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Marauders #1 spoiler-free review: A new status quo

A look at our fully transformed universe of X-men from someone not named Jonathan Hickman.

Alright, let’s get through the important refresher real quick. What is Marauders about? Well, as we’ve seen in the 13 groundbreaking issues of X-Men related content that have already come out under Hickman’s vision, the X-Men have a nation now.  Nay, they are a nation.  What comes with running a nation?  Policy.  Lots and lots of policy. Sign me the f*#& up. From the synopsis, interviews, and related preview content alone, we can see that the Marauders are essentially the foreign policy branch of this nation dealing with two primary elements: trade and diplomatic relations.  The nation of Krakoa has promised powerful drugs that would enhance the entire species of humanity in exchange for recognition and acceptance, and someone needs to deliver the goods to compliant nations and handle those being difficult.  Additionally, the nation of Krakoa also demanded free and safe passage of mutants through gates onto the island itself, and someone needs to enforce that stipulation as well.  That’s where the Marauders, specifically the Hellfire Trading Company led by Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, and Kitty Pryde, along with Iceman, Storm, Bishop, and Pyro, come in.  Doesn’t this sound amazing?  Now, it makes sense to discuss this issue through terms of matter. The raw substance of the issue.  The plot.  What actually happens.  But this is a spoiler-free review, so we aren’t going to do that, but I’m a physics nerd and I know there’s more than one way to discuss a problem.  Besides, look at this roster and subject matter.  This is clearly a problem pertaining to the conservation of energy.  That is, how the book flows and the emotions that radiate from the page.  Before we move to the issue, there is one other reason why this book is so important:  It’s the first one since the relaunch written by someone other than Jonathan Hickman.

The first thing you should know is that Marauders is able to fit within the larger vision while carrying its own identity.  Duggan, Lolli, and Blee blend the writing and art with what Hickman has already started.  The characters in this issue that Hickman has already written don’t feel different, but they are advanced.  Lolli’s art continues in the style of the artists we’ve seen so far while scattering subtle character and setting flourishes throughout the panels.  Blee’s colors continue to be washed in the sort of radiant glow effect that’s been a staple of the books so far.  Visually, everything is connected to light and nature.  Emotions aren’t just shown, they glow.  Events don’t just take place, they grow, bloom, and evolve.  When you open to page one, you are going to feel the embrace and warmth that those within the issue feel, almost as though the branches of Krakoa are pulling you in as well.  Then, when that embrace is interrupted with a scene of confusion, you feel it too.

Speaking of interruptions, the data pages are still here.  Tom Muller is still amazing and needs to be given more credit.  Paying attention to all of the little details like version numbers and titles would be wise.  Additionally, I’m not sure data pages should really be the term for what’s happening here.  “Data pages” are how Hickman specifically uses these interruptions, and that’s really what they are, alterations or disruptions in the flow of energy across the panels and between the pages.  So it’s worth asking, how else can this effect be achieved?  Through what other media?  Duggan certainly has his own approach, and it works quite well.  It’s also probably worth asking why?  Why have these interruptions at all?  Once again it has to do with the flow and transfer of emotion and energy, this time from the pages to the reader.  For the average comic, it takes time for the emotional impact of a scene to make its mark on a reader.  It’s easy to read straight through a comic with only the most important panels leaving a lasting impression.  The reader doesn’t spend enough time on the rest for them to really resonate.  On the other hand, if the reader’s mind is interrupted and has to switch to a different mode of taking in information and emotion, they will likely have to pause, giving them time and the ability to digest the emotional impact and information of the prior scene.  Would the big moment on the first two pages have the same amount of power without the interrupted “Data page?”  Maybe, but if these interruptions cause the reader to linger, even for a few seconds, because they have to change reading styles or pace, they’re likely to internalize more information and feel the emotion with greater significance.

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Honestly, it’s hard not to linger on every page because it’s just so beautiful.  Hickman has frequently mentioned various methods he uses, legitimate or not, to get as much exposed art on the page as possible, which is an admirable effort.  It appears that Duggan is employing this philosophy as well, as a lot is able to be said without much density, you’re able to experience all of the nature that these mutants are suddenly surrounded with, and boy is it something.  Thinking about nature in terms of the Earth around us, the skies and oceans are the bluest of blues, and the island of Krakoa contains the greenest greens and brownest browns.  It is lush, magnificent, and captivating.  There’s really nothing artificial in sight. The mutants are embracing themselves, their land, and each other in all of their glory, so many of them have no need to synthesize, formulate, or manufacture anything that a mutant couldn’t do with their powers.  But nature can also pertain to the why things are the way they are, and that’s exactly the point of this first issue and the Marauders themselves: Why are rules and international relations the way they are, and does that mean this is how they have to be? It’s something to think about as it pertains to the world of mutants, the nation of Krakoa, and even just ordinary interactions we have every day.  Is this how things have to be?  Why?  Nature is always changing and evolving.  The mutants created a nation but they didn’t win.  They are going to have to keep working and trying and creating and living and thriving.  Forever.  That’s what we all have to do.  We’ve seen what they means on Hickman’s scale, the scale of universes, timelines, planets and nations.  Duggan’s scale deals with nations as well, but it also deals with how individual mutants are growing and changing as individuals now too.  It’s very each to think of Krakoa and mutants as a collective because of everything that’s happened, but each mutant is different in their own way, and Duggan is trying to show he recognizes that, even if certain characters show this more than others.

With all of this talk about embrace and nature, you might speculate that this is a relatively positive issue, and you’d be correct.  Duggan does a great job of portraying joy throughout the title with a general light and airy atmosphere as well as a fabulous sense of humor.  Kate has an infectious sense of sarcasm that I hope continues with the series.  The dry, witty energy she puts out into the world is reflected back at her by all the mutants she interacts with, and some of Duggan’s lines will have you laughing out loud.  It’s just one of the ways that Duggan, Lolli, and Blee are able to almost instantaneously create a sense of home and community within the pages of Marauders #1.  Kate clicks with everyone right away, even if select parts of the back-and-forth dialogue don’t always land.

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So let’s think about this.  How is Duggan able to synthesize these elements of warmth, nature, energy, emotion, impact, and community?  With a single word: Dawn.  Duggan, Lolli, and Blee embody the word “dawn” with this book.  A dawn is a lot of things; it’s a beginning, a genesis, a birth, a creation, and an opportunity.  Marauders #1 contains all of these things and more.  This is not the Marauders as you’ve known before.  This is something new, different, and necessary for the era.  This doesn’t just come through because of Duggan’s words, but also because of Lolli’s ability to show the true size and scope of a panel.  Whether a close-up or a landscape, none of Lolli’s about this issue ever feels small.  There’s a sense of expanse and grandeur that’s inescapable, and Kate’s getting mixed up in all of it.  That’s what a dawn should feel like.  Blee bathes the panels in a golden warmth that may physically warm you up with how radiate it is.  That’s what a dawn should feel like.

Then we move to something cold, intolerant, hateful, and rotten.  It’s a phenomenal and fascinating juxtaposition.  Hot and cold.  Fire and Ice.  Embrace and Intolerance.  Rejection and welcome.  There’s always another side of the coin even though we wish there wasn’t, and the team behind Marauders #1 does a great job making sure that both sides are felt equally, because the second half is the other side of that coin.  Mutants aren’t welcome everywhere, and some nations will do anything to emphasize that point or belief.  Energy can neither be created not destroyed.  The attitudes, feelings and energy that mutants release towards each other and nations that accept their terms is warm, welcoming, and nurturing, and is then reflected upon itself as an all-encompassing atmosphere of love.  But that doesn’t mean they can’t reflect the hostility presented to them by unwelcoming nations.  That hate and violence is something mutants are all too familiar with and something that they will reflect onto their adversaries.  Kate is funny, friendly, charming, adventurous, and courageous.  She is a regular pioneer and you will root for her.  That is, unless you’re against her.  Then she’s cold, calculating, merciless, and exacting.  She will do what needs to be done if you make her, and you’ll see both sides.

By the end of the issue, you’ll be sure of two things.  1.  Duggan, Lolli, Blee, Petit and Muller, brings a new dawn to the universe of X-Men in every sense of the word, and 2.  This book belongs to Kate Pryde through and through.  For the specifics of what happens, you’ll have to read the book to find out!

Marauders #1
Is it good?
By the end of the issue, you'll be sure of two things.  1.  Duggan, Lolli, Blee, Petit and Muller, all bring a new dawn to the universe of X-men in every sense of the word, and 2.  This book belongs to Kate Pryde through and through.
Kate Pryde is a star. Enough said.
Brilliant use of "data pages." We need a new name for those.
The team brilliantly directs the flow of energy between panels.
Phenomenal juxtaposition of warm and cold themes and emotions.
Some of the back-and-forth dialogue doesn't always land.
9.5
Fantastic
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