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Dec 8

Review: Marauders #7-12

Posted on Tuesday, December 8, 2020 by Paul in x-axis

by Gerry Duggan, Stefano Caselli, Matteo Lolli & Edgar Delgado

Marauders is a joy, isn’t it?

To be sure, it’s a strange kind of team book. Undoubtedly, there’s an official Marauders team. But it’s hardly a case of equal billing. The main stars of the book are Kate and Emma Frost, who isn’t even officially a Marauder. Which makes it all the more bold for the book to take Kate off the board for a few issues.

Thanks to the pandemic, Kate’s period of absence wound up taking rather longer than it was meant to. She dies at the end of issue #6; she returns in issue #11. That wound up being eight months, and makes it frustrating that instead of following up, the series gets derailed to spend three issues on “X of Swords” tie-ins that have little or nothing to do with the regular series.

Still, the approach to Kate’s death and resurrection is fascinating. Issue #10 sees the Marauders take their revenge on the Russian forces that Kate was fighting shortly before her death. The Marauders do indeed act as a team here, but it’s still Emma who takes the lead. The Marauders themselves are not so much co-stars as supporting characters who helped set the tone for Kate’s self-destructive turn into heavy-drinking piracy in the earlier issues. They have their individual threads – the relationship between Bobby and Christian continues to tick over gently in the background – but this isn’t a team of equals, not as far as the story is concerned.

Bishop almost fades into the background because he’s so calm and professional. Pyro, the crazy fire guy, amplifies the more irrational side of Kate’s turn to Marauder-dom. And Storm…. hmm, what is Storm doing in this book?

Kate’s separation from the other X-Men has been obvious throughout this series. She can’t use the gates and doesn’t feel welcome or at home on Krakoa. For whatever reason, Kurt isn’t finding time to talk with her. She’s got a new role which is a valuable one, but for all her pirate cosplay, she’s building her identity around the boat because she doesn’t feel at home on Krakoan land. None of the other Marauders, who are all quite at home on Krakoa, take on the pirate trappings in this way – except for Pyro’s facial tattoo, which is hardly a sign of stability.

Even the burial at sea which Kate receives in issue #11 takes place mainly because the Krakoans refuse to have graves. The culture they’re building is all about resurrection, and interred bodies have no place there. On the surface, Kate is sent out to sea on a burning boat because it fits with the way she was living towards the end – but more prosaically, it happens because she’s not at home on Krakoa, even in death.

At the same time, once Kate is out of the way, we see Kurt starting to write to her and readying himself to support her when she returns. It was probably a smart move to keep him off the board in the early issues, when Kate needed support and was spiralling off into Marauders-dom instead. Perhaps the most satisfying thing about issue #12 is that Kate doesn’t simply return with the same depression she had before – for whatever reason, she seems reconnected with her past, and generally healthier. She starts wearing her Star of David necklace again. She gets to talk with Kurt and hang out with the other X-Men. And at the same time, she goes out and gets her Marauders tattoos re-done – but it feels like less of an act and more of a synthesis this time round.

I have some problems with the plot mechanics, which sometimes feel overly contrived to support the emotional hooks. There’s never really a very satisfying explanation for why Kate was hard to resurrect, beyond some technobabble about her powers; there’s no obvious connection between that and her inability to use the gates; there’s no terribly clear reason why Kurt was never around to speak to her in the earlier issues, if he wasn’t actively avoiding her for some reasons. And Emma’s explanation for how to resurrect Kate – she “doesn’t break barriers, she ignores them”, so you have to help her phase through the egg – feels far heavy-handed in trying to make her powers a metaphor for her character.

Still… that doesn’t undermine the real point of the scene, which is that Emma was the one who understood Kate and knew how to bring her back. That’s a fascinating choice – not merely because the book is obviously going down the line of setting up a relationship between them, but because of the underlying idea that Kitty has drifted closer and closer to Emma, who was the villain from her first appearance. As she’s become more and more distanced from the X-Men on Krakoa, she’s bonded far more closely with Emma, the most important player who did make time for her and find her a role. And Marauders Kate became something of a 24/7 act, just as Emma normally is in her own way. The link between Emma and Kate also helps to make some sense of Kate’s improved spirits on resurrection, at least symbolically – she finds her way back to us because Emma finally manages to establish that connection of understanding.

So… to go back to the question I asked earlier, what is Storm doing in this book? She’s a remarkably major character to put in such a supporting role, but maybe her significance here lies in what she’s not doing. If the first year of this book has been about Kate losing her connection to the other X-Men but being saved by a new one with Emma, then you have to ask why Storm wasn’t able to provide that link – indeed, why use Storm at all? Storm and Kate have tons of history; for years, it was written as practically a mother-daughter relationship. Storm was right there all along – why didn’t it make more difference? Maybe their closeness was premised on Kitty as a young teen, and it couldn’t survive her growing up.

On the surface, Marauders is generally straightforward and often flippant – the bright, clean art style suits its swashbuckling tone, though it also adapts well to the more downbeat funeral scene. But the book has a lot more going on under the surface. Recurring elements take their time building in the background, like Delores’ memos or the Hellfire Gala; and the character angles have enough nuance to reward closer reading. Sometimes the strings are visible in the plotting. But it more than makes up for that in the subtlety of its character work.

Bring on the comments

  1. Sol says:

    Are you suggesting that Storm is in this book because if she was in some other book, it wouldn’t seem like she was ignoring Kate?

  2. Si says:

    This might be the only current X-title I actively enjoy. It drifts into vagueness and silliness at times, but is still the strongest at actually telling a story.

    That one scene of Kate’s funeral, where Emma strides off halfway through, to the fury of the other attendants, but then you see it’s because she doesn’t want anyone to see her cry, it was just beautiful.

  3. Luis Dantas says:

    I don’t know about ignoring.

    This may be a situation of subtle characterization, a refreshingly relatable one.

    We all expect Kate and Storm to be close, mainly because that is how they were portrayed for much of the time when they were first brought into evidence.

    The characters themselves probably expect that as well, and end up together mainly for that reason. But for no real fault from anyone, they seem to have moved on without meaning to.

    In Kate’s case that has been spotlighted quite clearly. At least since X-Men: Gold she has been transitioning into more of a leadership role. Storm went through a similar phase back in the 1980s, albeit IMO with considerably more trouble. And as the change of form of treatment highlights, Kate does not want to be perceived as particularly young and vulnerable any longer.

    In short, they have the memory of their past, cherished dynamic, but that is no longer where either of them are anymore. It is a bit awkward – or would be if they took the time to actually interact to any significant degree.

    I am willing to hope for some work with Storm sometime soon. As a character she has become too overemphasized and too complex along the years, and I think that her substance has suffered as a result. In short, she has similar problems to Wolverine’s, except that we do not see nearly as much of her.

    If this run decides to take that headfront and run with it, dealing with her dangling character plots with T’Challa, Scott, Callisto, Kate herself, Forge, even Emma, there is potential to make her a much more convincing and interesting character than she currently is.

    That would be very welcome, at least by me. I could enjoy a less generic, better characterized Storm. Particularly when characterization is something of a weak spot of this current run of X-Books, albeit considerably less so in this title.

  4. Ben says:

    Maybe it’s a matter of expectations.

    This book was sold as a madcap swashbuckling X-Men team book on the high seas.

    We’ve gotten very little of that, and what we did get wasn’t very memorable.

    Every character besides Emma, Kate, and Shaw are just window dressing that could be replaced by anyone.

    Again maybe Covid and crossovers are partially to blame, but boy does it feel glacially paced.

    Now the stuff with the three actual characters is compelling. Reframing Kate and Emma from adversaries to deeply connected works. Shaw is suitably hateable, if his reasoning a bit thin.

    But as a total package? I’m still just not sold, which this far in makes me wonder what’s keeping me around.

    I guess my love of Emma and Kate. Also it is nice to read an X-Men book (other than X-Factor) right now where the characters are recognizable.

  5. Taibak says:

    Incidentally, if this series is going to focus on Kate and Emma, is Sat-Yr-9 still around?

    Seems like she’d be a fairly logical antagonist.

  6. David says:

    What a great writeup. This book really is wonderful, the very best of the line. Kate and Emma are my favorite characters of the Krakoa era. The scenes of Lockheed taking off to return home, with Emma’s letter to Kate in narrative captions (“I will hold fast until the winds shift. I need you, Kate”) was another great moment from this arc.

  7. Evilgus says:

    Much as I’m enjoying the Kate and Emma show, it’d be nice to get a bit more under the hood with Iceman, Pyro and Bishop.

    I did like Shaw’s underhand ‘we didn’t know you were even a mutant’. Be interesting if that resurfaces. I do wonder why he didn’t see this attack coming, you think the Kill Shaw tattoos would be a giveaway…

    “I am willing to hope for some work with Storm sometime soon. As a character she has become too overemphasized and too complex along the years, and I think that her substance has suffered as a result.”
    Best explanation of the problem with Storm!

  8. neutrino says:


    She was wearing gloves at the Council meetings.

  9. Evilgus says:

    Neutrino – good spot! Thanks.
    Obviously the creative team had thought about this!

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