Between the House of X/Powers of X crossover event and the first volume of Jonathan Hickman’s run on the main X-Men title, it’s a great time to be a fan of Marvel’s mutants. The Dawn of X relaunch made us rethink the way we see the mutants, similar to what Grant Morrison was doing with New X-Men during the early 2000s. This relaunch has spawned several titles, and each of which explores a different division of the mutant society of Krakoa. Marauders by Gerry Duggan is one such title.
The “Marauders” title was originally for mutant assassins employed by Mister Sinister, with the purpose of assassinating other mutants and acting as a commando strike-force to carry out acts of mass murder. Now, the Marauders are a pirate-themed X-Men squad tasked with smuggling mutants out of authoritarian countries and delivering them to Krakoa. The series opens with Kitty Pryde, who turns out to be the only mutant who is unable to use the various warp gates leading to Krakoa, though the reason why is unclear.
Approached by Emma Frost, one of the two leaders running the Hellfire Trading Company responsible for distributing Krakoa’s pharmaceuticals to friendly nations and smuggling mutants out of unfriendly ones, Kitty — now preferring to be called Kate — appoints herself pirate captain with her own team of mutants that will take up the White Queen’s special mission. Amidst the numerous threats the Marauders face across the world, there is an enemy within their race that has other plans.
On the surface, in terms of visual aesthetic, this comic seems like an extension of the world-building that Hickman had established in his X-titles, including the data pages (by graphic designer Tom Muller) that have quickly become a staple of the franchise. However, what writer Gerry Duggan does from the opening pages sets the tone for the rest of the series, from Kate Pryde breaking her nose after trying to get through a Krakoan gateway to the data pages, which may be dense, but showcase Kate’s witty journal entries.
A veteran of series like Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy, Duggan has always maintained a sense of humor. That is certainly true with Marauders, comprising of characters who get to show off their funny bones. Everyone from Iceman to Pyro has the chance to show off their comedic chops, the latter of which steals the show by having a reckless impulse, leading to getting a face tattoo and singing “Any Way You Want It” by Journey. However, Kate Pryde is my favorite character in all of X-Men – going back to my constant love of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men – and she shines here as the main protagonist who stands her ground. Seeing her as a leader from pirate captain up to an even greater position of power is extremely satisfying.
Although there is an ongoing arc throughout these six issues, the storytelling still feels loose and lacks the plot-heavy drive of Hickman’s X-titles. Duggan seems more interested in the character dynamics than the world-building. While some of the adventures don’t have a great deal of tension, behind the scenes of the Hellfire Trading Company is the most intriguing in terms of plot development. The Black King Sebastian Shaw is determined to stay on top when it comes to power as explored in issue #3, a character study between him and his resurrected son Shinobi, while preparing his villainous scheme.
When it comes to multiple artists involved in one comic, there is the danger of inconsistency and dips in quality. Matteo Lolli draws the majority of the volume, aided by Michele Bandini and Lucas Wernick, whose art styles are not too dissimilar from one another and it helps that Federico Blee’s rich colors give the whole volume a visual consistency. Together, the artistic team offers plenty of stuff that expands on certain aspects of Krakoa, while delivering kinetic action sequences showing the variety of mutant powers, most notably Kate’s mix of martial arts and her phasing ability.
Gerry Duggan puts his own stamp on this new era of the X-Men universe. The newly-branded Marauders is as funny and adventurous as its eponymous pirate-themed team.
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