We are weeks away from the Hellfire Gala, and that means prelude stories like Marauders #20. Creators need to tell short one-offs or write a tale that ties into the event itself. This week, Gerry Duggan and Stefano Caselli take us on a voyage of the high seas as we gain a bit of insight into who Storm is as she basks in their stories about her. Sounds like a good way to spend an issue, but is it good?
This issue plays out as if it were around a campfire and each character had a ghost story to tell to pass the time. Instead of ghosts, though, it’s all about Storm who sits at the end of the table and lets them tell their tales. They’re all true, of course, and it’s a way to show off how incredibly badass she is with or without powers. From tales of her kicking ass to her reputation saving the day, and even a bit of surgery to go with it, Duggan captures the many facets of why she’s so badass. She’s not simply a mutant with powers, but a leader, a powerhouse, and a character to be respected.
Along the way, Duggan continues to write Pyro as a bit of a goofball kid with a loud mouth. He means well, but the chip on his shoulder is going to get him into trouble. In a way, he’s like the opposite of Storm since he hasn’t earned his stripes just yet and he’s also unabashed about his abilities. There are fun characterizations beyond Pyro around the table too, like Bishop who is a bit reserved and calculating, Emma who can’t stand the rocking ship and feels sick, and Kate Pryde who has tons of can-do energy. Essentially we get to spend some time with all these characters and the characterization is on point.
There is, of course, a bit more to it all. Duggan ends the issue on a cliffhanger that’s tantalizing, for instance, and the build-up of Storm’s abilities and many achievements through stories helps to reinforce her importance. Heck, Jonathan Hickman said everyone will be talking about Storm a few months into Reign of X so this issue asserts that claim.
The art by Caselli with colors by Edgar Delgado and Chris Sotomayor is great with character expressions and body language. That’s important since much of this tale takes place at a dining table. A key element that makes the issue work is how Storm reacts to each tale. In many of these stories, she’s downright vicious and when we cut back to the dining room her reactions inform readers on how Storm feels about it. From coy, to pleased, to curious, there’s a lot going on with her face. In a quick two panels, Caselli captures the thought Pyro puts into how many knives Storm might have like his life depends on it, then in the very next panel, he barks off a number completely unsure if he’s even close to correct. There are many little moments that make you linger so as to take in the reaction shot.
This is a nice one-shot story that focuses on the many exploits of Storm and how her teammates on the Marauders perceive her. She’s a warrior, a leader, a surgeon, and a fighter and she’s a sum of all those parts. What makes this comic truly exceptional is how great all the character acting is and how every reaction and expression tells another tale in itself. Marauders #20 is brimming with humanity through storytelling.
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