X-Factor #4 (opens in new tab) from writer Leah Williams and artists Carlos Goméz Israel Silva establishes the exact stakes at hand for the mutants venturing into the Otherworld for the clash at the hear of 'X of Swords' – and even with the Resurrection Protocols in place, it seems death may hold its horrors yet for mutantkind.
Spoilers ahead for X-Factor #4, 'X of Swords' chapter two(opens in new tab)
X-Factor #4 picks up the direct aftermath of X of Swords: Creation #1 with the mortally wounded Rictor and Apocalypse and dead Rockslide, who was cut in half by Summoner, being brought back to Krakoa through the Otherworld gate – which seals shut behind them through Saturnyne's magic.
Rictor succumbs to his injuries, while Apocalypse lays dying of the Pestilence afflicted on him by the First Horsemen. He tries to kill the mutant Healer for letting Rictor die, but Rachel Grey stops him.
Rictor and Rockslide are brought to the Five, where Xavier orders priority resurrection – within the hour. The Five are skeptical it can be done, but agree to attempt it. They're successful at bringing Rictor and Rockslide back, but something's wrong – the Cerebro hubs that store the psychic imprints of mutants momentarily short out at the moment of their resurrection, and Rockslide seems confused.
Worried Goldballs's egg spheres are corrupted, the Five destroy them. But soon the truth is revealed. While Rictor is the same Rictor that entered Otherworld, Rockslide might not be the same person that went in.(opens in new tab)
Since the Otherworld is a multiversal hub, it's theorized that Rockslide's personality was not uploaded from Cerebro's back-ups, because he was outside its range – and instead, the personality that now inhabits his body is either a composite of the personalities of all the versions of Rockslide throughout the Marvel multiverse, or perhaps just one, brought into the new body. It remains unclear.
What this means is, any mutant that dies in the Otherworld runs the risk of being resurrected as someone else entirely, a new twist on the stakes of superhero death – something the 'Dawn of X' X-Men line has already toyed with.
Meanwhile, Polaris tries to piece together the prophecy Saturnyne left in her psyche that explains which swords to use and who should wield them in the fight against the Swordbearers of Arakko. She suddenly recalls the verse, which identifies the swords and wielders though obscure riddles. We'll get to the actual couplets and their likely meaning shortly.
With the prophecy now foretold, Polaris uses Rockslide's former body to create a transportation circle that will open a new gate to the Otherworld when all ten mutants are assembled on their corresponding places with their swords.
Confident in her place among those prophesied, Magik steps onto one of the spaces.(opens in new tab)
As for what the prophecies mean, Cypher takes his hand at, well, deciphering some of them, which lend some insight into previously assumed pairings, and hint at what some of the newly named swords might be.
Here are the couplets, along with what they might mean:
"From one womb came two, a hero destined to brandish what the earth hath swallowed
And an echo doomed to yearn for what the stars hath foresworn"
Doug Ramsey believes this corresponds to Betsy Braddock and Brian Braddock, but notes confusion because Brian Braddock is not known to be a mutant. However, preview art for 'X of Swords' also showed Psylocke wielding a katana which could be Grasscutter, one of the other swords named.
Could the actual pair be Psylocke and Betsy Braddock, both mutants who once shared a psyche and body? Or Brian Braddock and Psylocke, as Brian was shown in that same art wielding the Sword of Light. Or could it actually refer to all three of them, somehow? They're all in the same sword-centric image…
"Lost soul, an edge gained
A lone wanderer returns to a forge left ablaze"
Cypher notes that Wolverine believes this pertains to him and the Muramasa blade – we're inclined to agree.
"Sword in the stone, stationed in place
A young man, born old, pilots a place"
Cypher relates this to Cable, who currently has the Light of Galador, one of the named blades. But the second couplet seems to refer to the S.W.O.R.D. base he arrived at in X of Swords: Creation #1 – which may be backed up by Cable's involvement in Al Ewing's upcoming SWORD ongoing series.(opens in new tab)
"A father forsaken, a husband betrayed
An ancient treasure sharpens the death his children crave"
Cypher notes that Apocalypse believes this part of the prophecy is meant for him. That seems likely, given the history shown in X of Swords: Creation #1. The sword in question is probably one of the few that haven't been introduced yet – the Scarab is most likely, given context clues.
Out of one comes many, into many comes one"
Cypher notes this probably means he's gonna wield Warlock as a sword, and since Warlock is one of the named blades, and Cypher's been shown wielding him in preview art, we're calling that case closed.
"Eight years gone in seconds, from a childhood lost comes a woman grown
Her only friends were her weapons, her soul a sword now hers alone"
Magik seems to believe this prophecy pertains to her, and that makes sense. Again, her Soul Sword is one of the named blades.
"Once goddess, once queen, one sword to split the sky in twain
Vibranium inlaid, a tempest contained, she is the wrath of the heavens wielding a legacy"
Cypher states this seems to refer to Storm, and we're inclined to back that up. Storm was seen as a goddess in Kenya, and was queen of Wakanda – where Vibranium comes from. We're also guessing this relates to the sword called Skybreaker, named in X of Swords: Creation #1, but not yet introduced. Storm is shown wielding a sword with a blade of lightning in preview images, so we're thinking that all adds up, probably to the unseen sword known as Skybreaker.
"Ego death and broken stone
Two wars waged by one champion alone"
Cypher's notes state that Gorgon believes this refers to him and his sword Godkiller – which makes sense, given Gorgon met the 'One-Above-All' (a version of God), which would account for the "ego death" portion of the couplet, and his powers turn people to stone with a look – "broken stone."
Counting the idea that Betsy Braddock, Brian Braddock, and Psylocke are all referred to in one prophecy, that adds up to ten mutants – all of whom are shown wielding special blades in preview art.
'X of Swords' continues in chapter three, in October 7's Wolverine #6 (opens in new tab).
'X of Swords' runs for 22 total chapters through the entire 'Dawn of X' line - so we've got a checklist and a rundown of everything you need to know ready to go.