There are two aspects to Marauders as a series: the central focus may be the pirating fun adventures had by Kitty and her crew as they sail the open seas, get drunk, and fight people, but there’s also the boardroom intrigue going on behind the scenes. And in issue #2 we get to see a lot more of that, as Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw sit down at the table in order to have a chat about how business has been going. For Emma, things are going swimmingly – for Shaw, his assets are lying at the bottom of the sea.
That’s actually Emma’s fault, in fact, as we find out that she anticipated that Shaw was going to go behind her back and try to send a shipment of Krakoan medicine to some of his friends in the 1%. She not only sends the Marauders out to track down the rogue shipment, but she has the team sink it – the idea being that if Shaw wants it, she’ll take it away. For her, it’s probably quite a satisfying change of fortunes, after she spent several of her earliest years trapped in a power structure where only Shaw was ever able to walk away as a winner. The Hellfire Club days loom large over this series, and you an see why Emma would want to immediately take away any semblance of power Shaw may have thought he’d have in this position.
At the same time, however, how fascinating is it that Emma has such an issue with trust that she can’t let her colleague have one day in the job without having to completely undermine him? Take aside that fact that Shaw was himself undermining Emma by working behind her back: Emma’s response isn’t to catch him in the act, but to completely destroy the act as it happens. In business, there’s always going to be that push-and-pull between people in power as they try to assert themselves into the best position – but Emma’s immediate choice to destroy Shaw’s underhanded agency seems to be a sign of weakness as much as it is a sign of strength.
Look at how two other characters react to Emma through the issue and the series to date. it’s not something that’s made a huge deal of, but Storm wants absolutely nothing to do with Emma’s planning. She’s simply there to have some adventures with her friends, and will not participate in Emma’s business proposition – having previously turned it down, here she seems to have very little interest at all in the Hellfire side of things. That speaks to their own history. Storm is smart enough to know that getting herself involved in all of this will simply trap her into a confining power struggle: as somebody with claustrophobia, that’s something she wants to keep far away from. Far better to fly the open seas with her friends and live a life more befitting a Goddess.
Kate Pryde, on the other hand, has even more of an intense history with Emma Frost – their enmity was one of the circling themes of Astonishing X-Men, which was perhaps the most defining story of recent years for both characters. It set them both up in different places, and since then we’ve seen Kate slowly take more and more of a seat of power within the X-Men as a unit. For Kate to then decide to work with Emma is a somewhat surprising move, but it speaks to Kate’s own ability to move on from the past. Whilst Emma may be “same ol’ Emma” in many ways, Kate has moved on from the past and is willing to work alongside the people who previously hurt her.
The most interesting point of comparison between the two characters is how they have both taken up the role of Headmistress for the next generation of mutants. Emma was a teacher for the Hellions, for Generation X, and for a very long time alongside Cyclops was the headmistress of the Xavier school. She brings that energy to the boardroom, and both Shaw and Kate – to all extents and purposes her equals as far as Krakoa is concerned – are pawns used to run against one another. Emma sits as the leader, whilst her two fellow leaders actually sit beneath her on the board, and work for her. It’s no partnership, but a leadership.
Kate, however, has a completely different perspective. She was a Headmistress once herself, and she slowly built up to the role. By being acknowledged as Red Queen by Krakoa, she’s once more put herself into a position of power. Despite being seen as rudderless last issue, the addition of, well, a rudder is all that was needed. She may be some kind of functional alcoholic with a lot of issues, but she’s also a member of the Quiet Council and one of the most important mutants on Krakoa. All this, and she’s not even living on Krakoa. Emma seizes power, wields it, and uses it to mock Shaw: Kate continually accepts and builds on the power she’s offered.
That’s what I find most engrossing about the series. Shaw is diminished straight away by Emma, which means he’ll be a problem moving forward. Kate has some real problems going on at the moment which have made her rebellious and wild, and Emma is using that to her advantage. In both cases, she’s assessed the situation and worked out what will give her the best opportunity to get what she wants. But now she has not just one wild card on the other side of the boardroom, but two. How careful is Emma being right now? Is she enjoying her time in power and making Shaw eat dirt, or is she setting herself up for an incredible fall?
Marauders #2: The Red Coronation
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Matteo Lolli
Colourist: Federico Blee
Letterer: Cory Petit
Designer: Tom Muller
This post was made possible thanks to the Shelfdust Patreon! To find out more, head to our Patreon page here!