The Mutant nation of Krakoa has quickly become a major force on the world stage... but why stop there? Krakoa has relaunched the Sentient World Observation & Response Directorate - a fully independent organization dealing with all things extra-terrestrial on behalf of all of Earth. So grab your spacesuits mutant-lovers, 'cause we going to spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace!
Just to reiterate something from the spoiler-free review we put out yesterday… every now and then a comic book comes along and completely shatters your expectations by such a large margin that you sit back after reading it and realize just how limited your own imagination can be. I have never felt compelled to write a full follow up review after putting out a spoiler-free one less than 24 hours before but here we are.
S.W.O.R.D. #1 succeeds on every front and in every category of it’s 40-page debut and that in itself is rare but the manner in which writer Al Ewing goes about telling the story and tying all those elements together is so engaging that it’s really worth discussing in detail and if we have a central point character in this book, it’s Magneto. That was surprise number 1. What Ewing does is place Magneto at the center of the board and then shows us the position of the other main characters in relationship to him. It starts with Cable as security, who Magneto leaves in awe with his repositioning on a the entire Peak facility while he casually has his meet and greet as he arrives; Abigail Brand is next and Ewing establishes a bit of of of push-pull between Erik and her, then Taki etc. etc. The most interesting relationships though are the ones Ewing reframes between Magneto and Cortez and a looong unused character Peepers whose history with Magneto goes back to the earliest X-Men comics. Magneto is completely dismissive of Cortez and his genuflection but when he sees Peepers, his surprise and genuine warmth toward him really drive the point home that this is a new era: things have changed.
The next thing is the scale of this opener. Marvel and the X-Office very cleverly hid absolutely every single hint of who else was in this book. The surprise reveals of multiple characters that fall under “The Six” ( which I’ll talk about in a bit) is a touch of genius we get to see Armor, Ink and a whole slew of character reveals but they are not merely hanging out in the background. Ewing gives them a place and purpose and even has back ups for characters as revealed in exceptionally well-crafted data pages. There is a structure that is clear and purposeful (there’s still some mystery, too, with several blanked out pieces of info on page) which makes the understanding what the organization is and it’s goals very easy to understand.
Then added to all this brilliant structure and interpersonal connectivity between the past and the present Ewing delivers several superb sci- fi elements which add purpose and also help outline roles (Taki aka Whizz Kid’s roll is specifically delineated by one of these elements) and the central theme of using mutants in a synergistic structure to achieve incredible feats is wonderfully laid out in the structure and explanation of ” The Six,” who like the “The Five” back on Earth, are a very clever tie into show how mutant society is harnessing abilities beyond the singular individual in all aspects of its society (and guess what you can thank Wolverine and Colossus for the idea!) He takes it even further with 1st and 2nd “Circuits” showing what individual elements are responsible for and then Ewing shows us what they are going for with a practical application and it’s pretty cosmic-scale bananas amazing.
Through all of this Ewing manages to thread it all together by tying it into not only characters history, comic history but also into his former work like EMPYRE which gives clearly defined position to this story in the 616 which feels perfectly natural and definitive and makes you aware that this story is in a universe filled with other stories that touch it and even foreshadows things to come with a KING IN BLACK reference.
One of the things about making a book that is set off planet in space that really draws me into this kind of book is when the artists can capture the majesty of space. Valerio Schiti and Marte Gracia do this from page one in that they establish the vastness and silent dark grandeur of space with a opening page and double page splash of 2001-level grandeur broken up in clever paneling to convey motion. Throughout we get several panels spaced out in the book reminding us of that scale. In cosmic books space itself is almost like a silent character reminding you of where you are and that you are very much not in Kansas anymore!
Everything is exceptionally well-paneled and drawn whether Schiti is showing close up facial expressions or pulling back to show the grandeur and scale around the characters, there’s isn’t a single panel that feels thrown away. Then you add Marte Gracia into the mix and we move through a, at first, fairly conservative darker color palette and by the time we get to the action at the end achieve a color palette that takes on a multicolored rainbow psychedelic nature that reminds me (maybe deliberately I think) of Kubrick’s 2001 funkadelic ( it’s a word, internet says so ) stargate sequence. The lettering from VC’s Ariana Maher is solid well spaced with a cool font change at the end to go with the action on the page.
S.W.O.R.D. #1 is a flawless opening chapter. Al Ewing constructs a tale which manages to pay homage to past cannon as well as reframing relationships for the new status quo in a bold statement that sends a clear and message that we are truly in a new era. To this bold, unexpected, but very well-defined sci-fi concepts are added for a cohesive whole marked by exceptionally good and well executed art, coloring and lettering. Someone told me perfect comics don't exist. I beg to differ.
S.W.O.R.D #1: This IS What Comes Next…
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 10/1010/10
Art - 10/1010/10
Color - 10/1010/10
Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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