Marauders #23 feels like it should be a much-needed attempt to right the series in the wake of the Hellfire Gala. Following the Kate Pryde-driven first act, Marauders has been an unfocused series searching for direction. Lacking a central plotline beyond the vague idea of Hellfire Company affairs (a bit of a confusing choice given sister title X-Corp’s business focus), #23 brings in new cast members, a new guest artist in Ivan Fiorelli, and a general sense of forward momentum. Unfortunately, that momentum fails to move in any satisfying direction and leaves the book in a worse place than it was before the Gala.
Rain Beredo (colorist), Gerry Duggan (writer), Ivan Fiorelli (artist), Cory Petit (letterer)
August 18th, 2021
The biggest addition to the crew is undoubtedly Banshee, the long-time X-Man reuniting with Emma Frost for the first time since Generation X. While Sean Cassidy’s super-spy-turned-super-hero antics are entertaining, the cocky, charming Irishman feels a bit superfluous in a title already sporting a similar lead in Captain Kate Pryde. Beyond that, the multiple Irish-based punchlines, such as Banshee’s contact knowing 17 people named Sean Cassidy and a member of the Russian mafia calling Sean and his pals “potato eating,” feel low-effort and dated.
The second addition to the cast? Tempo, an unexpected and welcome new face if one executed a bit rougher than you would hope. A clear response to Heather Tucker’s surprisingly strong showing in the X-Men fan vote, it is nice to see a forgotten character get a renewed spotlight due to a show of wholly organic fan support. It’s a rare moment of paying attention to fan desires, for the better, in Marvel Comics and a surprise in almost every way. Unfortunately, Tempo’s dialogue ranges from serviceable to outright cringe-worthy as Duggan hits Steve-Buscemi-in-30-Rock levels of trying to sound cool and hip, like her first line being, “This all seems sus.” Jumbo Carnation, a head-scratching addition to the Marauders field team, suffers from similar problems, bragging about “his drip” and complaining about people “really honking him off.”
These issues, ultimately, are minor. They’re matters of taste and, at worst, just examples of clunky scripting in a popcorn superhero book. Sadly, I can’t say the same for the Wilhelmina Kensington plotline. I genuinely have no idea what spurred the idea to have a face turn for the Wolverine and the X-Men-era Hellfire Club kid whose most notable character trait is carrying around a rotting dog corpse. But I can say with no hesitation that this issue does nothing to justify it. As hinted previously, we learn that Wilhelmina was abused by her father and fell into her villainous ways because of this trauma. Beyond the utterly exhausting storytelling choice of justifying a monstrous character’s behavior as a result of abuse, the entire scene unfolds with an utter lack of subtlety culminating in Wilhelmina’s father committing suicide in a schlocky, gratuitous manner.
Fiorelli, on paper, seems like a perfect choice for Marauders. As a comedy-heavy action book, his expressive and dynamic cartoon-flavored style fits the assignment to a tee. Unfortunately, where his art fails to meet the requirements of the title is in how it handles the series’ women. Marauders is a book heavily driven by women and the challenges they face in the world. Rendering every woman in the issue as a curvy hourglass bombshell undercuts the messaging of the book to an absurd degree. Beyond that Wilhemina, previously shown to be a young teenager at most, suddenly looking like she went through Super Puberty overnight and sporting tight jeans and a belly shirt is an upsetting choice given the subject matter of her storyline. For a book that prides itself as being about women, it might be worthwhile to bring some on board the creative team.
In the early days of Dawn of X, Marauders was my favorite title. Its reinvention of Kate Pryde and blend of comedy, action, and exploration of the new Krakoan age utterly hooked me and had me looking forward to every issue. Now nearly 2 years later and I find myself struggling to find anything in the series to grab me. It lacks focus, it attempts to build itself as a Strong Female Story while being written and drawn by men and makes storytelling decisions without the appropriate level of sensitivity and tact to execute them. Duggan now stands under the biggest spotlight in the line in the newly relaunched X-Men. Having far greater success telling popcorn superhero action, I can’t help but feel like it might be time to either let the Marauders come ashore for now or hand the title off to a new, preferably woman-led, creative team.