Kings and Queens of Krakoa clash as the Reign of X era begins with a bang.
“X of Swords” is over, the tournaments & battles to the death within Otherworld have come and gone, and now the time or reckoning has truly begun. Marvel’s “Reign of X,” the next chapter in the ongoing revitalization of the X-Men line since Jonathan Hickman’s “House of X/Powers of X” last year, picks up where things were left before the crossover event.
For Marauders #16, that spot is a long-awaited confrontation between the Hellfire Trading Companies’ White & Red Queens, Emma Frost & Kate Pryde and the Black King Sebastian Shaw following his betrayal and murder of Kate earlier in the series.
In the first year, most of the new “Dawn of X” books took their time culminating in cliffhanger-like spots when X of Swords began, but as this issue proves they are ready to make some big leaps forward without hesitation. Gerry Duggan crafts an issue that is tight and small and intimate character-wise, with just the aforementioned Queens and King and a handful of important characters as Sebastian Shaw is given his comeuppance.
The issue does not shy from the revenge angle yet it keeps enough twists and turns within the moment between three characters, which grows to five eventually, that works to keep the reader wondering just where all things will end up.
While the issue features some darker moments, Stefano Caselli and Edgar Delgado bring the story to life in colorful and detailed ways, capturing the pain and the egos and the stoic justice that is administered. With Cory Petit’s lettering, the story comes together visually in a way that some might call too “cartoonish” or “comic booky” for the subject at hand but the lightness and fun nature of their work actually pairs well with the story content in a way that helps keep one on unsure footing about where it might all end up. This is especially on display about halfway through the issue during a very brutal scene that they bring together masterfully in a way that is effective but not as gruesome as it could be.
One would be remiss if they did not mention the always fantastic design elements of Tom Muller that truly make the various X-Men books of this new line into a cohesive unit. From the recap to title pages and the data pages that are spread throughout the books (though surprisingly none to be found in this issue), Muller keeps upping his game as the “Reign of X” designs are similar, but new compared to those that were from “X of Swords” and those of “Dawn of X” and “House of X/Powers of X” before that.
In the end Marauders #16 picks up the baton from before the crossover and brings a satisfying conclusion to one plotline while using that conclusion to build many more storylines for the future. It also manages to tap into some of the overall X of Swords aftermath that affects all of the X-line books.