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.
Typically when there’s a big X-Men event, Wolverine’s role is to get his arse handed to him early on to show how strong and powerful the new villains are. We know that in X Of Swords, he’s going to be one of the ten X-Men who needs to find a sword and go fight the enemies on Otherworld, but with the event having such an expanded scope, Benjamin Percy is able to delay that inevitable beating for an issue or two. This issue is solely concerned with setting Wolverine off on his mission to find the sword, rather than juggling any of the other stories which were going on last issue.
Because, yes, he doesn’t even have his sword yet. The “calling” of ten X-Men didn’t leave instructions on where you actually get your sword from, so Wolverine has to wander off to Japan to see if anybody’s got a blade they can lend him. It’s all very reminiscent of that middle bit in Kill Bill – and let’s be honest: this story isn’t the next chapter of the crossover: it’s the first issue of a tie-in series. It may be advertised as part three of the overall story, but this is clearly a tie-in story at this point, carefully marketed so people will instead read it as part of the overall story.
Percy doesn’t try particularly to fit into the vibe of the rest of the crossover, with this having a different and more sombre tone, and space to stretch itself out. Following X-Factor’s ultra-dense issue, Wolverine feels like a complete change of pace: it walks slowly, carefully, and sets out its stall. This is all prelude, and it makes for a curious third issue of a major crossover storyline. There are three sections: Wolverine setting off on his quest; the introduction of his enemy; and… a final set of pages where he wanders round Japan aimlessly (and wordlessly) with his thoughts set into narration instead.
It’s not a very strong set of pages – Bogdanovic is an artist who works on atmosphere, and needs a strong supporting narrative to help his sequences make sense, which isn’t provided here. Dreamy, wandering-soul storytelling isn’t his best fit, and he struggles when there isn’t a straightforward story to be told on the page. The dialogue-free sequences where Wolverine makes his way round Japan feel disconnected and unclear, without a back-and-forth which the artist can fall back on. Ask for sequences which aren’t grounded in dialogue, and things get lost quite quickly – but on the other hand, if you give him a conversation, he’ll make the most of it.
That’s emphasised by the introduction of Solem, who is clearly going to be Wolverine’s opponent when this gets to the stabby-stabby. The character is written with a huge amount of charisma, which gives the issue a sense of energy just when it really needs it. Wolverine may be slow and lumbering; filled with expectation and cynicism; but by comparison Solem is half-asleep and yet totally full of himself. A “prisoner” of Apocalypse’s horsemen, he’s actually completely at home and happy with his surroundings, which gives his introduction a wonderfully doe-eyed charm. He’s here to be written into… slash fiction, and everyone in the creative team knows it.
His role and character come across immediately for readers, setting the scene for whatever is coming next for both him and Wolverine. It’s the most eye-catching sequence in the issue, but it wasn’t my favourite. That’s because the issue starts with a canny opening scene which gives readers an understanding of what makes Wolverine stand out on Krakoa: he doesn’t trust it.
In the first few pages he literally states this to the island before walking off, which to me seems like the absolute best use of the character in this new status quo. He’s not part of the Quiet Council and not made into any kind of a big deal in the main X-Men comics – aside from this solo book he’s only also on X-Force, which means he’s controlled by a single writer for a change. And in turn, that allows the character to fall back into his original role of wild card. He’s trustworthy and loyal to the X-Men, so in that regard it’s business as usual…. but he’s not loyal to Krakoa itself.
During a time where we’ve seen countless scenes of X-Men having nice parties and dancing a whole bunch, there’s something heartening in having Wolverine be cautious and untrusting of his new home. It’s a sweet spot for the character to fill.
It’s all still definitely tie-in miniseries content, but it’s entertaining enough for that to be fine.
Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artist: Victor Bogdanovic
Colourist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: Cory Petit
Designer: Tom Muller
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