Steve Orlando’s Marauders #10-12—Annotated!
Credits: Steve Orlando writes; Eleonora Carlini draws; Matt Milla colors; Travis Lanham letters; covers by Peach Momoko (#9-10) and Kim Jacinto (#11-12).
This is the final 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 second covers issues #6-9.
Here, we look at the wrap-up to the title’s main story, about the human/mutant Threshold society—which also, oddly enough, contains the seed of the origin of Krakoa itself! Unfortunately, without the rest of this gonzo deep-time history, it’s very unclear what the storytellers were trying to achieve with Threshold. Seriously, given the ease with which Mars was terraformed… why not just give them a whole new planet, which they can verify isn’t already home to indigenous life and won’t be open to damaging time paradoxes. Perhaps there was a plan here, but for the foreseeable future, we just won’t know.
That said, whatever your feelings about this title, no one can deny our storytellers here took big swings and wild risks to do something different. In an industry where nothing is ever guaranteed, they took bold moves to see how far they could get before the corporate guillotine fell. If the series wasn’t for you, hopefully, you didn’t sink much, if any, cost into it—and if you still like X comics years down the line, who knows, maybe someone will take some of the most interesting material laid out here and give it another go in a story that can run its course. Sometimes, it never happens, but if it feels relevant to the right creator, the raw story stuff from prior runs does get told, even if it’s piecemeal, by different creators over time. That is just the biz.
Marauders #9-10—“Here Comes Yesterday” finale
Before the ultimate revelation on Threshold society, we have the first bomb-drop: In their war of survival against the anaerobic “Unbreathing,” the Thresholders created the bacterial weapons that Cassandra identifies as Arkea and Sublime! The latter was introduced in Grant Morrison’s New X-Men Annual and played a critical antagonistic role throughout their run. Sublime’s “sibling” was the primary antagonist of Brian Wood’s X-Men volume 4, perhaps the most forgettable iteration of the title; “she” was killed there, only apparently. In the long ago, these “siblings” fought for control of Earth, ending with the “sister” exiled to outer space.
It was the weapons, we learn, that wiped out their makers. In issue #10, Cassandra handily defeats them both at the same time. From here, we can assume that over the next two billion years, Arkea and Sublime eventually reformed and remembered themselves—or however that’s supposed to work!
Unfortunately for Cassandra, Kate plans to leave her in the past (with Emma’s support apparently), and Grove has agreed to her captivity at Threshold (The climactic action here feels very rushed and obscure).
Cassandra, after all, is just about the worst Marvel villain ever, and one among her 16 million kills was Kate’s father Carmen (as revealed in 2002’s X-Men Unlimited #36). It’s a nice twist that stranding her somewhere she couldn’t easily return from was the whole reason Kate really invited her on to the team. She had us all fooled for a hot minute! Emma, of course, is a survivor of Genosha, and Cassandra’s status as mutant is very sketchy, anyway. Jean in X-Men: Red volume 1 did, however, turn her into a defender of mutantkind; a little too pat, if you ask me.
Even so, Kate does emphatically acknowledge that without Cassandra with them in the past, none of them would have survived. She was the key—but by the same token, she will only ever answer to herself alone, and that is Kate’s ultimate concern.
Looking back at issue #8: Not yet knowing the Thresholders originally came from her own near future, Kate is determined to travel back in time to save Earth’s “first” mutants. Tempo has an interesting argument for why traveling further back in time is safer from time paradoxes—because messing about in the deep past allows for the overall arc of history to self-correct. Hmmm… You almost had me there, Steve!
Oh, and apparently Sublime and Arkea’s names were born of them hearing the time-traveling Marauders use them 2 billion years ago—so there’s a time paradox!
The team travels back in time from Cooterman’s Creek, the X-Men’s late ’80s Australian Outback base, which is here said to have been the site of Threshold—which is strange, because until now, we were told that Threshold society spanned a continent. Two billion years ago, that would have been Gondwanaland.
Issue #9 fully introduces Threshold’s “defector,” “Nightfount,” who’s clearly—Stryfe! More importantly, this is the debut of the Thresholder… Grove! More on her in a moment.
And we’re also introduced to the notion of the Seed, the name for the box Kate received in the annual—which is a later version of what we see here in issue #9, in the deep past. Eventually, we know, she will place a map of Krakoa in it—leading her earlier/present-day self to Cassandra. Theia says the Thresholders came from this little mysterium container, opening in the birthing sea and filling it with life. As such, this is another hint this integrated society of mutants and humans come from the future. The title’s last two issues fully answer the Seed’s mystery.
Still, we can infer here that Kate’s future self will create the Threshold’s Seed…
Issue #10 reveals a little: Stryfe’s plan was to kill off the Thresholders and reshape history himself—although why he had to wait until Threshold existed to travel back in time for this end… well, whatever. Time travel never makes sense. And if this Stryfe born of genetic information sent back in time means there are others, essentially clones (of clones of clones, etc.), up and down the timestream, well, what do you expect?! Duggan already acknowledged in Cable that this most operatic of ’90s villains is our fave clonal chaos agent. The question, though, is that if Kate didn’t send this bozo back in time via the Seed, who did?
(Note also that Blaquesmith pops up in our first splashy look at Threshold in issue #4. Did he have his eye on “Nightfount?” And who put him into the Seed? Or maybe this future time traveler arrived elsewise?)
This is the arc’s final issue, the series is now ended—and the apparent big bad, Stryfe, has simply vanished! Maybe he’ll un-merge from Amass at some point?
Actually, I don’t think Orlando was really going for a big bad in this arc. The story was Threshold.
Grove is the real revelation here: It turns out she’s the future Okkara. That’s right! She will one day become an island (She kind of reminds me of Nature Girl, too, but anyway)! Readers can’t say there wasn’t foreshadowing, for Amass in issue #8 did say he thought Krakoa seemed familiar (And it’s no accident that the Quiet Council meets in a chamber of the same name, but there’s no deeper connection, except for potential recognition that the real governing body of Krakoa is itself, which perhaps also harbors within Thresholder minds).
Theia and Amass are left behind when the Marauders leave, to live out their natural lives—but they’re resurrected, along with Crave, upon their return. Hurrah!
The government of Santo Marco, an embarrassingly anonymous “tea cup nation” of Latin America (debuting in 1964’s X-Men #4, as a short-lived fiefdom for Magneto), has been using the mutant Feedback (real obscure Beta Flight member, Alpha Flight #118-130, 1993) to power their electrical grid. This atrocity has backfired at the start of the issue, with Feedback’s powers overloading and causing a huge explosion, killing and injuring many innocents and ruining infrastructure. Initially, the Marauders believe the disaster was caused by a mutant terrorist attack.
After helping with crisis relief, the team travels to Genosha’s Hammer Bay (where we see the memorial that Toad, Polaris and others built back in Morrison’s New X-Men #132)—where Kate declares her plan to resurrect the Genoshan dead (whose remains are still there on the shattered island), including the humans who died there. Polaris will shape the box, Cerebra will scan Genosha for DNA, which will go in the Seed, and Tempo will send it way back in time (which isn’t at all how Tempo’s powers “traditionally” work, lol).
Genoshan survivor Wicked (from Claremont’s 2004 Excalibur) shows up to contact the “necroplasm” of the dead—not the ghosts, who she acknowledges are currently in the Waiting Room (“passing notes”), but rather their “manifestations” from the moment of death. This means they can ask and get consent before sending each dead individual off to the deep past to be resurrected there as part of Threshold. Significantly, this death whisperer did once summon Carmen Pryde’s (necroplasmic) spirit for Kate, on Hanukkah (2018’s Merry X-Men Holiday Special, the story “Never Again” by Claremont and the Dodsons); and she sees him again here in Marauders #11.
The necroplasmic Carmen (not his ghost!) appears here again, along with other Genoshan, er, necroplasms, to help Kate create the map that then goes in the Seed box. With that incomprehensible plot tie-up squared (?), the team goes back in time again, presumably now a really long time before Threshold’s emergence, since it wouldn’t have popped up overnight. As to how the anachronistic humans and mutants adapted to primordial Earth and then achieved the social and technological sophistication to create their city-state, well—maybe this, too, is supposed to be a story for another day?
For that matter, what exactly was the point of Threshold, except, incidentally (from the in-universe POV), providing a time-paradox origin for Krakoa?
There are some touching moments here, but for this reader, the glaring holes in this truncated story neutralized my overall appreciation for the storytellers’ outsized ambitions. Perhaps, one day, another run by Orlando or someone else will give us the bigger picture. For now, I have to say, this one missed the trees for the forest. Then again, if creators only took risks when the timing was just right for guaranteed success, well, little of substance would ever get created!!!
A quick note on Bushwacker dust-up in issue #12: New character Esera Seanoa is said by Cerebra to be Northstar 2099’s great-granddad; he’s one of the mutant artists Bushwacker had been targeting. Again, we get this scene to tell us that we might expect an intermittent build toward the Marvel 2099 universe, someday, as that future’s past becomes the present’s near-future—right?