X Of Words: It All Comes To An End In ‘X-Men’ #15, ‘Excalbur’ #15, & ‘X Of Swords: Destruction’

by Tony Thornley

Here it is. After two months of ups and downs, red herrings and brutal betrayal, X of Swords comes to an end. But how exactly can Krakoa’s heroes pull off a win? And what ramifications does it have for the newly announced Reign of X?

Cover by Leinil Yu & Sunny Gho

X-Men #15

Written by Jonathan Hickman

Art by Mahmud Asrar & Sunny Gho

Letters by Clayton Cowles

Just as the concluding moments of last week’s Cable promised, this issue is all about the final bout of the tournament- Apocalypse versus Genesis.

As the two lovers duel, a brutal battle of the blade, we also see what’s happening on Krakoa after Cable’s distressed telepathic call home. Cyclops and Jean come to the Quiet Council and tell them they’re invading Otherworld. Though the Council does nothing to stop them, they do demand that any Council member who travels to Otherworld give up their seat…

This is an enjoyable story, but it’s primarily set-up to put pieces in place for the stories to come- not just the conclusion of the crossover but also threads for Reign of X. Perhaps the most interesting thread of the conflicting depiction of “the X-Men” in the pages. On one hand, we get Cyclops’ declaration that the X-Men are the heroes of Krakoa (not its military or law enforcement- heroes). Yet, a data page almost immediately afterwards describes a dissolution of the X-Men as a team.

Clearly… an interesting thread for another time.

Meanwhile Asrar does his normal amazing work, but he creates parallels to the work of RS Silva and Pepe Larraz from HOX/POX as well. While the Council meeting might seem like just talking heads, Asrar keeps the focus tight on faces for the most part, allowing for some great character acting. But it’s key to watch Cyclops’ visor, as we see the reflections of those he’s talking to often. Thematically it seems to point to Scott’s declaration of determination just before his X-Men invade Orchis in Powers of X as well as symbolically how he’s torn between his heart and his head (represented at one point by Emma and Jean).

And that leads directly into…

Cover by Mahmud Asrar & Sunny Gho

Excalibur #15

Written by Tini Howard

Art by Mahmud Asrar, Stefano Caselli, Sunny Gho & Rochelle Rosenberg

Letters by Clayton Cowles

Annihilation has taken control of Genesis. And now the malevolent demon has called the entire army of Amenth to the door of the Starlight Citadel. The only thing that stands in its way is the X-Men. However, Opal Luna Saturnyne has a plan…

This issue follows X-Men’s lead in setting up the future- both for the last issue of XOS and Excalibur. Howard shows the battle growing increasingly hopeless, as Apocalypse, Storm, and Wolverine lead the other X-Men. She does avoid showing the cavalry from Krakoa, focusing instead of Saturnyne’s efforts to create her own cavalry… and it backfiring on her spectacularly.

Asrar’s pages continue to be stunning, though they are remarkably different than X-Men. Here he has to draw massive battles, which he does with great skill. He also gives a sense of scale that is hard to capture, ensuring that the reader understands how desperate the situation is for the X-Men. Meanwhile Caselli’s pages focusing on Saturnyne give the issue a change of pace, especially setting up the last page reveal…

Cover by Pepe Larraz & Marte Gracia

X of Swords: Destruction

Written by Tini Howard & Jonathan Hickman

Art by Pepe Larraz & Marte Gracia

Letters by Clayton Cowles

The Captain Britain Corps is reborn. The X-Men ride from Krakoa. Otherworld stands a chance, and it all comes down to this.

This is not a perfect conclusion, however it’s very satisfying. It has multiple moments, in the writing and the art, that are fist pumping “hell yeah” sorts of moments, almost literally from the first page. Every main character gets at least a brief moment to shine, and it sets up dozens of stories for the future.

One of the most interesting is Apocalypse’s story. It’s clear that this is not a happy ending for -A-, however it does give him some resolution. He’s not at peace, but he does get what he wants. I’ll be fascinated to see when we revisit him and what happens next for the character.

However, multiple plots don’t get a solid payoff here. The biggest is how mutant death is handled in Otherworld. The seeds laid for broken resurrection protocols- one of the biggest setups of the first act of the crossover- don’t even come into play here. The only confirmed death of the entire crossover is Gorgon, when it’s made clear here that Betsy Braddock is missing, not dead.

However, ultimately, I think the story was a success, at least as a story. This wasn’t the story everyone was expecting, and the antagonist was a complete 180 from what was set-up. However, it gives the X-line new toys to play with, and puts Excalibur in particular on a very intriguing new path.

Whether it was successful as an event and the end of the first act of this era of X-Men? I think we’ll have to get a few months into the Reign of X to judge that. But hey, if the art remains as good as this last two to three weeks of the crossover? It’ll all be worth it.

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