Frederico Blee (colorist), Russel Dauterman (cover artist), Gerry Duggan (writer), Matteo Lolli (artist), Tom Muller (design), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer)
October 23, 2019
It’s been a long time since the X-Men have made me laugh. Like, genuinely laughed out loud. That is not at all what I was expecting from an X-Men book after so much doom and gloom, but I’m quite happy to have Marauders #1 defy my expectations of what an X-story has to be like these days.
I’ve been gazing longingly at the Russel Dauterman cover for this issue since its unveiling at SDCC, speculating on all the things going on there. Piracy and a strange combination of teammates. A very stylish Emma Frost. A battered and bruised Kitty Pryde. Turns out, the cover summarizes the contents quite well.
Firstly, this image prompted my hopes and dreams for a better dressed and business-savvy Emma Frost, and the inside pages confirmed these hopes and dreams to be the reality. Not long in, we’re introduced to an Emma who’s taking her new role as a member of the Krakoan Quiet Council and CEO of the Hellfire Club very seriously.
Emma’s introduction takes place after we learn what’s up with Kitty’s face: she can’t get into Krakoa. The woman capable of shifting her body between tangible and intangible starts the issue by slamming face-first into the portal that’s supposed to welcome all mutants. The best people are supposedly investigating this conundrum but in the meantime, Kitty has to learn to navigate the boredom and anxiety of being the only one not welcome in mutant Disneyland. The answer, of course, is to get drunk and run errands for Logan. Or rather, to run errands for Logan and get drunk on the stash he orders, resulting in one of the many amusing moments in Marauders #1. It also reveals some fun facts about Iceman (and we later learn exactly what Bobby wears under his ice suit—let me just say that I’m disappointed that the creative team didn’t complete the look with crew socks).
— x-men, duh (@xmenduh) October 23, 2019
That an X-Men story can delight like this again after decades of mutants being on the brink of extinction shouldn’t be a surprise as we settle into Dawn of X. HoXPoX has shifted the paradigm for mutantkind and given us hope for a better future (even though we know that the ultimate fate of mutantkind may still be annihilation). Even Tom Muller’s data pages are good for a chuckle because Jonathan Hickman has made room for joy again, even as our faves fight the bad guys and rescue the tormented.
Which is to say, the whole story isn’t just slapstick and laughter. Several countries are not pleased with Krakoa’s demands and in some cases, mutants are being prevented from accessing the portals. In some countries, mutants are actively refusing to accept the cult of Chuck and Erik. Elsewhere, mutants are being kidnapped, having been tricked by promises of access to Krakoa, and their human loved ones are demanding answers.
Plus there’s Xavier and Emma’s arrangement to control the supply and demand for the new Krakoan pharmaceutical products. When Emma offers Kitty a captaincy on a sleek Hellfire Club ship to manage deliveries, Kitty decides to take the job, with an odd combination of teammates behind her. One of those teammates is Storm, though you might not recognize her in some of the panels. I’ve got some thoughts about the very unfortunate colour and art choices for Storm in particular, but more on that later.
Storm and Kitty’s involvement in this series, along with Emma Frost, make for some potentially interesting dynamics. We’ve seen that Emma and Jean have buried the hatchet, and, despite their initial animosity, Emma and Kitty came to respect each other way back in Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run. Storm, on the other hand, still keeps Emma at a justified distance. That the other two have decided to look beyond their pasts with Emma does not mean that Storm has to do the same, but I appreciate that this series promises to address their relationships more closely—hopefully with maturity, rather than with the cattiness that women’s fictional relationships too often devolve into.
Emma and Kitty’s conversation, where Emma encourages Kitty to ask people to refer to her as Kate, is a poignant one. It’s a business meeting, but it’s also a meeting between people who respect each other and could even be friends. It’s the kind of relationship moment that has been sorely missing from the X-Men, where writers have used the word friends or lovers to describe connections, but have not taken the time to really show what that means.
Going back to the colour and art, both are gorgeously rendered, but the problem is, aside from Storm’s complexion and African-American features being washed out, the women in this book feel more like they should be hanging out in high school. Kitty is younger than both Emma and Storm, who should both be pushing forty by now. As one of the only next generation from Xavier’s original school who consistently levels up to the grownup team, she’s often drawn with more youthfulness in mind, but here, in a book that wants us to refer to her as Kate—the captain of this new team—the childish appearance is incongruous.
None of this stops Kate from using some extreme levels of force that I found surprising and somewhat disturbing. Kate shows off her years of deadly combat training in panels that also showcase her powers to great effect, but in ways I wouldn’t have expected from an X-book. Thou shalt not kill humans is Krakoa’s first law, but apparently there’s nothing in the small print about Kate brutally maiming people.
It’s strange to have an X-book not have an ‘X’ somewhere in the title, and perhaps that says a lot about what’s in store for Captain Kate’s Marauders. But disconcerting art, name, violence, and colours aside, there’s more than enough to chew on here to keep me excited about what’s to come.