In SWORD #1, writer Al Ewing, artist Valerio Schiti, and colorist Marte Gracia add a little hazy cosmic jive to the X-Books. Let’s just say that the Krakoan space program is a lot more than sending probes or even astronauts to Mars. Ewing has some fun and uses Magneto (On loan from Jonathan Hickman and X-Men.) as a POV character with Abigail Brand taking him around the Peak Station, introducing him to the cast of the book, and then giving him and the readers just enough info about their “mission” to bring both mutantkind and inhabitants of the solar system into the future. It very much has a tone of checking in, but Ewing’s dialogue is sharp and entertaining even if you don’t know your Acolytes from Alpha Flight.
If the X-line (and the Marvel Universe as a whole) is a toy box, then Ewing and Schiti are kind kids, who add cool new action figures into the box, polish up old ones from the 1980s and 1990s, and then come up with imaginative games for them. (Even if you don’t know all the rules yet.) SWORD #1’s plot, or hook, doesn’t kick into the last third of the comic, but the first two-thirds are really enjoyable and chock-full with intriguing character interactions as Ewing introduces the sprawling cast of the book. Even if he’s not a traditional, “relatable” viewpoint character, Magneto does create a reaction out of everyone he encounters from sparring over SWORD’s actual relationship to Krakoa to geeking out over Wiz-Kid and “the Six”, who are the main mission of Peak. Then, there’s his interactions with SWORD protagonist/team leader, Abigail Brand, who challenges a man that is used to being either despised, revered, or fawned over. With her past experiences working with organizations like SHIELD, Alpha Flight, and even the X-Men, she has a different perspective on running a team and its role compared to what Magneto wants.
It’s not super plot relevant, but there’s a richness to his relationship with the former Acolyte Frenzy, who is the ambassador, on board and is introduced by sparring with the Kree/Skrull Alliance envoy, Paibak. There’s a real physicality to Valerio Schiti’s layouts in this scene as he cuts from Magneto and Brand verbally sparring to Frenzy laying out Paibak on the training floor. This is followed by some aggressive eye contact and a very charged interaction as Krakoa’s ill-treatment of Scarlet Witch (See Empyre: X-Men) has led to them making enemies with the Kree/Skull Alliance because she is their emperor’s mother-in-law. Ewing effortlessly weaves in the results of a story that I unfortunately haven’t read to create more conflict in his current story and show that SWORD might have some more conventional threats to deal with in addition to their “uni/multiversal far-retrieval circuit” work.
Speaking of this circuit, Al Ewing uses some very Hickman-esque charts in SWORD #1 to lay out the mechanism of how it works via a strategic combination of mutant powers that reminded me a lot of the complementary combo super-attacks in Marvel Ultimate, but on steroids. SWORD #1 is also a natural outgrowth of the resurrection protocols and very beautiful to see in action although I’m sure that there were be consequences. (That Dr. Doom epigram at the end doesn’t bode well and gave me serious Secret Wars vibes.) Schiti, Gracia, and letterer Ariana Maher, who lays the text directly on the page/art work together on some gorgeous, light-filled spreads that evoke the feeling of something great, cosmic, and unknown even if I can’t exactly get my finger on what the team is doing. It’s a study in harmony just like the balance Magneto created by moving the
While Valerio Schiti excels at drawing cosmic landscapes (For example, the opening double page establishing shot of the Peak station moving away from Earth), his character acting is more middle of the road leaving Ewing to pick up the slack with his dialogue. Even though his art is in that Marvel house style, middle ground between cartoon-y and photorealistic, Schiti takes his facial expressions up to 11, and it’s hard to mine any subtler emotions and even sarcasm from his work. (I think that Magneto is just humoring his old Brotherhood short timer/member, Peepers, but it’s hard to really tell from art.) Again, Ewing is there to save the day with his perceptive dialogue and a smart writing move, which is revealing character’s personalities by how they basically react to a living legend. In this case, it’s Magneto. For example, Fabian Cortez totally sucks up to him, which shows he’s a go-with-the-flow sycophant while Wiz-Kid gives him insight into how he uses his powers to interface with technology showing that he has actual potential.
SWORD #1 is an interesting addition to the X-line of the books with its “spacer” (As Abigail Brand calls herself in contrast with “earthers” like Magneto.) perspective on both Krakoa and the Marvel Universe. Al Ewing and Valerio Schiti are in full spinoff pilot episode with Magneto playing the role of familiar character from the previous show giving readers insights into the cast of the book as well as the mysteries and conflicts they face. There are a few pitfalls on the visual side and more questions than answers (This isn’t bad at all), but it’s nice to have an outsider/literal big picture perspective on the world of Krakoa from Abigail Brand and her team in SWORD.
Story: Al Ewing Art: Valerio Schiti
Colors: Marte Gracia Letters: Ariana Maher
Story: 8.5 Art: 7.8 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Buy
Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review