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.
Can’t all be winners, but Cable #5 seems to be a flop in just about any way which matters. Nobody reading this series for the first time is going to pick up the issue and say “I should catch up on this!” and ongoing Cable readers are probably going to wonder why he didn’t do anything in an issue of his own series except turn the lights on and off. Here we get our first true misstep of X Of Swords, as chapter #8 of the crossover spends twenty pages wandering around a dead space station for no clear reason.
When we’ve had a series of one or two-part stories which either dig into a character or set up their imminent swordfight to be a good one, it’s strange to see this issue, which seems to set the scene for a bunch of stuff which isn’t related to the crossover storyline at all. Much like Magik, Cable already has his sword, so he doesn’t need to go off on a quest to find it. He… doesn’t have to do much of anything at all, really. The issue sees him on the dead S.W.O.R.D. station, The Peak, as he and his parents try to find out why it’s dead. They don’t get particularly far in that regard, however. Jean gets a psychic message, and Cyclops opens a door to find a weird portal which aliens attack them through.
Cable? He basically just stands there, really. He’s a witness in his own comic.
And in fact the most intriguing part of the comic doesn’t involve Cable at all – it literally happens as he’s sent off to go do something else. The threat starts to reemerge from the portal thingy and advances on Jean and Cyclops… before the comic cuts away. When the two characters show back up, they’re a little creepy. Now, yes, Cyclops and Jean always act a little bit creepy, so it’s hard to know if this is normal-creepy or new-creepy we’re experiencing from them. Have they been possessed, or are they just Scott and Jean?
“Only when death is uniform can our work begin,” the villains say, to which Jean replies “over my dead body.” Yes, I rather believe that’s what they just suggested to you.
Cable’s parents are left alone to fight this new enemy whilst Nathan runs to go shut the power off, leaving just enough of a window for them both to possibly get corrupted by it without anybody knowing. And hey, if you’re going to have any artist subtly suggest that two characters have been infected by some strange alien consciousness, you probably want to get Phil Noto in for the job. He’ll take a look at the script, thumb his nose, rub his chin, and then give you exactly the right glaze over the eyes to suggest something is definitely wrong with the grown-ups.
Aside from the chance that the two leading roles of basically every X-Men crossover since time began have just been taken off the board without anybody realising… there’s also a bit of dialogue between Cyclops and Magik which has been niggling at me since I read the issue. When she first bips them to tell Cable he needs to come back down to Earth, back in New Mutants #13, Cyclops mentions the chance of rain. He brings that up again here – a curious bit of continuity between the two issues, and something which sounds like it must be some sort of secret code between the two. If Cyclops were possessed, would he still be throwing out secret codes to Magik? Ah, guesswork, how we’ve missed you.
It doesn’t make for a particularly interesting story, especially given how disconnected it is from everything else. I’m still not sure why S.W.O.R.D. got brought into this (well I do – because of the name, innit) and that initial leap from X Of Swords to S.W.O.R.D. still hasn’t made a clear reason for its own existence. Maybe in a few more issues we’ll know what’s going on – as it is, this feels like additional stuffing of an already dense event. Luckily we’ve got a week to let it digest.
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Phil Noto
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Designer: Tom Muller
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