The X Of Swords storyline is a return to classic X-Men style crossover events. Rather than being just a half dozen or dozen issues, X Of Swords is a giant crossover with 22 chapters when all will be said and done. Long time X-Men fans will be very familiar with this type of giant crossover as we’ve been through things like this before. And like past X-Men crossovers this story looks to be centered around Apocalypse as the first chapter, X Of Swords: Creations, set a lot of things in motion that involve the character. How will all the X-Men teams deal with the events set up in the first chapter? Let’s find out with chapter two in X-Factor #4.
Writer: Leah Williams
Artist: Carlos Gomez
Colorist: Israel Silva
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: On Krakoa, Siryn leads the X-Men strike team to take a heavily injured Rictor and Apocalypse to get healed. Since they are connected Apocalypse tells Rictor to continue fighting the poisoning until they can reach the Healing Gardens.
At the same time Polaris, Monet and Havok also return to Krakoa and bring a dead Rockslide back with them.
Over in Otherworld, Saturnyne spies on Polaris’ team and says that both Arakko and Krakoa have their oracles in play. Saturnyne decides to close the External Gate to Krakoa so that the X-Men can’t reach Otherworld until the chosen oracles succeed in their missions.
Back on Krakoa, Polaris is knocked out by the impact of Saturnyne destroying the External Gate on Otherworld, which also pisses off Krakoa.
Later, Rachel Summers tries to look in Polaris mind but is immediately stopped by Saturnyne’s psychic firewall. Polaris is not sure what she should do given that she is not a trained psychic or sorceress.
Over at Krakoa’s Healing Garden, as Rictor is about to die Apocalypse attempts to kill Healer out of frustration. Apocalypse is stopped by Rachel Summers, who uses her psychic powers to stop and stabilize for the moment.
Over at the Arbor Magna Hatchery, Polaris has Charles Xavier show The Five how Rockslide died in Otherworld while Rictor was fatally struck down. Xavier decides to make bringing back Rockslide and Rictor priority resurrection. The Five aren’t sure since they’ve never resurrected anyone this quickly but Xavier says things are different in times of war.
Xavier and The Five are successful in bring Rictor back. When Xavier and The Five go to finish Rockslide’s resurrection the feedback from that process causes an intense shock to them. This ends up impacting all of the Cerebro helmets at House of M, Summer House, The Pointe, Moira’s No-Place, and the one Xavier is wearing.
Polaris checks on Rockslide and finds him unable to complete sentences. He then suddenly falls apart much to Polaris horror.
The Five realize that their resurrection process is offline somehow. Egg tells the others that they have to destroy the other eggs they’ve created just to be safe. They all agree and once that is done the resurrection process seems to have come back online.
Xavier wakes back up and freaks out that the resurrection eggs were destroyed by The Five. Hope shows Xavier why they did that by pointing to Rockslide, who has completely morphed into a new form.
Xavier scans Rockslide’s mind and finds out that it is not their version of Santo. Xavier checks on Rictor to make sure he isn’t someone different. Xavier confirms that Rictor is the same person they know. As everyone talks about what may have happened Hope realizes what likely impacted the resurrection process.
In The Grove, The Five meet with the Quiet Council to discuss their theory of what happened to make the resurrection of Rockslide go wrong. Hope explains that if someone dies in Otherworld they somehow corrupt the mutant’s Cerebro back-up.
The Five go on to explain that Otherworld is a place that is convergence of possible realities. Because of that dying in Otherworld causes the person who dies there to forfeit their identity, memories, experiences, and physicality which will cause all the Cerebro back-ups to be erased and replaced by the new version of the mutant. They go on to say that when a mutant who died in Otherworld is resurrected the version that is brought back is someone who is created from the infinite possible versions of that mutant.
Emma Frost says that they cannot continue risking Krakoans lives over this tournament that Xavier and Apocalypse have put them all in. Xavier says they can’t stop now because with war imminent the chosen Champions will likely choose to fight.
Magneto questions Polaris on if she has figured out who the Champions are supposed to be. Polaris is not sure which pisses Magneto off.
Polaris suddenly starts reciting the prophecies that hints at who the ten Champions are. When she finishes Polaris passes out.
Magneto is able to wake her up immediately. When she recovers Polaris walks away to grieve Rockslides death.
Later, at the Healing Garden, Xavier and Magneto visit the injured Apocalypse. Xavier states that it’ll take days before they can resurrect Apocalypse so he can’t succumb to his wounds yet. Xavier goes on to say this is all for the best because Apocalypse doomed them all and if he does die before they can resurrect him no one will miss him.
Elsewhere, Polaris takes what remains of Rockslide to create a special circle. She brings the Quiet Council and other X-Men to the circle she created with special characters around it. Polaris reveals that she was able to figure out the clue Saturnyne left her that is the tournament key, which turns out to be a casting circle. Polaris tears up that to create the casting circle they had to do a ritual sacrifice which is why she used Rockslide’s remains to create it.
Magik steps up as the first Champion and plunges her sword into one of the casting circle characters. She says that it is time to “Pound the war drums.” End of issue.
The Good: X-Factor #4 does not miss a beat in what X Of Swords: Creations created for this X-Men crossover event. All the right notes were hit to get over what is at stake as the X-Men are unable to escape this tournament of champions that Apocalypse has put all of Krakoa into. In the process we get a lot of detailed information for what is going on and great character work throughout.
What was particularly impressive about X-Factor #4 is how cohesive it all was. Choosing X-Factor #4 as the second chapter of X Of Swords was a smart move by the entire X-Men office. Because after Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard kicked things off with X of Swords: Creations it would be reasonable to expect the second chapter to take place in Hickman’s X-Men or Howard’s Excalibur series. But in having Leah Thompson take the baton for the second chapter the X-Men office immediately makes a statement of their unity. It’s made clear with how X-Factor #4 is written that X Of Swords is a collaborative effort with all the creative teams and editors working on all these chapters are working together to ensure that the voices for every character in the X-Men franchise is consistently portrayed. That is a huge statement to make out of the gate that as a fan is very much appreciated to see.
Which goes to the strength of X-Factor #4 taking what X Of Swords: Creations established and adding to the tension with great character work throughout the chapter. The way that Apocalypse in particular was treated was one of the things that stuck out most. Just as he was set up as a major player we see that Apocalypse injuries in Otherworld are going to take him out of commission for at several chapters. The way it was done was understandable as he did not succumb to his fatal injuries as quickly as Rictor.
What really elevated Apocalypse position right now in the story was how Charles Xavier and Magneto completely looked down on what he has done. This was a big shift for the interactions between these three characters. Because before this Xavier and Magneto have been hands off with what Apocalypse has been up to. But now that Apocalypse has forced them and all of the mutants to participate in this tournament with Otherworld the relationship has completely changed. They make that clear as they show no sympathy for Apocalypse’s current state and calling out how no one else would care if Apocalypse dies permanently. That all creates greater intrigue into what Apocalypse’s next move will be since all he can do in his state is think of what happened and what he should do when he recovers.
The other clear standout in X-Factor #4 was Polaris. Williams does an excellent job continuing the sudden central character position that Polaris has been placed in for X Of Swords. These first two chapters have shown Polaris to be a key character even if she is not one of the official champions.
Making Polaris position as one of the oracles more important was seeing the emotional weight this and the death of Rockslide had on her. Through Polaris we get are able to channel our own grief of what it means to see a death that is permanent after getting so used to mutants being resurrected by The Five. Polaris reaction to Rockslide’s death and the new version of the character have real impact that hits on an emotional level.
Magneto’s treatment of his daughter both showed the seriousness of what was going on. He does not hold back trying to show concern for Polaris. Instead he is completely focused on the threat at hand. Which does make you feel even more for Polaris because she does not have the immediate support system one would need in her position. This all further explained how heavy of a weight being made into an oracle was on Polaris as she realized what she had to do for them to find Krakoa’s champions.
All that said, the biggest development of X-Factor #4 was the resurrection process being disabled for a period and how Otherworld factored into that. The way Xavier and The Five reacted to the resurrection process they have built so much confidence in failing them hit the right note. You could sense how much Xavier was freaking out that suddenly his plans for Krakoa could unravel. While he did regain his composure it stood out as a big character moment because it is the first time in this Dawn of X era that we’ve seen Xavier lose the controlled way he normally acts.
The Five quickly figuring out why the resurrection process did not work and became corrupted was a great way to spotlight this group. So far The Five have been playing supporting roles in all of the X-Men books. X-Factor #4 is the first time we got to see them really take the lead on something. It goes to show that The Five are more than just tools for Krakoa and that each one can serve an important role beyond just being part of the resurrection team.
The Five’s explanation also added further depth into how Otherworld is a convergence of possible realities. The way Williamson wrote the explanation was presented in a way to capture the readers interest into the story because of how this revelation does create greater stakes for what will take place in X Of Swords. Now we actually have fear if any X-Men dies in Otherworld that they either won’t return to life or if they do than they will no longer be the person we know. Those immediate stakes create a greater sense of urgency for finding who Krakoa’s champions are so that the X-Men can have time to prepare to take on the foe they are facing.
Seeing Emma Frost be the one member of the Quiet Council to speak out against putting Krakoans in danger against this threat was an interesting choice. Emma taking this stance was refreshing as it shows that Xavier and Magneto aren’t the only leaders. Having these dissenting opinions within the Quiet Council is the reason this group was created. It adds another layer to the story because this isn’t just another superhero story. There are real stakes that the X-Men need to consider before jumping into their next move. Emma Frost being the one to point this out creates greater intrigue in how all the other X-Men will approach this deadly tournament they have been placed in the middle of.
Williamson also did a good job with the screen time given to make Saturnyne be the manipulative villain that you love to hate. There are no blurred lines with the character. Saturnyne clearly enjoys her position and how she has been able to use Polaris for her own gain. It all makes you hope to see Staturnyne answer for what she has done. Which is exactly what you want from a main villain in the story.
While they only appeared within Apocalypse’s mind it was smart to briefly show us War, Death, Famine, and Pestilence again. Seeing these characters again reinforces how we learned more about there true parentage and how Apocalypse took them as the reason for always having Four Horsemen. This is hopefully a thread that is continued to followed up on.
Carlos Gomez did a very good job complimenting all of Williamson’s dialogue with his artwork. The art got across the seriousness of the situation that the X-Men are in. Both the explanation of The Five and how Polaris was impact by Rockslide’s death were given the appropriate emotional expressions to make the scenes all work.
The Bad: Nothing.
Overall: X-Factor #4 was a fantastic follow-up and second chapter to X Of Swords. Leah Williams showed that the X-Men team are united in telling the best story possible with how seamlessly she took the baton from Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard. Every character and story development created greater intrigue in what this entire crossover event will be about.
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