We’ve been covering the new era of X-Men on Shelfdust over the last few months, but on a time-delay from the actual issues being released. With the start of a new 22-part crossover story called “X Of Swords”, though, we thought… well, what a great chance to really screw up our own internal timeline, eh? And so we’ve gone Swords-A-Go-Go, and we’ll see if we can get through all 22 issues together. If nothing else, at least we’ll try to make some good… points.
Wakanda has been a cloud looming over Krakoa since the start, with the nation being one of the few countries not to sign trade agreements with the new island home of the mutants. With their King being Storm’s ex-husband (and on good terms with her), you’d think that the country would be more inclined to sign up and become allies, but in Marauders #13 we finally get a welcome look at how the Wakandans view the X-Men in this new era.
As we continue to collect up swords with each new issue, this time round Storm has to go to Wakanda to try and persuade them to let her use their most sacred blade: the Skybreaker, which is only permitted to be used by the King. With T’Challa off on a trip somewhere, Storm instead meets with his mother and sister to see if she can get hold of the Skybreaker – which goes about as well as you’d expect. And as you’d also expect, she turns to her expertise as a thief in order to steal the sword instead.
Which is to say that the issue focuses on two things I think many readers wanted to see more of: Storm’s role within Krakoa and her thoughts and feelings; and how Wakanda’s politics clash with Krakoa’s politics. And it does all of this whilst covering off another necessary chapter in the big event crossover storyline, without skipping a beat. It’s a huge amount to cover, and once more shows how X Of Swords isn’t interested in giving a consistent feeling of pace between its different stories. The two-part Wolverine story was slow and (arguably) light-spirited, focusing on making Solem into an interesting antagonist. Here we get another slowing of the pace, but this time it’s all setup for the hyper-kinetic rush of the back half of the story.
Vita Ayala frames the issue with Storm talking to Kate on Krakoa, which gives time to set up the huge cost she may have to pay in exchange for the sword with her feelings once she returns. Each time gives the reader a chance to reset and catch up to Storm, making her more empathetic and giving her story far more weight. Importantly, she understands exactly why the Wakandans won’t want her to take the sword, even as she states that she won’t be able to leave without it. It’s nice to see Storm get some complications in her life on Krakoa – I’ve not kept up with the main Black Panther title so it may have also come up there, but in Marauders she’s been basically the same old stalwart Storm we all know. This issue makes things harder, and brings her into the story in a heavier and more engaging fashion.
Her time in front of Wakanda’s Queen Mother is a really interesting one, as well: she petitions for use of the sword with complete honesty, never hiding anything from her. It shows the level of respect she has for Wakanda, and the Queen and Shuri in return show their respect back to her. You get the feeling that Wakanda and Krakoa do have an accord: it’s just not one they can sign into physical existence, because the weight of tradition is too heavy. I was pretty sure Ta-Nehisi Coates was meant to be getting rid of the monarchy, but it sits strong on the throne here. Wakanda will give Storm anything she wants apart from their heritage – and that’s the one thing she’s been asked to take.
It leads to a situation much like between Wolverine and Solem, where things are far closer than anybody would care to admit. Wolverine was doing his job in getting his sword: Storm is similarly doing her duty, even as it leads her into direct conflict with the people she previously had a peace with. That’s underscored when she has to fight Shuri for ownership of the sword, having broken into the temple to go get it for herself.
With the issue having 40 pages, you do reach a point where Storm and Shuri are just repeating the same arguments at each other without any rest, and potentially you could say things would possibly be stronger if the dialogue got cut at a certain point so we were just getting the fight scene uninterrupted. It’s a long fight – longer than you usually get, when you consider it an extension of their argument earlier in the issue – and the whole thing is engaging throughout. It’s also a welcome reminder that Storm isn’t just the big powerful lightning-thrower that she can become when she’s a supporting character on a comic: she knows how to fight, and has had arguably more memorable fight sequences than any other X-Man. This issue adds to that list.
By the end of their fight (and after she runs straight into T’Challa) we get basically what fans have wanted since the start of Dawn of X: a clear indication of how Wakanda/T’Challa and Krakoa/Ororo stand with one another. Considering that they’re at odds over the Skybreaker, it’s a nice touch to see this feud give Storm some grounding – and intriguing narratives – for the future. She has her sword, but she also has a very frail alliance with some of the people she’s closest to. It’s all incredibly promising for stories to come!
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Matteo Lolli
Colourist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: Cory Petit
Designer: Tom Muller
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