Credits: Steve Orlando writes; Eleonora Carlini (#7-8) and Andrea Broccardo (#6) draw; Matt Milla colors; Ariana Maher letters; covers by Kael Ngu (#6-7) and Peach Momoko (#8).
This is the second of three annotated entries on the recently ended Marauders volume 2, a whirlwind of cosmic and timey-wimey adventure that perhaps tried to do too much in too little time and space (ironically enough!)—but should provide plenty of worthwhile fodder for further mutant adventures.
The first entry annotates issues #1-5; the third covers issues #9-12.
While the last entry speculates on where the title’s deepest revelations, regarding the origins of Krakoa itself, might be headed beyond Marauders #12, this one 1) provides some backstory reference for each Marauder, per their character-revealing therapy sessions; 2) covers the obscure pulls Orlando utilizes for the B plot (which unfortunately likely won’t get picked on again for quite a while); and 3) lays out the basics of the title’s main story, about the human/mutant Threshold society 2 billion years ago.
Marauders #6: “Even Odds of Destruction,” a peripheral A.X.E.: Judgment Day tie-in
If this issue hadn’t been an event tie-in, it would’ve been a downtime moment, and it’s clearly in homage to a 1992 classic, X-Factor #87 by Peter David and Joe Quesada—“X-Aminations,” wherein each teammember sits down for therapy with Dr. Leonard Samson to discuss traumas new and old, much like Orlando does here with his Marauders, returning from deep space.
For the Marauders’ therapy, another ’90s callback is their therapist—Birdy, who debuted in X-Men #6 (1992) by Scott Lobdell and Jim Lee, as a captive of Sabretooth with quite the case of Stockholm syndrome, also appearing in the first Sabretooth mini, by Larry Hama and Mark Texeira, where she died at the hands of Sabretooth and Mystique’s son Graydon Creed, because he hates his dad so much and it was the era for fridging women characters left and right. A mutant empath, she’s a natural in her new role on Krakoa, and she’s officially on Nightcrawler’s Legionaire team (Legion of X #3-4, 9) and also appeared in infinity comic X-Men Unlimited #44 by Orlando, her first Krakoa-era appearance, alongside the Marauders as a kind of crisis relief worker (From this latter issue’s emergency team, Triage also reappears in Marauders #11 for healing those wounded from Santo Marco’s Feedback/reactor disaster; see below).
Birdy tries talking each member of the team through their A.X.E.: Judgment Day moment. First, Bishop is haunted by his dead friends and XSE colleagues Malcolm and Randall (see Uncanny X-Men #282-287).
In Aurora’s mindscape, we see her myriad personalities. She fought the very obscure, mind-controlling Headlok in 1990’s Alpha Flight #93-94 by Fabian Nicieza. The Progenitor’s bizarre choice of avatar here deals out real-world Inner Active Cards, which actually look pretty neat; the art for this set, he says, is by “prophetic mutant painter” Nemesio Pietri, of Orlando favorite District X (#6-12, 2004) by David Hine.
The Progenitor appears to Tempo as the deceased Sumo, her erstwhile teammate from the MLF; he debuted in 1990’s New Mutants #93, very early Liefeld days, only to be killed by Cable in 1992’s Cable: Blood and Metal #1 by Fabian Nicieza and John Romita, Jr.
Kwannon’s daughter was introduced as a digitized mind in the universally panned Fallen Angels (2019), and the only copy of her consciousness was destroyed at the end of the much-missed Hellions by Zeb Wells.
We also get a reminder of why Akihiro has been given a new codename, albeit one that really doesn’t work: Daken is Japanese for “mongrel,” a racist slur.
As for the Brimstone Love/Theater of Pain B plot, introduced in Orlando’s 2021 Marauders Annual #1 (preceding the title’s first issue) unfortunately, this never goes anywhere due to the title’s abrupt cancellation. Alas! But here, we see Lockheed (Kate Pryde’s bestie alien friend from 1983’s Uncanny X-Men #166 on) has been keeping an eye on the Theater of Pain, led by a pre-2099 Brimstone Love, who doesn’t show up again until issues #11-12. No doubt, Orlando’s aim was for a larger story than what we got. This bizarre cult is anti-Krakoan but pro-integrationist (à la the Xavier of yore), although their methods are rather sadistic.
The villainous Brimstone Love of X-Men 2099 popped up sporadically throughout the mid-’90s.
Unfortunately, the most memorable aspect of this unfinished plot is that it is simply stuffed with rando ’90s pulls. As it never found its feet, its core justification, this truncated plot thread reads as though written by an overexcited fanboy just throwing out references that for beg for a handbook for most readers. I know that Orlando must have had much more planned here, but we may never know.
In the annual, the one recognizable mutant member of the Theater (beside Love himself) was the Morlock Carver. Now, we find Scratch, originally a goose-stepping servant of the Red Queen Madelyne Pryor of parallel universe 998, introduced in late-stage X-Man (#63, 67-70) at that time by Warren Ellis. His power is his immunity from other mutants’ powers. Survivor of a failed assassination, knives to the brain, he lives on in a state of perpetual bloodthirsty rage.
[We never learn who the poor mutant corpse is on the table!]Here, we also see Dirtnap, the mouse with a red smiley face on its back. This mutant once appeared human until he used his mutant absorption power on a rat, while in flight from a savage Wolverine, and so he got stuck (in his debut, 1995’s Wolverine #95 by Larry Hama; see also Hama’s Generation X #33-39). He was never depowered, though! At least not until his seeming death at the hands, er, claws, of Daken, um, Fang, in Marauders #11.
And that’s the Theater of Pain’s mutant roster—yikes! In fact, we can go ahead and wrap up the wrap-up on Brimstone and his followers in the title’s last two issues, where it’s just a nub of a B plot that never took off: Fang brings in forgotten (body horror) mutant Johnny Dee for help in his revenge quest against Brimstone. Dee can create voodoo dolls of those whose DNA he’s consumed via his sentient chest mouth; yeah, weird (see David Hine’s X-Men: The 198 and Civil War: X-Men, mid-2000s). Krakoan amnesty must have got this erstwhile terrorist released from jail. A bizarre pull, but Orlando does love him some David Hine—and it all works in Brimstone’s grisly defeat!
Might the Theater of Pain return in Orlando’s “epilogue” to his run, in the June release of the one-shot Before the Fall – Mutants’ First Strike?
Issue #7’s other bookend offers a new plot thread, this one featuring the villainous shrink Judas Traveller, who debuted in the much ballyhooed “Clone Saga” (Web of Spider-Man #117, 1994)—although Orlando did reintroduce the mutant telepath slightly earlier with foreshadowing in Giant-Size X-Men: Thunderbird and more fully in infinity comic X-Men Unlimited #45. For unknown reasons he’s joined up with Orchis and commands a high-ranking position. He hasn’t been seen since Marauders #6.
We covered 2099’s Cerebra in the first annotation entry. She reappears next issue, where she helps resurrect the three Threshold mutants, and in issue #12, where she fights Bushwacker alongside Psylocke and Aurora. Hopefully, the mutant biometricist finds her full potential going forward.
Per issue #12, Bushwacker, originally a Daredevil villain (debuting in 1987’s Daredevil #248, a classic from Ann Nocenti), did indeed once enjoy hunting down mutant artists, although outside the Nocenti run, this wasn’t something other creators focused on with the scuzzy assassin. Still, it works—and Psylocke gets to psychically turn him into a harmless artist himself (small comfort to those he’s killed, though). This scene seems to function merely as a reminder that the 2099 Cerebra should still be in play going forward.
Marauders #7-10—“Here Comes Yesterday,” pt1
This arc’s title is in homage to Grant Morrison’s final New X-Men arc, “Here Comes Tomorrow.”
In an action-packed vignette that’s not a prologue, the Marauders visit the town of Captain America, NE (from Mark Waid’s Captain America #695, 2017), which was rechristened after Steve Cap rescued it from white supremacists; now, it’s been taken over by the Watchdogs, a right-wing militia that debuted in 1987’s Captain America #335 by Mark Gruenwald (they played a scarily relevant role throughout the rest of Gruenwald’s beloved Cap run and reappeared for much of the excellent Ta-Nehisi Coates era).
The mutant “meatcastle” Horsepower debuts here, unless you count his Orlando 2099 version (from Spider-Man 2099: Exodus #5). He is very ’90s, and not in an exciting way. It might be interesting to see how Cerebra reacts to this mutant she’ll know decades later.
This arc really starts with the resurrection of the Thresholders Theia, Amass and Crave, previously stored digitally on the “timedrive” that the team recovered in issue #5. This is where Cerebra’s biometric powers come in handy; she can also create backups of mutants out of range of Cerebro.
Bishop randomly has foreknowledge of an obscure but critical moment almost 2.5 billion years ago, which will play a role in the plot going forward (not that he would know that yet!). The Great Oxidation Event that wiped out most of ancient Earth’s anaerobic life is not common knowledge, however fascinating. But then, maybe Bishop’s curiosity about the past encompasses more than just fanboy X-Men lore.
Anyhow, even with the Aaron Avengers retcon of the Progenitor’s death on Earth four billion years ago being responsible for the eventual emergence of superpowered Earthlings, the Threshold society existing many hundreds of millions of years before Homo erectus makes zero sense.
Furthermore, the Thresholders somehow evolved from the primordial soup without being attacked by vengeful anaerobic sentients until they were an extremely advanced civilization. That really defies logic!
That’s okay! Cassandra knew they were hiding something from the beginning—and we’ll find out what soon. Still, it’s nice to see erstwhile time refugee Bishop welcoming more such refugees, albeit from the deep past (Oddly, Theia looks very Shi’ar, but it’s great that she and Tempo might have a shot…).