Nightcrawler 1

Alternating Currents, Nightcrawler 1, Scott and SuzanneToday, Scott and Suzanne are discussing Nightcrawler 1, originally released April 9th, 2014.

Scott: He’s back! The recent Amazing X-Men arc found Kurt Wagner, AKA Nightcrawler, being brought back from the dead, an excellent set-up for a new Nightcrawler title. Nightcrawler 1 not only reintroduces Nightcrawler to the land of the living as the star of his own series, it reunites him with ex-X-Men writer Chris Claremont. There’s a lot of catching up to do, and Claremont seems more interested in writing about Nightcrawler the way he remembers him, rather than concentrating on the things that have happened to the character in the interim. Repercussions of Kurt’s death and new life are strangely absent, making for an uneven and perplexing first issue.

The series begins with Nightcrawler, back from the dead, sparring with his pal Wolverine. Wolverine loses his temper, prompting Storm to stop the fight and call for medical assistance for Wolverine, who no longer has his healing factor. Kurt is set to become a teacher at the Jean Grey School, and he runs into Rachel Grey, who invites herself over to talk about the new students and reminisce about Excalibur. Kurt then heads to New York to surprise his foster sister/former lover, Amanda Sefton. The reunion is cut short by the arrival of the mysterious robo-beast Trimega, who has come to collect Amanda. Kurt teleports Amanda to safety and, with the help of his Bamfs, knocks Trimega out. While Kurt and Amanda ponder why he was there in the first place, they realize Trimega has teleported away. Kurt vows to help Amanda get to the bottom of it — without calling in the X-Men.

It’s hard to get much sense of where this title is headed from this issue. At first, Kurt seems prepared to jump into action with his old X-Men friends. Then, it looks like he’ll be spending his time mentoring new students. Finally, he promises to accompany his old girlfriend around the world. There’s no reason this title can’t be about all of these things, but they seem like such disparate elements — and they’re so clearly separated into three sections of the issue — that I can’t help feeling confused. Will Kurt be able to teach while he’s on this journey with Amanda? If not, why do we need to see him learning about his new students? Why is the beginning of the issue so heavily focused on Wolverine’s healing factor? I felt like I was being teleported while reading this issue, jumping from one place to the next with little continuity. That’s fitting, given Nightcrawler’s abilities, but makes for an unfocused comic.

My biggest problem with this issue is the way it handles Kurt having been brought back to life. Maybe Claremont just wants to tell “Nightcrawler” stories and not “Resurrected-Nightcrawler” stories, and I think that’s ok, but he needs to play along a little bit. The fact that Kurt died and came back to life is almost a non-issue in this book, and Claremont sets it up so that he may not need to address it again. Just look at how Amanda reacts to seeing Kurt, whom she believed to still be dead.

Just weirdThere’s no “how can you be alive?” or “did you really die?” or even “what the hell, who are all these little blue guys?”  It’s just “Hey, you’re here, let’s make out!” No skepticism whatsoever. I can’t believe any person would ever react like that in this scenario. In a world with mutants who can transform themselves to look like anyone, shouldn’t she take a minute to make sure this is really Kurt? Maybe ask him a question only he would know the answer to, like “what shape is the birthmark on my left thigh?” or “how and when did we decide it was ok for foster siblings to start hooking up?”

A lot of people think bringing a character back to life is bullshit. This could be Claremont saying that Nightcrawler’s death was bullshit in the first place, so he’s just going to write it as if Kurt went to visit relatives for a few weeks. As someone who thinks killing off characters in comics often feels gimmicky, I can respect that stance, but downplaying such a huge part of Nightcrawler’s recent history is going to make for a pretty rough start to this series.

Todd Nauck’s art is certainly a plus for this issue. The story is mostly lighthearted, but with some truly frightening moments, and Nauck handles those transitions well. I lamented the focus on Wolverine’s healing factor earlier, but that buildup made his burst into anger all the more powerful.

This hurts me more than it hurts youWolverine is a friend to Kurt, but in this moment he seems like a real threat. Seeing the blood on his knuckles and knowing that he’s feeling all of that pain makes his anger feel more real, like he’s really lost control of himself. The flying, perfectly-cut cylinders of wood from Nightcrawler’s sticks are a nice touch.

Hey Suzanne, I’m curious to hear what you thought about this issue. Did you find it to be as scattered as I did, or is there some thematic cohesion I’m missing?

Suzanne: Scott, you touched on the abrupt transitions scattered throughout the issue. I’d go a step further and say that the muddled plot fails to establish a consistent tone for this book going forward. Did I mistakenly pick up one of the many Wolverine titles? I can appreciate Chris Claremont’s attempt to contrast Kurt’s return from the dead with Logan’s lost healing factor. Both friends experience more than a brush with death in recent story arcs (or so I’ve been told since I haven’t read Amazing X-Men or Uncanny Avengers). But what’s the point of their little sparring session? This feels like a missed opportunity to explore Kurt’s friendship with Logan as they adjust to his return. Although it’s fitting that Wolverine handles any kind of emotion by bloodying his knuckles.

Then there’s a brief exchange between Nightcrawler and Storm about faith and coming to terms with your choices in life. But Claremont devotes only two panels to this message and boils it down to a generic truism. I may be in the minority here, but I love Nightcrawler’s more unique character traits like his Catholic faith and (sometimes) priesthood despite his demonic appearance. I like how Clarement sprinkles in German phrases throughout the issue, but I need to see a more cohesive Kurt Wagner to stay interested in this series. The few panels of exposition about Nightcrawler’s role in the X-Men do very little to establish a compelling voice for the character within his own book. And what about including new readers? There’s so much that goes unexplained in this issue — from Nightcrawler’s BAMFS to his role at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning.

YET...Like you mentioned Scott, Kurt and Amanda’s reunion feels a little implausible to me. Although I’m not overly familiar with their history, they must have a strong connection as foster siblings/reunited lovers. How can Amanda have such a blasé attitude about his return? I know that half of the X-Men have been killed off at one time or another… but where is the emotional weight of her reaction? Quickly shifting to a battle against Trimega makes the scene feel more like a placeholder to the greater plot. Throughout the battle, the exposition feels more redundant than informative with Kurt making stiff comments like, “I’m striking with all my strength — to no effect!” Overall, the action is very clear thanks to Todd Nauck’s art and requires little explanation from Claremont for readers to follow along.

"I'm hitting him in the head with a stick..."

I concede that a lot of this is setup for future issues — Trimega’s disappearance toward the end of the book opens up a new direction for the Kurt and Amanda. Hopefully, Claremont will further define their relationship and develop Nightcrawler’s return to the X-Men.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

8 comments on “Nightcrawler 1

  1. I definitely gotta agree with Suzanne’s sentiment that this issue would be rather confusing for new readers. I realize that the X-Men are less reader friendly than the rest of the Marvel Universe in general anyway, but I’m not an X-Men newbie in any way — I’ve seen all the movies, watched a fair amount of the cartoons, know a good bit of their history, and have read most of Morrison’s run, Whedon’s run, and most of the Marvel Now!-era stuff along with a few other scattered stories — and I still felt lost a few times in here. I recognized Amanda as, I believe, Kurt’s girlfriend from the X-Men Evolution cartoon, but there she was a random, non-powered person, so the magic stuff came as a surprise, especially when Nightcrawler went to such lengths to protect her — she’s obviously powerful, why couldn’t she fight back as well? Then there’s Kurt’s flirting/romantic tension with Storm, Rachel, AND Amanda, which left me confused as to his status with all three in general.

    I think Claremont’s kept his writing style up with the times a lot better than some other writers from his era, but there’s a lot about this book that still feels retro in all the wrong ways. Not that it’s terrible in any way, but we’ve got enough X-Men books on the market that we don’t need a lackluster one — especially when Amazing X-Men is practically a Nightcrawler book anyway.

  2. Is anyone bothered by the way everyone calls Kurt “elf?” Like… I don’t know why, but it feels sorta racist (and also, y’know, not accurate – there are actual elves in the Marvel universe).

    • I thought this was a very good issue. I agree with both of you that Claremont does not spend much time with Kurt lamenting or dwelling on his death and rebirth but he is Catholic so that is not some kind of new trick to him. I also agree that death in comics is so broken and uninteresting that a lot of writers echo the readers sentiments that none of it will stick anyway so why bother putting any care into it. When they announced a new X-men series where Kurt was going to get retrieved from heaven it sort of says it all about how stupid some of the writing in comics can be. I am guessing Claremont did not like the way he was brought back hence why he does not dwell on it much.

      I did not find the tone swingy at all though. I thought there was a good range of scenes and emotions between these pages. That is what I want in my comics. I didn’t think that any of the interactions were unearned. I am someone who grew up on Claremont X-men so maybe I am more accustomed to this? I really liked the nice tender character moments between Kurt and a number of the other X-men. What does he do when he gets back from the dead? He spends time with the people he cares about. That seems pretty accurate to me.

      The drama in the store is sort of standard fair set up but that did not bother me at all since I enjoyed spending time with all those characters. I felt like they all had heart and to me they all felt more real then they generally do in the pages of the other X-titles. I really wish he could be writing the school book and that they could just dump wolverine completely. I would love to see Claremont get to helm Evan (apocalypse kid) as he navigates the crazy world of mutants.

      Also I much enjoyed the art in this book. It was clean, colorful and the storytelling it did was very well done.

  3. It’s cases like these that make me think that Marvel’s aversion to reboots may be hurting them. Like, the fact that everything is continuity doesn’t hold much water if each element of that continuity can just be undone and swept under the rug. I appreciate that rebooting Kurt’s continuity would necessarily require rebooting all of Marvel’s continuity, which would be a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but it boggles my mind that they haven’t ever undergone that kind of line-wide reset/touchup.

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