The Fighting Begins in 'X of Swords'
Spoiler alert! The X-Men face the Arakkii in 'Marauders,' 'Excalibur,' and 'Wolverine'!
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Warning! This article contains spoilers for today's MARAUDERS #15, EXCALIBUR #14, and WOLVERINE #7, so read on at your own risk, frantic ones!
X OF SWORDS has, thus far, been the prelude to war between the X-Men’s mutant nation of Krakoa and the descendents of Apocalypse from Arakko. Saturnyne, the Omniversal Majestrix, set up a tournament between the two sides in order to prevent the Arakkii from marching through Otherworld and leaving destruction in their wake.
However, it’s becoming more and more clear that leaving the X-Men’s fate in the hands of Saturnyne is a deadly gamble even under the best of circumstances. If anything, Saturnyne seems to have stacked the deck against the mutants. And no matter what they try or how they perform, they seem destined to lose.
Through text, we learn that her death would have halted the tournament and allowed the Arakkii to reach Earth unimpeded. Only Doctor Strange died on-panel, but the deaths of the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and all of Asgard are mentioned in passing.
Only Wolverine survives the scenario, crucified on a large X, which is reminiscent of his fate in UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) #251. As he lies in torment, Saturnyne tells Wolverine that this is what would have happened if he had succeeded in killing her. This vision of pain was her “gift,” but she couldn’t resist stabbing Logan with her own set of claws as well.
Back in reality, War’s attempt to poison Wolverine only managed to choke Doug Ramsey when he nabbed some food from Logan’s plate. It’s telling that not all of the Arakkii were on board with this treachery; Isca the Unbeaten opened an airway for Cypher with a precise strike to his throat, before the White Sword brought Doug back from the brink of death and healed him.
Brian Braddock, the new Captain Avalon, petitioned Saturnyne to declare Krakoa the winner because of War’s actions. Sadly, she would have...if Wolverine hadn’t tried to murder her a few moments earlier. Saturnyne offered Brian an exception if he would reclaim his role as Captain Britain and stay by her side. He lightly let her down again, and said “I trust you won’t go to bits.” Her reply, “No, not I,” may have been foreshadowing for later.
When things calmed down, Cable and Magik challenged Isca to prove that she is unbeatable in all things through a series of party games. She won each challenge without effort. That led directly into writer Tini Howard and artist Phil Noto’s EXCALIBUR #14, when Betsy Braddock, the new Captain Britain, faced Isca in battle...
...and lost. It was barely even a fight. Isca shattered the Starlight Sword, and Betsy literally broke into tiny pieces. A coincidence? We think not, especially in light of Saturnyne’s earlier comment.
Shortly after Betsy’s duel, Jubilee and her human baby-turned-dragon, Shogo, stormed the Starlight Citadel to save her friends. She had no knowledge of the conflict with Arakko, and only knew that Betsy was in trouble. Saturnyne used her magical powers to enslave Shogo to her will, and would have slain Jubilee as well if not for the intervention of Storm.
The second challenge was between Bei the Blood Moon and Doug, who is definitely not a fighter. As explained in the ancillary matter, Bei speaks no language at all. Rather, it is her mutant power, the Doom Note, that allows her to be understood. The lone exception to that rule is Cypher, whose mutant ability to comprehend languages depends on an actual language being used. He can’t understand Bei at all, and it’s probably for the best.
Much to Doug’s relief, he didn’t have to fight Bei, he only had to love her...in an impromptu wedding! Despite the communication gap between them, Bei and Doug seem to have hit it off. Saturnyne “generously” awarded both sides a point for that outcome.
WOLVERINE #7 by Percy and artist Joshua Cassara then closed out this week’s chapters with four more battles.
Magik probably could have defeated Pogg Ur-Pogg in a traditional sword fight. But Saturnyne insisted that their contest would be resolved in an arm-wrestling duel, which Pogg Ur-Pogg easily won.
In the next battle, Wolverine faced Summoner in Blightspoke, a corner of Otherworld that is made up of many different broken realities. Both fighters are nearly indestructible, but the ever-shifting landscape tasked both of them. As predicted by Rockslide before his demise, Summoner’s only weakness was his eyes. Wolverine’s aim was true, and the Muramasa blade took Summoner out. But it was still a point for Arakko, because Saturnyne ruled that the contestant who died was the winner. The natural consequence in "a fight to the death," of course; first one there wins.
As Jim Jaspers made a side deal with Death, Wolverine and Storm were summoned to a drinking contest in the Crooked Market. No matter who won, Krakoa was bound to get a point. Sounds good, right? Of course, it wasn’t that easy. As Wolverine and Storm started to rekindle their own romance, he was summoned away for that next battle.
At that very moment, War was facing Solem in a contest between the Arakkii. Recall that Solem has lusted after War for years, and he even killed War’s husband after successfully seducing him as well. Rather than fight War, Solem called upon Wolverine to pay back his debt. In WOLVERINE #6, Solem could have abandoned Logan in Hell. Instead, he offered Wolverine the opportunity to buy one of the Muramasa blades. In this issue, we learned that the price was a fight. Wolverine had to battle in Solem’s place to square things between them.
More alarmingly, Wolverine’s healing factor appeared to have been greatly diminished by the liquor he drank in the Crooked Market. Saturnyne grimly noted that it was part of the price for attempting to kill her. She also indicated that Storm, and perhaps all of the mutants, may pay the price as well.
Only Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton kept War from claiming both his head, and victory. But Wolverine was able to edge out a win by severing her hand. Unfortunately for the X-Men, since Wolverine was fighting on Solem’s behalf, the point went to Arakko. Now, Arakko has a 5-2 lead over Krakoa, and the mutants are clearly on the defensive as X OF SWORDS continues into its final weeks.
Read each of these issues—and the rest of X OF SWORDS—at your local comic shop today!
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