A mystery is brewing among the mutants of Krakoa in the lead-up to 'X of Swords,' the 'Dawn of X' era's first line-wide X-Men crossover. As ten mutants prepare to wield ten powerful swords against an unknown enemy, the antagonists in question – the Swordbearers of Arakko - are starting to shape up, with a just-released cover for X of Swords: Stasis #1 revealing their line-up.
Despite the Swordbearers of Arakko now being revealed, the identity of one important figure among the villains remains a mystery. Though nine of the Swordbearers have been named, the identity of one member of the team remains "classified," potentially indicating the villain's true identity would be someone we recognize – and there may be some clues in recent X-Men comic books that could point to a likely answer.
Though the first, perhaps most obvious guess would be Betsy Braddock given her connection to swords and Apocalypse's machinations in the Otherworld leading up to 'X of Swords,' further signs may point to someone even more familiar wielding the blade behind the mask – Storm.
One of the most stalwart X-Men and often a leader of various X-Men teams, Storm has been one of the most central mutants to the X-Men saga since her introduction in 1975's Giant-Size X-Men #1. The weather-manipulating Storm has almost always remained loyal to the X-Men and to the side of heroism, but with 'X of Swords' on the horizon, that may now be in question.
Why do we think the classified Swordbearer could be Storm? Well, there are a few reasons.
First off, there's the matter of Storm's fate as explained in Giant-Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost, which established that Storm is suffering from a potentially terminal techno-organic virus brought on by the Children of the Vault – genetically-engineered beings who are neither human nor mutant. This, combined with recent tension between Storm and Emma Frost over the apparent death of Kate Pryde in Marauders may point to a growing rift between Storm and the rest of the X-Men.
Then there's the matter of the Free Comic Book Day 2020 X-Men one-shot that recently came out, presaging 'X of Swords' with a teaser story that put the crossover's Tarot themes front-and-center.
In the FCBD comic book, Saturnyne – Omniversal Majestrix of the Multiverse – uses her version of fortune-telling Tarot cards to read the X-Men's future, through oblique clues and hints. Though she cycles through several cards that all may tease events to take place in 'X of Swords', one card in particular – the Eight of Cups – is especially relevant to the identity of the mystery Swordbearer.
Saturnyne's Eight of Cups shows a person, apparently a Black woman, whose image is split down the middle with the image of the mystery Swordbearer – possibly indicating this is what she looks like outside of her mask and armor. Though the identity of the woman is hard to say for sure, there aren't a lot of Black women in the X-Men – especially not many whose betrayal or villain turn would be as devastating as Storm's.
Then there's the text that accompanies the Eight of Cups. In real world Tarot fortune telling, the Eight of Cups symbolizes disillusionment, the breaking of partnerships or social structures, and even full-on betrayal and abandonment. The captions that accompany the card hint at these themes directly, and may even speak directly to the Swordbearer's identity as Storm.
"Disillusionment. Abandonment," read the captions. "That which was once the harmonious lifting of voices is now a mocking echo – then silence."
How does this poetic riddle point to Storm? Well, those who read House of X and Powers of X when 'Dawn of X' kicked off will remember that mutants who die can now be fully resurrected by the Five, a group of mutants whose combined powers have made mutant death obsolete. As shown in that story, when a mutant is resurrected, Storm reintroduces them to the citizens of Krakoa and affirms their mutant identity. Could that "harmonious lifting of voices" mentioned be referring this resurrection ceremony? And if so, could that mean that the power of the Five will be threatened in 'X of Swords'?
There's one more thing. Just this week, X-Men group editor Jordan D. White took to Twitter to answer a few questions about the X-Men line from fans – including one who asked about potential plans for Storm in the franchise's future.
"We have just recently come up with an idea for Storm that is really big," White explains in the Twitter video. "I think people are gonna like it a lot."
So there you have it – big plans for Storm, a mysterious prevarication that seems to connect to her station on Krakoa, and some potential strain between Storm and the X-Men. Could Storm's techno-organic virus lead her to seek aid on Arakko? Could Apocalypse recruit Storm into an expanded version of his Horsemen, as he's done to Archangel, Wolverine, Banshee, and so many other X-Men?
Time will tell.
'X of Swords' begins this September, and runs though November.