Ahoy, readers! This is Justen Jess here, reviewing the Steve Orlando relaunch of Marauders! Following on the heels of Gerry Duggan’s run, and Orlando and Crees Lee’s Marauders Annual, Marauders #1 is a soft reset of the series, shifting the lens away from the politics of the Hellfire Trading Company that occupied most of the last run. The Marauders are now returning to Captain Kate’s original mission, rescuing mutants wherever they might be in danger.
Marauders #1’s cast is a delight from the start. Orlando has gathered a team of Krakoan favorites from previous teams (Daken, Psylocke, Aurora) and new additions who hadn’t had as big a spotlight so far in Krakoa (Tempo, Somnus) to go with Kate Pryde and Bishop staying on the book. Having already come together in Marauders Annual, the team already has a good rapport, and there’s nice character moments in Marauders #1. I do want to point out in particular a scene with Daken, Aurora, and Somnus. It’s two pages, but it is an absolute delight to see a bisexual man talking with his ex and his current partner, and it’s nice. Just three people who care about each other, talking about an issue.
Most of the cast gets a nice spotlight in Marauders #1, but the character with the largest spotlight in the opening is also the one with the longest shadow: Let’s talk about Cassandra Nova.
As someone whose writing on GateCrashers started with the wrestling side, I have a lot of thoughts on face turns. Granted, I wouldn’t call what Cassandra Nova is doing here as a heroic bend now, but she’s not the threat to mutantkind she once was. The events that led to this change in loyalty, originally in Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar’s X-Men Red, are summarized neatly here. Still, there is a notable amount of back and forth in data pages, one from the medical experts of Krakoa and another from Bishop, of how much thought is going into the decision to include her. Readers are given a pretty decent refresher to catch us up on Charles Xavier’s favorite (only) shadow-self that he murdered in the womb, and you’re left with giving Kate the benefit of the doubt that trusting the worst mutant murderer in history won’t immediately backfire. She’s still as vicious, monstrous, and utterly evil as before, but for the moment she is on Krakoa’s side.
The thrust of the first arc that Orlando is setting up in Marauders #1 involves a trip to Shi’ar space to look into a mutant mystery, specifically one of fabled legendary mutants. The genre-bend into space opera isn’t an unusual one for X-Men, and the Shi’ar are familiar ground, but Orlando is able to find a new and interesting niche to explore here with the bird-haired imperialists.
I’m going to take a special moment to shout out Elonora Carlini and Matt Milla, who go all out for the space scenes. Captain Kate helms the New Marauder, a bombastic spaceship that evokes Space Pirate Captain Harlock, and the space action scenes have a great energy to them that feels frenetic but never confusing.
The art in itself has a great cartoon look to it. Carlini’s fight scenes have a great sense of movement in them, and the art does a fantastic job of highlighting the fantastical whenever a sci-fi effect or mutant power shows up. The art also does just some of its best work with Cassandra Nova, mixing a face that at times seems outright kindly with brutal, gory use of surgical tools and one particular panel with a rictus grin that is about as scary as any time I’ve seen someone dosed with Joker toxin.
Marauders’ first run under Duggan was a mixed bag for me. At times it felt like it was bouncing around, and while I enjoyed Emma and Kate as the headliners, the economics of the Hellfire Trading Company fizzled out their interest for me. Orlando’s new refocus of the line feels like a shot to the arm. With a new team of Krakoa standouts and a firm heading into uncharted waters with the Shi’ar, the Marauders are looking ship-shape for the future.