S.W.O.R.D. (2nd series) #9

Issue Date: 
October 2021
Story Title: 
Friends in High Places

Al Ewing (writer), Jacopo Camagni, (artist), Fernando Sifuentes of Photobunker’s Studios (colors), VC’s Ariana Maher (letterer & Production), Tom Muller (Design), Valerio Schiti & Marte Gracia (cover artists), David Go, Joe Jusko (alternate covers), Jonathan Hickman (Head of X), Annalise Bissa (Associate editor), Jordan D. White (editor), C.B. Cebulski (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), C.B. Cebulski (editor-in chief)

Brief Description: 

Guardian, former leader of Alpha Flight, visits Gyrich on the Alpha Flight station with a heavy heart, still not sure about having joined Orchis. Gyrich hints that his friend Wolverine might be mentally controlled and extols the dangers of a mutant planet. They eavesdrop on Brand and some SWORD members welcoming a Shi’ar delegation, led by Empress Xandra herself, who is disappointed that her savior Storm didn’t come (being busy with yet another challenge). Gyrich has made a deal with interstellar weapons dealer Orbis Stellaris, whose new Lethal Legion attacks the envoys and kills several Superguardians, until Storm arrives to aid and secure victory. Gyrich activates his mole closer to home, SWORD’s Wiz Kid.

Full Summary: 

Alpha Flight Space Station:
James MacDonald Hudson, welcome to Alpha Flight, Henry Gyrich greets his guest Guardian. He couldn’t resist, he chuckles. What with him being Commander of the Alpha Flight program and Hudson being leader of the old…

He gets it, Guardian cuts him off. What there was to get. Is that what they are doing now? Making jokes? He is right, of course, Gyrich agrees. This is no joke. He turns on a holographic image showing alien ships flying to Mars aka Arakko. Aliens flocking to their nearest neighbor, Gyrich describes it. To break bread with the mutant revolutionaries – some of them known terrorists – who have populated Mars with immigrants from a foreign reality. Arakko. That’s what they’ve named it. But humans named it first. For the god of war. And they’ll go to war to take it back. Mac addresses him.

Is something the matter? Gyrich asks. Mac explains this is difficult for him. He’s known Logan for years now. Oh Jimmy, Gyrich tuts, really? Some of his best friends are mutants? They all saw the fireworks - Logan wasn’t there. Terraforming worlds is an omega-only job. He imagines Logan stayed at the bar and drank a beer… or a dozen… and told himself it was all A-okay. You’d think he have qualms, Gyrich muses. A man of the wilds watching “his people” turn a wild planet tame. Does that adamantium skull block telepathy? he wonders. What is he saying? Mac asks.

Gyrich continues, saying he knows how people have used and manipulated Wolverine over the years. Now, he doesn’t shed tears for mind-controlled super weapons, but Guardian being his friend and all… Mac shoves away his hand. He made his choice he is with Orchis, all right? He snaps. He doesn’t need persuading. He needs to know what Gyrich’s plan is. What exactly are they using against a whole planet of X-Men?

Gyrich smiles: friends in high places, Jimmy, friends in high places…

SWORD Station two: the KEEP:
Abigail Brand welcomes a Shi’ar delegation from Chandilar led by Empress Xandra herself, who is accompanied by Cannonball and several members of the Imperial Guard. Brand seethes at Storm not being there. What is she doing anyway? she complains to Manifold. Ah, you know, he shrugs, the usual.

The usual meaning that again she has to defend her seat on the Great Ring in the Circle Perilous against a challenger, Kobak Never-Held, who doesn’t accept a Krakoan who didn’t suffer alongside the Arakkii. She evades his blows and calmly states she is here now, and she is staying.

Brand muses she thought the challenges would slow down, once she’d got Tarn the Uncaring’s approval. He was the last Great Ring holdout… It’s a big planet, Manifold points out, lots of mutants, lots of challengers. He tells her not to worry. He knows Storm. She will be there when they need her. Brand hopes so. One of the objectives today is to send the Shi’ar home with a smile. That will be hard enough without the Voice of Sol cancelling a playdate with the Shi’ar empress. She orders the computer to patch her through to the PEAK. She needs to speak to her new number two, referring to the adult Cable.

How’s the view? she asks. More to the point, how is her office? Sitting in the Green Room, Cable remarks it isn’t his color. And he can’t quite get the hang of sitting in her chair. Brand remarks that sounds like a metaphor. Could be, he admits. It is a little too comfortable. When he is relaxed, he knows trouble is coming. She replies that’s why she put him there. Between the debacle of Phobos and the space threats the X-Men are having to deal with, for them comfortable is what they don’t want to be. She tells him to keep watching the sky. If there is one thing she has learned about Arakko, trouble comes when they are distracted.

On the planet, at Lake Hellas, the Shi’ar delegation has arrived, welcomed by Frenzy, Random and Fourarm. Fang sniffs Frenzy, then announces they are mutant-humans. No Skrulls, no chameloid or induced image. She is who she is. Gladiator agrees, microvision shows a full DNA match with their scans.

Empress Xandra thanks them both. She apologizes to the mutants but there have been several attacks on her life… but where is her savior, the regent of Arakko, the Voice of Sol? Could Storm not even say ‘hello’? she asks sadly.

On the station, Brand gets nervous. They cannot afford to snub the Shi’ar. Wiz-Kid calls her warning of an unauthorized approach in Arakko orbit. Five person craft dropping out of warp - way too close. Not answering hails and they are aimed right at Lake Hellas. Brand orders to shoot them down. Wiz Kid is trying but he got a translocation signal. Whoever’s on that ship, they already beamed down.

And, indeed, five beings have teleported down vowing death to the Shi’ar, the Imperial Guard and their Earther allies. They introduce themselves as the new Lethal Legion consisting of Half-Bot, Mr Eloquent, the Electric Head, Orbis Extremis and Death Grip.

Frenzy orders Xandra behind her. Fang ignores Gladiator’s order to wait and rushes at the Legion. Half-Bot grabs him by the throat and easily kills him. Gladiator vows he will die for that and uses his heat vision, which the cyborg can protect himself against. Gladiator orders the Guardians to pick a foe. He himself is psychically attacked by Electric Head, who induces feelings of extreme shame in Gladiator, whose powers are based on his self-confidence.

Cannonball figures their foes must know their weaknesses. Unimpressed, Neutron replies they don’t all have weaknesses. He hits the Electric Head, his punch strengthened by his gravity control. Mr. Eloquent cuts through Neutron’s skin with an atomic saw and grabs the micro-singularity inside him, which then consumes Neutron.

Deathbird announces she has to get Xandra to safety. To cover their retreat, Frenzy orders Forearm and Random to distract their foes. Orbis Extremis psychically takes possession of Random, forcing him to kill Forearm. Frenzy shouts at him to regain control. Don’t make her beat him to death with his own…

Goliath interrupts her and kicks the sphere Orbis Extremis sits in away like a football. He grins, then suddenly is overgrown with a brown substance and dies courtesy of Death Grip who has simply touched his leg.

Cannonball blasts toward him, counting on his protection from his blastfield, even as Deathbird shouts at him not to. However, then she and Xandra notice someone else has arrived and so do the others as Death Grip is hit by a lightning bolt.

Storm apologizes to the guests for her tardiness. There were affairs of state.

Via transmission, the mysterious Orbis Stellaris watches events and muses about Storm’s power. Sometimes, he regrets leaving the study of inborn enhancements to others… He wonders if there are limits to such an ability. Could it be cloned or shut off? Does he know? he asks Gyrich, who is in holographic communication with him, while a skeptical Guardian watches. Gyrich replies that, in his opinion, getting past Storm’s powers just takes the right weapon, then congratulates Orbis Stellaris on his new enhancement tech. He ends the transmission.

Guardian is shocked that Gyrich is collaborating with that alien. That’s not like him. Gyrich retorts, Orbis Stellaris is from the Galactic Rim, so he is how Gyrich likes his aliens: Friendly and very far away. But also he has assets closer to home. It’s time he activated his mole in the enemy camp.

About time, a voice comes from a com-link. Listening in? Gyrich asks. He shouldn’t be surprised. Ready to show SWORD where his true loyalties lie? More than ready, Wiz Kid promises. So just sit back and let him work…

Characters Involved: 

Commander Brand
Cable, Forearm, Frenzy, Manifold, Random, Wiz Kid
Xandra Neramani
Fang, Gladiator, Manta, Neutron, Titan (Guardians)

Henry Gyrich

Death Grip, Electric Head, Half-Bot, Mr Eloquent, Orbis Extremis (Lethal Legion)
Orbis Stellaris

Story Notes: 

Text pages:

Brand’s notes on Cable

She originally picked him as security chief, because he was a naive kid and connections for her to exploit – Jean Grey on the Quiet Council and Scott Summers as Captain Commander. Those connections petered out, and now she is stuck with adult suspicious Cable.

Brand also has notes on how Cable’s TO-virus would be used against him.

Info on Lethal Legion

Further notes:
Gyrich recruited Guardian during the Hellfire Gala.

Despite the ‘no copies’ rule, the Five brought adult Cable back to life in Cable (4th series) #11.

Phobos was destroyed thanks to Onslaught’s machinations in Way of X #4.

Storm saved Xandra in X-Men 85th series) #17.

Gyrich’s statement about the right weapon stopping Storm refers to his depowering her years ago with Forge’s neutralizer in Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #185.

Written By: