By Steve Morris
I’m really impressed with the way Gerry Duggan can give you the idea of past continuity without having to get the reader lost within it. The third issue of Marauders is a focus issue for Sebastian Shaw, a character many readers will have the jist of – but probably not remember all his continuity across the last ten years in particular. Shaw is the former leader of the Hellfire Club, an elite establishment which conducted business deals across the Marvel Universe from its strip club home ground. At various points in time Shaw has been one of the richest men on the planet, but the existence of Hellfire keeps coming and going. Sunfire owned it at one point, I think? And of course, Emma Frost used to work with Shaw, until she went legitimate.
If Shaw’s continuity is known only by the sturdiest of readers (whom I am not among) then his son’s continuity is ancient knowledge guarded only by a select few. Shinobi Shaw is brought back to life in this issue, and is promptly assigned duties on his father’s council. What’s impressive is how quickly the creative team are able to bring Shinobi out of the abyss and give him a personality, a relationship with his father, and motivations and ambitions which will doubtlessly play into the future – despite the fact that he’d been so forgotten by time before. Of the characters in this series, Shaw & Son are by far the least-known, but Duggan takes Krakoa as an opportunity to get both of them back on the board without forcing page after page of explanation on us.
It would be very tempting to do a flashback sequence to show what Shaw was like at the height of his power, or to explain who Shinobi is. Instead, the issue forgets all that past and focuses readers on the important thing: the present state of their relationship. Shaw gives his son a tour of the sights he thinks are important, with remarkably little manipulation along the way. His power and his privilege are enough to keep his son interested, so he doesn’t have to particularly lie about himself to Shinobi or offer him anything other than the truth as he sees it. When it comes to discussing other people – particularly Emma Frost – Shaw only lies and distorts the truth, but when it comes to offering his own perspective he appears to be surprisingly candid. It’s a trait which is shared between the two – Shinobi repeatedly says he has an interest in murdering his dad, which Shaw smiles away. There’s no time for vendettas when there is business to be done.
The first thing Shinobi gets shown is how powerful his dad is. Not just in that he has formed an alliance with Xavier and Magneto and all the other mutants which has allowed Shinobi to be brought back to life in the first place – but how the human world have been fended away from mutant affairs, and the Blackstone location itself, which is where Shaw lives, in the centre of Hellfire Bay. One thing I really appreciate is that despite the characters living adrift at sea, Marauders still gives us grounding whenever it can. This issue establishes the three strongholds of mutantkind’s shipping business: The Red Keep, Blackstone, and the White Palace.
New Mutants did this a little as well at the start, but it’s nice to see the practicalities of Krakoa rather than the island being portrayed as Coachella. We get to see where the characters are living, and the types of homes they have chosen to live within (remembering that Krakoa builds whatever home they want to live in). It also shows the power balance for the three people in these strongholds: whereas the students are living in biodomes, these are distinctly palaces for the characters to live in. It’s worth remembering that there is a semblance of a class system within Krakoa, if only because it’s impossible for writers not to bring that baggage with them to paradise.
Certainly that class system is important to Shaw, who lives an opulent lifestyle – his suit, his cane, his fine wines, and all the trappings that come with success. Even when we see that he’s failed in something, as with his attempts to get Shinobi a position as Red King of Hellfire, it’s wrapped inside the luxuries of power. Shinobi simply needs to trade his red suit for a black one – and hold onto the red suit for later. When you are rich and powerful, you don’t have to show your weaknesses to your enemies as easily. And Shaw is used to the lifestyle, as we see here. When asked for ID by the human guards outside a Krakoan gate, he simply calls himself “King”.
It doesn’t matter if readers don’t know much about Shaw before they read the issue: we’re given the important parts of his past, and asked to focus on his present. The way he presents himself for Shinobi is also the way the creative team want to present him to the readers, with minimal flashbacks or hidden scenes to confuse the issue. It’s only at the end that we see what could arguably be seen as the first lie Shaw has to present about himself to his son: when Shinobi asked how he died, Shaw says that Kitty and Emma Frost conspired to kill him. That’s not true, but the issue only presents that for readers right at the end – showing a panel where it looks like Shinobi has killed himself by phasing a hand through his head.
It’s the first time new readers find out what Shinobi’s mutant powers actually are, and it’s presumably flashing back to some random issue from years ago when the event took place. It doesn’t matter to the current-day situation other than to show that Sebastian Shaw is hiding something from his son, for some kind of reason. Long-term readers will learn something from that decision, but even new readers will be able to grasp the point just from seeing these panels. It’s a very clever way of telling the story so we can get the new dynamic between father and son without distracting readers with whatever happened to them in the past. Things are cleaned up and clearer now for both of them, and it puts both chess pieces firmly back on the board.
Marauders #3: The Bishop in Black
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Michele Bandini
Inkers: Michele Bandini and Elisabetta D’Amico
Colourist: Federico Blee
Letterer: Cory Petit
Designer: Tom Muller
Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.
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