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Jul 15

Marauders #4 annotations

Posted on Friday, July 15, 2022 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

MARAUDERS vol 2 #4
“Extinction Agenda, part 4”
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Eleonora Carlini
Colourist: Matt Milla
Letterer: Ariana Maher
Design: Tom Muller
Editor: Jordan D White

COVER / PAGE 1: Tempo checks her phone while a battle rages around her (at a different speed).

PAGE 2. Neal Adams obituary.

PAGE 3. Deathbird fights the Kin Crimson.

We’ve seen brief subplots of Deathbird fighting the Kin Crimson’s allies in previous issues. According to Delphos in the previous issue, Deathbird was “cast … halfway across the universe”. But the opening caption here indicates that she’s fought her way back to the Shi’ar capital on Chandilar.

The Crystal Claws are a group led by Erik the Red from the 1995-6 Captain Marvel series, presumably being retconned here into allies of the Kin Crimson. In the original story, they were trying to install a brainwashed Adam X as the Shi’ar Emperor.

PAGE 4. The Marauders fight the Kin Crimson on the Krag.

Xandra was killed at the end of the previous issue, which barely gets a mention here. That plot thread was followed up in X-Men Red #4, which reveals that Xandra was able to get a telepathic message to Professor X before she died, making it possible to resurrect her on Krakoa. The Marauders don’t know that, of course (unless Psylocke noticed something).

The story has to work a bit to justify Kate defending Bishop from an energy attack – which, as he says, he ought to be able to absorb. The “poison idea” thing is a nice concept but feels a bit of a reach from what’s surely just a mentally controlled symbiote?

PAGE 5. Recap and credits.

PAGES 6-7. The Marauders fight their way past the Kin Crimson.

Presumably Psylocke knows that Kate will be resurrected – given that the problem of how to resurrect her was solved at the end of Gerry Duggan’s run – and she’s just angry because the Kin Crimson presumably did intend to kill her for good.

Tempo helps them make their getaway by slowing down the Kin Crimson in time.

Boost fruit. Power-boosting fruit previously mentioned in issue #1, grown by the mutant Gregor Smerdyakov.

PAGES 8-11. The Marauders reach the Chronicle.

The Chronicle turns out not to be a book, but a person who is (apparently) kept frozen until it’s time to have his body regrown so that more memories can be added. The idea is presumably that the data is kept extra secret by relying on his healing factor to reconstitute it each time. The Marauders immediately conclude that this is torture, but the Chronicle seems to be a true believer who’s perfectly happy with his lot.

Lupak glands. Steve Orlando really likes to dig up bizarre backwater continuity, doesn’t he? This is a plot point from the 2015 Wolverines series – the one that followed the Death of Wolverine miniseries and ended unresolved. Daken was in that book, which is what he’s referencing here. According to that series, the Lupak gland is not simply invisible, but exists in a separate dimension and serves as a repository for the Lupak’s soul. The point was that a “dead” Lupak could have a new body cloned for it, and then its soul could be restored from the mysterious gland. It would probably all sound less silly if they hadn’t used the word “gland”.

At any rate, Orlando’s idea is presumably that the Chronicle can be relied upon to reconstitute its memory banks each time that it’s re-grown thanks to the data being stored extradimensionally in this gland. Per Wolverines, some sort of technology ought to be needed to make the gland vulnerable to a conventional physical attack. I’m not entirely clear what Daken actually does here – it seems to trigger the regrowth of the Chronicle’s body, so presumably he can’t be destroying the gland (which would permanently kill the guy).

I don’t recall Daken actually killing Fang, as this story seems to suggest, but they certainly fought a lot.

PAGES 12-15. Flashback: The First Blood Spilled.

Threshold is new. The five heroes who defend the community against the Shi’ar seem like some sort of proto X-Men.

The prehistoric Shi’ar are already a spacefaring race, allied with the Lupak, but they’re still much more avian. This is the early form of the Shi’ar, to which Deathbird is supposed to be a throwback.

The Obliterator. The “living doomsday weapon hired to obliterate the mutants” is the guy with the weapons on his shoulders on page 14, referred to as “the Obliterator” on pages 15 and 16. Although presented here simply as a mercenary, he’s actually a relatively obscure Elder of the Universe, introduced in the 1987 Silver Surfer series.

PAGE 16. Data page: The First Blood Spilled. Basically spelling out what we saw in the last scene.

PAGE 17. Flashback: The aftermath of the First Blood Spilled.

Xorrian science, and its use to alter Shi’ar evolution, was already mentioned last issue.

Phoenix. The woman with the Phoenix firebird, leading cavemen against giant bears, is Phoenix of the Avengers of 1 Million BC, from Jason Aaron’s Avengers run.

Okkara is the island that split into Krakoa and Arakko, as part of a war with the demons of Amenth, all as covered at length in the back story to “X of Swords”.

Eric the Red’s attacks on the X-Men run from X-Men #97 to #105 or so. The original suggestion was simply that Eric had been sent to deal with the X-Men before Lilandra could make contact with them and enlist their aid in stopping Shi’ar Emperor D’Ken.

PAGES 18-19. The Marauders discuss their next move.

Apparently the surviving Thresholders are not people who have been held prisoner for billions of years, but rather time travellers who have been kept in quarantine. The suggestion is that they fled into the future when Threshold fell.

PAGE 20. A data page on Tempo and time travel. However, Tempo’s powers are not normally said to include time travel – what she does is to speed it up or slow it down. Maybe the boost fruits are meant to make the difference here, but this seems to indicate that she can indeed time travel and alter things – it’s just that by definition nobody remembers the changes.

Nature Girl went “radical” in the “X-Men Green” stories in X-Men Unlimited Infinity Comic.

If the X-Force time travel incident is a reference to a published story, I don’t recognise it.

PAGE 21. Tempo takes the Marauders back in time.

Tempo’s claim that it’s more dangerous to travel into the recent past than the distant past seems counter-intuitive, but makes sense in light of the data page. The idea is that changes to history generally have little effect on the overall direction of history because the timestream usually flows around the obstacle and corrects back to the same course. More recent time travel poses greater risk of paradox because there’s less time for the timeline to resume its original direction.

PAGES 22-23. The Marauders arrive in the past.

This is presumably meant to be X-Men vol 2 #42-43, when the Avalon space station was destroyed in a battle between Exodus and… the character seen here. He’s the son of Apocalypse from the “Age of Apocalypse” timeline, and at this point he had just arrived on Earth. He was going by the deeply unfortunate name “Holocaust”, which was wisely changed to “Nemesis” a little later on. So that’s a retcon but probably a deliberate one. Also, he didn’t have his containment armour in the original story; he arrived in the mainstream Marvel Universe without it, and had to get a new one from Sebastian Shaw in a later story. That’s probably just a continuity error.

PAGE 24. Trailers.

Bring on the comments

  1. Ceries says:

    The narrative Orlando is outlining with Threshold is an old one favoured by supremacists of many stripes. The Nazis of course believed in an Aryan Master Race, a false historical “great race” brought low by miscegenation, but it’s an idea that often resurfaces in supremacist groups of any kind, building on the common idea of the long-lost golden age.

    Basically, there was an old, pure place, made solely of and for the pure people. They were perfect, because of their strength and purity, and so the jealous lesser races envied them. And so they were brought low-Orlando doesn’t say what destroyed Threshold here, but he’s probably self-aware enough not to go with miscegenation. All ethnic struggle is thus cast in the form of going back to that pure place; Krakoa and Okkara in this example are thus legitimized by their attempts to recreate that pure and perfect society.

    I’m very curious to see how straight Orlando plays this. He hasn’t really given me the impression that he’s aware of the supremacist ideas that infest his X-men work, but this is an old, familiar idea, ripe for subversion…

  2. Rob says:

    Thank you for trying to sort out the plot of this issue. I couldn’t follow it from panel to panel. This is feeling like this season’s Fallen Angels.

  3. Joseph S. says:

    I… don’t love giving mutants a billion year history. It totally jettisons any idea about mutant’s as the evolution of humankind. But I can see some sense in further linking mutants to Shiar. Orland has some interesting ideas and I want to follow his oddball character choices, but it seems too driven by plot here. If you’re going to have odd characters, let them do character stuff, not just cram it in when plot convenient. Though I suppose there’s something interesting about how the various character’s relate to time being set up in with this crew.

  4. Jenny says:

    I think the arguement that the Theshhold is accidentally supremacist falls apart; because the Shi’ar are an invading species, who have , outside of the X-Men, been consistently shown to be antagonistic at best with other parts of the intergalactic community, since their introduction in Claremont’s run.

  5. K says:

    And yet the Threshold are so awesome that they kicked the Shi’ar’s ass twice!

    No matter how you look at it, you can’t just unconditionally revere the forgotten society of an ancient people you’ve never even met. It would be like Superman endorsing Kryptonian culture based on reading books and watching some holograms of his dad.

    I would hope there will be some nuance to this ancient society soon.

  6. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Oh boy, I’m done with this.

    Hard to follow, weird icky race stuff, a dumb retcon that makes mutants “the real humans.”

    No way.

  7. Jenny says:

    Sure, but I don’t think anyone’s exactly “revering” them. Psylocke is astonished by the fact it exists, but beyond that everyone’s main priority in the issue is trying to save the few remaining. If anything, it’s the Shi’ar tome that’s deifying them.

    Quite frankly, I take issue with accusing the Jewish man of “accidentally” doing the Aryan master race thing.

  8. Jenny says:

    Anyway, on the issue itself; probably the weakest one so far, if only because it’s a large exposition dump. Sadly Cassandra doesn’t get much to do this time around.

  9. Jenny says:

    “Hard to follow, weird icky race stuff, a dumb retcon that makes mutants “the real humans.””

    That’s not what’s said either? If it’s billions of years in the past, then that’s well before humans, let alone any primates or mammals or any animal with a skeleton would have evolved. The implication seems to be that these are a precursor to what we have in the fossil record, who somehow went extinct before life re-evolved on Earth.

    Mind you, I’m not a fan of this either, mostly because it messes with established stuff like Sublime, but the idea this is saying that “mutants are the real humans” is ridiculous.

  10. Sally Blevins says:

    Thanks for the review, Paul.
    Does this mean Rusty Collins might be coming back (or was he killed again in this issue by *Nemesis?
    (Asking for a friend!)

  11. MasterMahan says:

    Nemesis only appears in the last page, so there’s no telling whether Rusty will appear next issue. He’ll probably pop up on Krakoa eventually, presumably looking a lot more like Julian Dennison.

    I’m hoping this is a timeloop thing, with the Threshold being a Krakoan offshoot that traveled back or something. There’s a billion-plus-year-old box with Kitty’s handwriting inside, so presumably she’s ending up back there at some point.

    The alternate is that mutants first came into existence billions of years ago, which would mean they predate multicellular life. And that’s just stupid. Changing mutants from “the future of humanity” to “they’ve always been with us” makes the minority metaphor a lot smoother. Mutants existing before trilobites does not.

    And I can’t say I’m fond of the Shi’ar deep dark secret being that they got their asses kicked really hard.

  12. Si says:

    Strangely I really like the idea of people like Quentin leaving instructions for his new body to have a hairless chest and a bigger [redacted], but this young adult all-American redhead’s resurrection will reads “I want to come back as a chubby Maori kid.”

    Frankly the idea of being able to tailor your new body to better fit your identity hasn’t been explored nearly enough. Even Gillen’s Eternals made it sound more like just wearing a new outfit.

  13. YLu says:

    Someone at a fan forum pointed out that one of the Threshold citizens in that double-page splash looks strikingly like Cable’s old pal Blacquesmith, at least how he was depicted in Ed Brisson’s X-Force run. So much so that it’s probably not a coincidence.

    For comparison:

  14. Nu-D says:

    Is Krakoa meant to be a restoration of this ancient mutant civilization?

    Then we’re back into allegories for Israel here.

    But I’m not reading these books, so I can’t really say.

  15. MasterMahan says:

    Well this is a time travel story, and Blaquesmith *is* the sort of obscure character Orlando would dig up.

    If I recall my lore correctly, Avalon was Graymalkin enhanced with some Shi’ar tech Magneto stole from the X-Men. Which would mean the timedrive the Kin were keeping out of mutant hands… used to be in the X-Men’s possession. I’m not sure the Crimson Kin are very good at their jobs.

  16. Jenny says:

    As far as I can tell from just the comic alone it just seems to be some sort of precursor sentient species on Earth before humanity. It doesn’t help that several characters refer to them as “ancestors,” but Orlando’s acknowledged on Twitter that they predate humanity. Mutants, it seems, is being used as a general term for X-Gene types, and we know from characters like Warlock and Ariel that humans aren’t the only ones with a mutant subspecies.

    The FCBD Judgement Day preview has the Eternals wiping out a race of mutant monkeys in the distant past, but that may or may not be coincidence.

  17. Jenny says:

    In general that goes back to one of my big problems with this era, which is the idea that mutants have some sort of “distinct culture” when what we see of them outside of missions or whatever mostly…drinking at bars or throwing parties.

  18. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    It’s more of a frat or swingers party than a culture.

    When’s the last time a character actually spoke Krakoan besides Rictor?

  19. ASV says:

    It’s really surprising to me that nobody’s grabbed the low-hanging fruit of telling stories (or even *a* story) about what the randos of Krakoa do all day.

  20. Chris V says:

    Again, that’s the problem with Hickman’s vision versus this ongoing status quo. Hickman’s intent, it seems obvious, was that Krakoa was a decadent society where mutants wasted their days away on an island…content with their immortality. Meanwhile, human society would continue to progress and expands its population until the idea of mutants as the next stage in evolution was an outmoded concept.
    Now, that’s been superseded with this idea that Krakoa is an utopia. Yet, the presentation of Krakoa under Hickman remains. So, Krakoa comes across as a boring society where the majority of the population serves no purpose. This is a basic problem with most utopian writing where the society is presented earnestly, not just a fault with Krakoa.

  21. YLu says:

    Hickman’s grand plan has basically become the ultimate Rorschach blot. Everyone and their uncle has their own conclusion about what it was meant to be like, based on what they personally want it to be like.

  22. wwk5d says:

    “It’s really surprising to me that nobody’s grabbed the low-hanging fruit of telling stories (or even *a* story) about what the randos of Krakoa do all day.”

    A Lower Decks style mini could be good.

    “Hickman’s grand plan has basically become the ultimate Rorschach blot. Everyone and their uncle has their own conclusion about what it was meant to be like, based on what they personally want it to be like.”

    Sounds right.

    Overall, not liking this series too much. I do like most of the cast, so I wish I was enjoying it more, but overall…meh.

    And yeah, Tempo somehow having time traveling powers does seem a bit off.

  23. Miyamoris says:

    “Is Krakoa meant to be a restoration of this ancient mutant civilization?”

    Not really the impression I got from this – keep in mind the record is told from the Crimson Kin perspective, so there can be some projection here.

    I get what Orlando is getting for with this, of exploring what history means for superpowered people who can cheat and even bend natural laws and terraform unlivable worlds, but this timey-wimey thing of a billions-old society feels an awkward fit to the rest of marvel cosmology and it gets highlighted by the upcoming event.

    That said, I’m with Jenny and not really seeing the superior race narrative around these mutants – if anything it’s the Crimson Kin manipulation of Shi’ar history that makes me think more of fascism.
    But yeah, this book is… fine, but a bit weird at times and nowhere close to the best stuff in the line right now.

  24. Jenny says:

    I do suspect now that several people have pointed it out that it will be some kind of predestination paradox type thing.

    Given Orlando’s well-known like for Grant Morrison’s works (a lot of his DC stuff brought back characters that no one used after Morrison like Aztek or Mandrakk), it might even have some sort of involvement with Sublime wiping out this Threshold thing.

  25. Miyamoris says:

    “I do suspect now that several people have pointed it out that it will be some kind of predestination paradox type thing.”

    Yeah I’ve been wondering that. Tempo warns everyone of some big scale risks that we all know aren’t really going to happen, so it would be the most likely route.

  26. MasterMahan says:

    @Nu-D: “Is Krakoa meant to be a restoration of this ancient mutant civilization?”

    Krakoa already is a restoration of an ancient mutant civilization, though – Okkara/Arrako.
    Krakoa’s ruling body is similar to Arrako’s. Their Three Laws are similar to Arrako’s. Either it’s a massive coincidence that the latest mutant civilization to dwell on a living island developed the same government and laws, or Krakoa is based on information they had about Okkara/Arrako from Moira, Apocalypse, or Krakoa itself.

    I have to agree about Hickman’s plan being a Rorschach test. Even the writers under him didn’t seem to agree how positive Krakoa was supposed to be.

  27. Miyamoris says:

    Maybe I am on the unpopular opinion camp but I don’t think you’re supposed to view Krakoa as an utopia at this point – critical examinations of the nation have gotten more frequent and more scathing after Hickman’s departure.

    Which is not criticism of the guy, to be clear – he did his own thing well enough, maybe just lacked better character work. The biggest problem imo was he needed the other books to hard carry the worldbuilding while he focused on the more high-concept stuff, but the line overall was… very uneven. I’m sure Hickman hyped the x-office well enough, but it really feels like the current team is better synced and interested in exploring thematic nuances.

  28. Jerry Ray says:

    The art on this book is just awful – it’s frequently difficult to even tell what’s meant to be happening. I might have a less negative reaction to “the dumbest thing in Aaron’s Avengers, but for the X-Men” if the art was decipherable.

  29. Mike Loughlin says:

    Miyamoris: “Maybe I am on the unpopular opinion camp but I don’t think you’re supposed to view Krakoa as an utopia at this point – critical examinations of the nation have gotten more frequent and more scathing after Hickman’s departure.”

    I’ve thought this from the beginning. I don’t know exactly what Hickman’s plan was (and, as YLu pointed out, we all have our own theories), but I thought his 3 Act structure was going to be Rise/Conflict/Fall. Phase 1 (Dawn of X) was the rise- Krakoa had to be established as generally good, maybe even too perfect. Phase 2 (Reign of X) is where things got muddled, as it seemed like an extension of Phase 1. Still, books like New Mutants and Way of X were already showing the flaws in the society. Even some of Hickman’s X-Men showed some things being off (e.g. Prof. X & Magneto stringing Mystique along). Now we’re in Phase 3 (Destiny of X) out of an unknown number of phases, and the problems within Krakoa are building. I wonder what Judgement Day will lead to, and how Krakoa does or doesn’t come out of it.

  30. Salomé H. says:

    I get the resistance to the “supremacist” descriptor, in relation to current world politics. But it’s hard to contest that that’s the narrative undercurrent, even if unintentional and somewhat confusing.

    The consistent interconnection between genetics and culture is what fucks things up, in ways that don’t even map onto race.

    Race is inextricable from reproduction, heritage, and intergenerational transmission. Mutancy is by definition the opposite of that: it is an exceptional irregularity in human genetics, and human society. It’s a completely individual experience as well, which we’ve often been told severs mutants from their human communities. More importantly, it is random and discontinuous.

    Because of this, mutant society can only function as a counter-formation: a collective response to structural violence and persecution. A seperatist yearning in response to an unwelcoming world.

    But mutant identity can’t possibly make sense in isolation, with an entire history at a remove from human society, unless you accept the foundation of culture and identity in physiology. Regardless of time and space, and regardless of context.

    We’ve seen Krakoa and Akkaro transformed into primarily mutant societies, with an abstract sense of history permeating the relationship between the two. But Okkara had a history; the whole point of Krakoa is that it is isolated and exceptional, and at a remove from mutants on Earth. Even the idea that the first mutants must be saved suggests a baseline conviction that genetics translates as identity, regardless of relationships of transmission and ancestry.

    When we get to the ridiculous point where a billion years old mutant society is revealed as the great shame of the Shi’ar empire, the mutant metaphor has been broken completely. Nothing seperates them in important ways from the Inhumans or the Eternals, other than the fact there’s no design in their creation. And if they precede human society, how can they represent the future?

    Ranty, I know. But I hope folks are right, and it’s just a time paradox or self fulfilling distortion of the timeline. That could at least make some degree of sense…

  31. Karl_H says:

    Jerry Ray says >> The art on this book is just awful – it’s frequently difficult to even tell what’s meant to be happening.

    To my eye, it’s a combination of thin lines make the art very flat, often coinciding with a very homogeneous palette. On page 14, for example, the attacking Shi’ar in the bottom panel are just a flat blur of orange yellow with a bunch of lines in it.

    Moon Knight is another title that suffers from this, but with blocky black shading instead of colors. Although the art in that book is pretty popular. Maybe my ability to discern depth in drawn art is getting hinky in my old age.

  32. Jenny says:

    FWIW I do think it’s possible for someone to make some sort of accidental “supremacist narrative” with the way Krakoa has been written-that’s been a big criticism I’ve had ever since it’s started-I just think that given what we’ve seen so far, it’s a bit uncharitable to claim that this book has done that. It’s inexplicable and perhaps a bit stupid, yes, but “secret ancient society that predates what we previously knew” is an old hat trope, not just in comics.

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