The onslaught of new X-Men franchise titles spinning out of House of X and Powers of X are beginning to flood the market. Marvel is employing their usual “too much is never enough” approach as we are going to get no less than six X-Men franchise titles. We already reviewed X-Men #1 last week and gave that new title high marks. This week, we get Marauders #1. Gerry Duggan is the writer so we are going to get a dip in quality from what we have been used to from Jonathan Hickman. Marauders #1 also presents the reader with a weird grab bag roster. Anyway, Hickman has breathed new life into the X-Men franchise. Let’s see if other writers like Duggan can capitalize on the positive momentum created by Hickman. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Marauders #1!
Words: Gerry Duggan
Art: Matteo Lolli
Colors: Federico Blee
Story Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin “not long ago” in Central Park. Nightcrawler, Storm, and Kitty usher some young mutants through the Krakoan gate located in Central Park. Surprisingly, when Kitty tries to enter the Krakoan gate she gets blocked as if she was a human. Storm, Nightcrawler, and Kitty are all stunned that Kitty cannot enter into the gate.
We get a one-page informational insert of a memo from the Office of Naval Intelligence. The memo states that the only flotsam they have recovered from Krakoa that has any intel possibilities would be a message in a bottle.
Inside the bottle is a message from Kitty Pryde. The message is a short six-day journal. On Day One, Kitty talks about being sorry about stealing a sailboat from a boat-slip in San Diego. On Day Two, Kitty says that she is now Captain. (Ummmmm…yeah, being the only person on the sailboat would mean that she is Captain, Fist Mate, Engineer, Deckhand, etc.)
On Day Three, Kitty writes that life at sea is boring and that is why pirates drink so much. (Really? The only current day pirates are Somali pirates and they really are not known for drinking and “Yo-ho-ing” like pirates from the 1700s. Perhaps Duggan means to use the past tense when talking about pirates and their drinking?)
On Day Four, Kitty writes that Lockheed loves the water. On Day Five, Kitty wonders that if she cannot use the Krakoan gates then what does that make her? Is she really now so useless?
On Day Six, Kitty says that keeping a list of her crimes seems dumb so she is going to rip these pages out and shove them into a bottle and if this message is found then please know that she is sorry she stole the sailboat. (Ummmm…if Kitty thought keeping a list of her crimes in a PRIVATE journal was dumb then why would she put them in a bottle where some stranger might find the list and then publish it or tell others?)
We shift to Kitty on a sailboat by herself. Lockheed brings her a dead seagull. Suddenly, through the haze we see Krakoa appear before Kitty.
Kitty lands on Krakoa and goes over to where several Krakoan gates are located. Iceman greets Kitty. Kitty tells Iceman that she still cannot use the gates, but that the X-Men have their “top men” on it. Iceman says that he would like to meet these “top men.” (Get it? Bobby’s gay. He is looking for some “top” men. Implying that Bobby is a “bottom.” So witty.)
Wolverine rushes onto the scene and asks if Kitty got it all. Kitty says that she did. Wolverine swims over to the sailboat. We see Logan arriving back on the beach with a keg of beer and a case of Canadian whiskey. Wolverine thanks Kitty and says she really pulled his ass out of the fire. (Ummmm….why? The X-Men have Krakoan gates literally across the entire world and in every single nation. These gates let the X-Men immediately transport to all of these locations. Wolverine could simply walk through a gate and instantly be in Canada. He could then buy the alcohol that he desires and then walk through a Krakoan gate and instantly be back home. This makes no sense.)
We then get a one-page informational insert that is Logan’s shopping list. Logan asks for ribs, Canadian Club whiskey, beer, Cubano sandwiches, Pomade, and Coffee. (Again, totally not necessary with the Krakoan gate network across the globe. But, you cannot let logic get in the way when a writer has his humor that he has to shove into the story. And why would Kitty need to steal a boat from San Diego to bring all of this stuff back? How did Kitty get from Krakoa to San Diego in the first place? Wouldn’t it make more sense that Kitty would just use one of the X-Men’s Blackbirds to fly out of Krakoa to go whoever she wanted to go and then fly back in the Blackbird with all of Logan’s stuff that he wanted? This story is a hot mess at this point.)
Iceman then notices that one of the Krakoan gates has no traffic. He hops through the gate. Suddenly, Emma Frost telepathically contacts Kitty. We see Kitty’s “astral” form sitting next to Emma in Emma’s limousine. Emma calls Kitty “Kate” and asks Kitty why does she still let everyone call her “Kitty?” Emma then asks Kitty (Yeah…sorry, Duggan. I ain’t stopping.) if she has come to a decision about Emma’s offer.
Emma says that she needs an answer from Kitty. The two exit Emma’s limo and walk into a large hangar. Inside is a massive warship that the Hellfire Trading Company has built.
Emma says that the Hellfire Trading Company is going to handle both the regular market for the Krakoan drugs as well as the black market for the Krakoan drugs. Emma says that there are perks to being Captain including any “guests” that Kitty might invite aboard. (Jesus. Does Duggan need to get laid, or something? I get it. People have sex.)
Emma says that shipping corporations were often ruthless slavers, but that the Hellfire Trading Company will be proudly defying that horrific history. (Uhhh, are we still supposed to be all offended over the practices of shipping companies from hundreds of years ago? Okay.)
Emma says that the Hellfire Trading Company will be liberators. (Yeah..so hate to rain on Emma’s parade here, but her company is going to be engaged in international illegal drug dealing and illegal covert operations violating the laws of sovereign nations as well as violating international law. So, yeah…) Emma says that the countries who have not accepted Krakoa’s offer for drugs in return for recognizing Krakao as a sovereign nation are now blocking mutants’ access to the various Krakoan gates within those countries. These countries include places like China, Russia, and Brazil.
Kitty mentions that Emma already made this same offer to Storm and that Storm turned Emma down. We cut back to Kitty on the beach looking at the sailboat. Emma says that Kitty needs to be a queen. That Kitty needs to do it for the wardrobe. That Kitty would look ravishing in red. (I prefer pretty in pink.)
We hop over to Russia. We see Iceman walking out of the Krakoan gate. Iceman says that you can smell the vodka on the air. (A little casual racism for your enjoyment.) The Russians have surrounded the Krakoan gate with soldiers, a tank, and a soldier in a suit of hi-tech armor. The armored soldier says that Russian mutants have no interest in going to Krakoa. The armored soldier blasts Iceman and the blast immediately nullifies Iceman’s mutant powers.
Bobby stands there is a pair of tighty whities and flip flops. (You know…for the yucks and all.) Iceman immediately jumps back through the Krakoan gate. Kitty is standing there on the other side drinking a bottle of whiskey. (Because…you know…Kitty is now an 1800’s pirate.)
Iceman says that the Russians have the gate surrounded by a tank and soldiers and a soldier in armor that nullifies their mutant powers. Iceman calls the Russians “aggro.” (Cause even though Duggan is pushing 50 he wants the youths to know that he is down with MMORPG slang!)
Kitty says that she wants to fight the Russians and tells Storm and Iceman to get in her sailboat with her. (Wait, why would Storm and Iceman agree to follow someone who is totally drunk from drinking a bottle of whiskey? In fact, why would Iceman and Storm even let Kitty follow along on a mission this dangerous while she is drunk?)
We shift to Taipei, Taiwan where Ms. Zhao (the president of Taiwan or the wife of the president of Taiwan.) is addressing the public. She says that Krakoa destroys families. That her husband touched a Krakoan gate and disappeared. Zhao wants to know why the mutants took him. The crowd chants pro-human chants.
After the speech ends, Bishop approaches Ms. Zhao and tells her that he is investigating her husband’s disappearance. Bishop says that they have no record of her husband going through their gates. Ms. Zhao says that she does not want to talk to Bishop and says that his word is worthless. Bishop then radios back to Krakoa and says that there is something rotten here in Taipei.
We slide back to Kitty, Iceman, and Storm on the sailboat. We see Pyro come onto the deck from the cabin of the vessel. Iceman recognizes Pyro’s accent and surprisingly says that he is the original Pyro. Pyro says that he was the first mutant that Professor X reincarnated. He thought it was an honor until he realized that he was the lab rat to test the procedure to see if it would work.
Pyro says that he was going to steal the sailboat and get into trouble, but decided that the bunk was so nice that he would take a nap instead. (Huh? Is Pyro the mutant version of Goldilocks?) Storm then says that Pyro has been drafted to help them and that he cannot kill anyone on their mission. Iceman says that they should get the hostages to the Krakoan gate and then meet back at the sailboat.
We zip over to the Krakoan gate in Russia. Suddenly, Iceman and Storm appear on the scene and attack the soldier in the hi-tech armor. The armored soldier blasts Storm and Iceman and nullifies their powers. Kitty then appears from behind the armored soldier and phases through the soldier’s armor causing it to malfunction.
It is now the Kitty Pryde show as Iceman and Storm go to free the mutants and get them through the Kroakoan gate. Kitty evidently has the skills of Shang-Chi and beats up all the soldiers and then phases through the tank causing it to break down. During the battle, Kitty phases a rifle into the legs of two soldiers and then solidifies the rifle leaving it impaled in the two soldier’s thighs. (Yeah…that is heel move by Kitty. Duggan went too far. These two soldiers will now have to get their legs amputated. That is a way over the top response to men in the military who are fighting for their country. Not sure Duggan wants Kitty to come across like a sadistic villain.)
Pyro then asks if anyone has a light. Lockheed blows fire. Pyro then uses the dragon fire to blast flames at the remaining soldiers. (Uuuuh, Pyro has a flame thrower tank on his back with nozzles above each hand. This lets him create fire to then control it. Why wouldn’t he just use that device on him rather than asking for someone else to provide him with some fire?) The soldiers then retreat from the scene.
Kitty then stands at the Krakoan gate and then says, “Keep recording.” (Umm..what? Who is recording this? There is no one there with a camera. There is literally nobody there other than the rescued mutants and our team of heroes. Who is Kitty talking to? Where is this magical camera recording this scene? Who is this magical camera broadcasting to?) Kitty turns and looks at the reader (and the magical camera, I guess.) and says that any mutants who cannot get to Krakoa will be brought home by the Marauders. (I’ve stopped trying to figure out the logic to this story at this point. Maybe it makes more sense if I read it while drunk on whiskey.)
We cut to “later” with Kitty in the cabin of the sailboat. Kitty then goes to the deck of the sailboat and says that she cannot live on Krakoa. Storm says that she does not like the name the Marauders. Kitty says that it was something she thought up on the spot. Kitty says that the X-Men may not want to be associated with them.
Kitty asks Storm to stay with her. Storm says that she will sail with Kitty. Storm says that she will not have anything to do with Emma and that Kitty will have to deal with Emma. (Soooo…Storm is not cool with being the Captain and working with Emma, but she is okay with being a member of the crew and working for Emma…right…gotcha.)
Kitty then telepathically reaches out for Emma. Kitty then says that she accepts Emma’s offer. Iceman then asks Kitty where they are going to go now. Kitty replies that they are going to go anywhere they want. Kitty then tells Iceman to call her “Kate.”
We then get a one-page informational insert of the Red Diamond with news and gossip from Bar Sinister. (More on these below.) End of issue.
The Good: Marauders #1 was a disappointing issue. Having said that, there are some positive aspects to this issue. There is no doubt that Marauders #1 is not a dull read. Gerry Duggan serves up plenty of action in this issue! Action fans will be satisfied with the amount and quality of the action that is delivered in this story. I do appreciate that this is not a slow or boring read.
Duggan also does an excellent job clearly conveying to the reader the mission statement of this new title. Duggan nicely outlines the point and purpose of the Marauders. This team is going to be a covert operations team that will operate outside of the law of Krakoa. This title’s genre will be one of action/adventure stories and covert missions. This title will employ a team that operates in the gray area of the X-Men universe. Duggan also clearly sets forth how the Marauders will get working under the Hellfire Trading Company and how they fit into the X-Men universe at large as set forth by Jonathan Hickman.
All in all, Duggan does all of the technical tasks of a debut issue of a new title. The reader clearly understands the style of the story that is going to be delivered on this title. The reader clearly understands the mission statement of this new title. And the reader gets a clear description of the framework for this new team and how it fits into the X-Men universe at large. All of this sounds easier said than done. Duggan deserves plenty of credit for performing all of this necessary groundwork in Marauders #1.
Duggan also deserves praise for assembling the entire roster for the Marauders in the debut issue. I hate it when writers take four to six issues to finally get around to assembling the entire roster for a new team. Duggan is not interested in wasting time and pulls together the entire roster in Marauders #1. Now, whether Duggan actually delivers any quality team building is an entirely different question that we will tackle later in this review.
Duggan does not install that many plotlines in Marauders #1. However, one plotline that is installed certainly piqued my interest. I like this plotline involving the mystery surrounding why Kitty cannot access the Krakoan gates. This is a neat and fascinating plot wrinkle. I am curious to see where Duggan goes with this mystery. Duggan certainly succeeded in getting me interested in learning more about this mystery.
The only other aspect of Marauders #1 that I enjoyed was the use of the information inserts. I love that Duggan is carrying Hickman’s literary technique from House of X/Powers of X over into the pages of the Marauders. I hope that the writers of all of the other X-Men franchise titles also do this. This is not only a cool literary tool, but it also creates a cohesive theme and style between all of the X-Men franchise titles.
The first informational insert is the Top Secret memo from the Office of Naval Intelligence. I like that Duggan reveals that the U.S. military now knows about Kitty’s inability to use the Krakoan gates. The Krakoan gates represent the single greatest security threat to the United States. So, it makes sense that the U.S. military would be doing everything in their power to try and figure out a way to hack or shut down the Krakoan gates.
The second informational insert is clearly the more interesting one. Go ahead and click on the pic and read the Sinister Secrets and then we will discuss them here. Okay, you ready? Let’s go through these one-by-one.
Sinister Secret #11 deals with Kitty being offered the position as Captain of the fleet of the Hellfire Trading Company. The reader already knew that Emma offered this position to Storm first. This secret reveals the new information that Emma actually offered this position to another unknown mutant before she offered it to Storm. This is a cool little plot wrinkle. I am curious to learn who the first mutant was that Emma approached about this job. Possibly Wolverine?
Sinister Secret #12 talks about one of the seas on the planet that will have to be carefully navigated by the Hellfire Trading Company. The secret says the sea is deep and red. This could be a reference to the Red Sea which lies in between Africa and Asia. Or it could be a reference to the South China sea due to the trouble that we see in this issue taking place in Taiwan.
Sinister Secret #13 talks about the Black and the White. This is a reference to the Hellfire Trading Company. The Hellfire Club has always consisted of the Black royalty and the White royalty. This secret says that not everyone was invited to join the Hellfire Trading Company. And that this could lead to a fight. Who from the Hellfire Club was not invited to join the new Hellfire corporation? Well, the Black Queen, Selene, immediately springs to mind.
Sinister Secret #14 talks about how humans that wear sheets lead to trouble and asks who the new loony-loos crowding the mutants’ gates. The first part is a reference to the KKK. The second part is referring to a new group looking to do harm to the mutants. Possibly Orchis? Or maybe just local anti-mutant groups in countries like China, Russia, and Brazil.
Secret Sinister #15 refers to a slow boat that is built to catch all the eyes and a second boat that is under the radar that is really the important one. The first boat may refer to the impressive vessel that Emma unveils to Kitty. The second boat that is under the radar could be the small sailboat that Storm powers for our mutants. Or maybe another covert vessel that we have not seen yet.
Matteo Lolli and Federico Blee deliver a nice looking issue with Marauders #1. Lolli has a nice clean and smooth style that fits well with a mainstream superhero title. Lolli also does an excellent job with the facial expressions of the various characters. The panel layouts are well done and are creative enough to make each page looks distinct and interesting.
The Bad: There is no getting around the fact that Marauders #1 is a dumb issue. The quality of writing is low. The story completely lacks any internal logic. Things just happen for no reason at all. There are plot developments that make absolutely no sense.
I understand turning your brain off in order to enjoy a story that is meant to be fluff entertainment. But, even fluff entertainment stories have to have their own internal logic. Marauders #1 requires me to become lobotomized and drooling on myself in order to enjoy this story.
Kitty’s journal in the beginning of Marauders #1 makes zero sense. Why would Kitty need to steal a boat in order to get out of San Diego and go back to Krakoa? How did she get to San Diego? Why couldn’t she use the same transportation that got her to San Diego to get her back? Why didn’t she just contact one of her X-Men teammates to grab a Blackbird and come get her. She could have been on Krakoa in a day. Furthermore, why would Kitty think that listing her crimes in a private journal is a dumb idea, but ripping them out and placing them in a bottle that could be found by anyone and then publicized makes literally no sense.
Having her be in San Diego with no way to get to Krakoa and then steal a boat, spend six days traveling back to Krakoa, and then put her journal pages in a bottle to be sent out into the world all lacked any logic at all. But, Duggan had his pirate narrative with Kitty for this issue so logic be damned. Duggan was going to jam this square peg into a round hole.
Then we get Logan’s shopping list and the entire plotline of Kitty buying various stuff for Logan. Kitty already said she had no mode of transportation so she had to steal a sailboat in San Diego. If that was the case, then how was she carrying around a case of whiskey, a keg, and all this other stuff? To go and get all of this stuff and carry it around Kitty would have to have a car or a plane. I doubt she was just walking around with all of this stuff strapped to her back like a sherpa.
And why couldn’t have Logan just gotten all this stuff himself? He has access to the entire Earth thanks to the Krakoan gates. Logan can immediately appear anywhere on the Earth where there is a Krakoan gate. He could have easily gotten this stuff in the matter of a few hours. Again, nothing makes sense, because Duggan has his humor and his little plot points that he wants to jam into the story no matter what.
Then, Duggan has our heroes take the sailboat to go to Russia to rescue the mutants. Again, why would the mutants take such a slow mode of transportation? Wouldn’t it make far more sense to hop into a Blackbird and arrive in Russia in a much shorter amount of time? Again, Duggan throws logic away for his private theme he keeps beating on in this issue.
Later in the story, Duggan has Pyro reveal himself as an accidental stowaway. Evidently, Pyro was going to steal the sailboat but decided to just take a nap in it instead. That is so stupid. Again, Duggan just wanted an easy excuse to have Pyro on the ship no matter if it made sense or not.
Then during the battle with the Russian soldiers, Duggan has Pyro ask someone for a light so he can use his fire manipulation powers. Does Duggan not know that Pyro is wearing a flame thrower on his back with dual nozzles attached to his arms? Does Duggan know what Pyro looks like or who he is? Maybe Pyro was out of fuel, but Duggan never mentions that to be the case. This is just dumb writing.
Then after the battle with the Russians, Kitty tells somebody to keep recording. It’s has been pointed out to me that one of the Russian mutants has their smartphone recording the scene. I missed this upon my first read. At any rate, Kitty’s little statement to the camera is cringe inducing cheesiness.
Then the cherry of stupidity on top of this ice cream bowl of illogic is the final scene where Storm says that she will not work with Emma, but that she will join Kitty in Kitty’s mission…to work for Emma. I mean, C’mon. Duggan is not even trying anymore at this point in the issue.
The roster that Duggan has been assigned for this title is odd. Other than Storm and Kitty there is zero chemistry on this team. I am not saying that this roster is going to be a failure, but Duggan definitely has his work cut out for him in a big way.
Duggan also put forth zero effort in an attempt to engage in any team building in Marauders #1. Duggan treated this issue as if it were the debut issue of a Kitty Pryde solo title. Unfortunately, this is not a Kitty Pryde solo title. This is a team title. Duggan did Marauders #1 no favors by not trying to engage in any team building at all. The other characters outside of Kitty are nothing more than set props in this story.
Now, I want to be clear, I do like spotlight issues on a team title. However, it is wise to first properly introduce each member of the team and focus on the characters as a unit. Once the team is fully constructed and fleshed out then it is more appropriate to roll out spotlight issues at that point.
The character work was another flaw in Marauders #1. Duggan demonstrated no real substantive feel for the personalities of any of these characters on this team. Kitty is the only member of the Marauders who received any real character work. And the version of Kitty that Duggan gives us is one that seems young, immature, and unconfident. This does not even remotely seem like the Kitty Pryde who we have seen assume leadership of the X-Men in the past. Plus, the weird pirate theme that Duggan kept trying to shoehorn into Kitty’s personality was bizarre and never made any sense.
The rest of the members of the Marauders are either bland cardboard cut-outs or mere caricatures. Storm is written in a dull fashion. Pyro is more of a simple caricature. Emma is as generic as possible. Bishop is barely in the issue, but what we do get is rather bland. Iceman’s only defining personality trait is that he is gay. Iceman is certainly more caricature than character.
Overall: Marauders #1 is a disappointing read. The basic concept for this new team is cool. But, the quality of writing and execution of the concept is poor. Marauders #1 is also a comic that comes with a heavy cover price of $5.00. There is simply no way I can recommend readers drop that kind of entertainment dollar for Marauders #1. $5.00 will nearly pay for one month of the new Disney+ streaming service! There are far better ways to spend your entertainment dollar. And there are so many other superhero titles currently on the market that are way more worth your hard-earned dollar.
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