The aptly titled X of Swords: Stasis #1 (opens in new tab) provides one final calm before the storm in this crossover battle between realms. Writers Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard and artists Pepe Larraz, Mahmud Asrar, and Marte Garcia bring the Swordbearers of Krakoa into Saturnyne's Otherworld home and add a few wrinkles to the contest. But are these elements strong enough to carry a story that has been largely built up until now?
Written by Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard
Art by Pepe Larraz, Mahmud Asrar, and Marte Gracia
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
The issue's opening pages serve as a pseudo-recap of the crossover thus far, as Saturnyne meets with the leaders of Otherworld's provinces in advance of the contest between the X-Men of Krakoa and the champions from Arakko. It's a nice way to catch readers up who may not be reading every issue of the crossover. Pepe Larraz's artwork gives haunting views of the various realms in Saturnyne's domain, from a sci-fi dystopian Everforge to the contrasting fantastical realms of Roma Regina and her father, Merlin. Once the scene moves to Saturnyne's parliament, Larraz nicely lays out the pages in a way that gives breathing room to the verbose script. The alternating between tall panels and wider ones helps create a sense of movement in the visuals and keeps the scene from feeling like talking heads.(opens in new tab)
After this scene, the issue gives a dark mirror to the previous ten chapters in the crossover. While prior issues have shown readers how the X-Men assembled their Swordbearers, and now Hickman and Howard introduce the Swordbearers of Arakko via a series of vignettes, along with a prophecy that parallels the one Saturnyne gave Polaris. Mahmud Asrar handles the artwork in these vignettes, making use of body language to inform us of each swordbearer's disposition, even when dialogue is sometimes minimal.
The switch in artists isn't distracting here at all, in large part thanks to Marte Garcia handling the color art throughout. Garcia's color palette helps create the diversity of worlds represented here, and it's a big task, whether it's the ambers of the Crooked Market or the dingy lights of the tavern where Isca the Unbeaten drinks. Creating such different worlds while also maintaining a sense of visual consistency between two artists is a great achievement by Garcia.
Larraz returns to the art for the final third of the issue, centered around the X-Men's arrival on Otherworld. Hickman and Howard play off the characters' strengths here, and it's fun to watch the X-Men be skeptical both of Saturnyne's intentions and Apocalypse's behavior. Saturnyne introduces some new wrinkles to the game, including a final reveal that while, perhaps a bit predictable, still lands appropriately. The frustration with X of Swords: Stasis #1, though, is that it still doesn't feel like the event has truly started.
11 issues in and the champions of Krakoa and Arakko still haven't clashed. For this boxing fan, it's a bit too reminiscent of championship matchups that get built up higher and higher, only for the fight itself to fall flat. There are another 11 chapters left, so there's still plenty of time to deliver. X of Swords: Stasis #1 is a well-structured issue, but one that is maybe a little too adherent to the name. The hope is that this is the height of the chain-lift on this roller-coaster, and all that's left is the exhilarating drop.
Get up to speed with our guide to X of Swords.