Kate Pryde is assembling a new team to rescue mutants and give them sanctuary on Krakoa. So far she has Bishop, Tempo, Somnus, Aurora, Psylocke, and Daken, now she needs a telepath. Her choice is a surprise.
Cassandra Nova, kindasorta twin of Charles Xavier, murderer of millions and Norman Bates tribute act.
Elsewhere, Daken, Aurora and Somnus have a chat.
Later, a rightly suspicious Psylocke probes Cassandra, and is shocked.
And so the new team has its first mission (I dunno who “the first of us’ might be – it seems mutants are no longer a post-atomic thing). As they head off to see the Shi’ar, ruler Xandra – daughter of Charles Xavier and so niece of Cassandra – gets a big surprise when Delphos of the Imperial Guard shows off an alternate look.
Writer Steve Orlando set up the new Marauders in a recent annual. I didn’t buy that, but surely this first issue of the ongoing would have enough to enable a semi-intelligent reader to fully enjoy it?
Nope. There’s no explanation of who Somnus is, why Aurora is so far from the classic Alpha Flight heroine with Dissociative Identity Disorder, what powers folk have… the comic relies on an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things mutant. I’ve read thousands of X-Men and X-adjacent stories, but panels like this irritate me.
‘Boost fruits’ I understand from the previous page. (Abigail) Brand I know, ‘Cortez’ is likely Fabian Cortez, who I remember as a name in a villain team. But who the heck are ‘Smardyakov’ and ‘Khora‘? Orlando likely intends the dialogue as throwaway texture, but it’s offputting. When I was a kid you could jump into a series such as the X-Men, or Legion of Super-Heroes, wonder about the occasional unfamiliar names sprinkled in, and enjoy finding out who these people were in time. With current X-books, though, there are far too many references to offstage folk.
There is a one-page text piece, a memo from Bishop to Kate with his thoughts on the members, but it’s more about personalities and dynamics than the basics.
There’s a moment in here when Kitty – sorry, Kate – says ‘We’re needed in space’ and someone replies ‘Again?!’ I agree with the incredulity. The X-Men rarely shine in space adventures, the original Brood Saga was the only one I’ve enjoyed, but here they go tangling with the Shi’ar yet again.
Does anybody find the Shi’ar interesting?
I’ll tell you who I find interesting. Cassandra Nova. She steals every scene she’s in – Orlando does a brilliant job of emphasising the sheer vileness of this creature. And there’s a great description of her by Somnus and his weirdo eye makeup.
I suspect Cassandra is like a particularly hairy spider – just being around her gives you the creeps. I honestly don’t know what Kate is thinking here – sure, every X-team needs a telepath, but it’s not like there’s a dearth to choose from on Krakoa. Heck, Betsy Braddock, Psylocke, is right there! And despite Jean Grey’s assurances that this is a clean slate Cassandra, if you’re thinking Nature vs Nurture, Cassandra never had the Nurture part. She’s all bad seed, as she reveals to Jean Grey when she shows up to warn Cassandra to behave.
Oh, and those organic, bleeding things? Cassandra has discovered the living island of Krakoa has organs…
So while I can’t for a minute believe that a hero as savvy as Kate Pryde would trust Cassandra, she certainly adds spice to the mix. Unless the baldie baddie managed to wipe the encounter with Jean away, you can bet the former Marvel Girl warned Kate. In which case the only way Kate could have Cassandra believe she trusts her is for Kate to employ psychic tricks taught to her be the many telepaths she knows. But surely Cassandra would, even if she can’t read Kate, expect such things.
Wheels within wheels. It’s the potential intrigue that will get me to read the second issue because the Shi’ar shu’arent aren’t going to do it.
You know one reason it’s hard not to call Kate ‘Kitty’? Because as drawn by Eleonora Carlini, she looks about ten, which is actually younger than Kitty was when we first met her. I get that it’s a style thing, but Kate at this stage is almost as life-hardened as the Days of Future Past version – a Disney Princess she isn’t. And it isn’t just Kitty – Bishop, who must be well into his forties, at least – looks about 20. This isn’t a problem with team granny Cassandra, happily – she was, literally, born old, and she looks it.
The stylisation occasionally has characters looking samey, and not in an attractive way – did you notice Aurora and Daken, back there? I know couples sometimes dress alike, but hair and face?
I do like that Carlini ensures a bit of difference in height.
Also, the storytelling generally is decent, with a brief battle between the manic Cassandra and the righteously raging Psylocke a standout. Matt Milla adds some rich tones, while Ariana Maher provides the sharp lettering, and handles production. The cover by Kael Ngu is a good dramatic shot, capturing the artistic tone that surely makes sense for this series. The logo, like all Jonathan Hickman-inspired mastheads, is pure pants, as dull as dishwater.
I enjoyed a lot of this extra-sized issue – Part 1 of Extinction Agenda because Marvel must recycle titles – but it didn’t knock me out. I think Marauders is going to be a Marvel Unlimited read.