There is no question that Marauders is Kate Pryde’s book, and while issue #5 is no different, readers get incredible character interactions and intrigue that ensure that this book is a must-read.
The first of these great character interactions is between Christian Frost and Iceman in the books opening pages. Aboard Christian’s submarine, The Mercury (first hinted at the pages of Marauders #1), Iceman gets a moment to remind readers why he is an Omega mutant. Christian gets an opportunity to show readers that he’s just as sharp and sensual as his younger sister. This is a great moment between Christian and Bobby that not only further hints at the level of their relationship but also briefly explores a very salient concern about Kate, which she herself echoes later in the book.
While Duggan’s dialogue indicates that there is something brewing between these two, it’s Lolli, Werneck, and Blee’s art that truly shows us. Christian’s eyes read seduction, Bobby looks eager to impress, and if that isn’t enough SPOILER: Bobby is wearing the monogrammed robe that Christian wears on the issue cover.
For a character who has historically been given very little panel space, it’s refreshing to see Christian back and better than ever. Duggan picks up the baton from Sina Grace’s superlative Iceman run and brings us a Christian who is relatively free of trauma; or, at least, in a better place than when he first appeared in the Iceman series. For Christian, whose mutant gifts were nonexistent until very recently (another credit to Grace’s run), it’s thrilling to watch him thrive in the new Krakoan economy as a mutant and as an out gay man. Going from being institutionalized and oppressed by his father to functioning as the right hand of “the most powerful woman in Krakoa” is quite the glow up for Mr. Frost.
Christian has even embraced Emma’s fashion sense, as both Frosts are rocking some killer white pantsuits that look fresh off the runway. Are these designer duds or is Jumbo Carnation the official designer/stylist/ creative director for all of The Lords Cardinal of The Hellfire Club?
Sebastian Shaw continues to exhibit his characteristic blunt, misogynistic behavior and even refers to a mission to the skeevy Madripoor as “women’s work,” which sparks a welcome show of cooperation between Emma and Kate to cut him down. It’s a nice call back to issue#4 where Emma reminds her Cuckoos that in this brave new world where Xavier, Magneto, and Apocalypse ostensibly occupy the most important seats on the Quiet Council, female solidarity is still important.
If Duggan’s moment with Christian and Bobby was a home run, this scene with the White and Red Queen is a grand slam. Emma and Kate finally seem to see each other as equals and, even more surprisingly, as genuine friends. Watching these characters occupy a space where they are queens of equal stature is a welcome evolution and such amazing and necessary growth from Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men where despite implied respect, neither woman could avoid throwing occasional barb to diminish the other. Kate muses about their first meeting and Emma is allowed to be more vulnerable and self-deprecating than usual.
Emma letting down her guard and showing compassion for a younger mutant is a side of the White Queen many writers choose to ignore. There is a tenderness here which is often reserved exclusively for longterm female friendships like Storm and Jean’s, but the inclusion of these two mending fences is a great win for the portrayal of complex female superhero characters. While Duggan writes this moment expertly, Lolli, Werneck, and Blee render this moment to perfection. Not only is the body language intimate, but the colors also bring warmth and comfort to the scene.
After these quieter moments and some celebration, Duggan brings the requisite high-octane action. Overall, the action in Madripoor is brief yet exhilarating and there are some cool displays of ability and personality. We get to spend a bit more time with Storm, Bishop, and Pyro. While the page count doesn’t always allow for every character to have a moment in every issue, Duggan does his best to inject Storm’s moments in the heat of battle with some reminders that she is more than a goddess and on the Omega short-list. The issue ends with the appearance of a classic villain that truly reminds us that no era of X-men has been forgotten or overlooked under Hickman’s watchful eye.
It’s difficult to express how enjoyable this issue is, particularly for long-time fans of Kate and Emma. Duggan has such a firm grasp on the history of these characters and their individual voices and it seems like he’s just getting started. The art in this book is also particularly compelling. Each character is rendered with expressive faces and unique body language. From Kitty’s butch, alcohol-fueled swagger to Emma’s confident carriage to Christian’s suave posture, there is an incredible amount of attention to detail that makes these characters distinct and their motives identifiable.
There are only two minor gripes with this book. One is that there is an implication that Emma is naive to Shaw’s manipulations, which is out of character for a chess player as adept at she is. The other issue is that the amazing character moments in this issue remind readers of the characters who have yet to receive the same treatment. Unfortunately, in this issue Bishop is relegated to his know-it-all, future cop schtick and Pyro appears up mostly to show his face tattoo as a glimpse of comic relief.
While these scenes are contextually enjoyable if the supporting cast received more moments like those between Kitty and Emma, as well as Bobby and Christian, Marauders could come closer to becoming the heir apparent to Claremont’s X-Men.
Marauders #5 is a winner. It has moments of great character evolution for Emma and Kate, Christian Frost and Bobby have some delightful moments, and even Storm gets a moment to show why she’s always badass. If Duggan can distribute these moments more evenly to his incredible roster, Marauders would be nothing short of perfection.
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