REVIEW: Five Sharp Takes on X of Swords: Destruction #1

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Lay down your swords, the battle is over! X of Swords: Destruction #1 is the spectacular finish to the X-Men event of the year–an issue so big, so explosive, that we needed FIVE reviewers to talk about it! Cori McCreery, Zoe Tunnell, Nola Pfau, Danielle L., and Kayleigh Hearn are here to discuss who lived, who died, and who is the coolest Captain Britain of all.

X of Swords: Destruction #1

Marte Gracia (colors), Jonathan Hickman (writer), Tini Howard (writer), Pepe Larraz (artist), Tom Muller (design)
Marvel Comics
November 25, 2020

Spoiler Warning for X of Swords: Destruction #1.

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Remember the Captain Britain Corps? They’re back! In Betsy form! (Tag yourself: I’m Dinosaur Captain Britain.)

Cori: I’m for sure Violet Swan! (She’s from Spider-Ham’s Earth). I am SO STOKED about the new Corps and so excited for what’s to come in Excalibur. Eight of the Earths mentioned on the data page are brand new, including the home of Captain Amphibian.

Zoe: Aw dammit, you took mine, I was going to pick Britannica Rex! Fine, then I’ll go with the Betsy in the top left leaping with a big ole’ psychic axe. She seems nice.

Nola: Who is the cool werewolf one? I like her.

Danielle: It will certainly be intriguing to see the character dynamics at play in Reign of X with this new Corps. I’m also curious about what will happen to the mosaic of Betsy Saturnyne made. Among the Captains we see at the end of Excalibur #15, I’d be the Frog Captain.

Kayleigh: Captain Dragon, baby!

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“To me, my X-Men!” Our heroes make a big damn entrance to save the day. What did you think of this big action set piece, brought to us in this concluding chapter by Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia?

Cori: Oh man, this was EARNED. Like I know in the moment we all hollered during the similar scene in Avengers: Endgame, but this felt even better to me. Much in the way that the Betsy Corps reveal paid off an entire year of Excalibur, this paid off X-Force and X-Men.

Zoe: I think it is one of the most impressive moments of the event, easily. Obviously, Larraz and Gracia murdered this, it is an all-time fantastic X-Men splash, but it also impressed on a writing level. “To me, my X-Men”, has been played as a huge heavyweight line so many times over the years that if you’re pulling it out, you gotta make it worthwhile. And BOY did the creative team make it worthwhile here.

Nola: So I have some big thoughts about this; the way that the information was seeded in X-Men, with both the data page and the vote that anyone going to Otherworld gives up their place on the council. Cori’s right in that this pays off both that and X-Force, but it pays off that House of X issue, too, with the oddly weak Jean; this was a journey for her. I’m still not sure I understand why she started in that place, but to move from that to her moral stance in quitting X-Force (and, need I remind you, beating the hell out of Hank), and then to taking this step here, foregoing her place on the council to save her son, and not only that but leading the charge, just…wow. Establishing the X-Men as a team that is, at heart, at odds with the paradigm of the Quiet Council and Krakoa is fascinating to me, and I think it explains why the X-Men book has been standalone issues up to this point; I suspect we’ll see a shift after this, and I can’t wait.

Danielle: That was a BEAUTIFUL moment to behold. Dozens of mutants together with the First Five leading the charge. Among the thousands (possibly a million?) of panels we’d gotten leading all the way up to Destruction, this was the stand-out that’s making me tear up thinking of it. Pepe Larraz made so much magic with the art he’s been doing for this X-Men run and I’m beyond excited to see what he has in store.

Kayleigh: Doop! Doop is here! Pepe Larraz is such a superstar. “To me, my X-Men!” is one of those lines like “Hope you survive the experience!” that have been done to death, but luckily the X-Men have defeated death because it feels like all of Dawn of X has been leading to that rallying cry.

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In many ways, Apocalypse was the protagonist of X of Swords. Did his role in this event–particularly how he ended the fight and the fate of Arakko–surprise you?

Cori: I expected him and the Braddocks to be the focal pieces of the event, so I’m not surprised at his role in the story. I’m also not surprised that he was taken off the table for now, I expected that too. I was surprised that he was taken off the table in this manner, as I fully expected him to buy the farm.

Zoe: I thought he was gonna bite it too, honestly. With the exception of ol’ Gorgy and Santo, I was expecting a lot more death across the board. The way the finale brought happy endings for most of the parties involved genuinely surprised, and delighted me. It is nice that the X-Men are not only top of the comic world again, they are getting the much-needed wins in-universe.

Nola: I absolutely did not think he was gonna die, if only because that lack of death (at least, permanent death) thing is a fairly prominent beat that Hickman’s been hammering since HoXPoX. I knew he’d be prominent, but I was definitely surprised at the way that whole thing resolved. I like the step of choosing the route of surrender for him; it’s unlike anything he’s done before, and it gives him a level of nuance and depth he lacked before this. I definitely think we’ll see him return in year four or five of Hickman’s grand scheme, though. Him going off the way he did is just paving the way for a dramatic cavalry moment.

Danielle: To be quite honest, at first Apocalypse’s surrendering and putting an end to the bloodshed was a surprise because it seemed like a moment that was uncharacteristic of him. Upon second thought, however, and looking back on what he’d done, surrendering to Saturnyne and his exchange of himself with Arakko was really the only course of action Apocalypse was likely to take. I’m also being reminded of the only truth Summoner’s told in all his appearances thus far: “This does not end without the two halves of the world rejoined.”

Kayleigh: In my nearly thirty years as an X-Men fan (*cough, wheeze, faint*) I’ve never found Apocalypse to be remotely interesting, so it’s to Hickman and Howard’s credit than in just over a year they’ve made a creepy, holier-than-thou bastard one of the most compelling characters on Krakoa and gave him a “walking into the sunset with his wife and kids” ending that feels fully earned. For a character so deeply enshrined in a survival of the fittest, “evolve or die,” ethos, it was fascinating to see Apocalypse, Mr. “I will not yield” himself, recognize the power in surrendering as a means to end the war. Even after thousands of years, he can still evolve.

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X of Swords is over, and we mostly survived the experience. (Sorry, Gorgon.) Did it meet your expectations? What are you looking forward to in the upcoming Reign of X?

Cori: I’d actually say it exceeded my expectations. I came in hoping for a good event, and I instead got the best X-Event since Inferno. Well done, Howard and Hickman and crew. As for Reign of X I’m most excited for Excalibur and X-Factor moving forward.

Zoe: It wasn’t what I was expecting, that’s for sure. I had planned on it being a far more traditional, almost shonen manga-esque, tournament with fight scenes galore. The way it played with expectations while consistently respecting its characters and history was wonderful and impressive as hell. The high bar set here is a little risky for Reign of X, and with Si Spurrier joining the team I see no reason why they won’t be able to meet it.

Nola: I’m on record as loving every bit of the year-long setup that Tini Howard was doing with Excalibur, so to say I was delighted by this entire event, by the mysticism of Fae courts, by the tinge of dualism and intentionality that infused every clever little plot twist, is an understatement. This event feels like it was for me in a way. I didn’t expect it would be as additive as it was; everything introduced here both pays off the year before this and sets up exciting things for the future. I can’t wait for Corps shenanigans, Scott and Jean frustrating the Quiet Council, the comeuppance of Shaw…and Sinister…and Hank…it’s gonna be a hell of a year.

Also, Betsy and Saturnyne should kiss.

Danielle: I was entirely unsure what to expect from X of Swords, but the issues were a delight and a half. Each of the writers for the crossover kept me hooked and it was a massive help that the artwork was astounding chapter to chapter. The entire X-office created such an amazing villain with Annihilation and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next for them. Arakko’s story feels like it’s beginning anew in a similar way to Krakoa’s and the storytelling possibilities feel twice as infinite with the two islands rejoined. Something I’m quite curious about in Reign of X is in regards to the Quiet Council: do they maintain the same structure or do they face a shake-up?

Kayleigh: The question is, with Marvel Girl and Apocalypse off the Council, is it Reign of X or Reign of Ten? Sadly, most of my predictions didn’t come true–Apocalypse and Rictor probably won’t kiss, nor will Cypher and Gorgon (which is okay, I wouldn’t want poor Doug to be a widower). I’m very eager to read the big honkin’ X of Swords hardcover when it comes out to see how the event reads in one sitting, and if certain problems I had with it (pacing, tone, the swords themselves actually not being that important at all) are evened out when I’m not reading it piecemeal over several months. But even if I didn’t love everything about X of Swords, overall my faith in the Reign of X team remains unshaken and I’m ready to see what the new year brings for our merry mutants.

…And when are they releasing that X-Men tarot card set?!

Kayleigh Hearn

Kayleigh Hearn

Still waiting for her Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters acceptance letter. Bylines also at Deadshirt, Ms-En-Scene, The MNT, PanelxPanel, and Talk Film Society.