Every X-book is offering something in the Dawn of X era. X-Men is providing fairly standalone stories featuring a varied cast of mutants throughout Krakoa, showing the different threats mutants face as well as different mutants’ reactions to them. Excalibur has created a brand new world for mutants to explore with magic and Otherworld. X-Force exposes the dark underbelly of running a mutant nation. And Marauders, while nominally about the exportation of mutant drugs, is the bringing the classic X-Men soapy drama into the world of Krakoa. This second volume is a continuation of the quality of the first, as Duggan takes the reader through a cycle of grief and joy in six issues.
Something I’ve really come to appreciate about the Dawn of X era is that even if issues aren’t necessarily completely standalone, they all feel like complete chunks of story being told. Each 22-page portion of the overall story has a climax and has a conclusion that both feels like satisfying payoff for what happened within the issue itself and motivates the reader to want the next installment. This kind of modular storytelling is something that got less and less common in the modern era, as plenty of writers would write entire arc-length stories and then chop them up into five or six segments rather than ensure each piece felt complete on its own, but Duggan knocks it out here. Each issue has a different purpose, even if they all revolve around the same focal point.
The focal point of the volume isn’t something that happened here — it’s the shocking ending of the first volume of Marauders, where Kate Pryde seemingly dies due to treachery from Sebastian Shaw. This volume focuses on the aftermath of this legitimately huge conclusion, as characters discover and react to the loss of their beloved Red Queen. This is something that I think landed better in the single issues, honestly, as the readers went through this grief cycle alongside the characters, but it still works well in trade. It ends on a big triumphant issue with a celebration that culminates in Kate Pryde loudly and proudly showing the world that she’s queer — something fans who have paid attention to subtext have been waiting for for 40 years. It’s a truly satisfying way to end the collection, making the whole first 12 issues of the book feel like they were always intended to lead this way.
Stefano Caselli and Matteo Lolli both do a good job on art duties for this volume, especially because their styles are so similar to each other. There’s no jarring shift in styles or anything, making the collection feel like a single consistent story rather than a collection of issues. I know what I said earlier about preferring that modular storytelling, but the art does a great job ensuring that the whole volume is greater than the sum of its parts.
I feel like I’m being light on the praise for this book even though this entire review has been positive — rest assured, Marauders Vol. 2 is great. It’s really worth the read and one of the most consistently enjoyable books Marvel’s putting out right now. The story being told is compelling and the writing and artwork really work well together. If you’re going to collect only one Dawn of X book, Marauders is a very good option.
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