Thursday, March 27, 2014
Scanned Thoughts: Amazing X-men #5
In this age of Dr. Phil and shitty self-help books, daddy issues have been the default excuse for someone being an asshole. A girl is too slutty? Daddy issues. A boy is a bully. Daddy issues. A girl is too meek? Daddy issues. A boy is too soft? Daddy issues. And people wonder why men are so eager to ditch their families and be content paying child support? Like President of the United States, they get all of the blame and none of the praise. And unlike the President, they don’t get to live in a fancy mansion and have the Secret Service at their disposal. But what about when someone becomes awesome despite their daddy issues? Does that make that person more awesome by default? I argue that Nightcrawler effectively proves that point and he’s been reinforcing it ever since Amazing X-men began. Here’s a guy whose father actually wants to attack Heaven itself. Hell, even the assholes on Jerry Springer are a cut above that. Yet Nightcrawler is still this awesome, heroic, lovable guy who has rallied his friends from beyond the grave to stop him. I guess my point is that Amazing X-men #5 doesn’t use daddy issues as an excuse so everybody who uses them needs to shut the fuck up.
Most of the action in this story has been taking place between Heaven, Hell, and the River Styx. If that seems like a pretty epic battlefield, it is and then some. But at the same time, it’s easy to forget that the Jean Grey Institute staff only ended up in this theological slug fest because they got pulled into a portal built by the bamfs. This also unleashed a whole hoard of red bamfs, who aren’t nearly as cute and don’t like whiskey. That makes them evil as fuck and in need of an acid bath. That means Rachel Grey, Warbird, and Angel, who got left behind, have to help the bamfs fight them off. It’s not on the same epic scale as the battle against Azazel, but it is linked and it is part of the same epic struggle. So for that, I deem it awesome.
That only makes the front lines of this epic battle even more awesome. In the previous issue, Nightcrawler finally succeeded in reuniting with all his friends. Together, they form the single greatest crew on the single most awesome pirate ship ever. Yes, I said it. Jack Sparrow can kiss my ass. They alone stand against Azazel’s fleet of demons, horrible goblin creatures, and dead Nazis. And with Nightcrawler leading the charge, they attack with the same enthusiasm as sumo wrestler attacks a buffet table. It’s a beautifully rendered struggle that involves Wolverine stabbing shit, Iceman freezing shit, Firestar burning shit, and Beast crushing shit. There’s basically a whole lot of shit to go around and a whole lot of ways to deal with it. And Nightcrawler’s crew of X-men do a damn good job of dealing with it.
Thanks to the efforts of his crew, it gives Nightcrawler all the space he needs to take on Azazel. It’s a lot like the final battle between Dearth Vadar and Luke Skywalker, but this includes teleportation. And that somehow makes it even more awesome, even though there are no light sabres to be found. There’s none of this “Luke, I am your father,” bullshit. Nightcrawler already knows this and Azazel makes clear that he’s pissed off that his son has chosen not to join him in the family business. But when that business involves raiding and pillaging heaven and Hell, there’s really not much that can be said. Seeing as how Azazel didn’t even bother to stick around after he knocked up Mystique, I don’t think there’s any family loyalty to speak of. Azazel is basically a dead beat dad who doesn’t pay child support and only visits his son when he wants to kill him. He’s actually worse than DMX and Evander Holyfield combined.
That’s not to say there isn’t any family drama in this fight. It has more impact than just a couple of guys trying to stab each other. Throughout this arc, Nightcrawler has gone to great lengths to show how far he’s willing to go to oppose his father. He doesn’t hide from the fact that he’s the son of Azazel. He doesn’t show that it bothers him either. He doesn’t even bitch and moan about it. That’s not who Nightcrawler is. He just fights anybody who dares threaten his friends and all that is good. That’s why this guy earned himself a place in Heaven.
It may be a family affair, but like any deadbeat dad with a good lawyer, Azazel is willing to fight dirty. He starts by setting all his boats on fire, making sure that Nightcrawler’s crew will go the way of the Titanic. Sure, that means his demon hoards will drown too, but he’s Azazel. He gives about as much fucks about his demon minions as Goldman Sachs gives about the working poor. And to add a little extra urgency to Nightcrawler’s efforts, he throws in an extra “fuck you” by teleporting behind Wolverine and stabbing him in the chest. And since Wolverine no longer has his healing factor, this isn’t something he can shake off with a curse and a beer. It is a dick move on Azazel’s part, but he’s a guy who supposed to fight dirty. It puts Nightcrawler in a tough spot because Azazel knows he’s going to put his friends before settling his daddy issues. That alone puts him above nearly half the strippers I’ve ever met.
Azazel’s douchebaggery forces Nightcrawler to make a critical decision. Since he’s technically the captain of this crew of X-men/pirates, he must be the one who decide how this ship is going to go down. He acknowledges that there’s nothing he can do to contain Azazel. They’re already in the land of the dead. Killing him would be the same as sending him to the back of the line at the DMV. That’s only going to piss him off even more. To stop him, Nightcrawler has to make a hard decision and a tough sacrifice. But this is a guy who is just so awesome that he’s willing to do it.
As he’s contemplating this sacrifice, he gets a quick visit from Professor Xavier. This is actually the second time he has shown up in this story. Apparently, he earned himself a place in Heaven too, despite some of the bullshit he did in the years leading up to his death. He warns Nightcrawler that the decision he’s about to make can’t be undone. He even reminds him that he’s already dead and he already earned himself a place in Heaven. At least someone should enjoy it rather than rotting away in limbo or any white hot room gimmicks. But for Nightcrawler, even Heaven isn’t enough to keep him from doing the right thing. When it comes to being a good selfless soul, this guy is basically Jesus and the Pope, minus the corruption and scandals.
Nightcrawler goes back to fighting his father. Azazel tries to taunt him Richard Sherman style, calling him a failure of a son who is going to doom his friends and his world. But Nightcrawler just shrugs it off. A shitty father isn’t enough to keep him from doing something truly awesome. So while he keeps his father busy with his sword, he summons the bamfs to attack Azazel. At the same time, the bamfs on the other side of the portal get together and form this big blue blobbish figure that looks kind of like a shitty piece of pottery I made in first grade. It gets blurry and flashy. That or the weed I got is just that good. Whatever he does, it both pisses his father off and shuts him up. That’s basically the ultimate therapy right there.
The end result is the bamfs carry Azazel through the portal and into the Jean Grey Institute. As for the big bluish blob, it eventually becomes much more refined than any shitty artwork I did in grade school and turns into the very alive and very naked body of Kurt Wagner. So I guess this means the bamfs somehow used their furry forms to help remake Nightcrawler’s body. And with his body, he does something with his blood to effectively seal Azazel in the world of the living once more. It seems kind of crazy, inviting a guy willing to invade Heaven and Hell to be trapped on Earth. But this just means Azazel is now stuck in a world full of reality TV, spray cheese in a can, and Glen Beck. I honestly can’t think of a worse hell for someone like Azazel.
Once Nightcrawler knocks Azazel out with one last punch, the other bamfs transport the rest of the X-men back to the Jean Grey Institute. But as soon as they arrive, the portal to the afterlife closes. This basically seals the deal and reveals the price Nightcrawler paid to come back to life and seal his father in this world. He basically had to give up Heaven and all the rewards he earned for being such an awesome guy to stop his father and save his friends. It’s somewhat bittersweet, but at the same time it feels fitting.
Now I think it’s worth pointing out that this kind of resurrection didn’t involve clones, time travel, or fucking magic. No retcons needed to happen. No bullshit secrets had to be revealed. Nightcrawler found a way to come back to the world of the living through a means that was actually novel, fitting, and satisfying. This is like finding a unicorn that shits chocolate. I honestly had to sober up and read this again because I didn’t think shit like this was possible outside an LSD trip. But sure enough, it actually happened. A character came back to life without it being contrived or shitty. I think X-men fans everywhere should take a moment of silence to soak in this beautiful moment.
Everybody done? Okay, now Nightcrawler needs a moment of his own. Because now he’s back in the land of the living and a lot of crazy shit has changed since then. Later on once he gets himself some clothes and gets used to the idea of being alive again, he has a nice conversation with Wolverine on the roof. It’s basically just a nice moment to celebrate Nightcrawler’s return. It also has Nightcrawler reflecting on what he had to sacrifice to save his friends and come back to life. It’s a beautiful moment. Sure, it doesn’t cover all the crazy shit that has happened since he’s been dead. That alone is its own hell. The main impact of this moment is that Nightcrawler has come back to life and has begun another life. And he did it in the most awesome way possible without the aid of any cosmic forces or magic. If ever there was a character deserving of such an achievement, it’s Kurt Wagner.
So Marvel’s latest resurrection is now complete. Nightcrawler has returned to the world of the living. And for once, it doesn’t fall under the category of a bullshit resurrection gimmick. Let me say that again. This isn’t a bullshit resurrection gimmick. Nightcrawler came back from the dead, but it was done in a way that was awesome and engaging. That shouldn’t sound like such a novel concept, but it is. With so many shitty retcons and resurrections in comics, this is more welcome than a blowjob and a free beer. The struggle against his father and the hard choices he had to make are just so perfectly consistent with all things Nightcrawler that it brings a tear to my eye and a boner to my pants. There’s so much emotional weight to his story and how it unfolded. And in the end it came together so beautifully that I must give Amazing X-men #5 a perfect 10 out of 10. I just can’t bring myself to give a lower score to a comic that brings a beloved character back from the dead in a way that doesn’t reek of bullshit. The Marvel universe is just a little more awesome with the return of Nightcrawler. And at a time when Thanos, the Phoenix Force, and the Apocalypse Twins have gone to great lengths to shit all over it, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Nuff said!