Now that the Dawn of X is a concrete line of books instead of a distant dream, it’s crazy to think about just how lucky we X-fans currently are. This week saw both Excalibur #2 and Marauders #2 hit the stand. While both issues are thoroughly enjoyable, Gerry Duggan’s, Matteo Lolli’s and Federico Blee’s second chapter in Marauders firmly posits that it’s the ladies, namely the Hellfire Queens Emma Frost and Kate Pryde, who are running the show.
While this issue primarily shows Emma interacting with Sebastian Shaw, the newly reinstated Black King of the Hellfire Trading Company, it’s clear through her relaxed body language and easy smile that she constantly feels like the most powerful and important figure in the room. Even when her loaded language about “tramps” does finally enrage Sebastian, sending him into a violent fury that ends with him pinning a crystalized-Emma against the wall, it’s clear she retains the upper-hand. As Sebastian screams and rampages, nearly calling Emma a b***h in the process, she stays characteristically cool- speaking to her flailing aggressor in a babying tone and coyly grinning because she’s still multiple steps ahead of her antagonistic partner.
In fact, while Sebastian may hold one of the titles and three Council seats afforded to the Hellfire Corporation, it’s clear that Emma and Kate have no patience for his egotistical side-hustles to interfere with their work. Emma even reveals to Sebastian that she offered up the Red Queen position to Kate long before he was formally readmitted to the organization, a sign that shows just how little regard Emma holds for his opinion. While Sebastian may have tried to circumvent Emma to get things done, it’s clear that the ladies don’t have to do any secret plotting to ensure things proceed as planned: they can simply overpower their fellow board member.
Emma Frost may be the one relishing in a life of luxury, draped in exquisite suits and hosting fancy meetings, but it’s Captain Kate Pryde who seems to be having the time of her life taking on thugs and dancing the night away. Thanks to her protective statement at the end of last issue, Kate and the Marauders are a viral sensation, but that doesn’t mean people around her are acutely aware of her position of power. According to the first data page, a mysterious e-mail sent from an obscured organization who is dependent on the FBI for information, there’s a theory circulating the world that Pryde and her boat are simply a “flashy show of force” to draw people’s eyeballs away from what’s actually going on. Partially because of just how public her role is, it makes sense that people naturally believe she follows instead of gives the orders.
In many ways the character can be seen as a swashbuckling hero, someone who likes toying with her opponents before ultimately dispatching of them in a harmless manner, but her behavior can also be viewed as somewhat self-indulgent. Drinking massive amounts of alcohol, kissing strangers and wrecking company property, Kitty’s behavior isn’t necessarily in line with what people may expect from her. It’s important to remember that she is one of the few individuals physically separated from the feelings of optimism taking over Krakoa, meaning she is still processing her isolation and former traumas as she onloads these new responsibilities. When she’s dreamily asked “who are you” by the tattoo artist she overpaid, kissed and then walked out on, she simply replies with “A school teacher.” This simplified comment, something that pins so many of her experiences around the notion of mentoring others, shows just how hungry for adventure and a new sense of identity Kate is. Yes, she’s still helping those who are less fortunate than her, but the fact that she’s happily profiting from her new position indicates that her headspace has evolved over the years.
With the Queens’ clunky past ostensibly behind them, Emma and Kate can put up a united front. The sense of lingering tension present between the two of them in the first issue has seemingly disappeared and now it’s clear that the two individuals are firmly supportive of one another. That’s not to say Kate is fully aware of each dastardly plot the new White Queen is cooking up, but it’s clear that she’s currently okay with her position and the co-dependent relationship she has with Emma; when Emma psychically tells her it’s time to arrive in London, Kate immediately arrives ready to reveal her position to Sebastian Shaw. The two Queens may have slightly different priorities, but they are driven by the same maternalistic urge to protect mutants and individuals who can’t do it themselves.
In fact, solidarity is a recurring theme in this issue of Marauders. The first non-data page features Emma having a psychic conversation the Stepford Cuckoos about who should be named Hellfire’s Lord Imperial. While readers never learn who Emma recommended, the exchange is still enlightening about where people’s heads are at in this new world. The Cuckoos are right that mutants are more united than ever before, with villains and heroes both rooting for Krakoa’s success, but they don’t have the same understanding of people, particularly men, that Emma does. As far as Emma sees things, now is the best time for women to come together and obtain as much power as possible to ensure egotistical figures like Sebastian Shaw or Mister Sinister don’t fill the void with their own leadership styles and loyal appointees. Her and Kate’s positions as Queens is certainly a good start, but there’s a whole lot of crafty, intelligent women Emma wants to see move into positions of authority in Krakoan society. Despite this unified front, it’s important to note how quickly Emma used slut-shaming language like “tramp” and “trollop” to belittle Sebastian’s secret partner, a potential indicator that only certain women will be accepted into the upper-echelons of leadership.
Unfortunately, not everything is sunshine and blue skies for the way characters are being depicted in Marauders. There’s already been a lot said about the problem online, but it is worth bringing up repeatedly: color matters. Storm and Bishop both undergo severe lightening in a way that undermines the character’s histories and essentially whitewashes them; at one point, near the end of the issue, their complexion is practically identical to Pyro’s white skin in a far-off group shot. If the creators want to include unique, diverse characters, they need to make sure they are handled and presented accurately and respectfully. Storm and Bishop in particular are two of the most recognizable X-Men of color so there’s no excuse to present them as anything but their true selves.
Stepping off the Marauders boat and onto firm land for a second, this female-centric understanding of Krakoa’s power-breakers extends to Excalibur as well. Apocalypse’s obscured connection to the Otherworld gives him a large presence in the series, but it’s clear Betsy Braddock is calling the shots. As the new Captain Britain, it’s Betsy’s decision to set up a new Krakoan gate at the former Excalibur lighthouse and both Jubilee and Gambit accompany her to the location. Taking things a step further, the druidic tribes present on the island are loyal to Betsy, not the Quiet Council or Hellfire Queens, and look to her to defend them from the dark Coven Akkaba.
Regardless of the fact that the Queens are clearly running things, it’s Mr. Hairy Man himself, Wolverine, who will be (unsurprisingly) receiving DOX’s first solo series. For everyone who likes a bit more variety in their mutant stories, you’re in luck because next week sees three new X-Men related issues drop simultaneously. Until then, make sure to share your thoughts below and check out last week’s column on the odd, somewhat disjointed handling of Cable in Fallen Angels and X-Men!