The X-Men line's first crossover of the 'Dawn of X' era is about to kick off in X of Swords: Creation #1 by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Pepe Larraz, which provides some backstory and lead-up for the Tarot-themed, sword-wielding X-Men event.
Before Creation hits on September 23, Newsarama spoke with X-Men group editor Jordan D. White to discover what's ahead for mutantkind as they grapple with the ominous events of 'X of Swords,' how Tarot informs even the story of the event itself, and a few cryptic secrets about what to expect.
Along the way, we've also got a brand new page from X of Swords: Stasis #1 by Pepe Larraz debuting right here.
Newsarama: Jordan, 'X of Swords' is finally about to kick off, and in the time since it was first announced, the crossover has grown in scope significantly. What led to the expansion?
Jordan D. White: There were a lot of factors. The first and foremost reason is that when we were digging into the story, there was a lot more we wanted to do than we thought we could fit in one month of comics. We were pretty committed to a schedule though, at that point, so we would have made it work... except the publishing schedule being blown up gave us more time to develop things that we wouldn't have had otherwise.
Plus, I think we were looking at the world around us and things were really looking down - I don't need to tell you about all the strife and problems the world was facing, you were there, you know it as well as we do - but we saw all this and said 'Let's do something bigger and make a bigger splash! The world is bad right now. Let's give people somewhere else to be for a while.'
And believe me - we used all the extra time. We've had regular video conferences, gone through drafts and drafts of plots and scripts, worked to make sure everything fits together as seamlessly as humanly possible in one giant 22-part story, not nine connected stories. It was way more work than we were anticipating... but we're so happy with the results so far.
Nrama: With Pepe Larraz stepping back in for X of Swords: Creation #1, I can't help but feel some significance in bringing back one of the artists who helped launch 'Dawn of X' to also kick off its first crossover. What's it like bringing Pepe back together with Jonathan for this one-shot?
White: It was great! Pepe is amazing! If it were up to us, he would never draw anything but X-Books for the rest of recorded history. Seriously - we knew it would be a big deal bringing him back onto this book, and that is on purpose. He, along with RB Silva, defined this new era visually.
He and Jonathan teaming back up is something special, and this is the biggest story Jonathan has done since House of X and Powers of X ended. We all know how amazing Pepe is - if you see him down as the artist of an X-Book, you know it's going to be an important one.
Nrama: The solicitation for X of Swords: Creation #1 reads, ominously, "A tower. A mission. A gathering of armies." What can you tell us about what all that means?
White: The name of 'X of Swords' comes from the Tarot. Tini Howard is our resident Tarot expert, and she came up with the name for the story. As soon as I heard it, I knew it was what we were going with. It is perfect.
When it came time to write the solicits for the series, we decided to lean into the Tarot theme. Tini wrote the solicits as little prophetic fortunes based on what happens in each issue. So, what does it mean? It's up to you to interpret the prophecy... but you'll only know how right you were after the fact.
Nrama: The Tower from the traditional Tarot deck can symbolize a great ruin that can lead to a rebirth. Given the glimpses we've seen of 'X of Swords' so far, and what you just told us, how much should we read into that potential symbolism?
White: Like I said, Tini knows her stuff.
Nrama: Storm has been going through some stuff leading up to 'X of Swords,' and you recently said there would be big things ahead for her. What can you tell us about that? How does all this connect to the techno-organic virus Storm has been suffering in her Giant-Size X-Men one-shot?
White: There is a lot going on with Storm! First off, I don't want to spoil anything from the Giant-Size X-Men: Storm #1 issue! So that'll be the first place you should check out.
She does also have some great moments in 'X of Swords,' especially in Vita Ayala's Marauders #13. But, I think you might be referring to a really amazing Storm development that I cryptically mentioned recently.
That is in the very early stages, but... it's amazing. Unfortunately, it's something that won't be happening until next year. But I think you will know it when you see it - it's pretty huge.
Nrama: Obviously you can't reveal the identity of the 'classified' Swordbearer of Arakko (unless you really want to surprise us!). But what goes into deciding how to put a character fans may already know in a new role like that?
White: There's really no way to answer this without spoiling things! You'll just have to wait until Skids reveals herself as – Damn it, you got me!
Nrama: Huh. We'll take that as a joke... for now.
Mutants have switched sides many times – especially when Apocalypse is involved. Will that come into play here?
White: Apocalypse does seem to always have his secret goals, doesn't he? That said, I don't know if any Krakoans would be willing to change sides, given the stakes that are established in 'X of Swords.' Generally speaking, no one is confused as to what needs to be done, they only disagree on how to do it.
Nrama: There's a criticism that death has become meaningless in superhero comic books, and the X-Men are known for breaking that barrier. But 'Dawn of X' has turned that on its head with the mutant Resurrection Protocols. How do you ensure that death has story weight in a world where you can come back to life? What goes into deciding who dies when?
White: You hit the nail on the head - a lot of the weight of comic character death has dissipated. At this point I think the list of characters who have not died and been brought back can probably be counted on one hand... and I don't even mean that as an exaggeration, as Jonathan literally killed everyone in the universe but one ship's worth of characters in Secret Wars, and the bulk of those have died and returned at other times.
The Resurrection Protocols are an attempt to battle that very thing, by shaking up and changing the game. If a character dies as a part of the normal sequence of events, readers expect they will come back, and now yeah, they will, that's how Krakoan Resurrection works. But we're very early in the life of this idea. There are lots of story possibilities that come from this that bring all new stakes in ways no one is expecting.
And at least one of those will factor into 'X of Swords' in a big way.
Nrama: How did everyone decide which swords to use, and who would wield each blade?
White: Meetings and spitballing!
Honestly, we really have something special going on in the X-Office right now in that all the writers are in much more of a collaborative relationship than I have ever seen across a line before.
We've had our X-Slack in place for a long time, and that has opened everyone up to one another in a big way... but honestly, I think the one good thing to come out of this terrible situation we're all in is that with everyone on Earth doing more video calls, we started up these X-Office group calls and it's been awesome.
We used to get together once, maybe twice a year for an X-Summit. But now we have these calls every two weeks and everyone can share ideas, ask questions or advice, spitball... it really has been so great to see how wonderful everyone has been about it.
To answer your actual question... I think we actually locked in the choices of what characters had what swords back at C2E2. Some were in place long before that, of course, but I think we had more awesome ideas for who it could be than we had open slots.
So everyone was throwing out ideas and then knocking them around, talking about the benefits of this character instead of that one, what awesome things this one could do if they were in the story, what great story beats we would get out of that one, what thing spinning out of the story we'd get if we used the other, all of that.
I have said that the story of 'X of Swords' grew out of the combination of the stories Jonathan and Tini were planting since House of X, and it's true... but even beyond that, I think it would not be the shape it ended up without every one of our writers, because everyone really did hone it together.
It's been a little grueling, but I know all of us are proud.
Nrama: Now that we're right on the verge of X of Swords, what can you tell us that you haven't told anyone else?
White: Not everyone brings the right sword to the fight.