This week, three new chapters of 'X of Swords' kick off the tournament at the heart of the X-Men limited series – and turns the expectation of the story on its head.
Spoilers ahead for Marauders #15, Excalibur #14, and Wolverine #7
First off, Marauders #15 from Gerry Duggan, Benjamin Percy, Stefano Caselli, and Edgar Delgado picks right up from the previous chapter of 'X of Swords' in which Wolverine stabbed Saturnyne. We flash to a vision of a world where Saturnyne died, and the mutants of Arrako stormed through the Krakoa gate and conquered the world – but after the brief vision, we snap back to the present, where Saturnyne gives Wolverine a pass for his transgression, warning him not to be so foolish again as she can't be killed so easily in her own domain.
At the dinner where this takes place, Cypher eats food meant for Wolverine and is poisoned by an Arakko trick. White Sword, one of the Swordbearers, heals the dying Cypher and absolves him of any obligation in order to preserve the sanctity of the contest. Captain Avalon petitions Saturnyne to end the tournament right then and there, but she refuses due to Wolverine's own attempt to cheat – though she tells Brian Braddock she'd grant any whim if he'd become Captain Britain again. He refuses.
Saturnyne then draws the cards revealing the first combatants – Captain Britain and Isca the Unbeaten. It's implied that Saturnyne has organized this fight specifically to destroy Betsy. Intimidated, Betsy warns the waiting Jubilee that she's about to fight and to be prepared.
As the fight starts in Excalibur #14 by Tini Howard and Phil Noto, Betsy and Isca trade blows – but Isca's blows seem to have an odd effect on Betsy, and she suddenly cries out that something's wrong.
Unexpectedly, she appears to shatter out of reality, Starlight Sword and all, disappearing in shards that look like glass. Saturnyne declares Isca the winner and states Betsy is dead, awarding Arakko the first point of the contest.
However, Jamie Braddock seems to imply that he has directly interfered to save Betsy from death, while still ending the fight in Arakko's favor.
From there the tournament proceeds rapidly.
Cypher is scheduled to face Bei the Blood Moon, a powerful mutant whose voice can level mountains - and who speaks in a language that can be heard and understood by anyone except Cypher, much to his own fascination. But their "duel" turns out to be a wedding, with Cypher and Bei pledging to love and honor each other for the duration of the tournament.
Jubilee interrupts the wedding with Shogo, who becomes charmed by Saturnyne to stop attacking. Amused by Cypher and Bei's vows, and pleased to obtain a dragon, Saturnyne awards points to both Arakko and Krakoa, bring the score to Arakko 2, Krakoa 1.
Wolverine #7 from Benjamin Percy, Gerry Duggan, Joshua Cassara, and Guru-eFX contains no less than three duels, starting right off the bat with Magik facing off against Pogg-Ur-Pogg … in an arm-wrestling contest, which the gigantic monster immediately wins, bringing the total to Arakko 3, Krakoa 1.
From there, Wolverine is sent to fight Summoner in the mysterious realm of Blightspoke in a fight "to the death," where they square off in a battlefield that is constantly warping reality around them. Wolverine barely wins, stabbing Summoner through the eye and killing him. But since Saturnyne's making the rules, she awards the point to Arakko, saying that her version of "to the death" means whoever dies, wins.
Wolverine is then immediately pitted against Storm in a drinking contest, and the two flirt, almost kissing. No winner is declared – but Krakoa is awarded a point. Arakko 4, Krakoa 2.
Meanwhile, two Swordbearers of Arakko must face each other in combat, with Solem taking on War. However, Solem calls in his favor from Wolverine, which Wolverine promised him in exchange for one of the Muramasa blades, forcing Wolverine to fight War instead. Incredibly drunk on magic liquor, and facing off against the mother of Summoner, who he just murdered, Wolverine is at a disadvantage.
As Saturnyne taunts Wolverine that Storm will pay a price for Wolverine’s attempt on Saturnyne’s life, War stabs her flaming sword into Wolverine’s neck. Spurred on by Saturnyne’s taunts, Wolverine rallies, and cuts off War’s hand, winning the fight on behalf of Solem. This leaves the score Arakko 5, Krakoa 2 at the end of the first round of duels.
'X of Swords' continues November 18 with X-Force #14 (chapter 17), Hellions #6 (chapter 18), and Cable #6 (chapter 19).
Stay apprised of what's coming next with our list of the new X-Men comic books, graphic novels, and collections on the horizon.