S.W.O.R.D. (2nd series) #5

Issue Date: 
June 2021
Story Title: 

Al Ewing (writer), Valerio Schiti, (artist), Marte Gracia (colors), VC’s Ariana Maher (letterer), Tom Muller (Design), Valerio Schiti & Marte Gracia (cover artists), Stefano Caselli and Federico Blee (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: 

Amelia Voght and Arakki mutant Khora of the Burning Heart follow Brand’s edict by killing all the candidates of Snarkwar safe for the one Brand backs. In the meantime, Cortez is resurrected and, though gets his moment to speak in front of the Quiet Council, he is irritated as he doesn’t even warrant a full council. To make matters worse, Magneto has invited Peeper to sit in. Cortez makes his argument that he sees kill no human as superfluous with several rhetorical tricks. Pepper quickly points out Cortez frustration being connected to his rejection of his family though and Magneto puts paid to Cortez spurious arguments. Cotez bristles and points out he is vital to them but, to add insult to injury, Brand then introduces Khora of the Burning Heart as his replacement and effectively fires him.

Full Summary: 

Plant J543, at the edge of Utopian Kree space:

Zn’rx prince Wezel is trying to discuss with the Supreme Intelligence the right to move his troops though Utopian Kree space, but is rebuffed. Wezel shouts that he is under siege. Trapped on all sides by his duplicitous siblings, expect for theirs. The Supreme Intelligence regrets this but the Utopian Kree cannot be seen to take sides in the Zn’rx conflict. Wezel accuses them of taking sides against him. He sears vengeance. He appeals to their vow to save all sentients. Just before the Kree can reply, the prince is shot in the back and dies.

Krakoa, Arbor Magna:
Nobody is there to welcome Fabian Cortez as he is resurrected from an egg, save for a disinterested Jean Grey, who informs him his cause of death was murder by alien symbiote, if he was wondering. She drew the short straw and had to put his mind back. It didn’t take long.

Cortez looks forward to the reaffirmation ceremony, but Jean informs him they are not having one of those today. He has Council business. That takes priority. Gleefully, she adds he should have seen Sunfire’s ceremony. That was a party. He asks if he can get clothes or a shower at least. The yolk gets everywhere. Mercilessly, she just advises him to get it off before it becomes crusty and orders him not to keep the Council waiting.

Still in his birthday suit, he is led before the Council. Xavier announces that they are not complete but enough for a quorum. He asks Magneto if he is satisfied. Magneto announces they have a few more guests coming. As if on cue, they are joined by Abigail Brand and – to Cortez’ disgust – Peeper, to whom Magneto happily offers a seat.

Angrily, Cortez demands why he is here. Because he values Peeper’s input, Magneto replies. Peter is quite the man of vision. As well as being one of his oldest and most trusted friends.

Cortez states that, ten minutes ago, he was dead and now he is standing here with no clothes on. Two of man’s greatest nightmares in quick succession. Is he being punished? Magneto asks if his grand plans aren’t going as envisioned. That is nothing new, surely. This is his opportunity. Here and now, he has the floor. Speak. Or leave. Cortez preens and announces that he would like to discuss the subject of murder…

On Xaxoco, two Zn’rx royalty members hide out, realizing that both their half-brothers have been murdered. Khondo and Lyga intend to wait out their last competitor’s death, then the war of succession will be finished between the two of them. Lyga accuses Khondo of having Wezel killed. He agrees with her that some things should be personal, getting ready to shoot her.

Cortez announces that the Second Law is backwards. They made it a rule not to murder any flatscan, when… Xavier interrupts and asks him not to use that slur. Fabian mockingly agrees. Their oppressors may denigrate them, humiliate mutants, strip them of who they are, but unless they consider humans’ feelings, mutants are the real monsters. Please, he’s heard it all before. Has he? Storm asks doubtingly. Is he not mutant? he retorts. Has he not heard all the arguments for his own extinction? And yet, even now, even now he does not mean humanity ill. This is a new day and as he has been forgiven, he shall forgive. Sinister grins at the show, while Exodus looks disgusted.

But tell him, Cortez continues, why must he bow? Why is the highest mutant crime a crime against humans? Ah, he remembers, he hams it up. Humans are finite. Because mutants have no resurrection protocols for them. And in that case, they are already refusing to save the poor creatures from what must come… their slow painful decline… their inexorable death. Be they enemies or allies, or their own family - they are allowing that terror. Magneto glares silently.

Cortez stresses he does not say this out of malice. To take a human life should be regrettable thing. How is it murder though? How can it be murder, if they are already dead?

A knife hits Khondor in the head, much to Lyga’s surprise. Amelia Voght points out he was going to kill her. She must have seen that coming surely. He all but announced it. Lyga replies he was her brother and until now his word was good. She asks who she is and why she saved her.

Voght introduces herself and stresses she didn’t save her life. She’s sorry. No, wait, Lyga pleads. Another person takes the knife from the corpse and announces that their forces massacred half the people on this trading post. That shows strength. Don’t betray that strength with begging. She cuts Lyga’s throat.

The Quiet Council:
Well, nothing to say? Cortez demands. Peeper asks what his mutant name is. Eh? Cortez asks. Peeper explains that he is Peeper, Mags is Magneto, Marv is Mentallo. Mutant names. What’s his? He doesn’t need some tawdry alias! Cortez scoffs. He is Cortez. His forefathers were ancient nobility in Europe – and men of wealth in the New World. They bent continents to their whim! And his sister and he were mutants… the pinnacle of the bloodline… but they were… shunned by the sapiens in their family. Treated as an embarrassment… given the scraps from the family table. Barely six figures… property in Florida. But he is Cortez! His name is a mutant name because it belongs to him. And if the flatscans want it back, they can wear it on their tombstones! he rages.

He figured it was something like that, Peeper replies wryly.

Magneto remarks, he has raised some interesting nuances. Issues of manslaughter or negligence should perhaps be considered. But that is for another day and a full council. Today is for murder. And he knows murder. He gets up and continues that murder is in the simplest terms a choice. He has made that choice many times. In the passion of an instant - and at cold calculated length. But those choices were made in a time long past. They are here and it is now. If he were to make that choice again – for any reason – he would face exile. And face it, gladly. For they must be a nation of laws. He has listened to how Cortez has… suffered at human hands. To his reasons. Do him a favor. Look him in the eye and say they are greater than Magneto’s. Cortez cannot do it. Ashamed, he looks away.

Storm interjects that this is ridiculous. They have the Gala to get ready for. Motion to dismiss this meeting.

Desperately, Cortez shouts he is not done, adding they need him for their space program. He is vital to Krakoan society! Mr. Sinister and Shaw smirk at his rant, as he continues that without him there are no more expeditions into higher space! No more of their precious mysterium! Xavier interjects that this is beneath him. Cortez shouts back that he is their future and he wants the respect due him or…

He is interrupted by a violet light and two women appear. “Who are you?” he bursts out. Deliberately misunderstanding, the teleporter Amelia Voght professes surprise; he doesn’t remember her. They are such old friends The other smaller woman – whose torso is partially lit by light from within announces he means her. She is Khora of the Burning Heart. She is fire in the soul and murder in the dark. She is of Arakko. And she is his replacement.

While Fabian still gapes, Brand asks the two women if their mission is complete. Voght replies that Kuga of Boa Clan is the new Z’nr’x Empress. She knows she owes that favor to Krakoa. And Arakko, Khora points out.

Shaw asks if they are done. He has work to do. They all do, Emma agrees. Next time teach an upstart a lesson in his own time, she chides Magneto. While Fabian still stammers, Xavier announces he still thinks it was right to give him a chance to make his case.

Magneto offers to accompany Brand. Xavier addresses Voght. They haven’t had a chance to talk since she arrived. If he’s not busy now, she offers. They all leave, leaving a naked, sputtering Cortez standing there alone.

Magneto asks if “murder no human” doesn’t apply to aliens. That depends, Brand replies. Is it murder in defense of a nation? A planet? A thousand planets? Snarkwar destroyed her father’s planet. He was one of the few survivors and it left him broken. One more galactic drifter hustling for his next drink. So, she ended the latest war of succession the only way she could. By picking the winner. In defense of Sol or in justice for the past? he asks and warns her to be careful. She admits, it is a fairly blunt way to influence a galactic society, but now they have something better – namely tons of mysterium.

Characters Involved: 

Commander Brand
Cortez, Forearm, Khora of the Burning Heart, Peeper, Slab, Voght (SWORD)
Emma Frost, Exodus, Magneto, Mr Sinister, Mystique, Nightcrawler, Professor X, Storm (Quiet Council)
Marvel Girl

Lyga, Wezel, Khondor (Zn’rx)

Story Notes: 

Text pages:

Brand’s notes on Khora of the Burning Heart and how to end Snarkwar

Further notes:
Giallo: an Italian thriller subgenre about the uncovering of a series of murders

Cortez’s story continues in Way of X starting with issue #2.

Voght and Cortez know each other from the Acolytes.

Voght is Xavier’s ex-girlfriend.

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