About a year after comic book writer, Jonathan Hickman, and Marvel’s art team revamped the X-Men franchise – narrative, art, costumes, the whole thing! – with the first crossover event in the X-Men’s new status quo. In September of 2020, the second crossover event, X of Swords, was so elaborate that it spanned all the titles in the Marvel franchise, dedicated to the X-Men. The story takes on a darker tone as the X-Men find themselves grappling with a new existential crisis.
“Ten mutants will rise up to defend their home. Arming themselves with legendary blades, both new and familiar ones from Marvel history, mutantkind will finally meet its mystical destiny.” – Marvel
The X of Swords (pronounce Ten of Swords) crossover event preceded – and set the stage for – the Reign of X. Written by Richard Hickman – of Secret Wars fame – along with Tini Howard, Leah Williams, Benjamin Percy, Vita Ayala, Zeb Wells, Ed Brisson, and Gerry Duggan, all working on the titles involved in the crossover event, incorporating key characters into the tale. Artists, Marcus To, Leinil Francis Yu, Pepe Larraz, Carlos Gomez, Viktor Bogdanovic, Metteo Lolli, and others, all put color to lines, giving Howard’s words accompanying visuals.
X of Swords – as mentioned – involved the entire line of X-Men related comic book titles in the Marvel stable. That’s The X of Swords titles, X-Factor, X-Force, Marauders, Hellions, New Mutants, Cable, Excalibur, and the main X-Men book series, tied into the crossover event. One of Marvel’s biggest crossover efforts to date. 19 of the 22 titles in the crossover series weren’t Titled X of Swords, but played out – interweaved – in the narratives of various Mutant characters.
The tale begins with mutantkind, under the leadership to the X-Men, having established a sovereign nation on the island of Krakoa. Now Krakoa is no ordinary island, it is a sentient being that has – in previous Marvel comics – been depicted as a giant gollum-like creature. Except, “powerful sources from the unknown” treated the newly established peace – and unlimited respawn benefits – of the mutants. The enemy? Apocalypse’s children, with army, and their own living island, Arrako, in tow.
Through a portal, previously established by Apocalypse to link Krakoa to an extra dimensional realm known as another world, the Arraki horde makes an attempt at overthrowing Krakoa, but only gets as far as injuring Apocalypse. Flowing the battle, team X heads back to home base and try to resurrect their fallen comrades (unlimited respawn benefits, courtesy of Professor X and – can’t stay dead – Moira MacTaggert) but discover that Cerebro’s Resurrection Protocols aren’t effective on mutants who are cut down in Otherworld.
Ruler of Otherworld, Omniversal Majestrix Saturnyne, then sets a tournament between the mutant inhabitants of the two sentient islands. 10 warriors on each side, blades only. Thus the name, X of Swords. A series of quests, by Krakoa’s heroes, to retrieve the legendary swords they must use in the tournament opens with Wolverine going into hell to get one of legendary, feudal age, Japanese swordsmith, Muramasa’s blades. Storm, on the other hand, must travel to Wakanda to a vibranium sword known as Skybreaker (the thing was wielded by an ancestor of Black Panther’s.)
The tournament quickly descends into a full scale war when Cable alerts the heroes back home that the odds are double-stacked against them in the competition. After Saturnyne cuts off the communication, the heroes left on Krakoa set up an emergency rescue operation. Apocalypse ends up sacrificing himself to save the day, and Krakoa is rejoined with Arrako. With Krakoa, and Arrako’s inhabitants now sharing a space, a new paradigm has been set. To add to that, Krakoa’s governing body is missing members. The story continues to unfold in the Reign of X saga.