The three chapters spell status quo changes for the X-Men, and set up what comes next for Marvel’s mutants – while also seemingly ending the tale of a core cast member of the ‘Dawn of X’ era for now.
Before we dive in, are you caught up? If not, read our rundown of last week’s ‘X of Swords’ chapters here.
Spoilers ahead for ‘X of Swords’ chapters 20-22.
X-Men #15 (‘X of Swords’ chapter 20) by Jonathan Hickman, Mahmud Asrar, and Sunny Gho picks up where chapter 19 left off, with Apocalypse and Genesis squaring off in the final round of the competition. Genesis discards the Annihilation helmet at the start of the fight, putting her on more equal footing with Apocalypse.
At first Genesis has the upper hand, breaking Apocalypse’s Scarab sword. But Apocalypse rallies, seemingly mortally wounding Genesis, who puts the Annihilation helmet back on, shifting the entire course of the battle.
As all this occurs, Cyclops lobbies the Quiet Council to assemble a team of X-Men to invade Otherworld. The Council debates, and decides against Cyclops’s request – but he confesses he and Jean Grey are going anyway, if only to rescue their son Cable.
From there, the action continues in Excalibur # 15 (‘X of Swords’ chapter 21) by Tini Howard, Mahmud Asrar, Stefano Caselli, Sunny Gho, and Rachelle Rosenberg as Annihilation opens a portal to Amenth, calling forth her forces to storm through Otherworld and destroy not only the X-Men, but the Starlight Citadel. As the X-Men face down the forces of Arakko and Amenth, Storm summons forth a massive lightning strike to stun Annihilation. Apocalypse and the X-Men rally, as the forces of the battle shift around them.
White Sword and his warriors abandon the fight, not having agreed to all out war. Bei the Blood Moon vows to stand with her husband Cypher and the X-Men. Jubilee arrives with reinforcements for the Starlight Citadel, hoping to rescue Shogo from Saturnyne.
And as for the ruler of Otherworld herself, Saturnyne retreats to the Starlight Citadel where she assembles the shards of Betsy Braddock, who was mysteriously shattered in the competition’s opening fight. Saturnyne hopes to reassemble the pieces as a mosaic for a spell that will bring Brian Braddock under her control as Captain Britain once more – but on completion, it’s still Betsy Braddock whose power brings back the Captain Britain Corps, and then join the fray on Saturnyne’s behalf.
The action then moves into the oversized finale of the crossover, X of Swords: Destruction #1 (‘X of Swords’ chapter 22) by Jonathan Hickman, Tini Howard, Pepe Larraz, and Sunny Gho. As the Captain Britain Corps arrive to turn the battle, things escalate quickly.
First, Annihilation orders her summoners to call forth the worst demons of Amenth. As the X-Men fight to stem the tide of the dark forces, Cyclops contacts Cable and Magik through Jean Grey’s telepathic link, requesting Magik open a portal to Cyclops’s location – the Peak, S.W.O.R.D.’s space station, seen in previous chapters of the story. Magik summons all her mutant strength, and the entire Peak – and dozens of mutants – come pouring through.
Cable rallies with Cyclops and uses his sword, the Light of Galador, to power the station on, releasing the techno-organic beings imprisoned in its core to fight the warriors of Amenth and Arakko – with both forces decimating each other, leaving the battlefield reduced to smoldering cinders.
Apocalypse and Genesis/Annihilation square off again, and Apocalypse rips the Annihilation helm from Genesis’s head. Donning the helm, he immediately begins resisting the pull of the entity within. Struggling to the Starlight Citadel, Apocalypse claims rulership of Amenth and Arakko – and immediately surrenders, ending not just the entire contest, but the entire battle. Saturnyne mounts Shogo, employing his dragonfire to clear the battlefield of all but the X-Men and Swordbearers.
Saturnyne declares Otherworld the winner, Arakko/Amenth the loser, and Krakoa simply « survives. » She re-forges the Annihilation helm as a staff so it cannot exert its will, giving it to Genesis as ruler of Arakko/Amenth.
Saturnyne lays one final demand for the contest – Amenth and Krakoa must each surrender a prisoner to ward among the others’ lands as a « show of good faith. »
Genesis chooses Apocalypse to join her in Amenth, while Apocalypse, speaking for the X-Men, chooses Arakko to leave Amenth and rejoin Krakoa – a surprise to Saturnyne which ultimately leads to the reunification of Krakoa and Arakko. Apocalypse leaves, offering a message to Xavier and Magneto that he will see them again « someday. »
In the end, the X-Men return home, with Gorgon having perished in the fight, and Betsy Braddock still missing after the reformation of the Captain Britain Corps. And with that, ‘X of Swords’ concludes.
Now that it’s over, will ‘X of Swords’ join the ranks of the best X-Men stories ever?