on 7 March 2013
Kieron Gillen has been much applauded for his run on Uncanny X-Men that ended one of the longest running franchises before being relaunched recently, but in my humble opinion his more interesting storytelling happened elsewhere. It was the reinterpretation of god of mischief Loki in Journey into Mystery that showed the best of Gillen's storytelling skills, and the limited series SWORD was something again.
Agent Abigail Brand, leader of the agency SWORD that is in charge of alien invasion defense has to face the scheming of former SHIELD agent Henry Gyrich who tries to reach his own goals in taking over SWORD. Together with lover and X-Man Beast Brand tries to solve several global crises at once. The supporting cast is crafted cleverly and funny, there is a balance between global threats and intelligent humor. The only book I could compare this to is Jason Aaron's "Wolverine and the X-Men". The art of Steve Sanders is A ok, some might be at odds with his presentation of Beast (very horse-like) which in my opinion matches with the story. The collection contains all 5 issues of the original run and can only be recommended.
This has been published under the X-men banner but the link is somewhat tenuous as it only features one bona fide X-man in the furry and loveable form of Hank McCoy aka Beast. Stretching a point and you could include Lockheed who was once thought of as Kitty Pryde's pet mini-dragon but who was recently revealed as an intelligent alien with his own (still unrevealed) agenda.
More of a grumble is the physical portrayal of Hank McCoy who I ought to state is my favourite Marvel character. His appearance has changed often over the years from pure (extremely well muscled and agile) human to human with blue fur and more recently into human with feline features and paws. And then again in this story where he has been given a horse-like muzzle which is considerably at variance with his features on the cover, and also much less appealing. That it makes him resemble (as we find out when we meet Abigail Brand's half-brother) his girlfriend's father's species still doesn't justify it.
Okay, as for the story itself, it's set on the space station responsible for defending earth against aliens and is co-lead by the mutually antagonistic Brand and Henry Gyrich (who, as Hank points out about this long-running X-men supporting character, has been wrong about everything for years. There are lots of wheels within wheels but basically Gyrich has SWORD round up every alien on Earth (including superheroes) while Brand and Beast are off fighting Deathshead.
If it hadn't been for the physical portrayal of Hank McCoy, I'd probably have given this 4 stars as it's a fun romp. But that horse-faced appearance is just SO annoying.