With the rules for X of Swords’ upcoming clash between mutants and the otherworldly, demonic forces of the original Horsemen of the Apocalypse set, a select group of X-Men have set out in search of the 10 mystical swords fated to be wielded in a battle that will determine the fate of reality itself. Some of the swordbearers, like Wolverine and Magik, have made immediate sense.
Others, like Storm — who takes centre stage in this week’s Marauders #13 — have somewhat more complicated paths that end up leading them to their legendary weapons; these paths expose important and interesting aspects of who they are as people. Dense and sing-song-y as the prophecy explaining the nature of X of Swords’ upcoming contest in Otherworld was, it was immediately clear to everyone that Storm was definitely meant to participate in the war, despite the fact that she’s not typically known to use bladed weapons in combat.
As Marauders #13 opens, though, Storm knows precisely what where she must go and what she must do to play her role in shaping the future, and even though Kate Pryde offers to tag along for emotional (and potentially tactical) support, Ororo declines because she also knows that she has to do it alone.
When Storm arrives in Wakanda with the intention of asking for permission to…borrow the legendary sword Skybreaker, she does so knowing perfectly well that the weapon’s a sacred object that’s been fiercely guarded by the royal family and its guards for dozens of generations, for a variety of reasons. Beyond being forged out of pure vibranium by some of the first Wakandans and possessing an edge that can never be dulled, Skybreaker represents the whole of Wakanda’s technological evolution and its existence is a testament to how far the nation’s come.
Storm doesn’t assume that the royal family will just give the sword to her casually, and she sensibly makes a point of explaining why she needs it and how her quest is, in a sense, a quest to save Wakanda because of the stakes at hand. Understanding as Queen Mother Ramonda and Shuri are, both of the Wakandan royals reason that the choice to give Skybreaker to Storm can’t be made without the Black Panther’s presence, and because T’Challa’s off dealing with Avengers-related nonsense, Storm ends up being forced to wait within the palace until T’Challa returns.
Earlier today, during New York Comic Con Metaverse’s X of Swords panel, writer Vita Ayala dug into some of the logic that went into their conceptualisation of how best to fit Storm into the event as a power player.
As much of a presence and fan favourite character as Storm is, it would have been easy enough to simply have her arrive in Wakanda and then proceed to throw down in order to snag her loot. But Ayala explained that, from their perspective, the more interesting angle was to see Storm grappling with the emotional complications of having to come to Wakanda and ask her former in-laws for help in a war they did not wish to be part of.
“To me, that’s tied into her relationship not just with mutantkind, but with humankind as well,” Ayala said. “She’s always been a protector. She was a goddess. She’s been someone who’s larger than life, and I thought, ‘how do you explore that in a way that’s interesting?’…the way to complicate it is to complicate it emotionally.”
Though T’Challa’s indisposed for most of the issue, Shuri immediately knows that Storm isn’t exactly one to wait around for people when she’s set her mind to something, and so the former Black Panther endeavours to appeal to Ororo’s diplomatic sensibilities over a tense meal. Neither Shuri nor Storm particularly want to fight with one another — and on some level, they both know that, were T’Challa present in Wakanda, he would almost certainly hand over Skybreaker without a question. But Shuri’s dedication to Wakanda’s tradition and Storm’s unerring commitment to her fellow mutants creates an unease that works as the perfect prelude for Storm’s change of pace later in the issue.
Reasoning that she really doesn’t have the time to wait for T’Challa, Storm waits until the dead of night to set off to simply steal Skybreaker, even though she knows doing so could very well set off a war between Wakanda and Krakoa. Ayala also explained that, beyond practical stealth reasons, Storm changing into her black costume was meant to signify how she really did come to Wakanda intending to do everything above the table and honestly.
“With the costume, I thought ‘well, she’s a diplomat as well as being the former regent of this place,’” Ayala said. “She is on friendly terms, but she’s asking a favour. Alright, well, let’s dress her in white because she’s going under a flag of truth. She’s literally wearing that. And then of of course, she becomes a thief in the night, and I was like ‘you’ve gotta reverse that, now. All black.”
Skilled as the Wakandan guards who cross Storm’s path are, all of them fall to her fists as she makes her way for the sword, and in the end she even goes so far as to trick Shuri into letting herself get electrocuted so that she might return to Krakoa with Skybreaker in hand. Just as it seems as if Storm’s going to make it out unscathed, though, T’Challa finally gets around to coming home, and he’s devastated to see that the love of his life has absolutely bodied his sister and stolen one of his family’s greatest treasures. Sensible hero that he is, T’Challa lets Storm leave with Skybreaker because to stop her would potentially put Wakanda and the rest of the world in danger, but the king also resolves to destroy the gate directly linking Wakanda to Krakoa, signalling that the nations are no longer on the best of terms.
It’s rare that tie-in issues to big comics events so expertly capture the essence of an established legacy character while also doing a significant bit of plot development that changes major things about the world’s political dynamics. Marauders #13 is exactly the sort of momentary change of pace in an ongoing series that might actually make you want to switch things up and check out the rest of X of Swords’ madness, and hopefully the rest of the event keeps this same energy.