The camera pans down to a rather large yacht where Dan sits on the edge of a large hot tub, surrounded by dresses, pieces of suits, and all different clothing items with a martini between his fingers.
Ahoy there muties! Welcome to our first X-centric FSRT about Marauders #20. As you can see, I am looking through my options for the Hellfire Gala. I don’t know if I play it safe or make a STATEMENT. Anyway, you’re here for this round table, aren’t you? Unless you want to talk fashion with me. Are we feeling more of a McQueen vibe or more like a played down Lagerfeld? Gucci or Gaultier? Valentino or Versace? Nevermind, on with the show! Nevermind, on with the SHOW! Issue #20 was written by Gerry Duggan, art by Stefano Caselli, Colorists Edgar Delgado & Chris Sotomayor, and letterer Cory Petit.
Ororo Munroe is many things, and this issue attempts to summarize them all heading into the Hellfire Gala. Unfortunately, this issue reads as just that; a summary, based off of a short bullet-point list Gerry Duggan pulled off of his brainstorming document, with each point listed by a different character. It all acts like it’s crescendoing to Duggan’s grand statement on Storm from the character herself… and she just shows off her knife collection. For an issue that’s supposed to be about Storm, I really wish we were able to see her view of the Marauders as well as their view of her.
While this issue is allegedly about Storm, she seems absent from it. Her voice is never really heard and I think that’s a weakness. This is supposed to be her farewell within Marauders and yet over the course of the story Storm feels barely there even as the other Marauders tell tales about her. It comes off feeling like a clip-show and as many of us know, clip-shows very rarely work. And while as usual I loved seeing Storm with knives, this one definitely doesn’t work the way it was intended to. It just doesn’t feel like a good send-off for someone like Storm who has been integral not only to the Marauders, but to the X-Men as a whole for literal decades. We can’t be sure what the future holds for Ororo but hopefully it’s better than this.
I love stories where characters casually sit around a dinner table and just talk, so this issue was right up my alley. It was a nice return to the strong character work and continuity callbacks that Duggan pulled me in with at the start of the book, after the lackluster-at-best, problematic-at-worst Madripoor arc. Everyone’s voice felt right at home and the emotional beats hit for me when they needed to.
The issue also does a very effective job of teasing what’s to come. We’re given the first mention of the “Hellfire Expedition”, which I think signals that the teased Mars plots are going to be followed up in Marauders, which is exciting. Storm is going somewhere (likely the teased Hickman book) with her characterization being the most focused and driven it’s been in years. And the Hellfire Gala is right around the corner.
This issue revitalized my excitement for this book in a way I was not expecting it to.
Marauders #20, ostensibly meant to be an appropriate send-off to Storm, ended up being emblematic of the way the character has been treated for decades. We know she’d badass, we know she’s great, but why? What is it going to take to see her in the leading role she deserves? Even in an issue centered around her, it’s less about Ororo than how others feel about her, the same trap her Giant-Sized special fell into. We see her help a mutant with the exact same questionable origin as Trinary, and… punch the racism out of a Klansman? But, as always with this series, I can’t help wondering when we’re going to hear her voice, instead of what others have to say about her. At this point, it’s too late.
Honestly what stuck out to me the most in this issue was the scene in India and the new mutant that Duggan and Caselli created, named Lash. Lash’s origin is that she was enslaved and forced to work under threat of her family being hurt. Storm saves her from the misogynistic Indian men, and everything’s right with the world. Because we needed another Indian mutant whose entire existence is centered around white writers’ perception of India. There is no real difference between Lash and Trinary – it’s pretty uncomfortable that Lash, who was a slave, has whip powers just as it’s uncomfortable that Trinary is basically mutant tech support. I’m just exhausted – why can’t an Indian mutant make me excited?