Jonathan Hickman and C.B. Cebulski Talk "X of Swords" and Dawn of X's Future

Last weekend's Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo brought quite a few major updates to the nerd world, especially if you're a fan of Marvel's X-Men. The weekend brought the announcement of "X of Swords," an upcoming 15-part crossover that will affect the entire "Dawn of X" line of books. The crossover will see the mutant nation of Krakoa facing its biggest challenge yet when powerful forces from the unknown threaten their new world. "X of Swords" (which is pronounced "Ten of Swords") is set to begin in X-Men's Free Comic Book Day special, which will be penned by X-Men writer and "Head of X" Jonathan Hickman and Excalibur writer Tini Howard. ComicBook.com was among a small number of outlets that got to chat with Hickman, as well as Marvel Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski, at C2E2 about what "X of Swords" has in store.

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(Photo: Marvel Comics)

"We're in a really interesting time in that the books have launched and they're all healthy, and the reception of the line across the board has been fairly positive, I would say," Hickman explained. "And we know the things that we're doing down the road. And so what we're doing now — and 'X of Swords' is a perfect example of this — is that we're just trying sh-t out. We haven't done a real crossover across a bunch of books, that was a real, true crossover, in a really long time. And so we got together as the X group, and we were like, 'We want to do a crossover.' And the question is, 'Okay, so were we just screwing around? Or do we actually have a story?' And thank goodness, we have a story. But it's really a group experiment across the line. And we're doing that again in December, and we got some stuff we're doing next year that works the same way."

Hickman continued, "It's really kind of fascinating because it all comes out of a process in a kind of team environment that I've never experienced in Marvel. It's really kind of interesting what we build. We have a group Slack and we talk to each other all the time, and so all of the books feel like a family of books. It's not editorially driven. It's more organically driven, right? And so this is just another thing that's coming out of that. We're pretty excited about it. We think it is going to be cool stuff, as opposed to 'time for another event.'"

Cebulski echoed that sentiment, arguing that "X of Swords" is just one example of Marvel redefining what a significant comic storyline can entail.

"That's the thing I've been talking a lot about recently, internally; changing the terminology, and changing a lot of these dirty words for fans and retailers," Cebulski revealed. "The way we see this is, 'It's a crossover, it's not an event.' 'Event' has taken on this meaning of certain things. People use it almost every month, 'There's an event!' But it's not. This is really truly going back to those classic — especially in X-Men — inter-series crossovers."

Of course, the Mark Brooks promo art for "X of Swords" showcases at least 20 X-Men characters wielding some sort of blade, and Hickman and Cebulski hinted there could very well be more than ten swords in the actual storyline -- including some deep cuts from Marvel canon.

"Think of an X-Men character that has had or used the sword at some point in the history in the Marvel characters, and there might be a chance that that character will make an appearance with a sword," Hickman teased. "There may be more than 10 swords, but there will at least be 10 swords. It feels like it'd be wrong if there weren't."

Cebulski added, "We go deep, actually. We had an X-Men retreat in New York where we all got together and discussed this. And I remember us listing Marvel swords, X-men swords, and what could be considered a sword."

The name "X of Swords" instantly made some think of the tarot card of the same name, which can symbolize everything from drama to betrayal to rebounding from a traumatic event. According to Hickman, that allusion to tarot is intentional, and will actually be weaved into the event itself.

"This is going to be a big crossover, and Tini Howard and I are writing the big chunks of it together, and then all the other X-Men books are going to filter in and out of it," Hickman explained. "The tarot stuff came from Tini. There's a scene in [the] Free Comic Book Day [special], and it's in the first issue as well, that ties into all that and pulls it all together. That's where it comes from."

In the year since "Dawn of X" was first teased (with the announcement of Hickman's House of X and Powers of X miniseries at C2E2 2019), the relaunch has certainly grown and evolved in some unexpected ways. As both Hickman and Cebulski put it, the elasticity of "Dawn of X" has allowed for that creative freedom to come naturally.

"We are still in the beginning stages of everything, because I intentionally knew that maybe people were going to take a little while to find their books," Hickman revealed. "And maybe it was going to take us a little while to figure out how we were all going to make all this work together. And what we found is that some people are jogging, some people are sprinting. None of it feels like failure, right? We're kind of still just playing around."

Hickman added, "Now, I will put a stop to that at some point, because we have bigger and broader things that we're going to do. But while we're still discovering interesting things about the books — and we have a couple of new books that are getting ready to start that really work that way — I think we should just keep playing. The moment it feels stagnant, though, I'm just going to absolutely take an ax to it and be like, 'No, it's time to pivot hard.' Jordan [White] and C.B. and everybody at Marvel knows what we're doing. We just don't know when we're going to do it."

Cebulski echoed, "Let's give them the space and the time they need to tell that story. It's very liquid, it's very fluid in a way and there's no set 'this is an ongoing, this is a mini.' No, we see where these stories take us. You're going to see books you haven't seen before, and names you haven't seen before. Everyone was like 'Marauders? Why would they call a book Marauders?' It's doing phenomenally well, and people understand it. It's like with Hellions. That's a book that Zeb [Wells] came in and pitched, and it's like, 'Wow, that's an interesting concept!' And it's a book that's going to surprise a heck of a lot of people."

While "Dawn of X" currently gives readers several different ongoing series and one-shots each month, there are some titles that fans are eager to see enter the fold. One of those is definitely the "Moira X" solo series, which Hickman provided a bit of an update on the status of.

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"We are going to do that book. We know who is going to write that book," Hickman revealed. "I have talked to that person many times about it, very recently in fact. But we're not going to pull that. That's one of those things that once you start pulling that thread, everything accelerates. That book will happen when it is time for that book to happen. We've intentionally not shown more. Obviously. We'll see more this year."

X of Swords will officially begin in June.