S.W.O.R.D. & Comic Book Reviews for 4/21

This week, Marvel with SWORD contends for the best singular issue of the year, while half the week falls flat. I only picked up one DC book today, Justice League, and the rest were X-Men. 

The highs of Marvel with SWORD and Way of X were really high, and the lows of Justice League and X-Force weren’t too bad. This week wasn’t as good as last week, but it would be fair to say it was better on average. Better to start with the worst.

Justice League #60, written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by David Marquez

Justice League #60 cover.

I didn’t have many kind words for the first issue in Bendis Justice League run, but I do have more this week. As the only physical issue I bought from DC this week, I was happy to see that it was an improvement over the last issue in not wasting its characters. 

I’m sure anyone whose read Bendis has had or seen the criticism of how he makes his characters all sound the same. This issue, now that everything’s been set up, lets some of the characters shine. I immediately find myself taking to Bendis’s Green Arrow. Bendis captures the wit and honesty of Oliver Queen, and does the same with Batman. This is no surprise since as many keep saying, Bendis is great at writing street-level characters. He captures Black Canary’s voice well enough too, but she needs more to do before I give him much credit.

With this issue its clear who Bendis wants to focus on for his run, or at least this arc. Superman, Naomi and Black Adam make up most of this book’s story. It’s not surprising since Naomi was recently created by Bendis and Bendis just finished a stint on Superman. 

Superman has the heart that allows other characters to bounce off him. Green Arrow and Batman have their best moments because Bendis relies so much on Superman leading discussion. This does have the annoying habit of leaving other characters at the wayside. I’ve been left wondering why Black Canary and Hawkgirl are on the roster when nothing special happens with them.

Naomi is fine, I didn’t read her solo so I can’t say if she’s acting weirdly or not. She’s a bit disappointing in her introduction to the many people who didn’t read her solo. Bendis has reduced her to an instrument for plot, which means she has a whole lot of nothing to say. She’s just a link to the villain and to where the Justice League has to go next issue. She has a few nice moments when talking to Superman, but I fear she’s not going to be much more than a plot device.

Black Adam was the surprise pick for the team so it’s not surprising that Bendis has an open interest in making him a hero. It’s going well enough, but nothing has happened yet to make us enjoy this new status quo. Black Adam at his best, is an anti-hero. He always rubs up against the more stoic heroes, even when he was on the Justice Society. 

When the going gets tough, Black Adam goes for the kill, he acts like a jerk, and doesn’t play well with others. I hope Bendis doesn’t try to avoid that to avoid explaining why Black Adam stays on the team. The only thing that would be worse than that would be if he just neuters Black Adam. 

We shall see.

SWORD #5, written by Al Ewing and drawn by Valerio Schiti

Marvel Sword #5 came out this week and Fabian Cortez was glorious.

Marvel SWORD is the gift that just keeps on giving, and so is Al Ewing. 

Minor spoilers, this book opens with Jean Grey in her 90’s outfit, spectacularly drawn by Valerio Schiti. From that moment on, I knew SWORD #5 would be something special.

If you hate Fabian Cortez, or at the very least, enjoy seeing him eat shit, you’ll love this issue. From the start, when Jean Grey resurrects him, refuses him an resurrection celebration, and makes him present his issue to the council naked, you know this is gonna be good. 

In this issue, we get an introspection for why Cortez wants the ability to kill humans. As he does so, he makes a valid point about how the highest crime a mutant can commit is against other mutants. It makes us consider what Krakoa values the most, if not mutants. Is it mutant dominance, or is it still Professor X’s old crusade to endear mutants to humans? 

This question and the embarrassing result for Cortez is perfectly contrasted by Abigail Brand’s succinct assassinations to end the Snarkwar. It compares not only the way they want to and actually do kill humans, but also their reasoning. Cortez speaks nothing of malice or actual intent to murder, but still reveals himself as selfish and materialistic. Brand violently ends a war in space with cruel and bloody assassinations, but the war had and would consume many innocent lives. 

The ability to look at a serious issue with nuisance comparison using both humor and grit is impressive, if not page-gripping. Marvel SWORD is straight up just one of the most enjoyable issues of the year so far.

Way of X #1, written by Si Spurner and drawn by Bob Quinn

Way of X #1 came out and was amazing this week.

When this book was announced, I didn’t expect it to tackle some of the biggest and most scandalous aspects of mutant society. 

Resurrection. Thought I was gonna talk about the thruples weren’t you?

While X-Factor tackles the more objective questions about the resurrection process, Way of X is tackling the spiritual. Nightcrawler, as one of the kindly ones, finds himself the odd man out. His faith disallows him from seeing death as any less than equally sacred to life. The problem is, on an island where everyone can come back, he’s the only one who feels this way.

Spurner, through Nightcrawler, gives us a disturbing look into how mutants are trivializing death. He has Nightcrawler questioning mutant souls and his religion when nothing fits. He even challenges one of, if the most controversial aspect of Krakoa, the Crucible.

Nightcrawler seems to be the first person actively questioning why Krakoa is forcing depowered mutants to fight for their powers. This is also the first time in a while that a Hickman information page has spurned a question in my head. Is this practice truly humane? Is it not a cruel way that celebrates power for the sake of violence?

X-Men #7 was inspiring with the way one depowered Guthrie fought against Apocalypse. A disabled chronically pained person fighting Magneto feels less so. 

If you feel like things have been too perfect on Krakoa and think someone should be questioning them, this is the book for you.

X-Force #19, written by Benjamin Percy and drawn by Garry Brown

X-Force #19 cover art. It wishes it was as good as Marvel Sword.

X-Force started out for me as the one X-book I skipped when Dawn of X started. It quickly became one my favorites, but since X of Swords it’s stalled by the wayside. Having such a Kid Omega-focused arc has to do with that. 

X-Force has been about a mutant CIA, but it’s also about coming to terms with violent trauma. First with Domino and Colossus, and now Kid Omega. The difference between that spectacular first arc and this iffy one, is that Domino’s and Colossus’s story was the B-story that eventually intertwined with the A-story. Kid Omega is both the subplot and the main plot of this arc. 

I like Kid Omega in this series, it’s the first time I have. Benjamin Percy has humanized him by giving him a proper backstory and motivation, but it’s not strong enough. Kid Omega is compensating for his childhood, but he overcompensates. He wants to be a good person for himself and learn to rely on others, but why does it feel like he can’t live without Phoebe, his current partner?

This story arc feels like it has one foot in story tropes we should have moved past by now. At the same time, it has a foot in storytelling we could use. For a lot of people, they’ll never give it a chance because its wrapped around Kid Omega. It’s hard to recommend this issue, but now that this arc is over, I’m ready to get back to the story we had before.

Concluding Thoughts

Today was a decent week, but there have definitely been better. We have a lot of standout moments from the X-Men. All three titles shined a lot of light on lesser known characters like Fabian Cortez, Abigail Brand, and Kid Omega for the better. It’s something I continue to appreciate about Marvel Comics and the X-Men line in particular. The best part is how Marvel SWORD and Way of X just started, making me all the more excited.

Hopefully DC can get its act together and follow in Marvel’s footsteps on this front. They’re output isn’t altogether bad in my opinion, but its not good enough to warrant the few books they have on the shelf. They can spare some of the creative teams on their Batman books for other superhero families.

Check out our previous article to learn about comics from last week! Or check out the channel see how Dawn of X reviewed. Excited to see where Marvel SWORD and Way of X land eventually when we review Year Two of Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men titles!

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