This article contains a trigger warning for mentions of domestic abuse.
The Lourdes Chantel plot was one of the most intriguing ideas set forth by Marauders before the Hellfire Gala. After all, Lourdes was killed before Cerebro went online, so if they could bring her back, what was stopping them from bringing back other mutants like John Proudstar? Marauders #22 clears up how Lourdes “comes back” and sadly, mutants who died before Cerebro went online still don’t have a way to come back, but it does weave an interesting tale of its own and stays true to Emma Frost’s roots.
A big part of reinventing Emma Frost’s character when she became an X-Man was to re-examine her Hellfire Club years. Through works like Matt Fraction’s X-Men and Valerie D’Orazio’s X-Men Origins: Emma Frost, her time in the club was recontextualized, establishing her as a victim of Sebastian Shaw’s abuse. Emma Frost having a soft spot for abused women was touched on a few times especially during the Fraction run and Leah Williams’ X-Men Black: Emma Frost, and Duggan brings that back in Marauders #22.
I’ve been quite critical of Gerry Duggan’s Emma in the past — I think he writes a very one-dimensional character a lot of the time, someone who is afraid to touch on Emma’s more vulnerable sides or the golden part of her heart. Marauders #22 is everything Emma fans could want from this story, showcasing her taking care of Lourdes and orchestrating her escape from their shared abuser. This is the Emma I’ve wanted from the start of this run, someone who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty or take unconventional approaches while still having a good heart at her center.
The current X-Men line has shied away from the nasty truths surrounding their characters — Mister Sinister’s Nazi past has been hand-waved away, for example. But Marauders #22 doesn’t shy away from the truth that Sebastian Shaw is an abusive pig nor does it shy away from giving his victims the spotlight. The handling of it actually feels mostly well handled — it’s nice to see Emma helping Lourdes. The story doesn’t want us to laugh at Shaw the way they want us to with Sinister; they want us to hate him, and we do. Ignoring or forgiving these vile characters isn’t the answer, I don’t think, so confronting them seems much more honest.
For Emma fans, Marauders #22 might just be the strongest issue of the run and it’s certainly a hopeful direction for the series. But is Marauders free from its sin? Not really. Shaw’s punishment is still rooted in ableism, treating being disabled as a punishment, as evidenced by the issue they brutalize him in calling his body “broken.” Sebastian is notably not bound to a wheelchair nor does he have his eyepatch. It’s an odd thing to just hand-wave away, even if the nature of it was extremely uncomfortable. The nature of the issue where the girls teamed up against him made it sound like the “punishment” was permanent –why was he just allowed to heal after the Gala? It seems arbitrary even given the line he says about it.
The issue’s real sin is the handling of Wilhelmina, which could have (and should have) been done leagues better.
Outside of the ableism regarding Shaw’s “punishment,” Marauders also has to make amends for its treatment of Kate Pryde both regarding the vagueness surrounding her sexuality and the way the portrayal of her Judaism has sparked debate amongst many Jewish comic readers (but don’t listen to me, listen to some wonderful Jewish critics who have lended their voice on the topic).
Hopefully, Marauders #22 is a signal for what’s to come for the series, portraying interesting dynamics and respecting characters’ histories while adding onto them in meaningful ways. Lolli’s art is absolutely gorgeous and as usual, he is the highlight of the Marauders series to date, though the artist change is a bit jarring admittedly.
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