S.W.O.R.D. (2nd series) #2

Issue Date: 
March 2021
Story Title: 
In the Dark

Al Ewing (writer), Valerio Schiti (artist), Marte Gracia (colors), VC’s Ariana Maher (letterer), Tom Muller (Design), Valerio Schiti & Marte Gracia (cover artists), Russell Dautermann & Matthew Wilson (alternate cover), Jay Bowen (production), Jonathan Hickman (Head of X), Annalise Bissa (assistant editor), Jordan D. White (senior editor), C.B. Cebulski (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), C.B. Cebulski (editor-in chief)

Brief Description: 

Earth is under attack by the Klynar god Knull and surrounded by a dark dome. Brand sends a team to Krakoa while instructing the reluctant telepath Mentallo to start on Orotovol V, which is about the survival of the human species, should Earth be destroyed. On Krakoa, the team sees several mutants fighting one of Knull’s dragons. Cortez save the day by supercharging the injured Sunfire, allowing him to destroy the dragon. When even Magneto commends him for this, Cortez uses the opportunity to ask for an audience with the Quiet Council. In the meantime, Mentallo evacuates the Five on Brand’s orders. One of the Krakoan portals activates and Knull himself enters Krakoa, curious who destroyed his dragon.

Full Summary: 

New York City lies in Darkness, in the power of the alien god Knull:
Standing on a rooftop, he muses there is an old joke: “Where was Granny when the lights were out? In the dark.”

Aboard the PEAK in geosynchronous orbit to Krakoa, Commander Brand summarizes the situation to her executive staff. A shell of organic Klyntar material – what the Venom symbiote is made of – has formed around Earth. It’s blocking the sun and restricting all communication. Nothing seems to breach it. And according to Charles Xavier – before they lost contact – it’s connected to a god of darkness from before the dawn of time. She demands a full spectrum report.

Red – Technical:
Wiz Kid announces the Krakoan Gates are working. If he can bounce a signal through one, it will solve the comms issue. Do they have a telepathic network up yet?

Orange – Logistics:
Manifold agrees the gates are working and so is the teleport team. They are the only way on and off planet right now.

Yellow – Medical and Energy Resources:
Fabian Cortez snootily corrects that his department’ s color is gold, only to add he has nothing for her.

Blue – Diplomatic:
Frenzy announces she is in touch with the Galactic Council and will transfer the data on this to Brand. Alpha Flight has yet to respond to hails.

Indigo – security:
Nothing. Cable is not there.

Brand turns to Violet – Analysis:
Present, Mentallo announces. She asks for his status. Occupied, he replies, sitting on the toilet. Brand sighs she doesn’t need to see this in her mind’s eye.

What? He’s a human being, isn’t he? He has biological needs, doesn’t he? he mocks. If you prick him, does he not bleed? If you feed him, does he not crap?

Brand shoots back that right now she is wondering why she feeds him. She expected more of him when she brought him aboard. He’s the best specialized telepath they have on station. She means the best she could get! he scoffs. He knows what she really thinks of him. It comes off her in waves—

Change her mind! she snaps. Launchpad, two minutes! He’s got a mission.

Soon, Brand enters the launchpad where a group consisting of Frenzy, the Skrull Paibok, Mentallo and Cortez are waiting. She explains this is a reconnaissance mission in extreme circumstances. They’ll head to Krakoa, assess the situation and report back with what they learn down there. Then head for New York - that seems to be the epicenter of the thing. Link up with the X-Men assisting there. Find out what happened to Cable.

She asks why Frenzy brought the Skrull. Paibok replies that the void god’s rampage is ending worlds. Even now their emperor and wizard battle that evil - no loyal Skrull can do less. And if the choice is between falling against this darkness alone or making himself useful next to others… Frenzy adds that Paibok is a trained Power Skrull. And he’d be her guest on Krakoa. She will take responsibility. She adds that eyewitnesses to mutants helping save the galaxy would cut a lot if ice with the Kree / Skrull alliance right now. Paibok agrees. The emperor is a big fan of saving galaxies.

Brand agrees that they need to cut that ice and welcomes him aboard. She announces they will be using the gate for now. Once they got the comms up, Manifold or one on his team will handle evacuation.

Fabian Cortez complains they should have working comms already. So there’s a dome in the way. It’s Matsuya’s job to solve trifling problems like that. What on Earth is he wasting his time on?

In fact, in the Red Suite, Wiz Kid is working on that very problem when he is interrupted by a space dragon attack, and apparently not the first one. Annoyed, he tells it he is busy and has the station weapons shoot the dragon.

Brand just informs Cortez that he is a busy man.

They are all busy, Cortez mutters. He for one was extremely busy, Mentallo stresses. And if Xavier and Grey are down there not making a dent in things, he’s got to ask why Brand wants him to risk his neck. Random taunts him if he is scared. Of course! he shouts back. Obviously. There are bad goo creatures! Shaping his arm into a weapon, Random points out he is a worse goo creature. Good for him, Mentallo replies, but he’s got those things called bones in his body.

Brand interrupts that Mentallo is not going with the others anyway. She has a different mission for him in mind. Random mocks him for having to go on a solo mission with no back-up. Brand orders Mentallo to read her surface thoughts, Protocol V. Astonished, he mutters she wouldn’t… it’s unthinkable. And yet, she thought it, is her cold reply. Because thinking the unthinkable is what she does every day. Today they are up against a primordial god of darkness. A potentially unstoppable force. It’s already murdered nearly a dozen populated worlds. Does he think Earth can’t be next?

What about the superheroes? Mentallo points out. Heroes can fail, she replies coldly. She has to plan for that outcome. That’s what Protocol V is – the plan. The survival of humanity in the face of planetary genocide. She’s sorry if it’s a method he doesn’t like. But then if she had her choice, she’d be talking to Cable about this. Instead, she’s stuck with him. The best she could get? Prove her wrong. Get this done. Fine, he mutters, but he’ll need the “you-know-what.”

Krakoa, now snowed in thanks to the lack of sunlight. Cortez complains there will be flatscans behind that. Paibok tells Frenzy he had not imagined his visit to Krakoa like that. The paradise where mutants could finally lay down their arms. Frenzy apologizes. He is not seeing them at their best. She looks ahead to where Magneto, Banshee, Sunfire and Random are battling a dragon.

Noticing the Skrull, Sunfire asks if they are inviting these aliens to their shores now before firing a blast at the dragon. However, the dragon grabs him and takes him out. Magneto attacks the dragon and orders Emma Frost to mindlink with Sunfire. Telepathically, she assures him he is fine, mentally at least. However, he broke his legs and ribs.

Paibok offers growing some wings and fighting the dragon. Frenzy suggests throwing him would be faster. Cortez interrupts that they should not trouble their guest. He walks toward Sunfire and tells him to cast off the wounds of the body. Cortez uses his power to supercharge Shiro. He tells him the enemies have taken their sun away. They have stolen it from them, as they have stolen so many things. He orders him to take it back - be the Krakoan sun.

Supercharged, Sunfire flies upward. Yes! Sunfire cries as he flies right through the dragon’s body.

Still got it, Cortez tells himself smugly. Still the power behind the throne…

In the Arbor Magna hatchery, the Five observe that someone put the sun back on. He could have done that, Proteus mutters. Tempus agrees they all could have helped out there. Hope points out, who’s bringing mutants back from the dead in the meantime? The good work doesn’t stop for space dragons, Elixir agrees. A wee baby sun though, Proteus mutters. It’s not like it’s a bother. Hope bluntly states it’s power. Power he is not using to revive a fallen mutant. They are the Five – the bridge back to life. That’s not a job they get to put aside.

That moment, a wall is destroyed by a tank driven by Mentallo, who agrees with her. This is his think tank. Otherwise known as their escape vehicle as they leave the Earth behind to die. Welcome to Protocol V, he tells them.

Outside, Cortez addresses Magneto. Does he remember him now? Magneto replies he has done a great service for Krakoa today. He has their gratitude. He trusts Sunfire won’t suffer any ill effects?

Cortez assures him he has been encouraged to make his power-boosting effect less “craveable.” But at the risk of repeating himself… in the future he would like to speak to the Council in regard to certain national policy matters. Pertaining to the flatscans. After some thinking, Magneto agrees that this might be instructive. Frenzy watches their interaction with concern. History repeating, she mutters sarcastically Like all his other betrayals weren’t…

She is interrupted by a voice coming from the gate. Look what he sees through his dead dragon eyes. A footstep away through their wonderful door… a whole island full of hosts. The useful kind of hosts. The kind that can do things…

A dark, clawed hand reaches through the gate. That ain’t possible, Random mutters. Oh it is possible, Knull assures them. Don’t all rush at once. Please form an orderly queue. “To me. my X-Men.” Knull orders.

Characters Involved: 

Commander Brand
Cortez, Frenzy, Manifold, Mentallo, Random, Wiz Kid

Banshee, Magneto, Sunfire, White Queen
Egg, Elixir, Hope, Proteus, Tempus (The Five)


Story Notes: 

Text pages:

Brand’s personnel notes:

Mentallo: Brand muses how she has recruited Mentallo precisely because he is a disloyal con man, as she can use those skills.Cortez: Brand muses that, while Cortez’ power is indispensable, he is a traitor and considers several replacements. The most promising candidate’s name is censored.

Further notes:

This is part of the company-wide King in Black crossover.

Written By: