still haven’t read the series) done much worse to other characters for a much longer period of time (over a greater period of build-up), and suffered far milder consequences for those actions. One would think there is a much longer list of characters lining up to serve Gyrich some humble pie, and yet he’s knocked off by a Joss Whedon creation.

  29. Taibak says:

    X-Ben: Even better if his mutation is something trivial like mismatched irises or webbed feet or something.

  30. Loz says:

    Gyrich going out the airlock is up there with Daredevil overthrowing the Kingpin the first time for a long overdue revenge. I’ve not read everything but it always seemed that whenever he appeared he impeded the heroes and, possibly accidentally, aided villains but always in a way that ended up exposing how it was his screw-up that caused the problem and yet no-one in the Government thought that maybe they should use a more reliable and competent evil stooge.

    In my head canon this issue takes place before issue 50 of ‘Immortal Hulk’ and, through the people he’s been hanging out with in that title he’s got enough of a dose of gamma to go to the below place for a while.

  31. Icon_UK says:

    Abigail getting irritated about Krakoa ignoring her alien half is a decent and inter

    But to complain that no-one bothered enough about her to ask her her real name is just bizarre, since “Brand” is a perfectly cromulent surname. So why would anyone think it WASN’T her real surname, when that’s how she introduces herself?

Leave a Reply