Thursday, April 10, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Nightcrawler #1

With so many characters dying and coming back from the dead in comics, I often wonder how they deal with it. I imagine it happens often enough for there to be a full-fledged support group. Maybe it even inspired a few self-help books with titles like, “Answering Annoying Questions About Death,” and, “Holy Shit! Netflix Has Every Episode of Star Trek?!” But for some characters, they’re just better equipped. And for the X-men, I would put Nightcrawler right below Jean Grey in terms of his ability to deal with returning from the dead. He’s lovable, he’s humble, and he’s awesome in ways that were nicely demonstrated in the pages of Amazing X-men #5. Now the living legend himself, Chris Claremont, has returned to the X-books to chronicle Kurt Wagner’s adjustment to this new world of X-men in Nightcrawler #1. I still imagine he’ll be more impressed with Netflix and the iPhone 5S than he is that Cyclops is a fugitive and Wolverine named a school after Jean Grey.

He must have gotten over the shock pretty quickly because he’s already back in the swing of things. And for him, that means training with Wolverine in the Danger Room. He has no time to be deadpanned about time-displaced X-men, Cyclops being a wanted fugitive, and a new generation of mutants emerging all over the world. I imagine one of the perks of being dead is not having to work out as much. It must have been nice being able to eat a mountain of bacon and not gain an ounce. Now he has to stay in shape, but he hasn’t lost his touch.

What has been lost, however, is Wolverine’s healing factor. This is something Nightcrawler even acknowledges in his string of Claremont-style monologues. I know Claremont-haters don’t like how he tends to overuse them, but I say fuck those people because they work beautifully here. They nicely detail Nightcrawler’s thoughts as he’s fighting Wolverine, noting how he still is as skilled as ever, but now is vulnerable in a way he’s never seen him. It’s just one of the many changes he’s going to have to get used to. I still imagine he’ll have a harder time getting used to the idea of Peyton Manning being a Denver Bronco.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is Wolverine’s knack for losing his temper in the middle of a fight. Even without his healing, he’s still prone to getting more pissed off than a nun in a dildo factory. And as Nightcrawler shows that death hasn’t degraded his skills in any way, Wolverine gets a rage boner and pops his claws. He doesn’t get too stab-happy with Nightcrawler though. Storm steps in and unleashes a miniature typhoon to get Wolverine to calm the fuck down. She probably implicitly added that if he ever wants to see her naked again, he’ll ditch the claws and do some yoga.

Beyond the unnecessary reminder that Wolverine has poor anger management skills, this outburst also reveals to Nightcrawler the extent to which Wolverine has lost his healing. He mentions how he’s not used to seeing Wolverine bleed. It seems mundane, but in many ways it symbolizes just how much things have changed since he died. It leads to a nice moment between Nightcrawler and Storm about having an anchor to keep their shit together. For me, it’s booze and comics. For Wolverine, it used to be his healing. For Nightcrawler, just being alive should be enough to keep himself grounded. But given how often people come back to life in the Marvel universe, that shit is going to wear off faster than a buzz a Mormon convention.

The Danger Room is still familiar territory for Nightcrawler. He’s not going to see anything there that he hasn’t seen since days when Jean was still alive and Beast wasn’t a massive douche-bag. The Jean Grey Institute is a big place and not just because it has a front yard that’s alive. It’s very different from the Xavier Institute he remembers. Plus, the Xavier Institute was still a smoldering pile of rubble when he was last alive so this is quite a change. But he still embraces this change in ways that would disgust most republicans. He muses about how much the team has grown, how many friends they have lost, and far the X-men have come. It’s a sentiment that is nicely conveyed in the Claremont-style monologues. Again, there will be those that find them annoying. I imagine these are the same people whose ideas of a buzz is an extra cup of coffee so I won’t take their sentiment seriously.

Beyond the musings, this new institute is still a school just like the last one. And unlike the world he died in, this new world has a growing population of mutants. That means when the bell rings, the halls become crowded by a sea of mutant teenagers. It’s like a war zone, but not quite as dangerous. It makes for some nice moments where some of the students welcome Nightcrawler back to the land of the living, showing once again just how lovable this guy is. Cyclops should take notes from him. He sure as hell needs it.

But while he hangs out on the ceiling and waits for the chaos to pass, he gets a psychic visit from Rachel Grey that later turns into a non-psychic visit in Nightcrawler’s new loft. Since they didn’t get a chance to interact much in Amazing X-men, it’s nice for the former Excalibur teammates to catch up. It also gives them a chance to mention Kitty Pryde and Cyclops’s new school. They don’t touch on it that much. Nightcrawler just got done fighting Wolverine and navigating halls filled with teenage mutants. He doesn’t need to deal with that shit just yet. But it’s nice to see it acknowledged because it is one of those things that’s tempting to gloss over like the hidden fees in a cell phone contract. It doesn’t get addressed in this issue and that’s fine. Nightcrawler has more pressing issues to attend to.

What could be more important than confronting a fugitive Cyclops and a defector Kitty Pryde? How about a pretty blond with a nice rack named Amanda Sefton? I’m pretty sure Hugh Hefner and Nightcrawler would agree. Pretty blonds take priority over everything. Nightcrawler takes a quick trip with a bunch of his bamfs to Manhattan where he drops in on his long-time yet rarely mentioned girlfriend. And it’s not like Cast Away where she has run off, settled for someone barely half as awesome as him, and punched out his kid. She’s still single and doesn’t hesitate to give him a big, “Welcome back to the world of the living you handsome devil!” kiss. It’s another nice moment that could have easily been made into a shitty moment. But like catholic priest at a little league game, Chris Claremont resists the temptation.

It’s a beautiful moment that could have easily turned into a, “Let’s celebrate your new lease on life by having the kind of sex that make the Pope shit himself,” type moment. But even Chris Claremont can only resist so much temptation. Nightcrawler’s first issue back just wouldn’t be complete if he wasn’t attacked by some killer robot or raging monster. To omit that from a new series about character that has been MIA for so long would be the kind of blasphemy that gets people executed in Saudi Arabia. So Nightcrawler and Amanda’s romantic and pre-pornographic moment is interrupted when some random Iron Man rip-off blasts through the wall in start’s shooting. It’s a real mood-killer, but one I imagine Nightcrawler hasn’t forgotten. And it wasn’t like Amanda didn’t have a target on her back when Nightcrawler was still alive so if nothing else, it shows that at least some things haven’t changed.

The battle that follows is pretty generic, but it’s nicely fleshed out. The art is flashy and it’s well-organized. Nightcrawler goes through his typical tactics, teleporting Amanda away from the danger before returning with the bamfs to take on this mini-Sentinel. He doesn’t have any claws, guns, or major weapons. A man doesn’t exactly bring that sort of shit on a visit to his girlfriend unless there are divorce papers involved or unless she’s into some ridiculously kinky shit. But like the Danger Room scene with Wolverine, Nightcrawler shows that he hasn’t lost his touch. Now this is one instance where even I’ll concede that Claremont’s love of monologue boxes does get a little excessive. But it still works in adding something extra to the scene. It’s not all that epic. It’s just a simple, well-designed fight between Nightcrawler and something he can blow up.

As the battle unfolds, Nightcralwer is overmatched and outgunned for most of it. But like Jack Bauer in a room full of terrorists, the odds are better than they seem. He also has help from the bamfs, which basically act like his own personal pokemon clones. They don’t bring much to the table, but they do help Nightcrawler gain the upper hand. After doing a bit of rope-a-dope for a while, he manages to frustrate and eventually outsmart Mr. I-Love-Cockblocking-Guys-Reuniting-With-Their-Girlfriends. Nightcrawler doesn’t do anything fancy. He just buries the guy under a pile of rubble. He probably could have done it drunk, but I guess he was saving the drunken escapades for Amanda.

Now I’m all for watching Nightcrawler kick ass. The man has been dead for seven years and I’ve missed this almost as much as I’ve missed Arrested Development, Christian Bale as Batman, and Terminator movies that don’t suck. But it would have been nice to see a villain that doesn’t look like he was copied from an old Mega Man game. Between Azazel being stuck on Earth and Mystique still running around, there are plenty of villains that would love to cock-block Nightcrawler from his reunion sex with Amanda Sefton. This character just has no appeal. Maybe that appeal will come in future issues, but for now he’s more forgettable than Jim Carey’s last three movies.

After Nightcrawler makes quick work of the overly generic threat, Amanda shows up. She even found time to change into her sexy Daytripper uniform. She’s as confused as I am about who this asshole is and why she would choose to attack at a time when their tongues were getting reacquainted. But she seems to suspect this is something that targeted her specifically so it’s something she wants to handle without calling in the rest of the X-men. Being a gentleman and all the more deserving of the keys to her panties, Nightcrawler offers to assist her as she looks into this. They then disappear for a visit to Amanda’s mother, Margali Sefton. As if the wannabe Mega Man villain wasn’t a big enough cock-block. Now Nightcrawler has to both hunt down this villain, who mysteriously disappears, and confront his girlfriend’s mother. Nightcrawler probably doesn’t wish he was dead again yet, but at the rate he’s going he’s well on his way.

Well we didn’t get to see Nightcrawler’s reaction to Netflix or the new iPhone. But a good chunk of this first issue was fittingly dedicated to seeing him and the rest of the X-men react to his return. It wasn’t glossed over. It wasn’t half-assed either. There was genuine, honest emotion for Nightcrawler and his friends. It gave this issue a more personal touch. Given all the history that Chris Claremont gave Nightcrawler during his legendary tenure on the X-men comics, that’s more than fitting. We didn’t see reactions from everybody, but that wasn’t necessary. Between Storm, Rachel, and Amanada Sefton, all the appropriate emotions were conveyed. The villain was still generic as hell, cut and pasted from a shelved Michel Bay movie. But it kick-started a new adventure for Nightcrawler while showing his girlfriend that death hasn’t affected his ability to kick ass. Nightcrawler made his triumphant return in Amazing X-men. In Nightcrawler #1, his new life officially begins and it’s pretty damn awesome so far. I give this comic a 9 out of 10. Killing off characters in comics is so sad and wasteful. Bringing them back doesn’t have to be a hassle. It can be fun, entertaining, and meaningful. If anything, this issue gives Marvel even fewer excuses for keeping Jean Grey dead all those years. Nuff said!


  1. I really enjoyed this issue! The one thing I REALLY don't get is the part when Sprite says that Nightcrawler creeps her out. Really? This is one of the kids that have spent a great deal of time with Broo and went to the Savage Land with him while he was still stuck in his feral state. I can't imagine anyone who could do that and still get creeped out by other "wierd-looking" mutants. I mean, Broo pretty much tops the cake on that...

  2. It's an in-joke for long time X-Men fans. Kitty Pryde once had the codename "Sprite" when she first joined the X-Men. At that time she was very much afraid of Nightcrawler because of his demon looking appearance. So that's a nod for long term continuity X-Buffs to cherish. Once again "Sprite" is afraid of Nightcrawler, in the sense that "the more things change the more they stay the same" cyclical, even down right Ouroboros like, nature of long term comic book franchises.