Spoilers for WandaVision follow.
One of the many mysteries thrown up by the first three episodes of WandaVision is the meaning of the sword emblem that continues to appear in different places. We’ve seen it on a necklace, a toy helicopter, a beekeeper’s suit, a notebook and a computer monitor. It’s made so many appearances, in fact, that the chances of it being a coincidence are non-existent – especially in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where nothing happens by accident.
While the sword logo is a newcomer to the MCU, it has plenty of history in Marvel comics, where it represents SWORD, an alien-hunting offshoot of SHIELD.
The Disney Plus show is yet to reveal why how SWORD is connected to Wanda Maximoff, or the weird, vintage sitcom-influenced world she inhabits. So we’re looking back at SWORD’s history to explain who they are, what they mean for WandaVision, and how they could fit into the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe.
There are still plenty of SWORD-shaped questions looking for answers, but one thing’s for sure – that logo is more than just a cool fashion accessory…
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What is SWORD?
While the sword-in-circle logo will probably remind UK viewers of famous disinfectant brand Dettol, SWORD is actually a covert intelligence agency responsible for dealing with alien threats to planet Earth. The organisation first appeared during Joss Whedon and artist John Cassaday’s 2004 run on Astonishing X-Men (issue #5), where it was led by the part-alien Abigail Brand.
In Marvel comics, SWORD stands for Sentient World Observation and Response Department, though the acronym has been changed slightly for the MCU – while it’s not yet been revealed on screen in WandaVision, a new series of Topps collectors says it’ll represent the Sentient Weapon Observation Response Division.
Does SWORD have anything to do with SHIELD?
Marvel comics have a long-standing love of secretive agencies with clever acronyms. Over the years we’ve seen AIM (Advanced Ideas Mechanics), ARMOR (Altered Reality Monitoring and Operational Response),WAND (Wizardry Alchemy Necromancy Department) and STAKE (Special Threat Assessment for Known Extranormalities) – not to mention organisations like HAMMER where the origin of the initials is unknown.
But by far the most famous of all the Marvel acronyms is SHIELD, AKA the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division that’s been integral to the MCU since the original Iron Man movie in 2008. Having replaced the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) in the 1950s – the organization Agent Peggy Carter worked for in Captain America: The First Avenger – SHIELD was pivotal in bringing together the Avengers when the alien Chitauri attacked.
In the comics, SWORD was an offshoot of SHIELD that dealt with extraterrestrial dangers while the parent organization looked after domestic threats – effectively the CIA to SHIELD’s FBI.
We’re not sure, however, whether the TV/movie version of SWORD will also be a SHIELD spin-off, seeing as the organization’s status in the MCU is currently unknown.
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it was revealed that the upper echelons of SHIELD had been infiltrated by World War 2 bad guys HYDRA. Agent Phil Coulson spent much of the Agents of SHIELD TV show rebuilding a smaller version of SHIELD, but it’s not entirely clear whether those events are part of MCU canon or not.
There are both fictional and real-world reasons for that uncertainty. While Agents of SHIELD referenced major events in the MCU (the HYDRA takeover, the arrival of Thanos), we’re not sure if Coulson and co’s efforts had any impact on the big screen – especially as Agents of SHIELD’s dalliances in time travel could have taken place in a different branch of the multiverse.
On a more mundane level, Agents of SHIELD was produced by Marvel Television, the now-defunct production company that was also responsible for non-MCU shows like Legion, Cloak & Dagger and Helstrom – the show’s status in official continuity was therefore somewhat ambiguous. In 2019, Marvel Television was folded into Marvel Studios, the entity responsible for the movies, so new Disney Plus Marvel shows also fall under the remit of MCU overlord Kevin Feige – and are all part of the wider MCU canon.
Have we seen SWORD in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before?
We may have seen the origins of SWORD in the post-credits sequence of Spider-Man: Far From Home. After it’s revealed that shapeshifting Skrull Talos had been impersonating Nick Fury throughout the story, we see the real Fury enjoying some R&R on a space station in orbit. Many have speculated that we’re seeing the origins of SWORD – an organization planet Earth arguably needs in the wake of multiple attacks from the Chitauri and Thanos.
A deleted scene from Thor: The Dark World also mentioned the agency, when Professor Erik Selvig talked about cross referencing “with the SWORD database” – though as the scene isn’t in the final movie, it’s not MCU canon.
SWORD (and their leader, Abigail Brand) have also made non-canon appearances in numerous animated shows, including Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Agents of SHIELD thought about introducing SWORD early in its run, but showrunner Jeffrey Bell told TV Line that, “We tried SWORD early [in the series] and we were shut down [by Marvel].”
Where have we seen SWORD in WandaVision?
SWORD makes its first appearance at the end of WandaVision episode 1, when the camera pulls out of Wanda’s black-and-white sitcom world, and reveals that someone’s watching the show on TV. The SWORD emblem appears both on a computer monitor and a notebook on a desk.
In episode 2, the SWORD logo can be seen both on the side of the toy helicopter Wanda finds in her garden, and on the back of the mysterious Beekeeper who climbs out of a manhole in Westview.
In episode 3, Wanda confronts her neighbor, Geraldine, about the SWORD-shaped pendant she wears on her necklace.
What does SWORD mean in WandaVision?
That’s one of the biggest of the show’s many questions.
One thing that does seem certain is that SWORD is somehow involved with Wanda and Vision’s sitcom existence – whether they’re trying to rescue the couple, or (less probable) they’re the ones who incarcerated them in a vintage TV world in the first place. Either way, SWORD’s presence suggests some kind of alien involvement.
We know that Geraldine is played by Teyonah Parris, who was originally announced for the role of Monica Rambeau – the daughter of Captain Marvel’s BFF, Maria. It seems likely that she’s a SWORD agent sent beyond the giant forcefield we see in WandaVision episode 3 to work out what’s going on – maybe SWORD agents use subtle emblems like her necklace to help distinguish themselves from ordinary Westview residents. When Geraldine’s forcibly removed from sitcom world, she’s instantly surrounded by (what we think are) government agents – possibly her SWORD colleagues.
We also know that Jimmy Woo (played by Randall Park), the former SHIELD agent who serves as Scott Lang’s FBI parole officer in Ant-Man, features in the show. It’s entirely plausible that he could have got a new job at SWORD in the interim, and many have speculated that it’s his voice on the radio in episode 2 asking, “Wanda? Who’s doing this to you, Wanda?” (If it is a SWORD agent asking the question, that would seem to disprove the suggestion that SWORD is responsible for her incarceration.)
As for the person in the Beekeeper suit? That’s anybody’s guess.
New episodes of WandaVision are available every Friday on Disney Plus.
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Richard is a freelance journalist specialising in movies and TV, primarily of the sci-fi and fantasy variety. An early encounter with a certain galaxy far, far away started a lifelong love affair with outer space, and these days Richard's happiest geeking out about Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel and other long-running pop culture franchises. In a previous life he was editor of legendary sci-fi magazine SFX, where he got to interview many of the biggest names in the business – though he'll always have a soft spot for Jeff Goldblum who (somewhat bizarrely) thought Richard's name was Winter.