Historically speaking, many X-Men-adjacent titles have relied heavily on action and humor to help soften the blow of the broader sociopolitical themes they carry on their shoulders. While it’s impossible to hate a comic with a Lonely Island quote plastered on its title page, it is surprisingly easy to question whether or not these kinds of pop culture callbacks (of which there are many in the issue under review here) could potentially conflict on a narrative level with the dire consequences that the bold scenario Marauders #1 presents.
Kitty Pryde is broken. For unknown reasons, she is unable to pass through the gates around the globe leading to back to Krakoa, Xavier’s living mutant nation. She has by no means been banished from her people's utopia, but she does have to be granted access to it by one of her fellow teammates or former adversaries. This puts Kitty (sorry, we can't bring ourselves to call her Kate) is a unique position and gives her reason to lead a mission which could prove to be the most important crusade of the X-Men's career.
Under the tutelage of Emma Frost, who is killing it in appropriately catty John Bosley-esque role, Kitty and a handful fellow mutants set sail across the high seas to rescue people from various nations that repress their mutant population or bar them from going to Krakoa.
The geo-political ramifications of Kitty and her merry band of Marauders' actions are going to be incendiary in some shape, form or fashion (file this observation under: "Yeah, no kidding"), which means setting the stage for this grand adventure was always going to be a slippery slope. The altruistic nature of liberating people should be held in the highest regards as the ultimate act of human (or mutant, in this case) progress and kindness, but the road leading to freedom is often stained red. This stark realization calls for a deft hand and a passionate voice to really explore the complex ramifications of engineering a sense of peace. And, unfortunately, while Marauders #1 is a solid and quite funny standalone issue, the tone it presents may stand in stark contrast with the the aforementioned ramifications.
It's hard to imagine characters making quips when they come face-to-face with a group of mutants suffering Stockholm Syndrome under the crushing heel of a brutal dictatorship in another country. Making jokes and referencing memes may come off as being in poor taste when a mutant refugee wants freedom but would rather have the X-Men help them fight for equality in their nation instead of fleeing it. These scenarios could unfold in the brave, new world Dawn of X has created, and reflect actual horrors happening in the world today.
Writer Gerry Duggan has tackled heavy themes before. His run on Deadpool with co-writer Brian Posehn and various artists (including the great Tony Moore) handled suppressed trauma, loss of family and multiple existential crises pretty well considering these themes occurred in a comic with a fourth wall-breaking buffoon as its star. But the potential storylines Marauders lays the groundwork for are larger than the struggles of just one damaged character. This is a global injustice, and the events of which that could possibly unfold in this comic could be the driving force behind what knocks down Xavier's new dream. The whole thing is a lot of narrative burden to shoulder.
Matteo Lolli is doing great work in this issue. There is a scene in which Kitty and a handful of her fellow X-Men take on a group of mutant-oppressing villains and it employs some of the coolest visual representations of how Shadowcat's powers can be applied in a fight. It's not "phase a city block-sized bullet through the planet" cool, but it's up there. The new character designs are great (especially Ms Pryde's jaunty scarf and throwback costume) and playing the game of "what's Lockheed got in his mouth this time?" is endlessly fun.
Marauders #1 has a lot of potential to be exciting, bold, and confrontational, but it is yet to be seen if the book has the gusto to handle some more of its more dire themes. For now, this first issue has plenty of heart and humor to keep fans engaged, but may be lacking for readers who are looking for deeper themes in their political allegories or a more confrontation tone in a book about liberating an oppressed group of people.
KEEP READING: NYCC: Marvel's Dawn of X Takes The X-Men Forward