Wolverine #6 (Chapter 3) & X-Force #13 (Chapter 4)
Writer: Ben Percy
Artist: Viktor Bogdanovic
Colors: Matthew Wilson
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit (Wolverine #6) & VC’s Joe Caramagna (X-Force #13)
Designer: Tom Muller
Marauders #13 (Chapter 5)
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Matteo Lolli
Colors: Edgar Delgado
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
Designer: Tom Muller
The hordes of Arakko have stalled at the gates of the Omniversal Majestrix Opal Luna Saturnyne’s Starlight Citadel. Otherworld is the center of the Marvel multiverse and it’s the Omniversal Majestrix job to maintain order and to preserve reality. For years in Marvel UK’s Captain Britain book (it is a crime these stories are not in print…. You hear me Alan Moore!) and then in Chris Claremont’s Excalibur the Omniversal Majestrix used her Captain Britain Corps to protect not only Otherworld but all of the Marvel realities. Yet during the Incursions that were central to Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers run and built into his amazing Secret Wars the Captain Britain Corps were lost as realities fell and the remaining Corps gave their lives in defense of Otherworld. So now without her valiant force Saturnyne has instead goaded the forces of Arakko into a challenge with the Mutants of Krakoa, and no matter who wins Otherworld will be saved. So, the Challenge has been accepted and the fate of Krakoa lays in the hands of its 10 Champions and their legendary blades as they prepare to face the 10 Champions of Arakko. Over the course of the first two chapters of X of Swords we’ve witnessed the invasion of Otherworld by the ancient mutants of Arakko, led by Apocalypse’s first Horsemen. We’ve seen the betrayal of the High Summoner and the decimation of Apocalypse’s foray into Otherworld for his perceived reunification of Arakko and Krakoa. Now there are three days for Krakoa’s champions to find their blades and prepare for the coming contest.
Wolverine #6 and X-Force #13 are for all intent and purpose one long story of Wolverine and his quest for his Muramasa blade. The Muramasa Blade has a long history with Wolverine (chronologically that is). In the years after WWII Wolverine found himself living in Japan where he fell in love with a woman named Itsu who would eventually bear him the son Daken. Itsu was sadly murdered by the Winter Soldier who was in the employ of Romulus, a mid-2000s big bad in the Wolverine books (Wolverine: Origins to be specific). Romulus was a Lupus Sapien, a possible offshoot of mutants that Wolverine may also be a part of (it’s hard to keep the continuity straight). Romulus had powers and abilities similar to Wolverine, including a powerful healing factor which made revenge nearly impossible for Wolverine until he met the master sword maker Muramasa who infused part of Wolverine’s soul into the sword. With Wolverine’s soul within the blade it could negate a healing factor and even cut through Adamantium if needed. Over the years Wolverine used his blade on Romulus, Sabertooth, Omega Red, and for a time entrusted the sword with Cyclops in case he himself ever went mad. Pieces of the Muramasa Blade were once imbedded in Daken’s claws as he sought revenge on his father but in more recent years the blade had been shattered and destroyed. Yet with the prophecy of the 10 champions being foretold it was clear to Wolverine that he would need to find Muramasa and have a new sword made.
Wolverine #6 begins with the books titled protagonist first confronting Krakoa. Since the inception of the Dawn of X we’ve been treated to a happier Wolverine, a Wolverine who plays hide and seek with children, has lovely dinners with his adopted extended family the Summers Clan, and has even opened himself up to some sexual exploration. We have come to know a more content Wolverine but his trust in Krakoa is being tested as Wolverine openly wonders why the mutant island allowed for the foray into Otherworld when he knew it would bring war. Yet even though he has lost all confidence in Krakoa he hasn’t lost faith in the idea of Krakoa and the mutant homeland. After a quick discussion with the Silver Samurai Wolverine is off on a quest through the Japanese underworld in search of Muramasa, who now appears to be in the service of the most notorious Ninja clan of the Marvel Universe, the Hand.
Wolverine #6 takes a detour that we have yet to see in X of Swords as the reader travels to Arakko where we are treated to the first champion of Arakko, the warrior Solem who has been imprisoned in the depths of Arakko for a century. Solem is one of the chosen champions, prophesized to also obtain the Muramasa Blade for the forthcoming challenge. It was a nice side story and I am glad that we finally get some more depth to Arakko and thankfully we get more of Solem as Wolverine #6 carries over to X-Force #13.
X-Force #13 sees Wolverine travel to Hell where the Hand have taken Muramasa in service of their lord, the Beast (not to be confused with Hank McCoy). Joined by Solem, who traveled to Hell on own via Arakko the two soon to be antagonists decide it’s in their best interest to work together to obtain the needed blade. With a Ninja Death Cult in the pits of hell and two violent anti-heroes X-Force #13 really amps the action for the next chapter of X of Swords and I cannot wait to see when Wolverine and Solem finally square off during the upcoming challenge.
While Wolverine’s quest takes him to the depths of hell Marauders #13 sees Storm return to the land she was once queen of alongside her husband T’Challa. Wakanda. Before 2012s Avengers vs. X-Men a lot of time and effort was spent by writer Reginald Hudlin into making two of Marvel’s iconic African characters into a simply amazing power couple who ruled over not just Wakanda but throughout the Marvel universe as they stood in for Reed and Sue in the Fantastic Four and both led contingents of the Avengers and X-Men. Yet the event that pitted Marvel’s two biggest franchise against each other also tore apart this once happy couple. In the past few years, under the amazing story telling of Ta-Nehisi Coates, time and effort has been placed in bringing Storm and T’Challa back into a good place, one that could see the two reunite, that is until Marauders #13.
Unlike Wolverine’s Muramasa Blade, which has a history with the character the sword chosen for Storm is a new blade with a healthy dose of retconning to make it seem more important than it is. Apparently early on in the history of Wakanda, as the Great Mound was first discovered the first king of Wakanda, Bashenga, forged the sword Skybreaker. As Storm states, “Skybreaker, the Voice of Heavens. Its edge is sharpers than any other blade forged by man and it will never grow dull.” Apparently unbeknownst to longtime Black Panther reader’s (yours truly included) Skybreaker is a Wakandan artifact that is crucial to keeping the tribes of Wakanda united. It has its own temple that has some of the most state-of-the-art security as well as a devoted human contingent of priests whose sole purpose is to protect Skybreaker. So, imagine the surprise of Queen Ramonda and Princess Shuri when Storm requests and audience and asks for the cherished artifact to be given to her for the upcoming challenge.
One aspect of Storm’s long and cherished history is that besides being a weather goddess she is also a master thief and she will need every ounce of that skillset to obtain Wakanda’s most sacred sword. With the Black Panther away on Avenger’s business neither the Queen Mother nor the princess can grant Storm’s request since removing Skybreaker from Wakanda could destabilize the tribal peace that it brings to the land. Neither Ramonda or Shuri are in a position to make a final decision and with T’Challa away out of communication they decide it is in their best interest to wait for his return.Sadly Storm does not have time to wait for the king to grace her with his presence. So, Storm takes it upon herself, since if Krakoa falls to Arakko the rest of the world will soon follow. Therefore, Storm uses her forgotten skill set to penetrate Skybreaker’s temple and it is a wild ride as we follow Storm along on her quest.
X of Swords really picked up this week as both of these stories (told over three issues) were magnificent. It was fantastic that the creative team for Wolverine were able to continue their story in X-Force as it really made the two books feel seamless. Ben Percy has really found Wolverine’s voice as the writer for both of these title and Viktor Bogdanovic’s artwork was gritty and dark, which fit perfectly with the story being told. I’ve enjoyed the latest incarnation of the Wolverine title and a lot of it has to do with this creative team so I was happy they were allowed to stay around for the X of Swords crossover rather than having a replacement team jump on board, which is where Marauders did suffer. Regular writer Gerry Dugan was replaced by Vita Ayala, whose work I am not as familiar with and while the core Marauders book tends to center on Kitty Pryde I understand why this book was chosen for this Storm story, as the Weather Goddess is present in many books but isn’t the feature in any of them right now. I missed Duggan’s comedic style that really fits on this book but I still found myself enjoying Marauders #13 and loved the return to Wakanda, a country I am always happy to visit.
X of Swords ramped up its pacing this week. While the first two weeks were wonderful stories this week felt like we are moving forward. We know the challenge is coming and now we need for all of the Swords and Sword Bearers to be collected. It was great to get a gklimpse into Arakko and who their champions will be so I hope we see more of that. I am also hoping for more historic swords as Marvel is littered with them but either way, new or old I’m in for the duration as I am hooked on X of Swords. So, check back next week for X of Swords Week 4.