Federico Blee (colorist), Russel Dauterman (cover artist), Gerry Duggan (writer), Matteo Lolli (artist), Tom Muller (design), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer)
November 20, 2019
Kate Pryde’s piratical romp continues, but first, some business. Emma Frost continues to be the Emma Frost I have wanted to see for so long, holding back-astral plane meetings with the Stepford Cuckoos and stressing the importance of ensuring that the women solidify their power and align their goals to work together. It’s too easy to write an aloof character like Emma as a woman who tears other women down—and certainly, she’s been there, done that—but I crave stories that comprehend that female friendships and power relationships can offer just as much drama and intrigue.
Sliding back into reality, Emma might as well have been sitting upon her throne as she carves Sebastian Shaw down piece by piece. Shaw has been trying to circumvent Charles Xavier and Emma Frost’s legal trade of Krakoa’s human drugs, but Emma has her fingers on the pulse of every aspect of the Hellfire Trading Company. She’s also well aware of how much financial power she holds over Shaw. Shaw’s humiliation during this issue is entirely his own fault and he at least has the presence of mind to admit to much of it, but Emma isn’t here to let him off the hook easily. This is a business meeting where Emma all but draws blood with each cool and calm cut of her business acumen, leaving Shaw only one course of action to at least give her pause, if not defeat her—but even when Shaw resorts to violence, Emma takes it all in glistening stride.
The beauty of this scene is how it mirrors and transcends Ann Nocenti’s face off between the White Queen and Black King in Classic X-Men #34 from 1989. This is the issue where Emma gives her infamous sexism speech, but we see that she is as much a pawn in the game as anyone else in the Hellfire Club. In the backstory, drawn by John Bolton, Emma plays a game of psychic chess against Jason Wyngard. The two are evenly matched—he fighting with strength, she fighting with cunning. The outcome of the game involves him falling for her trap, but her trap is also her own piece’s doom on the chessboard. The game ends, as it always has, in a stalemate.
Thirty years later, Emma Frost and learned and grown and is far more careful about the pieces she places on her chessboard and she plays to win. She has many wheels turning, undoubtedly, but her one goal above all else in this issue has been ensuring that she gets who she wants in the role of the Hellfire’s Red Monarch—which also happens to be the person she wants on the mutant Quiet Council. In this issue, we finally get to see who that is (in case you hadn’t guessed by now).
Meanwhile, Kate and her Marauders are busy rolling around the high seas, spreading the good word about Krakoa to those who have been denied access through the portals. She’s also transporting the shipments of human drugs at Emma’s behest, and thwarting the Black King’s efforts to give to the rich at the cost of the poor. The latter involves a battle where Kate continues to show that she’s done taking any shit, expertly showing off how lethal her mutant abilities and her fighting skills are. Pity that Storm, who is also a powerful mutant and fighter, doesn’t get to do the same.
Marauders continues to offer us a fun side to the X-Men that we haven’t gotten to enjoy in a long time. They quip in battle, they go out and party afterwards. None of this takes away from the weight of their responsibilities and the tasks ahead of them. None of their joy takes away from the pain and suffering they have been through and continue to deal with as they learn about tragedies that have occurred in other issues. But even with death off the table, the brutality and persecution the X-Men deal with day in and day out needs the balance of carving out moments of joy, even if they are fueled by Kate’s bitterness over her inability to join everyone inside Krakoa.
Unfortunately, all my gushing about this issue comes to an abrupt halt when I turn the page to find Gateway, who should look like this as an Indigenous mutant from Australia, but instead looks like this:
After last issue’s issues with Storm’s colouring and African-American facial features—or lack there of—I had hoped to see improvement this time around. But it is now becoming clear that neither the artistic team or the editor of Marauders has seen a real live Black person before, much less one standing in the light. I could say more here, because frankly, I am seething. But the picture speaks for itself, as does the fact that Marvel does not care enough about representation to comment on the problems in Marauders #1, much less attempt to fix it for the the second issue. Yes, distribution timing is a valid excuse, but, I’m tired of all the excuses that exist to justify erasing representation for marginalized people—many of whom are reading these comics, clinging to the often too small scraps of hope of seeing ourselves in these pages. For every step forward, shit like this is a huge kick in the gut backward.