Warning: this article contains spoilers for Marauders #18
The conflict between Krakoa and the anti-mutant organization Homines Verendi over the island nation of Madripoor has reached a deadly tipping point. The maritime mutant outreach team the Marauders, led by Kitty Pryde aka Shadowcat, has become embroiled in a shadowy game of tit for tat with Verendi ever since the group joined forces with Mrs. Chen Zhao a billionaire socialite with deeply wrought anti-mutant ideologies. What has been, for the most part, a cold war between the two has erupted into open hostilities.
The Marauders’ main mission, like all X-Men teams, involves protecting the interests of Krakoa and mutantdom abroad. The specific responsibilities of Pryde’s crew of sea-fearing warriors is to provide support to the mutants inhabiting countries that have shut themselves out of any relationship with Krakoa. Sometimes this means helping refugees find safe harbor, and other times it leads to the team operating outside of the law like pirates. In this month’s Marauders #18, written by Gerry Duggan and artists Stefano Caselli and Matteo Lolli, the team crosses swords with an upgraded enemy from their past.
Bolstered by Mrs. Zhao’s reimgs, Verendi has taken a bold step in their newest act of aggression against mutants. From out of their state-of-the-art labs emerges the next generation of gruesome cyborg mercenaries known as the Reavers. Originally conceived in 1988 by Marvel Comics legends Chris Claremont and Marc Silvestri, they were first introduced in Uncanny X-Men #229 as a band of bank-robbing cyborgs based in the Australian Outback. They returned in issue #247, led by the cybernetically-enhanced member of the Hellfire Club’s inner circle, Donald Pierce. Working alongside Lady Deathstrike, who would later take over its leadership, the group became a recurring threat to the X-Men. Famously, in issue #251 they crucified Wolverine, on a wooden “X” and tortured him. They made a notable return a decade later when they battled the X-Treme X-Men, also created by Chris Claremont, with artist Salvador Larroca.
Today’s Reavers have undergone significant cosmetic and utilitarian enhancements. While happily sharing a drink in a Madripoorian bar, Pyro, Bishop and Iceman are attacked by the Verendi Reavers. The techno-organic technology they’ve been augmented with enables them to go toe to toe with the veteran X-Men. When Iceman recognizes one of their number from a past encounter at sea, it’s revealed that all the Reavers have something in common: they’ve all been maimed and nearly killed by mutants. Verendi, never wasting an opportunity to fight back against mutantkind, quickly assembled these survivors and offered them the means to carry out their revenge. It’s clear this first encounter was only a skirmish intended not to assassinate the mutant team, but to goad them into being responsible for enough collateral destruction to turn local public opinion against the Krakoans.
The situation in Madripoor has only gotten worse now that the Marauders have fled, and the X-Men failed to defend their presence in Madripoor to representatives at the United Nations. The Reavers, sanctioned by Madripoor’s corrupt government, have been let loose on the island-nation’s Lowtown slums. Their next target? Krakoa itself.