The third volume of Marauders begins with what might be the perfect example of the book’s hard-edge badassery, a sort of tonal distillation of what makes the book — and the growth and direction of the characters within it — so damned exciting.
While issue #16 is a quiet, closed-room issue with very little of the swashbuckling pirate edge of the book, it nonetheless illustrates just how little of anyone’s sh*t Kitty Pryde and Emma Frost are going to take. After Sebastian Shaw’s attempted (and partially successful) assassination of Kitty, as well as some corporate tomfoolery, Kitty and Emma bust into his house and spend the whole issue just owning him. The reduction of this intellectual adversary cements how empowering Marauders is, how cutthroat the Krakoan equivalent of Anne Bonny and Mary Read are.
That intense issue of emotional catharsis aside, the rest of this volume is sprinkled with quick flashes that illustrate the dual-edge sword of Kitty and Emma’s political maneuvering, with Emma taking the quote-unquote high road of corporate espionage and Kitty getting down and dirty for some Robin Hood-style antics, always popping up in places she should not be, spooking the hell out of people and dropping off literal bags of money to the poor. Indeed, a lot of the book focuses on putting specific people in specific places — places of power, places of strategic value. A hospital is founded in Madripoor, while Pryo, Bishop, and Ice Man buy themselves a bar there, as well. The Marauder influence continues to spread.
The reintroduction of the Reavers — biotech murderers with some major upgrades — also allows for the expansion of the cast. Like all of the Krakoan age books, Marauders relishes finding new uses for oft-neglected characters like Marrow and Bliss; our two pirate queens machinations further require the larger staff, opening up the book to a much wider scope. That the expanding cast is Morlock-heavy only creates a nice narrative harmony with the old Claremont-era stories from which the book gets its name — the original Marauders were behind the Mutant Massacre, which devastated the Morlock population. Having the name usurped and validated by those self-same Morlocks is a brilliant bit of long-con resolution.
The book’s clean, almost shiny visuals— primarily Stefano Caselli and Matteo Lolli on pencils, with Edgar Delgado and Carlos Lopez on colors — brings the narrative to a feeling of full-force action even in quiet moments like issue #16. The pacing of the dialogue-heavy moments is varied, rarely relying on a standard grid, and the book as a whole utilizes interstitial panels here and there to push further action into the narrative. Most other books about pirates and espionage might lean heavy into the shadows, but Marauders seems to want the readers to see everything, to shine a full light on how compelling each bit of character chemistry is.
Also in the collection is the King in Black tie-in one-shot, and while I have a guarded feeling about keeping these Krakoan books free of big-crossover cluttering, Marauders manages to turn the time-out of the main narrative to further enforce the book’s purpose and the cast’s dynamic. Brushing off the symbiote dragons while trying to save an endangered ship, the crew uncovers a much more human evil: slave traders. The cut-throat aspect of the team comes into play (without breaking the Krakoan law of ‘kill no man’) when, disgusted, they drop the boat’s human-selling crew in the middle of the Namib desert, then provide the refugees they’ve saved a temporary home. It’s a succinct one-off adventure that refuses to get too entangled with the larger crossover tomfoolery, and it serves to strengthen our team rather than distract from them.
The book ends with a celebration of Storm, who is leaving the team. Each Marauder recounts their favorite story, and with some of them having very, very long histories with the character, Duggan for some reason doesn’t recall any specific, classic moments (perhaps in an effort to bolster the here and now) except one: way, way back Emma decided to swap brains with Ororo in a particularly goofy 1980s plot, and while Marauders doesn’t directly footnote the issue, I’m glad for the attention to canon wherever I can get it.
Maraurders by Gerry Duggan Vol. 3 is a great sampling of one of the best Krakoa books happening, and it’s with particular joy that we get to witness continuing growth of Emma and Kitty’s relationship (the two characters, you might realize, debuted in the same issue back in 1980, where they were in opposition). While never getting quite the same shining attention, the rest of the cast are nonetheless developing their own great chemistry, as well. It reads as a celebration not only of its major players, but of those secondary and tertiary characters that have never received such attention, and that’s the true joy of the Krakoa Age.
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