DisneyPlus's WandaVision has flipped its script with episode 4, digging into the Marvel space agency SWORD through the character of Monica Rambeau. But despite its recent MCU debut, SWORD isn't new to Marvel.
First introduced as part of the X-Men mythos, SWORD has a storied history in Marvel Comics, with a new version of the agency heading up a current comic book title. But with the MCU SWORD existing in a slightly different niche than its comic book counterpart, there's a lot to unpack.
A change in the acronym, a new leader, new agents, and perhaps even a new mission, the MCU version of SWORD has some big differences from its comic book counterpart.
Still there's a lot to learn from digging into the comic history of SWORD and its place in the Marvel Universe, including connections to the cosmic wing of Marvel Comics as well as the X-Men and mutantkind that could spell out big ramifications for SWORD in the MCU.
We'll break down SWORD's history – and how that could inform its possible future – right now.
What is SWORD?
Headquartered high above the earth in the space station known as the Peak, SWORD (Sentient World Observation and Response Department) is meant to be a counterpoint to SHIELD, designed to monitor the activity in Earth's solar system and beyond, and intervene when necessary.
In comic books, SWORD is run not by Nick Fury but by Abigail Brand, a young mutant with green hair and cosmic fire powers. SWORD first debuted in Astonishing X-Men, aiding the mutant team in a battle with the extra-terrestrial villains of Breakworld.
The organization later got its own series with Brand as a focal point – though by that time Nick Fury's retirement as director of SHIELD had caused a schism between the two organizations.
Following the 2015/2016 limited series Secret Wars, SWORD morphed into Alpha Flight – a new version of what was originally the premier superteam of Canada, reformatted as the superhero division of SWORD, and headed up by Captain Marvel.
However at the end of Empyre, Abigail Brand disbanded Alpha Flight/SWORD, with the flash-forward epilogue showing Brand and a newly reformed SWORD, staffed primarily by mutants, apparently rescuing Emperor Hulkling of the Kree/Skrull empire from a deadly attack.
That new version of SWORD - headed up by Brand - now serves as the mutant island nation of Krakoa's space agency, starring in their own title courtesy of writer Al Ewing and artist Valerio Schiti.
However, despite their mutant connections, Abigail Brand has made it clear to Krakoa's ruling Quiet Council that SWORD is an independent entity who serve the entire galaxy – not just Krakoan interests.
The newly launched SWORD series kicked off with a mystery, with a group of highly specialized mutants breaching time and space to retrieve a mysterious object that may hold the key to the future of mutantkind.
Now, heading into Marvel's Venom-centric 'King in Black' crossover, the story is already bringing SWORD into contact with the wider Marvel cosmic wing.
How will SWORD play into the future of the MCU?
SWORD has now made its MCU debut in WandaVision – but with some differences from the comic book version. Though WandaVision episode 4 does reveal that the agency has a space counterpart, it also operates on Earth, with Monica Rambeau enlisted to visit Westview as part of a SWORD investigation.
To wit, the MCU SWORD's acronym is slightly different as well. Rather than standing for 'Sentient World Observation and Response Department,' the MCU SWORD acronym stands for 'Sentient Weapon Observation and Response Department.'
Given SWORD's traditional mutant connections in comic books, the idea that the MCU version of the agency is meant to monitor 'Sentient Weapons' - a very militaristic way to refer to superhumans – may be an in to bringing mutants to the MCU.
In fact, they may debut even sooner than anyone realizes, as in comic books, Wanda Maximoff's twin sons William and Thomas are mutants with a complex history that may inform the direction WandaVision takes, and its ramifications on the MCU. In fact, William grew up to be Billy Kaplan, the consort of Kree/Skrull empire leader Teddy Altman/Hulkling, an ally of the comic book SWORD.
And of course, the final post-credits scene of Spider-Man: Far From Home, the last theatrically-released MCU film, not only revealed that the Skrulls Talos and Soren, who debuted in Captain Marvel, had been masquerading as Nick Fury and Maria Hill for all of Far From Home, it showed where the real Nick Fury had actually been the whole time – on what appeared to be a space station in the midst of being constructed by Skrulls under Fury's direction.
That seems an awful lot like it could be the Peak – after all, what goes better with SHIELD than SWORD? And given the presence of Skrulls, introduced as refugees fleeing persecution from the Kree Empire, it seems the connections to the latest comic book iteration of SWORD, born out of the Kree/Skrull-centric Empyre, could be deep.
One other big change from comic books to the MCU is that Abigail Brand is not the apparent head of SWORD in the MCU - that's newly introduced character Ryan Hayward, who does not appear to have a Marvel Comics counterpart, but who may have a connection to MCU Agents of SHIELD villain Brian Hayward, a Hydra super soldier.
One thing is definitely certain: SWORD will play a major role in both comic books and the MCU going forward, and while mysteries remain about how the agency will be adapted to the screen, the comic book roots of SWORD point to interstellar mutant action - a safe theory on where the MCU could go once WandaVision's off-kilter story wraps up.
While SWORD could have made its MCU debut in a Spider-Man movie, over in comic books, Spidey's world has very different cosmic calamities on the way in the Venom-centric crossover King in Black.