Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Amazing X-Men, Volume 1: The Quest for Nightcrawler Review (Jason Aaron, Ed McGuinness)


Beast decides to get rid of those drunken, annoying Bamfs from the grounds of the Jean Grey School once and for all but uncovers a strange hidden portal they’ve been protecting. He and a handful of X-Men are drawn through it with some ending up in heaven and some ending up in hell. And guess who they meet in Heaven? Well, the subtitle of the book is The Quest for Nightcrawler, so you know already: heeeeeeeeeeeere’s Kurt! But with his demonic dad, Azazel, threatening the afterlife, Kurt must make the ultimate choice: sacrifice his eternity for the sake of the world or let his evil father burn it all. 

The first volume of Jason Aaron’s new X-Men series, Amazing X-Men (following the end of his acclaimed Wolverine and the X-Men run), is a very mixed bag – on the one hand, NIGHTCRAWLER’S BACK!!! And on the other, the rest of the X-Men get embroiled in a very bland adventure with elements from one of the most heinous X-Men books ever written, The Draco. 

And split down the middle is exactly how I feel about the book – the Nightcrawler stuff is perfect, from his time in Heaven, to the reveal of who and what the bamfs are and why they’re in the Jean Grey School, to the delightful reunions between Kurt and the X-Men, all of whom are overjoyed at having him return (Logan genuinely smiles several times!). If that had been the whole book it really would be amazing. 

But that’s not enough material for a book so Aaron throws in some arbitrary X-Men action that doesn’t matter and isn’t in the slightest bit interesting to read. Storm, Iceman and Firestar fight demons in hell – but Iceman’s melting!! Wolverine and Northstar battle Azazel’s fiends in heaven – but they’re freezing!! Beast fights pirates - !! It reads like exactly what it is: filler. The characters are given some tedious busywork while they wait for Nightcrawler to get around to them and they can exclaim surprise and have a nice moment with him. It really is Kurt’s book and everyone else’s inclusion feels unnecessary. Who would’ve guessed the X-Men as pirates (aboard the Warship Xavier!) would be so boring?

Ed McGuinness does a marvellous job with the art – his Nightcrawler is easily among the best depictions of the character and he makes him both dashing and agile all at once. His design is perfect and the large panel/one pagers where we get to see Kurt in all his glory are just plain awesome. And his Bamfs are hella cute – blue or red, looking for whiskey or no, they are so darling! If there aren’t any stuffed toy Bamfs around for sale, there damn well should be! 

Jason Aaron is a fine writer who can’t help but do some really interesting things in his work even his superhero storytelling tends to vary in quality. That Kurt is a devout Catholic who has gone to heaven and returned is some great psychological material to explore, but what Aaron does to the character at the end is really interesting – the decision Kurt takes and what that means for his faith and worldview. And I can’t totally dislike a book that ends so perfectly with Logan and Kurt, arms around their shoulders, happily and drunkenly lurching into the dawn after a night of celebratory drinking. 

It’s worth reading if you’re a Nightcrawler fan as he’s got nothing but great moments in this book but know that you’ll have to put up with some very dull scenes involving the other X-Men to get to them. A halfway-amazing X-Men book, the heart-warming takeaway is that Kurt Wagner’s back in the Marvel Universe. Wunderschon!

Amazing X-Men Volume 1: The Quest for Nightcrawler

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