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.

I’m not a big fan of Doug Ramsey, so reading this issue filled me with glee.

Doug’s been chosen as one of the sword-bearers of Krakoa, you see, and he’s going to have to step into Otherworld with nine pals and engage in a bloody sword-fight against ten experienced warriors from that other island whose name I can’t be bothered to learn. Given the other X-Men wielding swords are Storm! Magik! Cable! Wolverine! it’s very clear that Doug is a little out of his depth here, being somebody who mainly translates things rather than stabs them. In this week’s issue of New Mutants, his doom is crystal clear for readers. In fact, the spectre of Doug’s impending death looms over him so clearly that it’s a shame they couldn’t bring in Dani Moonstar to take a quick look at him, gulp worriedly, then wink at the readers.

He is utterly, transparently, radiantly *&^^ed.

So much so that it feels very clear that Magik is going to die instead. Where Doug is an innocent young boy who isn’t ready for the actual horrors of war, Magik has been living in Hell since she was a little girl. They sit diametrically from one another, even if they are knocking elbows as they stand around the summoning circle/former Rockslide. He is not ready for this; she is overly ready for this, and it all feels like set up for her inevitable sacrifice to make sure that he can step back out of Otherworld after this is all over and go back to having tea with Krakoa. Maybe they’ll stage it the same way they staged his death, back in the day? Hm. Armchair booking, sorry.

The most entertaining part of the issue is the way the characters discuss a future without Doug in it. The Quiet Council have their thoughts, Magik has her thoughts, and Krakoa definitely has some thoughts. Which, being Krakoa, it can only articulate through taking over Mondo’s planty body and forcing him to say out loud. If Doug dies, the voice of Krakoa dies, because nobody else is able to speak with the island and act as a translator.

This all gives Hellions more importance – which is brilliant, because we’ve only just had twenty-plus pages of the Hellions proving they are absolutely not up to that task. Doug’s situation rebounds over to all the other characters and all the other series, once again proving how this crossover’s disinterest in a single “event” series matched to a bunch of tie-in miniseries is playing to its own benefit. If this were laid out the way every other Marvel event were laid out, it’d feel like a lot of filler: as it is, each random story which emerges next pushes back against all the previous ones, and makes the whole thing feel a lot more dense than it should. At the end of the day, the story is “ten people fight ten people”, but the heaviness of this twenty-two part thing makes it feel like more than that.

Anybody who likes The Hunger Games will feel at home here, because it’s got that same worrying feeling that the first half of those stories had: there’s a fight coming, an actual one, and these aren’t just a bunch of the best fighters Marvel have to offer. Some of them are just kids, and they’re being forced to fight some very strong enemies. Even though this issue does spend a lot of time giving Doug some last-minute training, it’s clear that this is just meant to be a futile thing. He’s not in the same league as the others, and won’t last the battle. Again, it does feel like they’re trying to get us so invested in his death that the creative team will instead spring Illyana’s death on us all instead. Just like with Hellions, this is a comic which tries to mislead the reader by being completely transparent about what’s going to happen.

He’s so likely to die… that Magik has to die instead. Either way, the comic finds a way to keep readers guessing because it gives them so few options to guess about. At this moment in time, Doug seems like he’ll be totally safe because this issue has made it so obvious that there is no way forward but to kill him off.

On the other hand, given all my speculation above, it would be very funny if he did get killed five panels in. Just me?

 

New Mutants #13
Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Rod Reis
Letterer: Travis Lanham

Designer: Tom Muller

 

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