This week’s Marvel Rundown features the latest debut in the ongoing saga of Marvel’s merry mutants! The Reign of X is officially upon us, and the island nation of Krakoa is setting its sights on the stars with the premiere of S.W.O.R.D. #1! How will Abigail Brand’s latest interstellar venture impact the rest of the X-line, not to mention the greater Marvel Universe?

We’ve got a review of that title, as well as your regular Rapid Rundown of other new Marvel books for this week, all ahead in the latest installment of The Marvel Rundown!

S.W.O.R.D. #1 Cover art
S.W.O.R.D. #1

S.W.O.R.D. #1

Written by Al Ewing
Illustrated by Valerio Schiti
Colored by Marte Gracia
Lettered by VC’s Ariana Maher
Design work by Tom Muller
Cover by Valerio Schiti & Marte Gracia

Marvel is now fairly fresh off of not one but two big crossovers. The Empyre summer event had the Fantastic Four and Avengers team against an invading alien force. Then the X of Swords storyline brought all of the X-titles together for a 22-part epic that pitted the mutants against the forces of Arakko, and at the mercy of a contest manipulated by Lady Opal Luna Saturnyne of Otherworld. S.W.O.R.D. spins out of both of those events, reuniting the Empyre creative team of Al Ewing, Valerio Schiti, and Marte Gracia, and perfectly synthesizing what made both stories so entertaining while clearly springing off in its own direction.

Al Ewing is already one of Marvel’s most critically-acclaimed writers, with the well-received Empyre, an exceptional multi-year run on Immortal Hulk infusing the character with a horror not seen in decades, and a recently-launched new Guardians of the Galaxy series reestablishing the prominence of Marvel Cosmic with political intrigue and high adventure. Bringing him into the fold on the X-titles just stacks their lineup of talent even further, and S.W.O.R.D. #1 fits well with the rest of the X-line while still featuring a script that feels distinctly Ewing. There’s a lot to establish and a lot of characters to introduce here, but the script never feels overburdened by exposition, and character dynamics are evident quickly and cleverly. The data pages also feel somehow less arduous than they often do in the other X-books, while also helping clarify a lot of what’s going on and setting up what’s about to happen.

And I haven’t even gotten to the art yet. Valerio Schiti and Marte Gracia’s work on S.W.O.R.D. #1 is superb from start to finish. Schiti’s style fits well with the visual look of the X-titles established by Pepe Larraz and R.B. Silva on, respectively, House of X & Powers of X, and the fact that Gracia colored both of those previous series helps tie the look of S.W.O.R.D. even more closely to its predecessors.

Interior page from S.W.O.R.D. #1 featuring Magneto
From S.W.O.R.D. #1

The visuals throughout this debut issue are, no pun intended, out of this world, with breathtaking shots of the revitalized Peak in orbit above Earth, entertaining intro shots for many of the new and lesser-known characters, and dialogue-heavy pages that are still visually appealing and interesting. But it’s a series of absolutely stunning double-page spreads towards the end of the issue that instantly set S.W.O.R.D. visually apart from all the other X-titles. It’s some of the most exciting art I’ve seen in any Marvel title in a long time.

S.W.O.R.D. #1 is a fantastic debut issue from a creative team operating at the very top of their game. If anyone was worried that the X-titles were going to get complacent following X of Swords, this issue should set their minds at ease. Ewing, Schiti, and Gracia are carving out a unique space for themselves within the Marvel U with this series, and the ending of the book is as thrilling as it is mysterious. Marvel comics don’t get much better than this one, folks.

Final Verdict: An enthusiastic BUY.

Double-page spread of the Peak space station from S.W.O.R.D. #1
From S.W.O.R.D. #1

Rapid Rundown!

  • Avengers #39
    • A prelude to the upcoming Phoenix storyline, this issue acts as a sort of primer for the One Million BC Phoenix. Honestly, as someone who doesn’t know much about the Phoenix other than the original Jean Grey storyline, I mostly shrugged at this. I don’t understand the reasoning behind the pretty obvious connections between this character and Jean, namely the red hair and the telepathic powers, but most importantly I really could give less of a hoot about either the Phoenix force or this Avengers book. Too harsh? Probably, but with a run clocking in at nearly forty issues and still not resonating with me in any meaningful way, I’d go so far as to say I’m extremely weirded out by Jason Aaron right now and wonder why he’s still writing this book. This is definitely the oddest big book Marvel is publishing right now, and not in any endearing way. —HW
  • Marauders #16
    • Marauders #16 is catharsis in comic book form. Paying off of the year-long build to confronting the scheming Sebastian Shaw, the issue’s sole story follows Emma Frost and Kate Pryde beating the holy hell out of Shaw in his own home. A tale that could have easily felt dragged out and repetitive stays fresh, exciting, and powerfully enjoyable through an effortlessly funny and emotional script by Gerry Duggan and expressive and expertly rendered art by Stefano Caselli. Legitimately one of the most emotionally satisfying comics I have read in ages, and a must-read for any fans of Kate or Emma. This week was filled with fantastic books from dozens of creators, but Marauders is the only one that made me feel like I should smoke a cigarette after finishing it, and I don’t even smoke. —ZT

  • Namor: King in Black #1
    • King in Black is a bit of a dud so far, so I was looking forward to this issue to inject some Namor goodness into the event. What we get here is a flashback look at Namor’s early years, which I hate to say was kind of a bore. I’m just so entirely unengaged with Atlantean politics, be it in the Marvel or DC universes, and I was just lost in all the convoluted names and various tribes. I forgot midway through the issue that Kurt Busiek wrote it, which is weird considering he has such an eye for interesting characters and engaging stories. This just wasn’t one of them. —HW

Next week, a new Black Cat ongoing series launches, and Vita AyalaRod Reis‘s New Mutants run begins!