The first non-Jonathan Hickman penned story in this new chapter for the X-Men, writer Gerry Duggan, artist Matteo Lolli and colorist Federico Blee knock this debut issue out of the park with fresh character voices and beautiful illustrations. Marauders focuses on an entertaining ensemble — hello, classic Pyro — and is clearly establishing some larger, global plot threads that will impact the entire X-line, but Kitty receives most of the focus (and damage) here.
As every mutant suddenly has a newfound sense of belonging thanks to their new nation-state, Kitty is stuck on the outside looking in due to circumstances beyond her control. Sure, not having a cool new apartment on Krakoa is somewhat disappointing, but, more importantly, being blocked from the new nation leaves Kitty isolated from the mental liberation and sense of optimism permeating her people. From the moment the character debuted on the scene as a new, young member of the X-Men — all the way up to her time as Headmistresses of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning — her experiences in the Marvel Universe are enhanced by the relationships she has with those around her.
The open sea may seem uncomfortable, but Kitty’s adventure-filled life, from her time in London with Excalibur to cruising the cosmos with the Guardians of the Galaxy, can be symbolized by the classic phrase “home is where the heart is.” Kitty is incredibly resilient, and no matter what challenges are thrown at her she knows how to facilitate a sense of peace and security in her own life. Beyond that, she’s wise enough to surround herself with people like Iceman and Storm — two figures she shares intimate histories with — that make her feel secure and comfortable during unsettling times.
The new role she’s taken for herself in this mutant driven world — a swashbuckling, whiskey-drinking captain/smuggler who saves subjugated individuals and delivers them to the promised land — allows her to share her tenacity and kind spirit with those who may not have been lucky enough to develop meaningful bonds with people in their lives. Kitty can make it on her own, no problem; just look at how she single-handedly takes down an entire Russian hit-squad in this issue if you need any proof. Still, she knows that everyone does better when they are uplifted and supported by others.
At the heart of Marauders #1 is an unspoken competition between Emma Frost and Kitty. The two have a long, complicated history — Emma literally kidnapped Kitty when she first joined the X-Men — but the two characters seem intent on forging a new chapter in their relationship. It’s clear there is a begrudging respect between the two, as Emma reaches out to offer Kitty a fundamental role with the Hellfire Corporation. It’s Emma’s prompting for Kitty to consider why no one calls her “Kate,” something Ms. Pryde doesn’t think anyone could do, that results in her finally accepting the more mature moniker. Despite the prodding along, their relationship is based more on mutual needs than emotional compatibility, so there’s no reason to think something can’t come between them at any moment.
Despite how persuasive and elegant Emma makes her proposal to Kitty, the younger mutant isn’t naive to what’s going on. In fact, the way Kitty asserts herself in the conversation, pushing Emma to admit that she asked Storm first, highlights the fact that she is well aware of how the White Queen likes to manipulate people and situations to her benefit. It’s important to remember that despite their animosity, Kitty is much more like Emma than she may care to admit. The stories of fearful mutants stir something inside Kitty, but their conversation ends with promises of wealth and glory, a subtle indication that she’s ready to see some material gains for all her hard work.
Loli’s detailed work perfectly captures the sense of transformation Kitty undergoes in this issue. Thanks to his detailed expressions and excellent physicality, it’s incredibly easy to know when she’s hurt, unsure of herself or feeling good. As the issue progresses, and Kitty kicks some butt on the battlefield, her sense of confidence and becomes more noticeable. The visible swagger Loli infuses the character with reinforces the idea that she is ready for a new chapter in life, one that will be determined by the more mature “Kate,” instead of the childish “Kitty.”
Like any good first issue in an on-going series, Marauders #1 leaves me with a lot of questions to ponder moving forward. Is Kate actually blocked from entering Krakoa, or is Emma Frost playing mind games to ensure Kate is receptive to her offer(s)? Likewise, if Kate is unable to actually step through a Krakoan portal, does that mean someone else is the 12th member of the Quiet Council after all?
In the launch trailer for the series, group editor Jordan White referred to Marauders as “probably the most important book of the Dawn of X so far as furthering the world […] and status quo of the X-Men.” So if you are digging everything going on in the HiX-verse, I highly recommend checking out the new series.
Next week’s column will also be Hickman-less, as the Dawn of X’s opening shots continue with Tini Howard, Marcus To and Erick Arciniega’s Excalibur making its debut. Marauders explored how the outside world is reacting to Krakoa, but Excalibur will bring readers back to the island and dive deeper into Apocalypse’s ancient relationship with the island — at least, according to the teasers.
What did you all think of Marauder’s debut issue? Were there any moments that stand out to you as classic X-material? Sound off below and check-back next week to share your thoughts about Excalibur!