By Jason Aaron (Writer), Cameron Stewart (Penciler), Rachelle Rosenberg (colors).
The Story: Nightcrawler’s welcome home party is interrupted by the family reunion from hell (literally).
The Review: In the years before his death it seemed that the writers of the X-books were at a bit of a loss with what to do with everyone’s favourite fuzzy blue elf. He was present for all of the big story lines and a regular player in the books for a long time but he never seemed to be given the spotlight or have much going on internally for quite sometime.
With his return in the inaugural arc of Amazing X-men writer Jason Aaron showed a deftness at characterising Kurt Wagner that had been missing for a long time, highlighting his faith, his gentile nature, his swashbuckling heroics and his enduring sex appeal. The bad news is that this issue is Jason Aaron’s last foray with Nightcrawler and the X-men. It would be unfair to judge this issue as a coda to Jason Aaron’s run on the X-men as it appears he only left the book due to his increased workload with Original Sin and Southern Bastards. As simply a standalone issue that deals with Kurt’s return to the land of the living this issue does what it sets out to do admirably.
This issue contained some great moments of characterisation from Kurt, his insistence that the X-men act as a family when Cyclops’ revolutionaries turn up to the celebrations is particularly heart-warming. There is also an interesting twist put on his relationship with his mother Mystique, his new-found aggressive stance towards her is certainly refreshing after all the strife Mystique has caused over the years and further highlights the changes Nightcrawler has gone through since returning to life.
Another aspect where the characterisation shines surprisingly is with Azazel, a villain that a lot of readers may have good reason not to enjoy. Here Aaron paints him as the ex-lover who can still easily get under Mystique’s skin. It’s quite fun seeing a grand manipulator like Raven Darkholme unnerved by Azazel to the point where she can’t kill him, if she ever really intended to at all. If Kurt’s charm is biological it’s clear which parent he got it from. This dynamic between the two characters goes a long way to finally giving Azazel an interesting hook and almost makes him a darker inverse of Nightcrawler.
Cameron Stewart’s art seems less polished than the last time I remember seeing his work on the Sea-guy minis but his art is still clear and tells the story well. Where he really shines is with both the facial expressions and character acting, his Kitty Pryde is extremely emotive, all awkward body language and guilt written all over her face. The page with Mystique and Azazel in the woods could be read without dialogue and the emotions of the characters would still shine through which is a credit to the artist.
This is a great little done in one X-men story that explores the theme of family; the one you choose v.s the one you’re born into. At it’s best the X-men were always a family of misfits and this issue goes a long way to remind readers why.
Stray thoughts: This issue really reminded me of Wolverine’s pub crawl with Steve Roger’s In Wolverine: Weapon X #11, it’s nice to see the human side of Wolverine and makes me miss Jason Aaron’s take on the character already.