By Ben Morse
The Red Sox and Yankees; Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell; Kanye West and George W. Bush-at the end of the day some people simply do not like each other. When it comes to the mutant corner of the Marvel Universe, the X-Men and the Marauders fit this bill.
The Marauders first made their mark on the Children of the Atom as the catalysts behind what came to be known as the "Mutant Massacre." A brutal team of mutant assassins gathered by future X-Man Gambit and working under the auspices of the immortal and immoral geneticist Mr. Sinister, the Marauders slaughtered the hapless Morlocks. This vicious attack attracted the attention of the X-Men, beginning a violent blood feud with that would cost both groups dearly.
A key wrinkle in the Marauders' existence comes from Sinister possessing their gene samples and the necessary technology to clone them in a seemingly never-ending loop. So long as they stay loyal to their master and he remains alive, the Marauders can never truly die.
The Marauders laid low in recent years but the original masters of mutant mayhem made their impactful return this past summer in X-MEN #200, killing Cable, abducting Rogue and turning Gambit, Mystique, Sunfire, Lady Mastermind and Omega Sentinel against the X-Men.
Despite such a huge role in the X-Men's world-one that continues in "Messiah CompleX" as they seek the new mutant birth on Sinister's behalf-the Marauders remain a relatively blank slate to many, owing to their large roster and infrequent appearances over the past 20 years. However, fear not loyal readers-Marvel.com has you covered from three
For those seeking just the facts, we've got a Barebones rundown of each Marauder. For those looking to geek out, we've tapped Marauders maniac-and Marvel marketing guru-Jim McCann for his expertise as our Fanboy. And last but not least, if you want to know what role these bad dudes and ladies play coming up, X-MEN writer Mike Carey generously offers his insight as our X-pert.
Get your scorecards and pencils out, it's time to meet the Marauders.
A haunted and savage U.S. Army veteran, Philippa Sontag channeled the anger and confusion she felt following her tour in
Vietnam into honing her body and mutant power of directing shockwaves into physical force. As passionate in love as in war, Arclight shares an intense romance with former Marauders leader Scalphunter and often served as his second-in-command.
"I freaking love
the way she pounds the ground or walls and people go flying! She was one of the more visually fascinating Marauders when they first turned up."
"One of the heaviest hitters in a team with no lightweights," notes Carey. "Arclight's power can turn a battle around inside of a moment. It's also scarily indiscriminate, of course-an earthquake isn't something you can aim-but like Riptide she's not really encumbered by a conscience. She'll do whatever she's told to do and probably not bother to count the bodies afterwards. If Scalphunter is a scalpel, Arclight is more like a lobbed grenade."
A physical powerhouse able to hold his own against no less than
Thor, Michael Baer actually met his demise at the hands of a furious Thunder God in the wake of the Morlock massacre. Blockbuster returned only to die again courtesy of Havok during "Inferno" and then made it a hat trick, getting wasted by the Purifiers in the opening act of "Messiah CompleX."
"A big 'ol brute of a baddie. I wonder what would happen if he met Strong Guy? A lot of punching and not a lot of necks..."
"Just brute force and belligerence all wrapped up in an ugly package. A lot of the Marauders have versatile powers that can be called on in different situations and put to different uses-Blockbuster just walks through things and hits things, and repeats the same process with minor variations until nobody is hitting back."
Heir to the New Orleans Thieves Guild and a mutant with the ability to release an object's kinetic energy, Remy LeBeau came to Sinister in his younger years for help controlling his power and ended up owing the
manipulative scientist a favor, which he repaid by gathering the Marauders. Remy went on to become the X-Man known as Gambit, repenting for his dark past and moving forward romantically with his teammate, Rogue. Gambit left the X-Men after a falling out with Rogue to serve the villainous Apocalypse, but has since shed that alliance to rejoin Sinister for reasons not yet known.
"Remy, Remy, Remy...first you lead the Marauders to the tunnels to kill the Morlocks, then you spend time atoning, but now you're back? Something tells me there's a lot more than meets the eye. But I have to admit, I have a soft spot in my heart for the Ragin' Cajun!"
"Is it too much of a cliché to call him a wild card? Gambit has a spectacular offensive power, but in a way his scariest weapon is his mind. Infinitely resourceful, perversely ingenious, sly and unreadable-you do not
want to back him into a corner. Of course, those same qualities make him a less-than-perfect member of a team. Many years in the X-Men didn't succeed in domesticating Remy or taking away his crazy edge, it's an open question whether Sinister can do the trick."
An Inuit mutant able to charge metal with electrical or concussive energies-harpoons of course being his weapon of choice-Kodiak Noatak nearly
killed Kitty Pryde during "Mutant Massacre," trapping her in an intangible state through the use of his power. Harpoon died in the chaos of "Inferno," but has since been cloned by Sinister and returned.
"This guy freaked the hell
out of me when he showed up! Those harpoons screwed up a lot
of people. Kitty was stuck in her phase state and Angel was crucified with them. Ouch! This is one of the most deadly around!"
"A stolid assassin with a power that lends itself well to taking out single opponents with precision and unanswerable force. Harpoon says little, seldom questions authority, and has a more or less complete lack of curiosity and empathy-useful attributes in his line of work."
Regan Wyngarde, the daughter of the original Mastermind, shares her late father's illusion-casting abilities. Lady Mastermind's first campaign against the X-Men alongside Sebastian Shaw proved disastrous as Sage lashed out at
Regan and forced her into a coma. Iceman and Cannonball found the still vegetative Lady Mastermind years later and, after she awoke in the midst of a battle between the X-Men and the Children of the Vault, she aided and later joined her former foes, only to reveal her true loyalties to the Marauders not long after.
"Her pops drove Phoenix insane and created Dark Phoenix, and now Lady Mastermind looks to be following in her daddy's footsteps. No regard for any life, hurts for fun's sake, and can make you see anything she wants you to? Yeesh! Get away from me, lady!"
"Freud says most of us have three components to our personalities: desire, conscience and the bit that settles the arguments. Regan pretty much does whatever's on her mind to do, with terrifying directness and no hesitation. If she has a conscience, it's too small to show up on a routine scan. As a team member, she's another big strategic asset, because her illusions can temporarily incapacitate a large and powerful group of opponents. Unfortunately, in some ways she's almost as dangerous to her own side as she is to the enemy."
A scientist born in the 19th century obsessed with unlocking the secrets of evolution, Nathaniel Essex crossed over to repulsive extremes in his experiments, growing darker and more unhinged following the deaths of his son and wife. Discovering the eternal mutant Apocalypse and awakening him to his true nature, Essex found himself gifted-or cursed-with immortality of his own and various powers including enhanced strength and the ability to shift his shape. Taking on the name Sinister, Essex spent
the next century continuing his perverse research, heavily manipulating the lives of Scott Summers and Jean Grey along the way, knowing their shared genetic potential to be vast, and eventually coming into conflict with the X-Men on numerous occasions.
"Okay, think of the most evil mad genius, devoid of any emotion. Now, make him uber-powerful and fascinated with mutant evolution. He saw the Morlocks as a dead-end and had them wiped out. He cloned Jean Grey and all of the Marauders, and who knows who else! Curiosity killed the mutant in the case of Sinister
"Sinister is the strategic genius who plans out the Marauders' missions and movements, but he's also a ruthless and capable combat leader in his own right. Even though he delegates that role on occasion, we've seen how quickly and naturally he picks it up again. Lurking in the shadows and playing the long game hasn't done anything to weaken his instinct for the jugular."
A disembodied mutant presence able to take and possess host bodies, Malice inhabited the psyche of Lorna Dane, aka Polaris of the X-Men, for many of the Marauders' initial battles against the X-Men and took perverse pleasure
Malice in the
in manipulating her pawn's magnetic powers against her friends. Thought to have been destroyed some time ago by Sinister, Malice returned as a digital virus and corrupted Omega Sentinel, whose form she now wears.
"There's a ghost story in Tennessee where I'm from about a witch that appears in the mirror and jumps out at you, killing you or driving you mad. When Malice first came out of a mirror and possessed Dazzler, I almost crapped my pants! Now, she can be downloaded?! Sometimes upgrades can really wreak havoc!!"
"Malice likes to play, and in Omega Sentinel she's found the perfect playmate. Or maybe, the perfect toy. It's always been a cornerstone of Sinister's strategic planning that if you can't beat 'em, you should make 'em join you. This is where Malice comes in, co-opting enemies who might otherwise turn the tide of battle against the Marauders. From her point of view, it's all fun and games."
A shape-shifter of unknown age with a thoroughly mysterious past, Raven Darkholme has led just about every life imaginable. In her most prominent identity as Mystique, Raven became foster mother to a young Rogue, raising her alongside longtime partner Destiny and bringing her into her Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. While Rogue reformed and joined the X-Men, Mystique continued to
commit terrorist acts supposedly in the name of mutant rights, including the assassination of politician Graydon Creed, her own son with Sabretooth. After years, Mystique supposedly sought reconciliation with her daughter and joined the X-Men only to promptly betray them and reveal herself the new leader of the Marauders.
"Raven, you came so
close. Mystique almost had me with her redemption. I really wanted to believe her. But then she shows her true-blue-colors and suddenly we're faced with the next Mutant Massacre. What would Destiny say, really?"
"Who knows? Raven is deep, and Raven is complicated. She plays her own game and she never lets anyone completely into her confidence. If she was someone else, her shape-shifting power might not in itself be decisive or significant, but her cold intelligence, ruthlessness and inability to quit make her one of the most formidable members of this team-possibly the biggest threat after Sinister, and I don't say that lightly. The big question, of course, is what's in this for her?"
Able to reflect and transform light into energy blasts through his crystalline bodies, Prism found himself one of the first Marauder casualties during "Mutant Massacre" when Jean Grey telekinetically slammed him into a wall, accidentally shattering him. At the onset of "Messiah CompleX," Prism again suffered
a quick and violent death, this time at the hands of Predator X, who then consumed his body.
"This guy always kind of cracked me up. Hit him and he breaks. I really do fear and love most of the Marauders, but there's one in every group that's let in but you wonder why. That's this guy for me. I also used to get him confused with Crystar, the Crystal Warrior."
"A munition, basically. Like Harpoon, not overly given to questioning, jockeying for position, infighting, or second-guessing the boss. A bit more versatile than Harpoon, though, in that his powers work on different scales and in a variety of situations. On the other hand, there's a proverb about people who live in glass houses..."
Able to spin his body at tremendous speeds creating a powerful wind vortex, Janos Quested notched more Morlock kills than any other Marauder during "Mutant Massacre" and also dealt grave harm to Colossus and Nightcrawler. Sickened at the violence surrounding him, the normally peaceful Colossus snapped,
breaking Riptide's neck and killing him. Riptide would return to perish again during "Inferno" and has once again appeared alive during "Messiah CompleX."
"The most psychotic of them all, this guy is my most feared, hated and kind of beloved Marauder. Spinning around, shooting out throwing stars?! Ask any kid of the '80s and they would tell you that was the coolest bad guy power of the time. Plus, he nearly killed Nightcrawler and Colossus. When Colossus snapped his neck that was the turning point. He was like the lynchpin of the operation in the original 'Mutant Massacre.' If he hadn't died, it may never have ended!"
"Riptide's power seems limited at first glance, but when you realize that he could go up against Colossus, Wolverine or Cyclops and theoretically win any of those encounters, you begin to see how significant an asset he is to the Marauders' side. He's also cooler, cleverer and quicker to act than many of his comrades. He's a very dangerous man."
A Native American soldier in the U.S. Army during World War II, John Greycrow narrowly escaped execution after killing several of his fellow officers, saved from certain death by Sinister. With the ability to transform mechanical
constructs into any shape he imagines in addition to his Army training, Scalphunter has served Sinister longer than any of his teammates and often acts as field leader of the Marauders.
"The leader of the group and the most ruthless. It was only business to him to kill the Marauders, and something about that chilled me to the bone!"
"There's nothing scarier than a good man gone bad. We've seen, in Gambit's past interactions with Scalphunter, glimpses of the man he was and could be still. But Sinister has worked his own special magic on Greycrow, and what we have now is the tactical and mechanical genius who leads the Marauders. Of course, Mystique's arrival has changed all that, and shifted the balance of power, but Scalphunter is still a force to be reckoned with."
Kim Il Sung, a sociopathic mutant able to disrupt any system, be it human, machine or otherwise, has put his talents to use in a matter he finds satisfying as a member of the Marauders. Scrambler has found that when turning his abilities on other super-powered beings, he can often cause their powers to go berserk, doing them more harm than good.
"Don't let this guy touch you, seriously! He can eliminate your powers, and with the crowd he runs with, you're gonna need
your powers! Stay away!!!!"
"Another huge strategic asset. Against any mutant foe, Scrambler is the great, unanswerable equalizer, and we'll see that used in a variety of ways in the course of 'Messiah Complex.' His effect on a battle goes further than that, though: imagine being a super-powered mutant and knowing that you were going into a room with him in it. Wouldn't do much for your morale, would it?"
A powerful Japanese mutant able to wield solar radiation, Shiro Yashida had a brief tenure with the X-Men as Sunfire, but quickly departed due both to his sense of duty for his country and boorish, quick-tempered personality.
Sunfire proved a reliable ally to the X-Men over the years, but recently lost his legs in a battle with Lady Deathstrike and subsequently allowed Rogue to absorb his powers to fight on in his stead. Striking a deal with Apocalypse to regain his abilities, Sunfire temporarily became one of the Horsemen, but has since joined up with Sinister and the Marauders.
"Shiro, I always knew you were a %$&^@#, but a traitor to your own kind?! Yeah, he's always had a grudge with the X-Men, but this is one Marauder I want to see get his fiery buns handed to him, and pronto
"Shiro is a man of fierce-some would say almost psychotic-pride and unshakable faith in himself. Incapable of bending, he broke when Apocalypse turned him into one of his Horsemen, and he still seems profoundly affected by that transformation. With a raw power level on a par with Iceman, he's one of the most formidable Marauders-and one of the least predictable."
A native denizen of the Savage Land, Vertigo gained her powers to instill dizziness and disorientation as a result of genetic engineering rather than naturally at birth, making her a mutate rather than a mutant. Vertigo later joined the Marauders, bouncing back and forth between membership in that group and residing in the Savage Land, most recently coming back into Sinister's employ shortly before "Messiah CompleX."
"Sexy costume and a power I fear in real life! Imagine the worst motion sickness you can get, then go ride every roller coaster in the world all linked together. You'll do more than just toss your lunch, you'll want to die. Unfortunately, her friends will help you out!"
"Vertigo is another Marauder who gets a lot of job satisfaction out of what she does. Her presence in the team is proof that Sinister thought things through in this way, creating a combat unit which would be capable of taking the sting out of even the most concerted opposition before they got a punch in."
The Marauders continue to raise hell in "Messiah CompleX," currently unfolding each week in the pages of UNCANNY X-MEN, X-FACTOR, NEW X-MEN and X-MEN, but you can also get caught up on how they came back into the X-Men's lives with the X-MEN: MARAUDERS trade paperback written by Mike Carey and featuring art by Chris Bachalo and Humberto Ramos, on sale December 19.