Armies gather and battle lines are drawn in X of Swords: Creation #1. Helmed by Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard and marking the return of artists Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia to the House of X, X of Swords: Creation #1 portends an action and lore-heavy event.
Written by Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard
Art by Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Forces gather on the other side of =[A]= (otherwise known as Apocalypse)'s External Gate to Otherworld (recently completed in the pages of Excalibur), forces from ancient Arakko who wish to conquer and then reabsorb Krakoa for a rise again to supremacy. But the Quiet Council and the assembled population of Krakoa wish not to give up their new home and prepare for an incursion and looming war between themselves and 'Apocalypse's Children' a.k.a. the Swordbearers we have seen all through the press offerings of this event.
Though largely a set-up issue, threading through the stakes and tournament format of this new X-event, writers Hickman and Howard, along with the highly cinematic and richly colored artwork of Larraz and Gracia, deliver a sumptuous and engaging opening teaser. By gathering their antagonists and protagonists through 'card reading' set pieces and truly striking action beats, Hickman and Howard set the board for the opening of X of Swords with dire surprises and a galaxy shaking cliffhanger to send readers into the event positively ravenous for the next installment. With drive, blood, and striking artwork X of Swords: Creation #1 heralds something truly beautiful.
Dark forces gather in Otherworld, but Opal Luna Saturnyne, Omniversal Majastrix, and High Priestess of the Starlight Citadel has foreseen their coming in an ancient deck of powerful tarot cards. A reading that has spread all over the globe into the readings of other mutants and magicians. The exact same reading with the exact same cards.
And though we only get to see a few of the Swordbearers in action, pitted against two ragtag teams of Krakoans, Howard and Hickman use these 'reading' scenes and subsequent data page to sell their importance and power, which they then explicitly state later on in the main action with a shocking attack.
From there, the pair then work double-time to scaffold the incoming events of the event, entering into tense negotiations on Otherworld while the Summers family travels to an "undisclosed location" to gather more allies and strength against the coming Swordbearers. Admittedly, the latter half of the issue is fairly nakedly expository, but the purple prose and thrilling turns of phrases Hickman and Howard employ during these scenes, aided in kind by the crackling dialogue from Saturnyne, Havok, Monet, and the Swordbearers, really jazzes up the exposition and keeps it from reading like a dry zero issue.
X of Swords: Creation #1 also doesn't look like a normal lead-in issue thanks to the truly stellar work from Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia. Leaning into the high fantasy visual touches and tones allowed in Otherworld, the pair go full-on Lord of the Rings in the open pages, detailing the vast armies of the Swordbearers as they conquer kingdom after kingdom of Otherworld on their quest to the Starlight Citadel and beyond to Krakoa. Though dense, these pages truly sell the massive scale and crunchy fantasy detailing of the event while also allowing readers a few great 'hero shots' of the main cabal of Swordbearers leading the army.
But don't let this fool you into thinking that Larraz and Gracia allow the Krakoa set scenes to waver. Far from it, in fact! As the darkness gathers in Otherworld, the relative idyllic pastoral beauty of Krakoa is still on full display thanks to the art team. Though set mostly in a few interiors, like the healer's wing of the Five's fortress and the Quiet Council chambers, Larraz and Gracia's panels here still radiate with color and expression, once again livening up a Council meeting thanks to high emotive and gorgeously colored portrait boxes for the assembled Council members.
That same attention to expression and colorization also extends to the battle scenes, despite their densely packed character model masses. Time will tell if the pair and the other art teams can uphold this high and mighty art style for the duration of this event, but for now, Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia set the bar pretty high for the start of X of Swords.
So as forces gather on both sides of =[A]='s External Gate, X of Swords: Creation #1 heralds one hell of an incoming epic; the first crossover event of this new era of X-Men. Packed with energy, new lore, new threats, and some shocking turns and returns (just wait for the final page, True Believers), X of Swords: Creation #1 sets the X-Men up beautifully for their first post-Krakoa crossover.