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Oct 24

Marauders #1 – annotations

Posted on Thursday, October 24, 2019 by Paul in Annotations, x-axis

As always, this post features spoilers, and page numbers are based on the digital edition. And no, I’m not planning to do these for every issue of all the new titles, but the first issues of each seem worth a look.

MARAUDERS: It’s first time we’ve had a series of this title. In the context of the X-Men, the Marauders are Mr Sinister’s henchmen, who first appeared in Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #210 (1986) and committed the mass murder of the Morlocks. The original Marauders – or a bunch of them, at any rate – were last seen in Uncanny X-Men vol 5 #18 (2019), where they all died fighting the X-Men. In the meantime, this book seems to have no connection to the team whose name is clearly being evoked, and going back to the literal sense of marauding, which would fit with the piracy angle (though not so much the rescuing bit).

COVERS: The regular cast on their boat (whether they’re actually aboard it in this issue or not).

PAGES 1-2: Storm, Nightcrawler and Kitty Pryde invite some young mutants through the Central Park gateway to their new home in Krakoa. When Kitty tries to follow, she finds she can’t get through.

This is the first time we’ve seen the Krakoa-era X-Men written by anyone other than Jonathan Hickman. Under Gerry Duggan, Storm and Nightcrawler are both still a touch evangelical about Krakoa; Kitty stays quiet during that bit, and as we’ll see, she’s going to be a bit of an outsider in Krakoa.

Since mutants are openly travelling to Krakoa, this flashback must follow Xavier’s worldwide announcement. If so, it’s odd that Kitty apparently hasn’t tried the gateways until now; she was among the X-Men shown planting Krakoan seeds in the opening of House of X #1, several weeks before that announcement.

As for why Kitty can’t get through, there are two obvious possibilities: it’s something to do with her powers, or Krakoa won’t let her through (in which case, it must be refusing to explain itself to Cypher). No doubt we’ll get to the reason in due course. Of course, her inability to use the gates justifies her using boats and being a “pirate”.

PAGE 3: The recap page, in the same format we saw in X-Men. The only new information is that friendly nations have allowed Krakoan gateways to be stationed for mutants to travel through. (This sounds like a magnet for anti-mutant villains, but I guess that’s what the new Marauders are there to deal with.)

PAGE 4: The credits, in the now-familiar style. The story title is “I’m on a Boat”, the small print simply reads “Mutant piracy, Sea Shores X”.

PAGE 5: A data page, consisting of the text of a pages from Kitty’s diary that she throws into the sea as a drunken “message in a bottle”. US naval intelligence have found it floating around near Krakoa – they’re evidently rather desperate for any information about the place. Minor glitch: The intro says the message is in a “wine bottle”, but the Day Six text seems pretty clear that it’s the whisky bottle she’s just finished.

In Day Five, Kitty seems notably un-sold on the whole Krakoan idea, and mildly confused that everyone else is on board with it. She seems to feel more left out than suspicious. But it means that the premise of this book is that Kitty is helping mutants to get to a utopia that she doesn’t quite believe in, which seems like it’s heading somewhere. If you think there’s something odd, or just cult-like, going on with Krakoa, then it’s also probably significant that these characters will be spending a lot of time away from the place. Note that when we see Emma later, she’s in London.

USAMRIID: The US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. Its functions include developing countermeasures against biological warfare. It makes some sense that it would take an interest in Krakoa.

PAGES 7-16. Kitty and Lockheed finally arrive on Krakoa by boat, and are greeted by Iceman and Wolverine. Iceman wanders off to explore an unused gateway, and Kitty has a telepathic conference with Emma Frost. Embedded in this is a “data page” which is just the text of Logan’s shopping list for Kitty.

The shopping list. The clear implication is that Logan can’t get this stuff on his own, but why not? Can’t he just go through the New York portal, buy it, and bring it back? Does Krakoa not want this stuff on the island? Or is it just a plot hole?

Homes on Krakoa: According to Iceman, you have to plant a flower and grow it. That fits with the Summers’ organic home in X-Men #1. Kitty decides not to bother.

Kate/Kitty: Emma makes a point of using “Kate”. We’ve seen a number of alternate futures before where “adult” versions of Kitty Pryde were called “Kate” to distinguish them from the present-day version. Kitty’s aged over time to the point where that switch is overdue, and she makes it at the end of the issue.

The black market: I’ve pointed out before that there’s a contradiction between, on the one hand, Professor X’s public stance that countries have to recognise Krakoa in order to get mutant drugs and, on the other, the willingness to supply drugs to the black market. Emma offers a reason here – “mutants must also set the price for the black market to have a stable world economy” – but it’s not a hugely convincing one, unless the idea is to stop drugs getting to unco-operative states. Whether this is a deliberate plot point or just some fuzzy plotting to allow for the premise of Marauders, well, again, time will tell.

North Valnon: A blatant North Korea stand-in – even though the actual North Korea was listed as a non-treaty nation in House of X #5. As best as I can tell, its only previous appearance was in another Gerry Duggan story, Hulk vol 3 #5 (2014), where its army, equipped with experimental gamma-powered weapons, got beaten up by the big guy in two pages flat.

Brazil: The “mutant-hunting quadrupeds” around the Brazilian gates look an awful lot like the Warwolves from early issues of Excalibur, though in bright red instead of white.

Kitty’s wardrobe: Emma teases Kitty over her earlier costumes. The “big blue blouse” is the classic 80s Shadowcat costume. The “hideous photo of you in leggings and roller skates” refers to Kitty’s comically garish first stab at costume design from Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #149 (1981). Emma doesn’t mention Kitty’s current costume, which is carried over from previous runs, but note that she’s still wearing basically a traditional X-Men costume in the face of a drastic revamp that she’s not quite part of. Emma suggests that Kitty will wear red as a member of the Hellfire Club, fitting with the vacant “Red King” role on the Quiet Council.

PAGES 17-19. Iceman has foolishly wandered through the gateway to Vladivostok, where a bunch of heavily armed guys with power-suppressing technology are ready to shoot at him. He gets back through the doorway, and since the X-Men can’t just go through the doorway to get shot at, Iceman and Storm join Kitty on the boat to sail to Vladivostok and sort it out.

Russia was listed as a non-treaty nation in House of X #5. Apparently Russian mutants are pressed into state service. Later on the thugs are described as a “Russian splinter group”, but that seems to be an error, since everything else suggests this is meant to be Russian policy. If you’re feeling generous, it might be that these soldiers are going off on a frolic of their own when it comes to their shoot-to-kill policy.

The armoured guy, Phobos, seems to be new. The name (fear) has no obvious connection to his powers, but perhaps we’ll see him again and all will become clear. Or perhaps not. Edit: As pointed out in the comments, this could well be Professor Phobos, an obscure villain who appeared in Incredible Hulk vol 1 #258-259 (1981). He was the secretly-evil mentor of Russian mutants like Darkstar and Vanguard, and did indeed wear armour that leeched the powers of nearby mutants. When last seen, he was being handed over to the Soviet authorities for trial.

PAGES 20-21. A subplot with Bishop, who’s investigating an alleged disappearance in Taiwan. Bishop’s meant to be one of the main cast of this book, but this is all we get from him this issue.

PAGES 22-32. Kitty and her crew – Storm, Lockheed, Iceman and stowaway Pyro – go to Vladivostok, beat up the thugs and liberate the gateway. Everyone else agrees to come home with Kitty instead of going through the gateway and leaving her behind. The main point of this scene is that Kitty is awesome and her seemingly-defensive powers, combined with martial arts skills, make her insanely dangerous. She’s much more aggressive about it here than we’re used to seeing.

Pyro. This is the original Pyro, St John Allerdyce, not the version who appeared more recently in X-Men Gold. Pyro was a member of Mystique’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and he died from the Legacy Virus in Cable vol 1 #87 (2001), part of the same “Dream’s End” crossover where Moira died. Sorry, faked her death. We’ve seen Pyro once before in the Hickman run, in Powers of X #2, where he killed Moira at the end of her second life.

Pyro is usually a villain, but he did reform somewhat in later years. And even as a bad guy, he was a pro-mutant terrorist, so it’s not out of character for him to sign on for this mission (even if he effectively gets pressganged). According to Pyro, he was one of the first mutants to be restored from back-up by the Five, which he thinks is because he was used as a test. That might be true, but his connection with Mystique makes me wonder if there were other reasons too.

The “accent” is meant to be Australian. Pyro’s first appearance (X-Men vol 1 #141, 1981) says outright that he’s English, but later stories consistently went for Australian, and that’s what stuck. Pyro’s power is only to control fire, not to create it, which is why he’s wearing a flamethrower – though for some reason Duggan has him ask the others for a light.

Kill no man. Storm reminds Pyro of the laws of Krakoa, as fixed in House of X #6.

PAGES 33-35. Storm agrees to stay with Kitty, and Kitty accepts Emma’s offer – “both of your propositions”. What are they? Well, that’s the plot.

The Marauders name. Neither Kitty nor Storm seems overly keen on it, recognising the connotations. We’re not entirely ignoring that, it seems.

Storm and Emma. Storm is willing to ally with Kitty but not with Emma. But we know that Storm already turned down Emma’s offer, so she must know what it was – is she here in part to keep an eye on things? (And how does this fit with Storm’s role on the Quiet Council? Does she just grow a gateway to get back for the meetings?)

PAGE 36. Another of Sinister’s gossip columns, as previously seen in Powers of X #4. The numbering continues from there. Presumably these five “Sinister Secrets” are trailers for upcoming Marauders plots. Items 12, 14 and 15 aren’t particularly guessable beyond that.

Sinister Secret #11. Kitty… sorry, Kate was apparently the third choice for this role, after Storm and someone else.

Sinister Secret #13. The “Black and the White” presumably refers to the chess-themed Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club, now once again under the control of White Queen Emma Frost and Black King Sebastian Shaw. Sinister says that someone else didn’t get the invite to Krakoa, and presumably we’ll be seeing them in upcoming issues. Since all mutants are welcome on Krakoa, the obvious candidate is the cyborg Donald Pierce, leader of the thematically-appropriate Reavers.

PAGES 37-38. The reading list, and the trailer page. The Krakoan reads NEXT: SHIP OUT.

Bring on the comments

  1. Arrowhead says:

    “While I can see that some kind of pirate flavour is cool, a VTOL aircraft would be a lot more efficient.”

    Why not both? Get a helicarrier!

    …seriously, they should get a helicarrier. That’d be pretty cool.

  2. Michael says:

    “Why not both? Get a helicarrier!

    …seriously, they should get a helicarrier. That’d be pretty cool.”

    Oh please, who hasn’t stolen a helicarrier by now?

  3. Mordechai Buxner says:

    This plot does not hold together. They’re relying on a boat when dealing with time-sensitive situations where mutants seeking refuge are being kidnapped or slaughtered. They’re giving Kate authority while completely ignoring her issue with the Gateways. This is the recent leader of the X-Men, being told by her close friends to fend for herself and having to steal a boat to join them. They have people with the power of teleportation, and access to advanced alien technology. I think maybe they could have figured something out. Wolverine has agreed to live somewhere where he wouldn’t have access to alcohol, and they’ve got the ability to travel through Gateways to anywhere on Earth but he’s acting like he can’t just pop over to a pub any time he wants. We’re now acknowledging that people aren’t entirely sold on the idea of Krakoa, but without so much as hinting at answers to any of the many questions that raises. I can swallow a lot of contrivances as “part of the tone” with goofy stories like Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men, or cerebral stories like House of X. But the tone of this one is mundane. For me it doesn’t work at all.

  4. grey gargoyle says:

    Contrary to Marvel Wiki, for multiple reasons, I don’t think that Pieter Phobos himself appears in Marauders #1 but rather this Russian soldier is most probably a close relative of the professor and a new character whose armor is based on his technology. 🙂

  5. grey gargoyle says:

    In my opinion, this armored guy cannot be the Professor Pieter Phobos, the Power Parasite, because:

    (1) They look different. Pieter Phobos has a mustache and a goatee.

    (2) Pieter Phobos betrayed the Soviet Union in Incredible Hulk #259. The new guy is patriotic.

    (3) Pieter Phobos possesses a number of psionic powers : telepathy, mind control, telekinesis, blasts, force field projection, levitation … His artificial powers are boosted by his cybernetic armor.
    The armor was powered by energies stolen from Darkstar & Vanguard.
    The new guy doesn’t seem to possess any psionic power.

    (4) The armor of Professor Phobos seems more advanced than the new one in Marauders #1.

    In my opinion, this new guy is a close relative of the professor. That’s why they have the same family name.

  6. CJ says:

    Malice would be a good foil for Kitty–incorporeal powers as well, it would explain the name too and a bit of the ultraviolence.

    But: has she ever been shown to operate without the characteristic choker appearing on the victim?

    For what it’s worth I think it was (a rather anime-esque) art direction.

  7. Paul says:

    Kitty’s neck is covered by her costume throughout the issue, though it’s skintight, so you’d think the silhouette would still be visible. For what it’s worth, by the end of issue Kate has taken to wearing a kind of scarf too.

  8. Chris V says:

    The one character who actually seems skeptical of the Krakoa set-up is then revealed to be possessed by a villain.
    I think that’s just making things too complicated.


    As far as Professor Phobos, well #1 and #2 are easy to explain.

    1.)It was the 1980s. I’m sure that he’d change his look sometime between the USSR and 2019.

    2.)A lot of Russian patriots were opposed to the Soviet Union. He may just have had a problem with the Soviet system and came back around after the fall of the USSR.

    3.)That could be explained by the fact that the character was barely used in the story. He didn’t get a chance to show that he had other powers.

    4.)This is harder to debate. It may just be due to budget cuts. His old armous got sold off during Perestroika, when the Russian economy eventually collapsed.
    He’s only been able to work with a smaller budget to recreate his armour.

    It could still be him.
    It was probably just an easter egg for long time fans. I doubt that Duggan has long-term plans for the character.

  9. SanityOrMadness says:

    The second printing “Red Queen variant” of Marauders #1 shows Cap’n Pryde’s new costume (an old-time naval/dress uniform thing). And while her neck itself is mostly covered by a combination of Lockheed, her hair and her fists, it doesn’t have a high collar. So any choker should be instantly visible the moment a better shot comes along.

  10. grey gargoyle says:

    @Chris V
    You’re right. It is only an Easter egg. Gerry Duggan only needed cannon fodder for the 1st issue.

    (1) & (4) In my opinion, Matteo Lolli was clueless about Professor Phobos. So, he pencilled a Russian version of Professor Power instead !
    Professor Phobos and Professor Power are both ‘Reverse Professor Xavier’.

    (2) & (3) Even though Professor Phobos is an obscure villain, he is actually one of the most dangerous supervillains around : a serial killer, a mass murderer, a mind manipulator and a powerhouse. The full might of the Hulk, Ursa Major, the Presence, Starlight, Darkstar and Vanguard was necessary to stop him.
    Also, Professor Phobos was one of the leaders of the Russian Super-Soldiers project. Still, Phobos is a madman who tried to irradiate Russia to create new mutants and siphon their energies.
    It is the same plan than Sebastian Shaw in the X-Men First Class movie and Magneto in the 1st X-Men movie.
    In my opinion, in Marauders #1, the armored guy is only a Russian patriotic grunt. I suppose that he comes from the same family than the Professor and that he wants to save the honor of his family.

    Nevetheless, you are right. It is only supposed to be a cameo. 🙂

  11. Chris V says:

    Oh yeah, I remember Professor Power very well.
    He was created by J.M. DeMatteis.
    It was DeMatteis’ satire of super-patriots who believed that to bring about world peace, America should conquer the world.

  12. Col_Fury says:

    I didn’t notice this, but it was pointed out to me recently. Now that I see it I can’t unsee it. The Dawn of X titles are:


    New Mutants

    That makes an acronym of X-MEN.

    Coincidence or on purpose? It would “explain” the Marauders title if it was planned…

    Also, speaking of clever titles, I always liked that Morrison’s New X-Men, the way it was designed, was a visual palindrome.
    N=W X M=N to approximate it.

  13. Col_Fury says:

    Aw, nertz. I forgot about X-Force and Fallen Angels. Oh, well.

    …unless the new crop of books start with O, R, C and E, that is…

  14. Jason says:

    “New X-Men, the way it was designed, was a visual palindrome.”

    *Ambigram, if I may be pedantic. A palindrome is the same backwards and forwards. An ambigram is a design/word/logo/etc that “retains meaning when viewed or interpreted from a different direction, perspective, or orientation.”

  15. Col_Fury says:

    I just learned a new word! 🙂

  16. Alan L says:

    Malice’s choker didn’t generally display when she possessed Karima Shapandar during Mike Carey’s “Blinded by the Light” storyline, and during the subsequent Messiah Complex crossover. It appears in one small panel when she reveals herself and then never again, I believe.

    But I tend to agree agree with Chris V that making Kitty possessed by Malice would be adding incredible convolution to an already convoluted situation. We don’t know for sure that the X-men are not in control of their own thoughts––this might just be the way Hickman writes them. But there’s at least the implication that they are at least being led astray in some way, and Duggan seems to be setting up Kate as a voice of grumbling critique against the status quo on Krakoa. To then imply that the skeptic, who sees a rational viewpoint the others don’t have access to, is actually herself possessed is giving us no ground whatsoever on which to gauge the baseline reality operating in the story. In the same way, then, we are denied any way to measure the effects of this story, and we have no grounds on which to begin to measure its quality. Hickman sets up his writing to be criticism-proof in exactly that way––and it’s one of the things I really hate about how Hickman approaches story. If you build it bigger than anyone expects the story to be––more complicated than readers can keep track of––then most readers will overlook the failures in your writing, because the context of the story is too broad to be known yet. It means that the ultimate plan behind the narrative is always floating somewhere down the bend, ready to swoop in and sweep away every detractor’s objection. But while Hickman applies this strategy all the time, I don’t believe other writers like Duggan, though he seems like an improv guy through-and-through, would be willing to make his own lead character crazy like a fox at the same time that he has the people she doesn’t entirely trust acting crazy like some more crazy foxes.

    However, I can easily buy that Duggan is a little at sea with the density of what Hickman has framed for him, and he’s improvising in the face of a premise he can’t retool, and which he can’t exactly get around. Making Kitty a foil against the gung-ho mutantdom of krakoa is a good idea, but then turning around and having Kitty serve the interests of Krakoa at the same time is more than a little hard to justify. To show her getting lip-smacking hardcore vengeance on the Russian soldiers is very tone-deaf of Duggan––clearly the point is to show that Kate is no longer a goody-two-shoes, but Duggan hasn’t established any reason for her to be stepping that far out of character. So with no obvious motivation for becoming this harder-edged, roughhousing rogue of high-seas street-justice, we feel like Duggan is writing Kate very “off–brand.” Hickman would imply that something happened that we hadn’t seen to make Kate this way; I think this has become a defense for him, a way to preserve the aura of being the master planner, crossing every “T” and dotting every “I.” Duggan seems to simply play the cards he’s been dealt––with more brio in some situations than in others. The action he designs for Kate is actually pretty cool––way more interesting than Hickman’s weirdly unmotivated action scenes (the “all of those apes have PhDs!” line is still jangling discordantly in my head from last week)––but it carries with it an unintended valence because the viciousness of the fighting doesn’t jibe with Kate’s relatively quite consistent previous persona. Duggan is actually a very good writer for the moments, but less so the hours, I think. The mood of the comic is actually very nice, giving us time with Kate and letting us feel her alienation from the Krakoan movement while establishing a languorous pace appropriate to a sea voyage. But Duggan hasn’t been able to integrate that mood––which crosses nicely perpendicular to the mood of Hickman’s Foundation triumphalism crossed with X-files conspiracy stuff––with the plot he has to deliver. Every detail of that plot doesn’t quite connect right to what Hickman has set up. It makes me wonder if Duggan knew all the rules Hickman was setting down in HoX/PoX before he scripted this book. For one thing, Duggan doesn’t seem all that clear on how transportation into and out of Krakoa works. There’s no reason Logan can’t make the shopping run he demands of Kate––from what we see in Hickman’s book, Logan doesn’t even live on Krakoa, anyway. But Duggan seems as if he missed the memo that the mutants were free-roaming.

    I mostly know Duggan as the writer of the volume of Uncanny Avengers that follows Rick Remender’s departure from Marvel, and I tend to think of that as very solid superhero stuff. There was a lot of good character-building, some very nice battles and cliffhangers, and I was fairly impressed by the way he was able to resolve Remender’s awkwardly outstanding central plotline, too long unaddressed, about the Red Skull stealing Professor X’s brain. I liked Duggan’s ending to that story very well, even though it clearly wasn’t the sturm-und-drang finale Remender was probably intending. The most laudable aspects of that conclusion were very different with Duggan writing them than they would have been with Remender––who I think of as a much more swaggering, adventurous and comprehensive long-term planner than Duggan––but the story still did lots of character development, including admirable heroic roles for Rogue and Deadpool, and a surprising denouement, where Johnny Storm just burns Xavier’s brain into ash at Rogue’s request. The mood of that final moment was bittersweet and intimate, and not at all sentimental or slobbery. It showcased strengths in Duggan that I think could lead to some very well-written comics.

    Marauders doesn’t make that mark, though. Still, there’s lots of things I like. I like how Kate seems to bear her injuries as badges of integrity throughout the story. I like the very fact that Duggan chooses to pitch his story towards the development of a group of characters, all of whom have a lot of history together, rather than trying to make an epic of high seas mythology with sci-fi trappings. I like the notion of an edgier Kitty Pryde, surrounded by characters that have been key emotional touchstones for her development (mentor Ororo, rival Emma Frost, ex-boyfriend Iceman and…er…Pyro…). For all its shortcomings, failing to capitalize on all the details in Hickman’s thorny dungeonmaster’s rulebook, it’s an issue that has all the things Hickman’s X-books have hitherto lacked; human-seeming, fully-motivated characters, involving capers, mood and feeling filling out the background. And I think you can trace many of the failings of the issue back to Hickman and the strained premise provided for the book. True, Duggan doesn’t exactly provide a good reason for Kate to be sailing everywhere, or to be acting as surly as she is acting in this issue; but I think Duggan will have to work exceptionally hard to make a comic where they smuggle tons of drugs on a tanker ship to hostile nations into a comic with any kind of fun to be had. I think he did a good job establishing what fun might be had, even if he did have to ignore some of the more realistic quibbles about how he handled the comic’s premise. But what is he supposed to do with this material?

    By comparison, X-men #1 last week fell flat on its face, imitating the classic Claremont “quiet issue.” Hickman didn’t seem to realize those issues were usually supposed to be fun, and interesting. Instead we got barely-motivated, video-game style action, miserable attempts at humor in the suddenly quite especially airless vacuum of space (though I guess the Blue Area in Marvel is supposed to have it’s own oxygen; but everything that came out of the mouths of Hepzibah and Vulcan made me feel like I was asphyxiating), and the shyest, most hidden implication ever that Logan, Scott and Jean were like Jules, Jim and Catherine. In Claremont’s quiet issues we learned things about characters––we learned what inspired and motivated them, what demons they were running from or grappling with; we learned intimate details about the characters. In Hickman’s quiet issue we learned that Cyclops believes all the rhetoric he’s fed about Krakoa (unmotivated), that he likes it there (even though he doesn’t seem to want to live there; again, unmotivated in either case) and we learned the scintillating detail that the krakoans clean their silverwear with krakoa’s bodily secretions. What a delight. Especially clunky is all the action, and if you thought Kitty was rough on the Russian soldiers in Marauders, wow! just wait until you get a look at Storm in X-men #1. She is electrocuting human beings left and right. She is definitely killing those dudes. Not that the X-men never kill anyone, and Storm in particular has been on both sides of the fence on this issue at different times. But she used to knock people off-balance with winds and stuff, and now she’s just going straight for the jugular. Or the central nervous system. Or whatever. The scene reminded me most of the old Marvel Ultimate Alliance video games. Storm uses her lightning bolts, Cyclops fires his optic blasts; the villains burst into flames. Both heroes utter taglines that sound disembodied, slightly out of place (it’s a video game, after all––or no, wait! is this the issue? It’s the issue!). Then they advance to the next room, which is again bristling with faceless minions for them to wade through.

    Then the apes have their panel––they never appear again. We don’t have a panel to see their transformation, as if the intelligent mind has no need of such transitional steps, and we never see what becomes of them after Magneto decides he’ll deal with all of these aggressive characters with no metal near them (it’s like they leave Magneto behind to fight 5 versions of Beast). Strangely, Hickman thinks this is all very original, or at least good enough to put in his book. Never mind that Hellboy has done the fighting gorilla to death already, and done it with far more ingenuity and true humor than Hickman could manage. I might have been sunk in despair after reading this for quite some time, but it just gets weirder, because then Hickman brings back Magneto with their weird story about asserting dominance over them. Magneto seems to think this story is awesome; Hickman inexplicably thinks it’s very funny. Then he gives us the least human-seeming family reunion ever, for the remainder of the issue. It’s interesting to note how little the extended Summers family actually interact with one another in fresh situations. The stuff with Vulcan goes absolutely nowhere. Havok and Rachel get tiny cameos. Jean seems like June Cleaver on the moon. Logan makes no explanation for why he’s there, and Corsair only delivers a sententious little speech about how this new status quo sure seems more dangerous than any previous X-men status quo. So when the X-men were fugitives from the law in the united states for the second half of the 1980s, that wasn’t as dangerous I guess. Or when they were facing extinction on a barren asteroid floating in San Francisco Bay. No, this new status quo is more dangerous, because Hickman––sorry, Corsair––said so. Then Hickman violates his own rules about the Krakoa gateways, giving Corsair one he can plant in the Starjammer so he can visit any time. Who is the mutant that will accompany Corsair, so that he can walk through the portal? Just when you go to all the trouble to think this stuff through, and then you stop for a little character development and bam! There goes rule #1 of Krakoa. I guess this is why Hickman doesn’t generally go in for character work. See how it gets in the way? The issue is all meant to be wrapped around the theme of Scott Summers seeing the world for, I guess, the first time, as a mutant, and then seeing it again as a Krakoan. There’s this emphasis on him seeing, looking at things through a particular lens. It’s certainly admirable to have themes that tie your story’s incidents together. As is typical of Hickman, however, he manages to carry it out without really generating any meaningful character development, and he leaves in his wake a further series of unanswered questions, little contradictions of his own rules that––now hold on a minute…what if…what if they’re really clues? My god, is…is Corsair a mutant? Is that why he can go through the Krakoa gate unaccompanied? Or is this just a gaffe? And with Hickman, how can we ever really tell? The new questions generated is a particular quirk of Hickman’s, when he feels he needs to populate an issue with some substance. Rather than going for something emotionally involving, he’ll instead go for a new mystery. For those of you telling us to let the initial event book set the tone and look to the monthly comics to develop the story, take note; Hickman is doing this all the time––adding more alleged mystery in lieu of satisfying character and plot development, attributing his own gaffes to some previously unheard of new mystery, and when confronted with the unsatisfactory nature of his grand story plans promising that all will be deepened, explained and fulfilled in a future issue. Not many people seem to remember that when people were complaining that Infinity was not in and of itself an engaging miniseries, Hickman declared it part one of a series of three miniseries, with Secret Wars as the centerpiece? Hard to criticize an event on its face when it’s all leading up to something else yet to come. But that’s where Hickman goes more often than not, and so in X-men #1 we get more intimations that “Krakoa is not as it seems,” without any clues whatsoever as to what might actually be going on, and then Hickman adds a whole host of new questions to your plate. What point in the past is this Vulcan from? What’s up with the love triangle? Why did Cyclops decide to live right next to where Jean died that one time? Why is Rachel moody? Why is Hepzibah hitting on her? And are any of these really questions Hickman wants you to ask, or are some of them just the result of the way Hickman writes characters as oddly stilted, like aliens that have recently landed on earth and are just starting to try to blend in. Add to all this a tone that lurches inorganically from moment to moment, and it leaves me suspecting that Hickman is the actual alien, mimicking what he perceives to be storytelling, but giving it weird emphases, stressing things that don’t lend us any help in understanding what this alien is trying to say.

    That came out a little more crass than I meant at the end there, but I lay my loss of control at the feet of another big Hickman production; another issue that made me frustrated and angry and saw me talking back to the comic as I read it. I really think Hickman is the most painfully awkward writer of big-name comics out there, and when I read the good stuff in Duggan’s first issue it washed over me and seemed to restore some tiny modicum of my faith in the writers. Unlike a lot of readers here, I think, I have liked a lot of recent X-men writing. I liked the Mike Carey run, the Kyle & Yost runs on New X-men and X-force, the Fraction and Gillen eras, the Jason Aaron books, and the event stories through Second Coming. I even liked the start of Bendis’ run, though I wish he’d been able to develop it in a more focused way––though I haven’t read X-men since the miserable start of the Jeff Lemire run. On the other hand, I’ve read a lot of Hickman leading up to this, starting with Nightly News and Pax Romana, books that were recommended to me by early adopters of Hickman’s work, and carrying on through the rapidly decreasing returns of Secret Wars. I’ve never been able to warm up to any of it, but the continued avid engagement of so many fans with his work has left me feeling like I couldn’t quite turn away from his writing. Was I missing the boat? A lot of my writing about Hickman on these boards so far has been with the intention of wrapping my own head around my various objections to his work. And I think that when you line up the Hickman approach––the grand plan, the move to innovate even though you can’t write a good scene and you can’t do anything with individual characters––against the Duggan approach, I will always choose the Duggan approach. True, he goes with the flow and doesn’t handle the premise very gracefully, but so long as he inserts just the smallest helping of character, the smallest sense of continuity of their development, I’ll always respond to that far more strongly than Hickman’s cold new world.

  17. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    @Alan L
    Thank you for another well-thought out post.

    Regarding Duggan’s Uncanny Avengers – while I enjoyed that series, it actually started very clunky. The first arc had odd pacing and weird character moment, with the first issue being especially awkward. The series later showed remarkable improvement and I’m hoping for something similar with Marauders. Judging by first issues alone, this is already better by far.

  18. YLu says:

    @Alan L

    “Just wait until you get a look at Storm in X-men #1. She is electrocuting human beings left and right. She is definitely killing those dude.”

    Non-lethal electrocution that just knocks someone unconscious is a cape comics standby. Take every story with Spider-Man villain Electro, for example.

    “Then Hickman violates his own rules about the Krakoa gateways, giving Corsair one he can plant in the Starjammer so he can visit any time. Who is the mutant that will accompany Corsair, so that he can walk through the portal?”

    Or… it’s for the kids to visit Dad, not the other way around.

  19. Arrowhead says:

    @Alan L
    Thank you for such a thoughtful, well-considered post. I still loved the heck out of HoxPox, and I still think Hickman’s FF and East of West have heart to spare, but I appreciate and even agree with your analysis of his shortcomings as a writer.

    I just realized that I read and enjoyed HoxPox (and SHIELD, and even Pax Romana) in the context of the “widescreen” comics of the 2000s: Warren Ellis’ Authority and Planetary, Morrison’s JLA and Final Crisis. Stories that emphasize sweep, scale, rambling futurology and sheer weirdness.

    Whereas X-Men #1 was closer to Mark Millar – exploring the same widescreen subgenre with less scope and imagination in favor of flat smartass dialogue and lewd gags. And Mauraders, while likable, read like a standard “fun” 2nd-tier x-book – sitcomy character dynamics, light banter, a little drama, some longterm subplots, nothing out of the ordinary.

    I’m a trade paperback guy, but I was actually following Hoxpox on a week-to-week basis. Now I feel comfortable stepping back, and eventually checking out some trades depending on reviews. Oh, well.

  20. Michael says:

    “Then Hickman violates his own rules about the Krakoa gateways, giving Corsair one he can plant in the Starjammer so he can visit any time. Who is the mutant that will accompany Corsair, so that he can walk through the portal?”

    “Or… it’s for the kids to visit Dad, not the other way around.”

    I like the implication that Krakoa gates apparently allow for unlimited range teleportation for mutants… at the very least into other realms and into space.

    Sure, you have teleporters like Illyana and Lila Cheney, and technology like stargates, but we have yet to see the downside to Krakoan technology–limits, costs, drawbacks…

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