Ahoy from The Marvel Rundown! We’ve got a couple of colossal comics for you landlubbers this week! First up, the mighty storm that is Dawn of X rages on with the premiere of the initiative’s first non-Jonathan Hickman-written title, Marauders! Can these swarthy swashbucklers navigate treacherous waters without being tossed overboard?
Then, Mary Jane Watson is ready for her closeup in the premiere of her first solo series, The Amazing Mary Jane! Is the debut issue a box-office smash or a certified rotten flop?
We’ve got discussion of both of those titles, plus your weekly Rapid Rundown of other new books from the House of Ideas, all ahead in the latest installment of The Marvel Rundown!
Written by Gerry Duggan
Illustrated by Matteo Lolli
Colored by Federico Blee
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Design work by Tom Muller
Cover by Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson
Samantha Puc: FINALLY, it’s time to sail the high seas with Captain Kate Pryde and the rest of her team in Marauders #1! This issue poses a lot of interesting questions for Dawn of X and for Kate’s role in the X-Men as a whole, but before we dive into implications and analysis, how did y’all feel about this debut issue?
Nick Kazden: This opening issue really delivered for me. In the first non-Hickman penned chapter in this saga, it’s nice to see how other voices operate in this world. I’m really digging the cast of characters the book will focus on and can’t wait to see all the shenanigans Emma and KATE get into.
AJ Frost: Well, if I must admit something, I haven’t been keeping up with the Powers of X/Dawn of X saga much at all. But this issue was a surprisingly good read. I had my doubts at the outset of the book because I had to orient myself to what was going on, but once I got into the story, everything flowed wonderfully. Even though X-Men aren’t my favorite characters from Marvel, I do have a bit of a soft spot for Kitty Pryde, so it was awesome to see her take the lead and be the locus of this book.
Kazden: AJ, was anything particularly weird to you about what’s going on at Krakoa as someone just kind of jumping in at the deep end? There’s so much going on!
Puc: I can’t imagine jumping into this one cold. X-Men, maybe, but certainly not Marauders!
Frost: I’m familiar with Krakoa, so that part wasn’t too bad. I mean, I read some of the supplemental materials, so I wasn’t completely in the dark. Once the story got going, it seemed to me that it didn’t matter too much what some of the other, finer story points were.
Puc: That’s fair. I was surprised at how writer Gerry Duggan set this story up — Kate not being able to enter Krakoa through the doorways and having to access the island by boat is a really cool way of presenting the necessity of her accepting Emma Frost’s offer to become the Red Queen of the Hellfire Club. I enjoyed the through-line of her getting more and more invested in the adventure of it all.
Frost: Let me turn the question back on both of you: What did this issue add to the overall “X” stories that someone like me might have missed?
Kazden: Hmm, well for one Kitty is the first mutant that we’ve seen blocked from Krakoa’s traditional entrance, and it is rather interesting that it’s the one X-Men character known for getting through any door who has issues with this one. I’m very excited to see what her larger role becomes down the line.
From a more macro perspective, this is our first time fully seeing parts of the world react to Krakoa. Readers may be overjoyed with everything going on, but it makes sense that certain countries will want to monitor their mutants even more and spread conspiracies that point to evil doings on the island nation.
Puc: This issue definitely pulls us out of the safe haven of Krakoa, away from the machinations of Moira and Xavier and Erik, and into the world at large. The fear of mutantkind hasn’t faded — if anything, the creation of Krakoa seems to have strengthened humanity’s fear and hatred. We are also beginning to see the individual threads of the world that Moira, Xavier, and Erik are attempting to weave — and there are enough frayed edges in the mix to make the future and its stability at least somewhat unpredictable.
Frost: I enjoyed that little piece of drama where Kitty couldn’t get onto the island through the portal. That really keyed me into the notion that something much bigger is at play here.
Puc: Can I also note the humor in how Matteo Lolli illustrated those panels? As sad as it was to see Kate smash her face and realize she couldn’t enter Krakoa, I was also cracking up…
Frost: The art in this issue overall was top notch. The action scenes with the Russan ersatz mutants was so tightly choreographed.
Kazden I really want to praise Lolli’s physicality throughout the book. The sword fight sequence at the end shows just how loose and comfortable Kitty is in a fight and I can’t wait to see him settle into the book even more. Everyone on the page looks great and their expressions feel very in tune with the characters’ personalities. Bobby’s coy expression after being zapped by the Russian baddies was just perfect.
Puc: Agreed, Lolli’s physicality is top notch. I really loved his rendering of Logan, too! I’m also a big fan of Federico Blee‘s colors, and I like that the color story here matches the overall feel of this new X-line but also has its own vibe, if that makes sense.
Kazden: At this point I’d be happy if the upcoming Wolverine book is just him drunkenly making shopping lists.
Frost: Wolverine needs his chips, ya know?
Puc: What an excellent use of Tom Muller‘s design sensibilities, honestly. And a great way to incorporate Logan and Bobby into Kate’s Krakoan arrival party.
Kazden: Muller’s presence was huge this week, especially with a new entry in the Sinister Secrets column. It’s crazy how many plot threads this new X-line is willing to tease in advanced. It just shows how cohesive the story is and how confident each creator is in what they’re crafting.
Puc: Oh, yeah! AJ, how did you feel about that page of Secrets?
Frost: Was a tad lost, but it didn’t interrupt my reading experience!
Puc: I primarily gleaned that Sebastian’s presence in Marauders is going to be far more interesting and may create some conflict for Kate and Emma, as well as the others on the team. It was a nice callback to the fact that Dawn of X is slowly revealing teasers that we’ve had in our grasp for weeks.
Is there anything else we want to touch on before we give our final verdicts? I know we briefly mentioned the political and social strife here; I think Bishop’s brief appearance shined a light on some of the most disturbing facets of that ongoing conflict with humanity.
Frost: The political aspect of X-Men has always intrigued me. It’s interesting to see the corollaries being made for this generation in terms of acceptance and tolerance.
Kazden I’m not too familiar with Bishop, but I really like his role as an international diplomat here. There’s a lot of pent up hatred in the Marvel Universe towards mutants, and I think he’s the perfect guy to dig into what’s really going on and what kind of secret plots people are trying to hatch.
Puc: I hope we see more of him in future issues. And I think I’m ready to give my final verdict! Any last words, fellas?
Frost: As a reader who has been disconnected from the larger X-stories, I came into this book cold. But I found myself really enjoying the book once I got into it. I’m torn on giving it a proper rating. So I’ll do this if: If you’re like me and are green going into the book, this is a STRONG BROWSE. If you’re already reading the line, this is a BUY!
Kazden: Coming at it from the opposite angle of AJ, I’ve been pretty deep in the HiX-Men world all along and ate up every single panel. I think Marauders is a great addition to the X-line and one of the titles I’m most excited to explore going forward. With a strong ensemble cast, a character driven plot and some beautiful art, this is a definite BUY! for me.
Puc: Aye, aye, this one is a BUY!
Final Verdict: Not sure if you’re ready for Dawn of X? Give Marauders #1 a STRONG BROWSE. Otherwise, the Rundown agrees that this #1 is a BUY.
The Amazing Mary Jane #1
Written by Leah Williams
Illustrated by Carlos Gómez
Colored by Carlos Lopez
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover by Humberto Ramos & Edgar Delgado
Joe Grunenwald: Long-time Spider-Man supporting character Mary Jane Watson is finally busting out into her own solo series! Chloe, what did you think of the debut for The Amazing Mary Jane?
Chloe Maveal: I have to admit, I’ve not read a lot of Spider-Man in recent years, Joe. I grew up on the 1980’s Spider-man (which is till my favorite Spidey era), which was—conveniently—a very MJ-heavy era as well. With that being said, I had gotten my hopes up by seeing an MJ solo title written by Leah Williams. I was really excited because I’ve been loving her Gwenpool! But after reading issue #1? I’ll be honest, I don’t know if it was meant to be funny with mismatched art or if the cheesecake-ness of everything is something we as readers should expect to grin and bear for this ongoing series.
Grunenwald: I’m glad you mentioned the art right off the bat. Carlos Gómez and Carlos Lopez are an extremely competent team, but I don’t feel like their work fit the tone of Williams’s script. There are scenes where I think it works—MJ even comments on the ridiculousness of her wardrobe during the opening sequence—but it really struck me as out-of-place when MJ was at home in her ‘comfortable’ clothes, which to be honest didn’t look terribly comfortable. Even beyond just the way she’s attired, the posing and angles from which she’s shown all felt very ‘male gaze-y’ throughout. There’s a disconnect between script and visuals, and it was very distracting.
Maveal: Precisely. (To all people not in relationships with a female-identifying person — I promise our comfortable clothes do not show off our hip bones and magically create the perfect side-boob curve.) There’s most definitely a comic that this artwork would have worked for, but this wasn’t it. The weirdly sexualized focus while talking about how absurd the latex suit was just felt like a parody. But we’re not in Gwenpool where that’s the goal. It’s MJ’s first solo series and she could have at least had a break from the last 50-ish years of being “Spidey’s hot girlfriend”.
Grunenwald: On that last point, I did really enjoy the way Williams commented on the nature of that role as MJ talking about her character to the director of the film on which she’s working. It wasn’t subtle, but I appreciated it as sort of addressing the elephant in the room on this book. Of course then we’re treated to a scene of MJ being Spidey’s hot girlfriend again, so. Maybe there are just things that are inescapable with this book? At least it wasn’t like a ’50s issue of Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane, with MJ doing nothing but scheming to get Spider-Man to fall in love with her, so I guess that’s progress.
Maveal: The bar is so low I damn near hit my head. But anyway! One thing I did enjoy was MJ giving the big narrative points about making a movie where Mysterio—a big ol’ sociopathic villain—is creating a movie to make him seem empathetic to the audience. Am I alone in feeling like this bordering on making a jab at the Joker film? Like, is this secretly just a luke-warm take turned into it’s own comics story?
Grunenwald: I hadn’t considered that, but now that you mention it, it almost has to be. The timing is too perfect.
Maveal: I want that to be true very badly because it would be incredibly funny and clever. But considering the rest of it may not intentionally be satire, I feel like it’s just a standalone thing. I’m just overall left unsure on whether I’m supposed to take this seriously or not.
Grunenwald: There’s a tongue-in-cheek tone to Williams’s writing that has followed her from Gwenpool to this title, and I agree with you, I’m not sure if that was intentional or not. I did genuinely enjoy the interaction between MJ and Mysterio, and the way both characters felt like equals in the conversation. On the other hand, I thought the banter during the phone conversation between MJ and Peter felt a bit forced, and honestly I don’t know why that scene was there beyond ‘this comic needs Spider-Man in it.’ Those four pages don’t seem like they add much to the overall story. I’m much more interested in the relationship between MJ and Mysterio at this point.
Maveal: You mean we didn’t need a full page of MJ coercing Peter to dance to some random music over the phone while in a supermarket while she dances back at home in her tight tank top?
Grunenwald: We don’t even know what the song was, Chloe!
Maveal: But I agree on MJ and Mysterio. It was at least playful in a way that felt clear. (And I’m pretending that it was something entirely un-danceable. Like Bauhaus. Or William Shatner.)
Grunenwald: (It was the theme from the ’60s Spider-Man cartoon.) Cheesecake aside, what did you think of Gómez and Lopez’s art? Or can the two be separated in your mind?
Maveal: I…can’t say that I’m able to separate from them honestly. Lopez’s colors are vibrant and eye-catching, but ultimately I can’t get past the stiffness of the side characters and the male gaze of it all long enough to really focus on anything else as far as the art for this title.
Grunenwald: That’s a fair assessment. Like I mentioned before, I think they’re a competent team, if ultimately unremarkable. Gómez’s work reminds me a bit of a looser Todd Nauck, which is fine. I did wonder, during the MJ and Peter phone call, how Peter changed out of his Spidey costume and into civvies in the course of about ten seconds of conversation. That part was pretty glaringly off from a storytelling perspective, and could have been avoided by not shoehorning Spider-Man into the issue. What’re you gonna do, I guess.
Maveal: Not have a MJ spinoff book that isn’t solely focused on how hot MJ is perhaps? Just spitballing.
Grunenwald: Are you talking about the excellent Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane? I think you might be talking about that book. It gets name-dropped at one point in the issue, and it’s unfortunate because that series is so great and this book is…not that book.
Maveal: Nope! I wasn’t talking about that at all, though that’s entirely reasonable! I was thinking more like the current runs of Lois Lane or Jimmy Olsen or literally any other side character (albeit those are all DC) who have gotten their own spinoff that ended up being fantastic. It’s possible. Why couldn’t it have been possible here? She certainly deserves it after all this time. I’m just really bummed out about it so I’m being fussy. #TeamLessBoobsMoreStory
Grunenwald: We could probably pick at this book for a little while longer, but I’m not sure it’s necessary. Are you ready to render a verdict?
Maveal: After this feeding frenzy of a discussion, my position is pretty fixed on SKIP. Maybe I’m being harsh, but I know Williams is better than this and—more importantly—I think MJ is due better than this, too.
Grunenwald: Yeah, this was a disappointing comic. There’s a good story in here, but it’s weighed down by an unnecessary Spider-Man cameo and art that just doesn’t fit the script. This is a SKIP for me as well.
Final Verdict: Chloe and Joe both suggest you SKIP The Amazing Mary Jane #1!
- Amazing Spider-Man: Full Circle #1
- I’m a sucker for an exquisite corpse-style story, and this one is absolutely wild. The amount of fun the creative teams were having coming up with new challenges for their successors to try and solve is virtually dripping off the page. The fact that this book is cohesive at all is a testament to the talent involved in putting it together. A solid, standalone story that highlights just how fun superhero comics can be. — JG
- Fearless #4
- What a fitting end to this 80th anniversary celebration anthology. I’ve really enjoyed every story featured across these four issues, but “Golden Girls” and “Two Gals Eating Ice Cream” by Trina Robbins and Marguerite Sauvage really take the cake, especially in how cleverly they acknowledge women’s long history at Marvel. — SP
- Ghost-Spider #3
- First of all, I am utterly obsessed with Jorge Molina‘s cover art for Ghost-Spider #3. Second of all, this creative team continues to knock it out of the park with each new issue, and I’m especially thrilled to see how new developments herein affect Gwen’s new routine, as well as what happens when she discovers that the Web of Life and Destiny isn’t as destroyed as she thought. — SP
- King Thor #2
- King Thor #2 gave me chills. The final three pages are utterly jaw-dropping in how they descend into darkness, with Esad Ribić‘s art slowly consumed by the darkness of Ive Svorcina‘s colors. This is a truly epic ending to Jason Aaron‘s Thor run, and it’s not to be missed. — SP
- Strikeforce #2
- Now that the catalyst behind this mismatched ensemble’s union is out of the way, writer Tini Howard is free to let her creative muscles run free in Strikeforce #2. Following the mystery of the Vridai to Las Vegas, the group gets into some hijinks at a dance club and each hero gets a moment to shine — with Jessica Drew and Wiccan likely shining the brightest. Thanks to the wonderful art by Germán Peralta and Miroslav Mrva’s colors, the book has a dark, gothic look that helps solidify the horror tone Howard is gunning for. There’s a lot of interesting teases for future issues, but all I really want now is a Satana Hellstrom and Angela mini-series, pronto. — NK
- I really loved Strikeforce #1, but somehow this issue is even better. Germán Peralta’s style is so perfectly suited to Tini Howard’s writing, and Joe Sabino’s lettering and design pull everything together. I’m 100 percent invested in this team already and ready to see where this fight against the Vridai takes them. Oh, and, yeah: I definitely need a Satana mini-series co-starring Angela immediately. Thanks. — SP
- Valkyrie: Jane Foster #4
- There are so many major players making big moves in Valkyrie: Jane Foster, but all the drama makes the story feel that much more fresh, fun, and interesting. — SP
Next week, Betsy Braddock takes up the mantle of Captain Britain in Excalibur #1!