The titles spinning out of Jonathan Hickman’s House of X/Powers of X have been a mixed bag. The Revolution enjoyed X-Men #1, X-Force #1, and New Mutants #1. On the other hand, we were unimpressed with Excalibur #1, Fallen Angels #1, and Marauders #1. Marauders #1 was a bit of a dumb read that offered a bizarre mishmash of characters and with an underdeveloped mission statement.
Hopefully, Gerry Duggan can reign things in and deliver a smartly written and focused issue that shines the spotlight on some of the other members of Marauders outside of Kitty Pryde and begins to deliver the mission statement of this team and some much-needed team chemistry. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Marauders #2!
Words: Gerry Duggan
Art: Matteo Lolli
Colors: Federico Blee
Story Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We start with a one-page informational insert. It is a memo from an unknown official of the “X-Desk” sent to the U.S. Naval Intelligence about the mutant crisis. The memo details the security measures of Krakoa. The memo also talks about the activities of the Marauders across the globe.
We cut to Emma having a psychic conversation with Mindee Cuckoo and the Stepford Cuckoos. Mindee turns down Emma’s offer to be the new Red Queen. Emma reminds Mindee that they need to stick together. Mindee says that mutants are already perfectly aligned. Emma replies that she meant “us women.” (Uhhhhhh….ooookay. Did I miss something in House of X/Powers of X that suggested some nefarious male agenda? Or is Duggan just awkwardly shoving random shit into this story?)
We shift to Emma meeting with Sebastian Shaw. Here is the scene in a nutshell. Emma is the schoolmarm and Sebastian Shaw is the 6-year old child. Emma scolds Shaw for losing money on his side of the ledger. Emma scolds Shaw for selling drugs to the rich first world market for a quick buck instead of sticking to selling on the black market. (Well…can’t Shaw sell drugs on the black market to the rich first world groups? These things are not mutually exclusive.)
Frost then says that she knows men do not care to have the size of their accounts called into question but she wants to know if Shaw is financially stable. (Ummm…penis jokes? Really?) Emma then asks what trollop Shaw wants to make the Red Queen. Shaw says that Emma has made her point about selling the drugs on the black market to countries at need first. (Why? If Shaw is selling on the black market and is looking to make the most money then shouldn’t he be selling drugs on the black market to the person with the most money? Or shouldn’t Shaw be selling the drugs on the black market to the countries who have not officially recognized Krakoa as a nation pursuant to what we were told earlier about the Hellfire Trading Company’s objectives?)
We then cut to the Marauders attacking a vessel smuggling Krakoan drugs. Batroc is in charge of the vessel. Batroc battles the Marauders.
We get a really weird one and a half page “fight” scene of Kitty “dancing” with one of the pirates. (This was the weirdest and lamest fight scene. But, know this! The lady leads this dance and the man takes the dip, bitches!)
Kitty (Yeah, that’s right. I said Kitty. Suck it, Duggan.) phases into the cargo room of the vessel. This is where the Krakoan drugs are being kept. Batroc appears and calls Kitty “Kitty.” Kitty then tells Batroc to call her Kate. (Or perhaps Ms. Pryde. Or maybe Mistress? I don’t know what Duggan is into.)
Batroc asks Kitty to take the drugs onto her vessel and just agree to say that the ship sank. Batroc offered Kitty part of the money from the sale of the drugs. That it is worth tens of millions.
Kitty refuses Batroc’s offer. They then go back to the deck of the vessel. Kitty says mutant money grows on trees. (Huhbutwhat? It does? Did I miss something?) Kitty says sending a message to the Black King is worth any price. Kitty says that these drugs were supposed to go to an African country that cannot publicly accept the drugs without plunging into civil war. Instead, Black King was taking the drugs to a rich country club in the United States. (Booooo. rich Americans. You guys are the worst!) Kitty says that another vessel with replacement drugs has already been sent to that African nation in need. So, Kitty is going to destroy this shipment of drugs. (But…wouldn’t it make more sense to not waste the drugs and the money and simply take it to yet another country in need, instead?)
Kitty says that she is here to kick Black King where it hurts. (THE NUTS!) In the wallet. (What in the hell is the point of the Hellfire Trading Company anymore? Are they there to cost each other money? Are they here as a humanitarian group to give drugs to needy countries? Are they there to supply drugs on the open market to countries that recognize Krakoa as a nation and supply drugs on the black market to countries that do not recognize Krakoa as a nation? Are they there to create pressure on the governments who are refusing to recognize Krakoan as a nation? Nobody knows! Duggan sure doesn’t know!)
We see the Marauders sink the ship. Batroc and his crew are placed on a lifeboat. Kitty then calls for the Coast Guard to come to get Batroc and the crew. The Marauders then head to Tapei. We see the Marauders in Tapei with Pyro auctioning off the vessel for money.
We hop back to Emma talking to Sebastian Shaw. Shaw is pissed that he lost a vessel, lost a shipment of drugs, and also lost the services of Batroc. Shaw says that Emma is being punitive. Shaw says that Emma needs to make this right and allow him to fill the spot of the Red Queen. Emma then says that the seat of Red Queen is not vacant. Shaw continues to spaz out like a toddler. Emma said that she has already offered the exposition to someone and they have already accepted.
We hop to Taipei. We see Kitty grabbing a bottle of booze and saying “Come to mama.” (Did I miss the point in X-Men continuity where Kitty became Logan? Perhaps I missed the point where Kitty became a raging alcoholic. All Duggan has had her do these first two issues is to drink hard liquor all the time. Is this a Kitty from an alternate universe?)
We then see the Marauders dancing in a club and drinking. Then the Marauders leave the club and meet Bishop. Kitty screams at him like a drunk sorority girl. (At this point, Bishop realizes that he is the only adult in the room.) Bishop tells the Marauders that Professor Xavier has been killed. (See the events in X-Force #1.)
Kitty takes another swig from her bottle of booze. She then walks into a tattoo parlor. Kitty tells the owner that she and her friends are going to make themselves home here for a while. (Ummmm…you can just bust into a person’s shop and tell them that you are going to be taking it over? Gotcha.)
The owner says that they are not a bar and they can only stay if they are getting a tattoo. So, we see Kitty getting a tattoo on her hand. (It probably says “FUCK YOU! I AM TOUGH! SO SAYS MY TATTOO!”) We see Pyro getting a facial tattoo. (What a fucking moron.) Iceman says that his body is a temple of perfection and, therefore, does not need a tattoo. (That’s actually good logic.) Iceman then says that maybe one day he will get a small one. (Yup. Nothing like making your character contradict themselves in the span of a few panels.) Storm says she would never get a tattoo.
Kitty then pays the tattoo artist for the tattoos. She gives him way more money than he charged for the tattoos. Kitty then aggressively kisses the tattoo artist on the mouth. (Yeah, so maybe in 2019 you don’t have your “hero” that you are trying to give a big push to go ahead and commit sexual harassment. Just saying.)
Kitty then takes the tattoo artist’s jacket and says that she is going to take this. Kitty then leaves. (Sexual assault followed by theft. Yeah, I think it is clear that Kitty has pulled off a full heel turn.)
We then see that Gateway has arrived on the scene. Gateway teleports the Marauders away from the scene. We see the Marauders arriving in London. (And Pyro now has a massive black skull tattooed across his entire face. This is easily the dumbest looking character design. He looks like a moron.)
The Marauders are aboard their new vessel. It is a huge luxury yacht with massive guns all over it. Kitty then says that she is going ashore. Kitty says that she is going shopping for some boots (For you to lick and then get your ass kicked by!) and then she is going to burn her old ship. (That just seems excessive and wasteful. You can always donate your old boats to charities like Boat Angel. I think someone like Kitty who seems so concerned with social justice would rather do that.)
We hop back to Emma still scolding Shaw. Emma says that this is not personal. (Newsflash. When someone tells you that something is not personal you can damn sure bet that it is personal.) Emma says that what they are doing is important. That they are not just lining their pockets with money. Emma says that Shaw is back playing the game for now. That Shaw should consider that a win. Emma says that Shaw has a long history of hedging bets against mutantdom. Emma says that she cannot have a third of their voting tied up in whatever tramp Shaw is sleeping with.
Shaw continues to scream like a toddler. Shaw grabs Emma by the neck and slams her into the wall. Shaw says, “There will be no Red King, you bitch.” Suddenly, Kitty walks into the room wearing the pirate jacket she stole from the tattoo artist. (Really? Why would a tattoo artist in 2019 have a full-length red Captain Hook style coat?) Kitty also has her new pirate boots on. Kitty is also pouring herself a drink because she is now a raging unhealthy alcoholic. Kitty says, “I’m the new Red Queen, bitch.” (We all saw this coming from a mile away, right?)
We then get a one-page informational insert showing the hierarchical structure of the Hellfire Trading Company. End of issue.
The Good: Marauders #2 did nothing to clean up the mistakes of Marauders #1. Having said that, Marauders #2 did have some positive qualities. Gerry Duggan delivers enough action in Marauders #2 to keep this from being a boring issue. This was a smart move to try and distract the reader from the fact that nothing really happens at all in Marauders #2.
I like that Duggan continues to employ Johnathan Hickman’s informational pages from House of X/Powers of X. These continue to be such an excellent way to deliver large amounts of backstory to the reader without interrupting the flow of the story. These pages flesh out the X-Men universe and help to give more depth and texture to the setting.
The memo from the X-Desk was cool. I do not remember seeing anything about a new branch of the U.S. government named the X-Desk. The X-Desk appears to be a new U.S. government agency tasked with dealing with the potential threat from the mutant nation of Krakoa. Duggan also has the memo block out the name of the individual from the X-Desk writing this memo.
This memo gives additional context to the security measures of Krakoa as well as how the mutant nation is perceived as a threat to the United States. I also like that Duggan keeps the identity of the author of this memo from the reader. A little mystery helps pique the reader’s interest in the X-Desk and should provide source material for an entertaining future plotline for the Marauders.
The second informational page was the hierarchical structure of the Hellfire Trading Company. I love an organizational flow chart. This informational page did an excellent job finally giving some form and structure to the Hellfire Trading Company.
Under the Lord Imperial are three equal branches: White, Black, and Red. The White Monarch is Emma Frost. The White Bishop is Christian Frost. The White Knight is vacant. The Black Monarch is Sebastian Shaw. The Black Bishop position is awaiting accolades. The Black Knight position is vacant. The Red Monarch is Kitty Pryde. The Red Bishop position is awaiting accolades. The Red Knight position is vacant.
It is interesting that The Hellfire Trading Company would begin operation without its leader in position. Having the position of Lord Imperial be vacant is surprising. I am not sure how the company can exist with the top position vacant, but whatever. This is still an interesting plot development.
I have no idea who Duggan is going to insert into the role of Lord Imperial. I also am unsure of the process of the selection of the Lord Imperial. Perhaps the White Queen, Black King, and Red Queen all have to unanimously vote who will assume the position as their boss? At any rate, I am going to guess that Duggan fills this potion with a female character given the general vibe and structure of the Marauders. If that is the case, then I want it to be Selene!
Duggan still has plenty of surprising reveals to deliver in upcoming issues with the positions of Black Bishop, Red Bishop, White Knight, Black Knight, and Red Knight still either not revealed or completely unfilled. I would imagine that Emma will select an X-Men character who has historically been aligned with her in the past for the role of White Knight. Perhaps a former member of the Hellions?
I would also imagine that Sebastian Shaw will load the positions of Black Bishop and Black Knight with characters who have been aligned with him in the past. Perhaps, we see Shinobi Shaw and Trevor Fitzroy in the roles of Black Bishop and Black Knight.
We know that Kitty Pryde is the Red Queen. Duggan missed a golden opportunity to do something far more interesting and surprising by revealing Madelyne Pryor as the Red Queen. That would have been so damn spicy! Pryor is one of the few female characters who could lock horns and win against Emma. And Pryor would also provide for some interesting conflict with Shaw, as well.
But, since Kitty is the Red Queen, I would imagine that the positions of Red Bishop and Red Knight will be filled with either some of her old X-Men teammates or some of her members of the Marauders. Storm is probably not a candidate since she declined the position of Red Queen in the first place. Pyro is not a candidate since he is a complete moron. Iceman is not an answer since he appears to be the team’s resident bubblehead. So, that leaves Bishop. Bishop is the most qualified for one of these roles. Possibly, Bishop is the Red Bishop? That would be too on the nose, right? Maybe Kitty gets Logan and Nightcrawler to be her Bishop and Knight? Probably not. It will be interesting to see who Kitty selects for these positions.
Matteo Lolli delivers plenty of solid artwork. There are moments where Matteo’s artwork is uneven and lacks detail. But, for the most part, Lolli delivers dependable artwork. Lollo certainly excels at the characters’ facial expressions.
The Bad: Marauders #2 was stupid. It is hard to get past the fact that Duggan’s writing is dumb. From start to finish. There continues to be a lack of internal logic to the story. Much of this focuses on the point and purpose of the Hellfire Trading Company. Is it there to make a profit both legally and illegally? Is it there to apply pressure to countries who have not officially recognized Krakoa? Is it there to encourage internal strife in enemy nations by delivering their drugs on the black market? Is it there to engage in humanitarian relief services to needy countries? Who the hell knows? Duggan certainly does not know. The constantly shifting purpose of the Hellfire Trading Company adversely impacts the story. Duggan needs to clearly outline the mission objective for the Hellfire Trading Company and stick with it.
There is also the issue of the internal structure of the Hellfire Trading Company and how the Marauders operate within that structure. I get that Duggan is trying to add some “drama” with Emma and Shaw being adversarial. But, it is done in an unintelligent fashion. I have no problem with Shaw and Emma rubbing each other the wrong way. But, it makes zero sense why Emma would intentionally cause financial harm to her own company.
Also, under the organization chart that we get in this issue, it is clear that both Emma and Shaw are in equal positions. That neither can get rid of the other. It would appear that only the Lord Imperial can fire a monarch. Therefore, it makes no sense why Duggan would write Emma as having more power and authority than Shaw.
Also, based on this chart, it seems that it would be the job of the Lord Imperial to select the Red Monarch. There is zero explanation of how Emma could select the Red Monarch without Shaw’s vote. According to the organizational chart, both the White Monarch and Black Monarch are completely equal positions. Duggan does nothing to explain why Emma is able to get away with unilaterally selecting the Red Monarch.
It also makes no sense that Kitty would purposely scuttle millions of dollars in drugs that could be better served being given to another needy country. Again, Duggan wants to show that Kitty is trying to hurt Shaw. But, if they are both working for the same company, all Kitty is doing is hurting the Hellfire Trading Company. Also, purposely destroying millions of dollars in drugs instead of giving them to another needy country makes Kitty look like a hypocrite and a villain.
This dumb writing with lapses in internal logic continues throughout the issue. This only serves to make the various characters in Marauders #2 look like idiots at certain points in the story. It makes it hard for the reader to take anything seriously. It also makes it difficult for the reader to get immersed in the story.
The plotting and pacing on Marauders #2 are both poor. The story moves forward with zero sense of urgency. Duggan continues to lazily meander his way through the second issue of this young title. Duggan drags his feet and spends way too many on pages that appear to serve zero purpose.
Duggan has managed to install practically zero plot-lines. There is no main villain installed for the opening story arc. There is no mission installed for the opening story arc. There is no real conflict at all installed of the opening story arc. In fact, there is zero plot progression in Marauders #2 until we arrive at the final page of the issue. The reader could easily skip Marauders #2 and pick up Marauders #3 and not miss anything at all.
The story is painfully shallow. There is little depth and nuance to this story. The lack of content in Marauders #2 makes me concerned that Duggan does not have fleshed out and detailed storylines in mind for this title. At this point, Marauders feels like an editorially mandated title where the writer has no real plans and is just making up shit as they go along.
Duggan spends seven painfully slow and repetitious pages on Frost scolding Shaw. This could have been done in a far more impactful fashion in four pages. The conflict between these two characters was delivered in the most boring and shallow manner possible. This is a real shame since Emma and Shaw are two fantastic characters.
What the reader should have gotten was an intelligently written and wickedly devious scene between two egotistical power brokers. Unfortunately, all Duggan gives us is a schoolmarm chastising a 6-year old boy. That is exactly how these scenes read. I am stunned that Duggan chose such a boring and uncreative route. This only served to hurt both Emma and Shaws’ characters.
What makes Emma such a brilliant character is her ability to hold her own, and then some, against powerful characters. Watching Emma verbally spar with characters like Magneto and Professor X is what elevates her character. It is seeing Emma engage those kinds of characters in a battle of the minds that makes her so fascinating. However, seeing Emma casually scold Shaw like a little child completely fails to build up Emma’s character or get the reader interested.
This scene also does nothing to build up Sebastian Shaw in the eyes of the reader. This is also a massive mistake. Duggan needs to present Shaw as a credible and dangerous threat to both humans and mutants. This gets the reader more invested in Shaw’s character. This also gets the reader to take Shaw more seriously.
Unfortunately, Duggan presents Shaw as nothing more than a lame character who is essentially on the level of a pathetic small child. The result is that the reader now immediately views Shaw as a joke that they should never take seriously. By not properly building up Shaw, Duggan has lost any opportunity to make Emma look more impressive whenever she manages to score points on Shaw. This robs the story of any tension or drama.
Also, by presenting Shaw as an equal to Emma, Duggan would be creating far more complex and fascinating tension within the corporate structure of the Hellfire Trading Company. This would take the political intrigue inside of the Hellfire Trading Company to a higher level.
Marauders #2 also delivers a seven-page fight scene. These seven pages serve to balance out the slower and more boring seven pages with Emma and Shaw. Yes, Duggan provides for some good action. But, this action scene is completely mindless. It fails to achieve any purpose or further along with any character growth or plot-lines. This seven-page scene could have easily been delivered in four pages and had far more impact on the reader.
The remainder of Marauders #2 is the five-page scene of the Marauders in Tapei. This scene is Duggan lighting pages on fire and tossing them in the trash can. This scene is pure filler that served no point at all. This is classic time-wasting.
Another serious defect to Marauders #2 is the complete and utter lack of team building. Which is odd since….the Marauders is a team title. After two issues, the Marauders is actually the Kitty Pryde Show co-starring Emma Frost. This is not a team title. If Marvel just wanted to publish a Kitty Pryde title then cool! Publish a Kitty Pryde title with her name on the cover. Market it as a solo title starring Kitty with some assorted supporting characters.
Instead, Duggan is giving the reader a Kitty Pryde title under the guise of a team title in the Marauders. This is false advertising. When I purchase a team title I want to get…a team title. Part of what makes superhero team titles so much fun is the large cast of characters and the chemistry that the writer creates between the characters. That is utterly lacking in Marauders #2.
Duggan spends zero effort on any of the members of the Marauders outside of Kitty. Duggan spends zero effort on trying to create unique roles on the team for each of the team members. Duggan spends zero effort trying to create some quality team chemistry between the teammates. Marauders #2 is completely lacking in all of the qualities that a reader expects from a good team title. Hell, there are supporting characters in solo titles like Spider-Man who get more attention than what Duggan gives to the members of the Marauders outside of Kitty.
Another huge problem with Marauders #2 is the complete lack of character work. Duggan completely fails to perform any character work one anyone, not names Kitty Pryde. All of the characters in Marauders #2 are either painfully generic or boring one-dimensional caricatures.
Along with poor character work, Duggan also delivers some pedestrian dialogue. The dialogue sucks for every character. None of the characters have unique external voices. All of the characters get a heaping helping of bland dialogue.
The lack of character work and poor dialogue combine to create a story where there is zero chemistry between the members of the Marauders. Team chemistry is a vital and core ingredient to any team title. It is utterly lacking in Marauders #2. This team still feels like a random grab-bag collection of characters.
I already touched on Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw earlier in this review. I already discussed Duggan’s poor handling of these two characters. So, let’s move on to the members of the Marauders.
Duggan has done a terrible job with Pyro. Pyro is shallow and one-dimensional. And on top of that, Duggan is rapidly making Pyro an incredibly annoying idiot. The new character design of a massive black skull tattooed on his face only serves to make Pyro comes across as an even bigger idiot than before. This is truly unfortunate as Duggan was handed a nearly clean blank slate with the newly resurrected Pyro in which to grow an engaging and fascinating character largely free of any pre-existing baggage.
Duggan has also done absolutely nothing with Iceman. All Duggan has done is to make Bobby a complete bubblehead with no depth or personality. This is a shame since Bobby is one of the original X-Men and deserves so much more than this.
Bishop is a fantastic character. Unfortunately, Duggan reduced Bishop to nothing more than a generic cardboard cut-out spitting out robotic dialogue. I would say that Duggan’s handling of Bishop is the most disappointing aspect of Marauders. But, then we arrive at Storm.
Storm is one of my all-time favorite X-Men. Storm has such an incredible and engaging character. However, Duggan reduces Storm to a mere shell of her character. Storm is as robotic as Bishop. Storm basically serves as mere background window-dressing. That is definitely not a role fitting for Storm.
Lastly, we arrive at Kitty Pryde. This is the only character in Marauders #2 that gets anything resembling character work and a unique personality. Unfortunately, that unique personality is a shit sandwich that is inconsistent with Kitty’s forty-year history.
Kitty Pryde is one of the all-time greatest X-Men. Kitty has a long-established forty-year history. Kitty first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #129 back in January 1990. In her debut issue, Kitty set herself apart from the X-Men by being the X-Men that readers could most easily identify with. In fact, Kitty was the character that was supposed to represent the reader in the X-Men universe. Kitty reacted to the amazing world of the X-Men the same way that the reader did.
Kitty would go on to be the X-Men that readers could most identify with and bond with. Kitty was one of us. Kitty was our lens into the fantastical world of the X-Men. Kitty was so easily relatable for most children, teen, and young adult readers. Kitty was not the best. She was often awkward or felt out of place. Kitty made mistakes. Kitty was just like us! It is what made Kitty so special.
We then got to see Kitty grow and eventually blossom into an incredibly intelligent and capable woman. Kitty became a compassionate and loving teacher. Kitty became a confident and inspiring leader.
Evidently, Duggan has never read a comic book with Kitty Pryde in it. Duggan has taken this incredible character and stripped her of all of her unique personality and reduced her to a shell of her former character. Duggan gives the reader a Kitty Pryde that is a weird alcoholic shitbag loser who is suddenly obsessed with living the pirate life. I have no idea where the hell this came from. There is nothing about Duggan’s Kitty Pryde that is even remotely consistent with her forty-year history.
Even worse, Duggan robs the X-Men of such a great character and in return gives us a complete loser who is utterly unlikeable. Why would the reader want to cheer for a drunk who sexually harasses people and steals things, would rather waste drugs than give them to people in need, and generally acts like an egotistical tool? Duggan does absolutely nothing to get the reader to like this bizarro version of Kitty. In fact, Duggan builds up this new Kitty Pryde character in the same manner that a writer would build up a villain.
Duggan takes away Kitty’s complex and interesting personality and replaces it with such a shallow and unintelligent personality. There is zero depth to Duggan’s buffoonish Kitty Pryde. Duggan thinks that “growing” Kitty Pryde’s character means having her tell people to call her “Kate.” That is so pathetically laughable. Talk about such an uncreative and simple idea to “grow” a character.
Duggan then doubles down and thinks that even more character “growth” means taking an intelligent, compassionate, and respected leader and turning her into a drunk who is a complete shitbag to the people around her and spits out dialogue that makes her sound dumb as hell. I feel like Duggan is giving me Bizarro Kitty.
If Duggan, or Marvel’s editorial, really felt there was a need for a sketchy female pirate-style character then perhaps trying to find a character that is closer to this role would have been a wiser idea. There are other female characters in the X-Men franchise that would have been far better suited for this type of pirate role. X-23 would have made more sense. Psylocke would have made more sense. Hell, even Rogue would have made more sense. Mystique would have definitely made more sense. The point is that there were many far better choices for this role.
Kitty could have then been used in any of the other X-Men titles in a role far more fitting of her character and her forty-year history. It is too bad that Hickman did not choose to keep Kitty on his title. Hickman would have given us a wonderfully compelling Kitty Pryde.
Overall: Marauders #2 was another poorly written and executed read. I have no idea what the point and purpose of Marauders is supposed to be. I have no idea what reader Duggan is trying to target with this title. I do know that Marauders #2 is definitely not with the expensive $4.99 cover price. There are so many far superior team titles being offered by Marvel and DC that are far more worth your hard-earned money.
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