What was obvious the moment that Marvel’s mutants began sending out invitations for the latest Hellfire Gala was that while the function was partially meant to introduce the rest of the world to Krakoa, it was also an elaborate stunt building up to some great statement about the future of mutantkind.
What most of humanity has had little grasp of, but has been laid out in the pages of the various X-books released during Marvel’s “Reign of X” relaunch, is how much more powerful, technologically advanced, and ambitious Earth’s mutants have become since the onset of Jonathan Hickman’s “Dawn of X” event. The Hellfire Gala has been both a celebratory display of the mutants’ might and S.W.O.R.D. #6—from writer Al Ewing, artist Valerio Schiti, colorist Marte Gracia, and letters by Ariana Maher—cuts right to how the X-Men’s plans for the future already have the entire galaxy alert. While most everyone has their focus on the X-Men’s latest, grandest unveiling of their vision of the future, S.W.O.R.D. #6 also brings back a rather significant figure from the mutants’ past who could very well end up playing a much larger role than anyone currently knows.
It’s important to first recall a handful of things from Gerry Duggan and Pepe Larraz’s appropriately-named Planet-Size X-Men #1 to appreciate what all goes down in S.W.O.R.D. As the Hellfire Gala commenced and guests mingled with an assortment of outrageously dressed mutants, Emma Frost informed attendees that the evening would culminate in a fireworks display that no one would want to miss. What the guests witnessed, however, were not literal fireworks, but rather a group of mutants traveling to Mars and using their powers in concert with one another to terraform the entire planet within a matter of minutes. In almost the blink of an eye, Mars became the new home of Arakko, another sentient mutant island that was once part of Krakoa, and its entire population of mutants.
As S.W.O.R.D. #6 opens, most all of the humans in attendance at the Hellfire Gala are utterly dumbfounded and/or alarmed at what the X-Men have accomplished. Similar to the way that the Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther transformed Wakanda into an intergalactic Empire, “Reign of X” has established the X-Men as fledgling colonizers. There’s little Earth’s humans can really do about Planet Arakko, though, and Captain America’s the only one who seems to have any hope that the X-Men’s move might be for the greater good. As Captain America and the rest of the guests depart, he’s pulled aside by Doctor Doom who, unsurprisingly, has concerns about Planet Arakko and lets the Avenger know that he plans to be prepared for the day that things go south.
But the only people the X-Men are particularly concerned about in this specific moment are the other civilizations beyond Earth who’ve had little reason to ever see our world as more than a curious backwater planet where universe-altering events seem prone to occur. The issue cuts to Abigail Brand and Frenzy on the S.W.O.R.D. station where they’re explaining to a group of alien diplomats from other civilizations why things are different now, even though Marvel’s heroes regularly interact with people from other planets. What the X-Men want, Frenzy and Brand explain, is for Earth and all of the other planets nearby it to finally be taken seriously on a galactic political stage, and for the other civilizations to recognize Arakko as the capital of the new Sol system. What they’re willing to give in exchange for that recognition—because nothing comes without a price—are vast stores of mysterium, a revolution mutant-made metal with a variety of properties similar to adamantium and vibranium.
Much in the same way that the rest of Earth agreed to recognize Krakoa’s sovereignty in exchange for revolutionary mutant-made drugs, the gathering of alien civilizations understand what kind of power mysterium holds, and how Arakko could become the first planet to put the Sol System properly on the map. If the rest of Earth’s residents knew what Brand, Frenzy, and the rest of the X-Men were negotiating, they’d likely want some say in the matter and demand that the talks come to an end until more representatives were invited to the table. Doctor Doom, though, never waits for an invitation and shows up just in time to tell everyone that he has something to say about all of this.
As someone usually preoccupied with his own dreams of conquest and expansion, it seems to genuinely dismay and upset Doom that the X-Men were able to pull off with ease the sort of feat the Fantastic Four would hold him back from without breaking a sweat. It’s even more upsetting to him that Brand of all people is able to hold the attention of other civilizations and speak for the Sol System as a whole when he, personally, has spent his entire life fighting to be taken seriously as a respectable political figurehead back on his home planet. Doom’s presumption that the mutants’ new civilization on Arakko must bow to an all-powerful authority stems from his own conceptualization of what leadership looks like. On some level, he feels that, as a ruler in his own right, he has the authority to judge whether or not his imagined head of Planet Arakko is worthy. Surprisingly, the mutants waste no time in introducing him to who that person is.
Before the X-titles spelled out that Storm’s omega-level abilities (which she used to help bring Planet Arakko to life) made her a powerful mutant, some of Marvel’s other books like Black Panther have been unsubtly reminding everyone that she is also a literal goddess. Storm’s role in the X-Men’s bold new age has been one of the most interesting mysteries looming over it, and her becoming the new Regent of Mars feels like exactly the kind of wild twist befitting of the character at a time when mutantkind as a whole is flirting with near-godhood. Though Storm’s arrival is enough to put Doom in his place, displays of power like hers and all of this business about Mars becoming Arakko and the new capital of Sol is still going to cause all sorts of conflict when the rest of the system finds out. But regardless of how they respond, it doesn’t seem likely that the mutants will be particularly concerned.
As wild as the happening in space are, S.W.O.R.D.’s most surprising twist happens back on Earth where Magneto’s retired for the evening to reflect on all that’s happened, and to think about the guest he invited to the Hellfire Gala who never showed up. In the years after Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, and her twin brother Pietro were retconned to no longer be mutants in Marvel’s comics, Wanda became more or less a pariah as her cinematic counterpart took on a new prominence in the MCU. Though she was canonically a mutant for decades and believed herself to be Magneto’s daughter, in recent years, Magneto’s turned his back on her and taken to putting the blame for M-Day squarely on Wanda. This has all been particularly foul given that her descent into madness and belief in her biological connection to Magneto was partially the result of his own actions.
Magneto’s not entirely shocked when Wanda arrives and tells him that she received his invitation, but he is moved to see that she came, seemingly open to the possibility of talking to him despite his having dragged her name through the mud. As Magneto begins to talk to Wanda about Anya, his biological daughter who died as a child, it’s hard for them both, because it’s a reminder of how there was never any real reciprocal honesty between the two of them. But he seems to mean it when he tells Wanda how she reminded him of his own child, and there’s a bittersweet poetry to the exchange because of how both characters have extensive histories finding love in their found families.
Magneto moving to bury the hatchet with the Scarlet Witch—who he considers his daughter because, well, she is—speaks to how the “Reign of X” really is all about the X-Men trying to redefine who they are on a massive scale. But with Marvel’s next “Inferno” event and its story about Wanda and Doctor Doom vying for control of the Darkhold on the horizon, the Scarlet Witch being welcomed back into the X-Men’s fold is likely going to pull at least Magneto and those close to him into the thick of another existential drama.
Wondering where our RSS feed went? You can pick the new up one here.