It’s time to d-d-d-d-duel! We’ve officially reached the halfway point of the X-Men event of the year with X of Swords: Stasis #1. Two writers, two artists, two teams of champions, and, now, two reviewers: this is a comic so big we needed both Zoe Tunnell and Kayleigh Hearn to cover it! How fare our fair X-Men in Otherworld? Read on to find out!
X of Swords: Stasis #1
Mahmud Asrar (artist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (letters), Marte Gracia (colors), Jonathan Hickman (writer). Tini Howard (writer), Pepe Larraz (artist), Tom Muller (design)
October 28, 2020
Saturnyne has a cute little quartz hammer! What do you think of the X-Men’s shift into high fantasy here?
Zoe Tunnell: I love it, honestly. The X-Men have a history of dabbling in the Fantasy Realm with Excalibur and with the Marvel Universe’s magical corner being severely underused, it is a nice surprise to get such a huge influx of new toys.
Kayleigh Hearn: If Marvel doesn’t have a small stack of House of X and X of Swords-themed RPG rulebooks in the works right now, they’re leaving money on the table. Stasis #1 begins with Saturnyne’s emissary delivering invitations to many kingdoms of Otherworld, and the depth and scope of the (other)worldbuilding here are tremendous. Descriptions of these kingdoms have floated through previous X of Swords installments, but it’s another thing to see them realized by an artist like Pepe Larraz. He makes every panel look like a tarot card: ornate, vital, and rich with symbolism.
We finally meet all the Swordbearers of Arakko! What did we think of these introductions?
Zoe: Love them. The Arakii swordbearers are goddamn fascinating and I love that they got such a big spotlight. I really hope they stick around as an addition to the X-Verse. Characters like Redroot and Solem are just too dang cool to only be here for the event.
Kayleigh: My biggest concern with X of Swords leading up to this issue was that we’d reached the halfway point and the Swordbearers of Arakko–our assumed antagonists–were still ciphers rather than fully-formed characters. Hell, Stasis #1 is the first appearance of several of them. Consisting of family members, mortal enemies, hired swords, and one violence-hating tree-hugger, the Swordbearers of Arakko are starting to emerge as an interesting mix of motivations, weapons, and personalities. (Bei the Blood Moon’s mutant power is something called “The Doom Note,” and I am here for it–whatever the hell it is.)
X-Men artist Mahmud Asrar brings power and dynamism to these pages, even in comparatively quiet scenes like War and Pestilence meeting their aunt Isca the Unbeaten in a dive bar. I think Summoner is right and this will all end with the reunification of Arakko and Krakoa, so it will be interesting to see who is cannon fodder and who is going to be a more permanent addition to the Krakoan landscape.
Sleepover at Saturnyne’s! Oh, and she left us some tarot cards! How…ominous.
Zoe: Gonna go ahead and out myself here as a fake goth and admit I know jack shit about tarot cards and just think they’re neat as a motif. I deeply appreciate the explainers thrown into each use of them because otherwise I would be lost.
Kayleigh: Of course Saturnyne is just the right shade of petty to give Betsy a tarot card of her being stabbed like nine times. Just write it in the Burn Book, Saturnyne! I agree that Tarot’s little guided readings at the end of the issue are a smart move; it gives the reader some nice speculation fodder and is more fun than checking Wikipedia, at least. The last big shock of the issue is Apocalypse’s card: The Lovers. After months of speculation and a whole lot of [REDACTED] text, Annihilation throws off her helm to reveal the face underneath. “Oh no, my true love is evil and I must stop them before they destroy the world” is an underrated X-Men rite of passage, and now it’s time for Apocalypse to experience his own crucible.
We’re about halfway through the X of Swords event so far. What are your opinions on it so far? What are you expecting once the tournament begins?
Zoe: I’m expecting 2 things, in the immediate future: another issue or two of peace before the fighting, to let both sides interact outside of the battlefield, and a surprise reveal for Krakoa’s 10th swordbearer. There is no way Gorgon gets to claim two spots! I don’t care how cool he thinks he is!
Kayleigh: I’m verrrrrry excited to see some swords swinging and some heads rolling. Interestingly, Pepe Larraz posted some WIP inks on Instagram that showed Magneto (possibly with the Cerebro Sword?) among the Krakoa champions, so I’d wager something was changed along the way, similar to how the tarot cards in the FCBD special ended up being slightly different than the ones that showed up in Creation #1. Hickman clearly has plans for Gorgon, though, and I’m calling it now–that’s Gorgon sharing a romantic drink with Cypher on the Two of Cups card. (Or someone remembered that Doug and Betsy kinda had a thing in the 80s, but my idea is more fun.) BRING IT.
There’s also a potential opening there for one of the Swordbearers of Arakko to switch sides. It would be hilarious if Isca the Unbeaten ends up screwing over her sister again because “Come on, they’re the X-Men, they’re gonna win.”
POGG UR-POGG! POGG UR-POGG! POGG UR-POGG!
Zoe: POGG POGG POGG POGG POGG POGG POGG POGG!!!!
Kayleigh: PRAISE BE TO POGG!