Welcome back to The Hollywood Reporter‘s Comics Watch, a dive into how the latest books from Marvel, DC and beyond could provide fodder for the big (and small) screen.
Following the events of the X-Men event series, X of Swords, Marvel’s mutants have once again found their place in the mutant nation of Krakoa, and their role on Earth changed. But it’s not just that little blue planet, ever the source of so many threats within Marvel’s multiverse that falls under the concern of mutants. Now, they’re looking to stars, launching the first mutant space program from the bones of what was once Earth’s foremost means of interplanetary defense, Sentient World Observation and Response Department, better known as S.W.O.R.D.
Wednesday saw the release S.W.O.R.D. No. 1 by Al Ewing and artist Valerio Schiti, marking the first ongoing title for the organization in a decade. While S.W.O.R.D. hasn’t always been expressly concerned with the political ambitions of mutants, its beginnings were founded within the world of mutants. Created by Joss Whedon and John Cassady in Astonishing X-Men No. 6 all the way back in 2004, S.W.O.R.D. proved essential in dealing with the mutant-hunting alien, Ord. In its debut S.W.O.R.D., originally an off-shoot of S.H.I.E.L.D., was overseen by the mysterious Nick Fury-loyalist, Abagail Brand, a human mutant/alien hybrid whose past, surprisingly, has still remained largely undefined. And although S.H.I.E.L.D. has since been disbanded, S.W.O.R.D.’s identity is very much entrenched in the interests of alien super-spy, Abagail Brand.
Brand, whose oversight was critical to the Secret Invasion and Infinity storylines, eventually stepped away from S.W.O.R.D. and worked, reluctantly under Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel as a member of the revitalized Alpha Flight, which sought to take a more hands-on, and superpowered approach in protecting the world from alien threats. Brand is central to Ewing and Schiti’s new series, overseeing S.W.O.R.D. from its base of operations, the Peak. Though a mutant herself, Brand doesn’t necessarily see herself as part of the mutant community, and while the latest iteration of S.W.O.R.D. operates under the oversight of Magneto (he’s a hero now), she doesn’t see her role as acting solely on behalf of the mutant nation of Krakoa, or even just Earth for that matter.
“I’m a Spacer. Spacers think in solar systems – in worlds and stars. And S.W.O.R.D. has to speak on that level” Brand tells Magneto.
S.W.O.R.D.’s recent revitalization in the Marvel Universe isn’t simply mere happenstance, as rumor points to the organization having a major role in the MCU going forward. These rumors have existed ever since director Joss Whedon’s involvement with the MCU, with few fans thinking he’d pass on the chance to introduce his creations into the world of the Avengers. But that introduction would have perhaps been premature. Now, with the whole world having dealt with Thanos, there’s more reason than ever for S.W.O.R.D. to become Earth’s first-line of defense against threats that don’t arise on Earth. Already, Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) seemed to be laying the groundwork for S.W.O.R.D. in a post-credit scene that featured Nick Fury in an alien space station, overseeing Skrulls concerned about the Kree infiltration of Earth. So where will S.W.O.R.D. point itself next? The answer may come sooner than fans might’ve thought.
Set photos from WandaVision displayed S.W.O.R.D.’s logo on several vehicles, and there are rumors that Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) will be working for the organization, which makes sense given her ties to Captain Marvel. And while Darcy Lewis’ (Kat Dennings) role in the series hasn’t been revealed yet, her internship with Jane Foster in the first two Thor films certainly points towards a career at S.W.O.R.D. If Wanda Maximoff’s powers are opening up alternate realities, setting up the events of both Spider-Man 3 and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, then that certainly seems like an otherworldly threat that would land on S.W.O.R.D.’s radar. And of course, there’s the whole mutant question.
S.W.O.R.D. has been linked to mutants from day one and with the latest series making the relationship even closer, one can’t help but wonder if mutants will make their debut in the MCU in WandaVision. Scarlet Witch was a mutant in the comics after-all (muddied by an Inhumans retcon), and perhaps her abilities will uncover, or create, a race of extraordinary beings that will become feared and hated. And if that’s the case, we imagine Abagail Brand’s MCU debut won’t be far behind. While it was S.H.I.E.L.D. that created the connective tissue throughout the first three phases of the MCU, expect S.W.O.R.D. to play that role in Phase 4 and beyond.