One of the most interesting additions to the crew of SWORD was the former Acolyte named Fabian Cortez. He was once the power behind the throne of Magneto, a canny manipulator with an addictive powerset. In this issue, we get a peek into his head as he spills his guts to the Quiet Council.
The series continues its winning streak with this issue, and still it’s doing it by making its C-list cast feel like stars. I’d never dreamed of enjoying an issue starring Cortez this much. It’s a testament to the strength of Al Ewing, Valerio Schiti, Marte Gracia, and Ariana Maher as a creative team.
Cortez has a plan. The laws of Krakoa need bending, and he’s just the man to do it. However, he’s just been resurrected, and his only chance to appeal to the Quiet Council is with egg goo and not a stitch of clothing. Meanwhile, the Snarkwar rages on and spills into Krakoa in an unexpected way…
This is an incredibly sneaky spotlight issue. Normally, we would see a character getting the spotlight like this narrating the issue, while the action revolves around them. Hell, we got that a couple issues ago as Manifold got the focus. But here, Ewing does something different and it’s exactly what Cortez deserves.
The insight and peek inside Cortez’s head is entirely through his dialogue. This is a man who is so arrogant and full of hubris that he spells everything out explicitly. He doesn’t even need the prompting of a telepath like Xavier or Frost. So he stands in front of the Quiet Council and lays it all out- including his own undoing. Ewing does this deftly (and Maher does great work in her letter work while it happens), but also add layers of texture to the issue. Some of it is his own elements (such as the Snarkwar and Magneto and Peepers’ brotherly relationship) while the other is from the larger line (including the first new Arakkii mutant since X of Swords).
Schiti’s line art is fantastic, and Gracia pushes it into stunning. A talking heads issue is always a test of an artist, and Schiti shows Cortez as always in motion, quick with a wink or a charming smile. It’s like watching a con man move across the page, and it’s engrossing to watch through the entire issue (also, Schiti’s Jean Grey is wonderful). It’s intermingled with the final moments of the Snarkwar, which is a mix of sci-fi action and stealth spycraft. Half the players are always obscured and shadowy, and he paces that perfectly until they’re revealed late in the issue.
Gracia’s color art continues to be some of the best in the industry. His Krakoa is perpetually soaked in sunlight, which makes the Utopia of the island feel real. He really stands out with the reveal of the Arakkii mutant, which I won’t spoil more than to say that her design was meant for Gracia to color, and his choices on the rest of the page really made this new player in the story pop.
With the series taking a pause before the Hellfire Gala, I can’t wait to see what’s next. Wherever it goes, you can be sure it’s going nowhere but up.
SWORD #5 is available now from Marvel Comics.
Incredibly, this remains the best current book in the X-line, and it does it with the most unexpected cast in comics. The hubris of Fabian Cortez is practically palpable, and his powerplay (and downfall) is worth every moment of the issue. I cannot recommend this series enough.