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X of Swords Writer Tini Howard Breaks Down How Mutant Magic Is More Than It Seems

The Krakoan mutants as they appear in Saturnye’s Tarot reading.
The Krakoan mutants as they appear in Saturnye’s Tarot reading.
Screenshot: Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia, Marvel

The first entry into Marvel’s X of Swords event brought war to the X-Men, a mysterious new set of mystical swords to the larger world, and a demonstration of just how dangerous the mutant magic Apocalypse has been tinkering with can actually be when left unchecked. The X-Men’s latest, greatest battle is one that’s meant to significantly impact the trajectory of their futures, but there are moments in X of Swords: Creation #1 that makes it seem as if everything’s already been set in stone.

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The four original Horsemen of the Apocalypse make their way through Otherworld, conquering its kingdoms in their quest to locate a gate that will give them direct access to Krakoa. Opal Luna Saturnye, the guardian of the Starlight Citadel, takes a moment to fetch an ominous deck of Tarot cards in order to glean details of the future via divination. Otherworld being a magical nexus between realities and all, it makes sense Saturnye might put her faith in a deck of cards to help her determine what to do about the invaders threatening her kingdom, and as she draws her five cards—Judgment, the Four of Wands, the Hanged Man, the Eight of Cups, and Ten of Swords—you see that each of them depicts a scene presumably from moments in future X of Swords issues.

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Saturyne has as much faith in the message the cards are trying to convey to her as she does in her belief that she’ll remain Otherworld’s ruler after the X-Men take on the Horsemen in an epic duel of swords. But in a recent interview with Newsarama, X of Swords co-writer Tini Howard was careful to explain that the precognitive potential X of Swords’ magical elements have—Tarot in particular—aren’t necessarily going to function as hard and fast concrete predictions of oncoming events.

Though Howard didn’t spell out any details about what’s going to happen in X of Swords and beyond, she emphasized that understanding Tarot as a lens through which to see things is important.

“If I get a lot of cards like the Empress or the High Priestess, for example, cards that represent this archetype of nurturing energy, it may give me insight into this feeling that I need to be more nurturing to myself,” Howard said of her own relationship to Tarot. “As far as Tarot and its role versus something like actually predicting the future, Tarot isn’t about specifically telling the future, it’s about examining the part you’ll play in it—because the future is always in flux.”

Saturyne drawing her cards.
Saturyne drawing her cards.
Screenshot: Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia, Marvel
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What’s going to be particularly interesting to see developed further is just how Apocalypse decides to deal with the reality that his long lost children wish him dead, despite the lengths he’s gone to be reunited with them. So much of Apocalypse’s plotting in recent X-Men comics has revolved around his seemingly newfound belief that both magic and technology are integral parts of mutants’ existence, and while that might read as Apocalypse veering into Doctor Doom territory, Howard explained that it’s something more. Apocalypse isn’t just fiddling with magic as a means to an end, he’s trying to make it a larger part of mutant culture.

“To Apocalypse, there’s still a lot of work to be done, a mutant cultural heritage and traditions to build—things like the idea of magic,” Howard said. “Anthropologically, culturally, magic is an expression of wisdom and ideas that are developed over the development of a society. So Apocalypse is getting into these ideas of building a concept of mutant magical tradition.”

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Considering the X-Men’s past with magic users and Houses of (pick an initial of your choosing), Apocalypse’s new obsession might not exactly end well for everyone. But considering that there’s an entire army of demons readying themselves to decimate Krakoa, a little chaotic energy probably couldn’t make things all that much worse.

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io9 Culture Critic and Staff Writer. Cyclops was right.

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DISCUSSION

“Anthropologically, culturally, magic is an expression of wisdom and ideas that are developed over the development of a society. So Apocalypse is getting into these ideas of building a concept of mutant magical tradition.”

I love that this interview contains almost Grant Morrison levels of gonzo theorizing. May the union of Tarot Girl and Diagram Guy yield us some weird-ass comics.