Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Valerio Schiti
Color Artist: Marte Gracia
Cover Artist: Valerio Schiti & Marte Gracia
The new mutant space agency of Krakoa has been through the wringer with the invasion by Knull. They endured some hits and bruises, but they all survived and came out the stronger for it. Most of them anyway. Fabian Cortez was their team’s casualty, but he’s being resurrected. However, it seems like Magneto has something in store for Cortez, and S.W.O.R.D. #5 is showing exactly what that is.
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Okay, I’m convinced – Al Ewing hates Fabian Cortez. At least, that’s the impression I keep getting from his S.W.O.R.D. series. He writes the man as the butt monkey of the entire book and has everyone treat the man like crap. But then he props up the mutant Peeper, a bald mutant with big googly eyes, and has everyone love him. Especially Magneto, who he’s supposedly good friends with. Even though Peeper hasn’t been in a comic, let alone an X-Men comic, for 20 years or more.
Let me just say, this is coming from someone not familiar with either Fabian Cortez or Peeper. Please let me know in the comments if this comic is accurate or not to the characters and their comic history. My problem isn’t the dynamic between the two, it’s how Al Ewing is dedicating an ENTIRE ISSUE to it and dragging the series down in the process.
None of which paints any of the present characters in a positive light. It just makes them all look like jerks and not the fun kind. Clearly, Ewing wants to give the S.W.O.R.D. team members their time to shine, but none of it has been great so far, except for Manifold. But that is really due to the art by Valerio Schiti and the colors by Marte Gracia. There’s just too much to go into without spoilers, so I’ll get right to it.
From the moment he emerges from a resurrection pod, Fabian Cortez is greeted by a salty Jean Grey, who basically drew the short straw to help revive him and says, with a smile on her face, “It didn’t take long.” This shows how dedicated Ewing is to have everyone hate Fabian Cortez as he writes the normally empathetic Jean Grey talk to Cortez like this immediately after he’s been resurrected.
Jean walks Cortez straight to the Quiet Council, while he’s nude, and most of the council is there and so is Abigail Brand. It sounds like Cortez is being punished, he even asks Magneto if he is, but apparently, he’s not. They’re giving him “his due” to discuss the flaws and some oversights in Krakoa’s “Murder no Man” law. He’s quite over-the-top and pompous about it, but he makes his case.
Then Peeper asks him what his mutant name is, and this is where the issue starts to go downhill. See, Peeper explains that most of the mutants’ titles and call-signs have become their mutant’s names, but points out that Cortez doesn’t have one. To which, Cortez says that his name is Fabian Cortez and he doesn’t need a “tawdry alias”. And I have to agree. But the way it’s framed, it’s like Peeper is judging him for not having one.
Frankly, a man who proudly calls himself “Peeper” isn’t one to talk and not every mutant or member of the X-Men is called by their mutant name anyway, if they even have one. Then Magneto chimes in followed by Storm who just wants to dismiss the meeting altogether. And right when Fabian Cortez is about to go into a brief “You need me!” rant, his replacement is abruptly teleported in.
That’s right – his replacement. A female mutant from Arakko called Khora of the Burning Heart. Who’s Khora? She’s the assassin who’s been killing members of the alien Zn’rx royal family in this series’ subplot about the Snark War since issue #2. It doesn’t stop there. Al Ewing even has Professor X insult him when he tries to catch up with the character who’s been teleporting Khora. When the character asks if there’s anyone else he’s meeting with, Xavier promptly says, “Oh, no. Nobody important.” over a panel with a sad Fabian Cortez.
I’m not fond of Cortez, but this whole comic feels like a mean-spirited waste of time just so Al Ewing can show how everyone hates Fabian Cortez. Or rather, how much he hates Cortez. In fact, Ewing’s treatment of Cortez reminds me of how Tom King treated Light Ray in his Mister Miracle series. There Light Ray was treated like crap, egregiously so by Big Barda. Mind you, neither of the two characters had any well-established beef or anything, and it’s not like readers generally hated Light Ray either. It was just Tom King’s writing, just like how it’s Al Ewing’s writing here.
At this point, they might as well have Fabian Cortez join up with the Hellions since Mr. Sinister was the only one enjoying the show and he could really be useful on his team. Plus, Zeb Wells could give him a proper character arc, whereas Al Ewing seems determined to use him as pointless comic relief.
S.W.O.R.D. #5 is less of a story and more of a dressing down of Fabian Cortez by the mutants, or rather by Al Ewing. If you dislike or hate Cortez, then this book is up your wheelhouse as Ewing lays all his flaws bare. But if not, and this is your first exposure to the character, then skip it and wait for the next issue.