The first X-Men crossover of the 'Dawn of X' era kicks off in earnest this week in the jam-packed, oversized X of Swords: Creation #1 from writers Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard with artists Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia, Clayton Cowles, and Tom Muller.
In this first chapter of the 22-part story, the conflict at the heart of 'X of Swords' is revealed, along with the stakes at hand – with Krakoa itself potentially on the line.
Spoilers ahead for X of Swords: Creation #1
X of Swords: Creation #1 is packed with new story details about the history of Krakoa and Arakko, as well as Apocalypse's goals in the Otherworld – a necessary bridge between Krakoa and Arakko across which the mutants of Arakko and the living island itself will have to traverse in order to reach Krakoa.
To this end, Apocalypse has created a permanent External Gate (as seen in Excalibur #12) powered by the essences of ancient mutants. Unlike other Krakoan gates, this one doesn't exclude non-mutants – and it's always open. As a result, the Quiet Council debates whether to close the gate – an idea Krakoa itself flat out refuses, as the gate is the only way to reunite with Arakko.
But the danger from the evil that lurks on Arakko, who the mutants Apocalypse left there centuries ago have warred with endlessly since, is growing by the day – with Summoner, Apocalypse's grandson, saying an expedition he made into the Otherworld alongside Unus and Banshee was ambushed, and the two mutants captured. Apocalypse decides to proceed without the Quiet Council's blessing and leads a team to rescue Unus and Banshee.
However, as they cross into the Otherworld, Cable and Rachel Grey, who are back on Krakoa, learn the truth by reading Summoner's mind – he betrayed Unus and Banshee, and has baited Apocalypse and the others into a trap.
It's too late though – Apocalypse and his team enter the Otherworld, where they fight through the enemy armies, finding Apocalypse's own children, his original Horsemen, at the lead. Thinking he's reunited with his beloved children, Apocalypse approaches – but Death reveals that the mutants of Arakko have fallen and joined the enemy, and stabs Apocalypse, seemingly to death.
Chaos ensues, with the X-Men and armies of Arakko fighting tooth and nail until Saturnyne, ruler of the Otherworld and guardian of the multiversal matrix that resides there, locks everyone into a kind of stasis, offering terms for a contest.
The X-Men and the mutants of Arakko will each choose ten warriors and ten blades with which those warriors will fight, and at the end of that contest, the winners will be granted passage through the Otherworld.
One of the Horsemen (likely Famine, though she's not specifically named) and Polaris each choose ten swords of power from their respective homeworlds to be wielded in combat against each other.
The Horseman names the swords "Mercy, Vermillion, the Red Sword of War, Colony, the Black Bone of Amduat, Seducer, Pogg-Ur-Pogg," and, finally, "The Twilight Blade" – the blade that cut Arakko off from Krakoa to begin with.
Most of the other swords are unknown quantities, presumably wielded by the ten previously-revealed Swordbearers of Arakko.
Polaris chooses the following swords, some of which are seen being wielded by well-known characters in previously released 'X of Swords' art:
- Muramasa: An ancient magical katana, wielded by Wolverine as he's done off and on for many years.
- The Sword of Light: A magical blade originally given to Dane Whitman/the Black Knight by the Lady of the Lake, who gave Excalibur to King Arthur, apparently wielded by Captain Britain.
- The Starlight Sword: This doesn't seem to have any previous Marvel Comics appearances, though it could be connected to Saturnyne's Starlight Citadel – or it could refer to the sword-shaped SWORD base, which resides among the stars (more on that in a moment).
- Godkiller: A katana with a reputation for living up to its name, wielded by Gorgon.
- Grasscutter: The opposite blade to Godkiller, apparently wielded by Psylocke.
- Warlock: the techno-organic being that is bonded with Cypher, which he'll apparently wield like a sword.
- The Soul Sword: Magik's mystical blade that she regularly manifests.
- The Light of Galador: A Galadorian blade once used by the fabled SpaceKnights, now wielded by Cable.
- Skybreaker: Oddly, this name from Marvel lore seems to point to an obscure Inhumans character – but not a sword.
And thus is revealed the true plot of 'X of Swords': the ten sword-wielding mutants and the ten Swordbearers of Arakko will challenge each other by might and blade for Otherworld supremacy – the stakes of which could be the mutant island of Krakoa and the nation that resides there itself.
In a final shot, Cyclops, Cable, and Rachel Grey arrive in a secret location pulled from Summoner's mind which may hold a weapon that could prove the key to 'X of Swords' – the orbital base of the space defense organization SWORD.
Marvel readers may recall that SWORD - which debuted in the pages of X-Men comic books - was recently disbanded by its longtime leader Abigail Brand, who left the organization and its accompanying team Alpha Flight following the events of Empyre. That ending also presaged an ominous future for Brand and the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe.
The 22-part 'X of Swords' continues in September 30's X-Factor #4, the second chapter of the crossover.
The 'X of Swords' story has only begun, so while you wait for each installment be sure you've read our list of the best X-Men stories of all time.