The latest King in Black tie-in special is a good, standalone Marauders story but completely inconsequential to the crossover event itself.

There are three different types of tie-in issues to comic book crossover events: One type sets up crucial narrative elements that will pay off in a big way within the main series that the tie-ins allow to give more room to breathe and enrich the overarching story. A second type takes advantage of the wider premise of the crossover event to use as a canvas to tell its own fun, divergence featuring familiar characters. And finally, the third type is only tangentially related the bigger story, with only passing references to the crossover. And of those three types, the tie-in special King in Black: Marauders #1 takes up the latter, pitting several of Dawn of X’s pirate X-Men in a side story that happens to take place as the latest Marvel crossover rolls out.

As Kate Pryde leads her crew of pirate mutants on the high seas in service to the mutant nation-state of Krakoa, Knull and his army of symbiotes begin their invasion of Earth. As the Marauders encounter the symbiote dragons that have descended from the cosmos, the hardy adventurers encounter the geological disturbances caused by symbiote invasion firsthand, including those that would seek to take advantage of the chaos to their own fiendish ends as Pryde and her ensemble try to weather the storm and defend Krakoa’s interests as best as they nautically can.

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Written Gerry Duggan, who has helmed the main Marauders series since its launch at the start of Dawn of X, crafts a story that fits perfectly into the ongoing tale he’s been telling for over a year now. While reflecting most of the recent changes to befall the seafaring mutant team, Duggan provides a perfectly accessible jumping-on point for those that may not have been following Marauders with the issue presented as a day in the life for the team as they cross paths with the symbiote army. That said, as accessible as this issue is, the connections to King in Black are kept to the opening and passing references as the story continues; this is a good, self-contained issue starring the Marauders but not an especially vital piece of the wider King in Black narrative.

Artist Luke Ross, working with color artist Carlos Lopez, similarly delivers a story that’s well within the visual aesthetic of the main series, underscoring that the issue feels like a natural extension of Dawn of X. Some of the facial work comes off as a bit stiff in headshots but these instances are few and far in between and when the art team is really given the room to stretch out and deliver that mutant superhero action on the high seas, their work really shines through. And Ross’ line work stays consistent with the story’s main cast as the Marauders continue on their mission undeterred by the apparent end of the world at the hands of Knull.

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King in Black has delivered some truly stellar tie-in miniseries and specials and some that exemplify all the worst habits of big, sprawling crossover events. Marauders #1 falls somewhere in between its effective if largely inconsequential, story for its main cast and Dawn of X but it hardly takes advantage of its tie-in possibilities apart from the occasional symbiote dragon appearance or the perpetual shadow that has fallen across the Marvel Universe as Knull tightens his grip over the world. Duggan and Ross know their characters and fans of Dawn of X will be entertained but for those looking for something hewing closer to King in Black itself, this story isn’t quite it.

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