“I may have saved the world,” Nightcrawler said, “but I lost my heart.”
In issue #5 of “Nightcrawler”, Claremont, Nauck and Rosenberg reminds us that the past is no place for our future, and without friends we don’t have much of a story to tell. Picking up from where Claremont, Nauck, and Rosenberg left off in #4, we see how the now soul-less Nightcrawler can function without his heart, Amanda, and in an environment that has changed a lot since last time his three-toed foot had stepped onto its big green lawn.
Written by Chris Claremont
Illustrated by Todd Nauck
Left on the lawn of Jean Grey School after a battle with the Trimega robots sent the love of his life Amanda Sefton through a portal into a plane he cannot travel to, Nightcrawler is left looking for work at his old school. How will it be returning to the Jean Grey school post-death, post-Excalibur, post-Heaven, post-Jean Grey? How will it be mentoring teenagers while his BAMFS dance on his head? Most of all, will the hero who has now returned from saving the world fit into the world he left behind to save?
For those of you still doubting the return or necessity of Nightcrawler, this issue will welcome you in as it confesses and challenges Kurt’s doubts about his return to the X-Men. Taking a much needed break from cyborg battles and neon-lasers, Claremont, Rosenberg, and Nauck deliver an intimate, reflective look into the heart of the newly restored Nightcrawler and explore how his new role in the universe can fit into the series. This issue reminds us why of all people it was Nightcrawler who could house the soulsword, why he is the purest heart of all, and why the Jean Grey school needs him mentoring mutant youth and future X-Men followers.
Up until this point, the writing, as well as Kurt, has been focused on the mission (saving Amanda, killing the Trimega forces), which provided little room for any confessional moments of how Kurt’s revival factored into the X-Men universe (not entirely discounting a moving, but brief BFF moment with Wolverine and beer on a mountain-top in issue #4). But now that the battle is done, we can ask what Nightcrawler asks of himself in this issue:
“Today it seems that people who were once closer to me than my heart have become strangers. Worst of all, I don’t know how to win them back.”
It invokes us as readers to think, how can Nightcrawler find a place back in our hearts too?
These questions, as token Claremont, are balanced with the light humor of BAMFS and baseball. Pitching on a baseball field at midnight with the BAMFS as he confesses to us his fears, Rosenberg and Nauck paint a reflective portrait of Nightcrawler that showcases Claremont’s strength at delivering a wrought epic with genuine vulnerability.
Nauck and Rosenberg don’t stop at referencing the past, but embrace it with style. By illustrating an “Uncanny” time, the homage evokes Kurt’s own nostalgia and allows us too to mourn for those earlier times. Through bright, earthy-toned flashbacks, we fans too happily return to the “Uncanny” days of Kurt’s former glory and natural place on a team with friends. Directly referencing the years Kurt spent at Charles Xavier’s School of Gifted Youngsters is another clever choice as it allows this new run to function on its own capabilities and acknowledging, like the life that Nightcrawler gave up, that while there are similarities to the past, this is a new beginning and we can’t continue to compare that Kurt to this revival.
If this doesn’t provide enough permission to let go of the past, there is a hauntingly beautiful cameo that urges “[us] to have faith–in the man…in the path that lies ahead;” coming from a mouth that made Wolverine smile, it’s impossible to not to as well. If there is any doubt, well, we still have some familiar faces — Storm’s giving heart, Beast to assure Kurt of himself, and Rachel’s loyalty — guiding Kurt through the hallways.
Nauck and Rosenberg create a Nightcrawler as weathered as someone escaping from Heaven should be, without losing his trademark gentleness. In this issue, the tilt of a smirk on Kurt’s face conveys as much as the hue of his golden eyes. Striking an apt balance between an acrobat and first-year teacher, Nauck draws a Kurt that is as pragmatic as he is idealistic, bumbling hands and dignified posture (this killer combo makes his later talk with his student Rico incredibly heartfelt). Rosenberg’s use of high-contrast, bright colored palettes and puffs of purplish smoke visually lighten up scenes. Their work reaches a series peak during Kurt’s class in the Danger Room, showcasing how Nauck’s eye for details in action and Rosenberg outpouring of emotive color usher in Kurt’s return with buoyancy, and honesty.Continued below
Though, nothing can quite develop Kurt’s internal struggles visually than the company of the faithful, forever excitable BAMFS. Their use is subtle, but clever. Placed for added humor in situations where Kurt is unsure of himself, they provide a visual contrast for Kurt’s fear, doubt, and loss; watching a nervous Kurt prepare for his first day teaching at Jean Grey’s school as his BAMFS pick out his tie and do his hair is the most fun I’ve had reading a comic all year.
What makes this issue surpass the others in the run is its central focus to what makes all X-Men stories great: the necessity of friendship. Kurt reminds us that it’s this love that allows us to be brave, to let go of who we aren’t anymore, and challenges us to be better, and shape a better world for who is left.
Final Verdict: 9.8 – Brilliant; an homage to a past that showcases a fresh revival of an old favorite who is out again to conquer the world with honor, dignity, and bouncy minions.