Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated by Darick Robertson, 2004’s Nightcrawler marks the third time Nightcrawler had a solo outing, but the first time he had a multi-volume (two to be exact) run as opposed to the previous two four issue runs. This has to be one of my favorite Nightcrawler centered runs thus far, with Way of X being another and Claremont’s 70’s and 80’s being a good X-Men run that also happens to have him in it.
Minor Content Disclaimer
This series does use the term g*psy twice when introducing Margali in two issues. As well as two stereotypes: Margali being a fortune teller and her and her family being a part of the circus. I had previously learned that fortune telling is a common stereotype for Romani people while the stereotype of them working in the circus (and certain entertainment fields) is something I learned recently.
Based on what I currently know, I am viewing this similarly to how I did with Moon Sister, namely a Q&A and synopsis (can’t remember if the term was used in the book at the moment). That being, I do not believe the people behind the series were trying to be malicious. Misinformed and/or uninformed? Perhaps. There is also the fact that this is an almost twenty year old series, which more than anything, gives context for how Romani characters has changed in the years since.
That does not mean I am excusing the term or stereotypes. I many be giving them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to intent, until proven otherwise (if proven otherwise). It is still an issue even if they weren’t meaning to be. Nor does it’s age excuse it. It may provide context for how Romani characters were approach then compared to now, but that doesn’t mean the series gets a pass.
I strive to be as mindful as I can be when it comes to reviews, recommendations, and the like. And when making reviews for books or any media (movies, shows, etc.), if there’s something that people might want to know about (ex. content warnings or a disclaimer for terms/topics/etc. that might seem jarring or problematic), I will mention it.
This run focuses on two different yet interconnected stories. The first volume deals with demons and murder in a hospital. The second, deals with Nightcrawler’s past and how a demon named Hive was associated with it.
In The Devil Inside (issues 1-6), Nightcrawler is tasked with investigating the murder of thirteen children at a hospital with the only survivor, a young boy named Seth, being the key to unraveling the true nature of these murders. With the help of the night nurse Christine and Ororo keeping an eye on the case, Nightcrawler finds out the haunting and supernatural reason behind the murders and Dr. Childs’ involvement.
In The Winding Way (Issues 7-12) Nightcrawler is tormented by a series of surreal dreams involving his past at the circus and something called the Soulsword. This leads to Kurt, alongside Christine and Logan to investigate the circus he had spent quite a bit of time in. And along the way, Amanda Sefton and Margali Szardos, Nightcrawler’s adopted family, alongside Dr. Strange antagonist Nightmare, come to help. After Nightcrawler learns about what is going on and how to stop an array of demons looking for the Soulsword, it concludes with a surprise visit on his birthday.
This series has quite a few good things in it. The art is good. The story is neat. And the supernatural elements to it feel suitable for a Nightcrawler series.
The artwork here is pretty good. Darick Robertson, who has work on The Boys and Legends of the Dark Knight, did a good job. Greg Land, who also worked on the X-Men story Second Coming, is also mentioned as an artist for the series as well, and I think what he contributed is good too.
Though not the most magically savvy like Magik or other sorcerer/sorceress Marvel characters, I did think that having the supernatural element to this series was a good approach. I feel like Nightcrawler stories do have some versatility to them. Some that readers have seen include swashbuckling adventures with pirates, exploring his past, exploring his religious root, and learning to embrace himself for how he looks even if others do not. The direction this run took I feel works with his character. Because while he isn’t a literal sorcerer, his whole shtick with being a “demon” I feel works with how this story also deals with him fighting them, including the brief interaction with Mephisto, as well as his history with Margali and Amanda, two known sorceresses, who help him out with both main plot points in this run. This story also mixes events from his past with the occult stuff with the present conflict, like what really happened the night Nightcrawler killed Stephan, which I think was an interesting way to explore that. Overall, I think the supernatural aspect of this story really works for this series.
Tying into that, I think the story was a well written one. The transition from the first main plot with the hospital to Kurt searching for answers in regards to the Soulsword was solid. The story about the ghosts haunting the subway was a good transitional issue before it got into the main plot of The Winding Way. While the concluding issue wrapped up the necessary plot point that needed to be.
Nothing really felt out of place for what this series was trying to tell, and I liked how it tied a few things together. Namely how the Soulsword and the demons involved with attacking Kurt and his allies ended up tying into Kurt’s past. Without spoiling too much, it tied into a ringleader who wasn’t particularly kind to Kurt. It was also tied to the death of Stefan Szardos’, Margali’s son, which happened after Kurt promised Stefan that he would to stop him by any means should he lose his way.
As far as characters, I think this series handled them well. No one felt out of character. The characters who had a main role outside of Kurt (for obvious reasons) include Ororo (Storm), Logan (Wolverine), Christine Pakmer, Amanda Sefton, Margali Szardos, Hank McCoy (Beast), and Nightmare. Other characters include the doctor at the hospital, the young boy that survived the incident at the hospital, the ghosts of the miners, and the ringleader. And the main antagonists were the demons involved with the hospital murders and the ones sent to retrieve the Soulsword.
Kurt was the star of the series and it did a great job of handling his character and how he approached the conflicts in it. I also really enjoyed how Storm interacted with him as well as Nightcrawler, Storm, and Logan worked together for an issue. The banter between Nightcrawler and Beast was also amusing and insightful. Honestly, I think this series is one of the best examples of just how well he connects with his friends and fellow X-Men and how well of an impact he has on people.
When it comes to this series, I feel like it did a lot of good things. The art was good and the transition between the two main stories was solid. I enjoyed both stories and feel that characters, especially Nightcrawler, That said, this is not a perfect series, and I do have a few critiques. But before that, I wanted to quickly discuss Margali and Amanda as characters separately.
Margali and Amanda: As Characters
The reason I want to separate these two is because I wanted to talk about what I felt they did right in terms of Margali and Amanda as characters. Because while I do not approve of the term or stereotypes, I do want to address what I believe was done well with the characters and their characterization.
In terms of characterization, I would say they were done well. They do not have a lot of appearances since their debut in 1976 (Amanda) and 1980 (Margali and Stefan). Amanda has a few more appearances due to her relationship with Kurt, but both characters aren’t as utilized when compared to other X-Men characters. So having them here was nice. That said, the reason I feel that their characters were done well was because of the role thy had in the series. That being to help Nightcrawler with his cases and showing how he valued his family.
As magic based characters, they had a better understanding of what was going around Nightcrawler and the supernatural conflicts he was looking into. Margali also had a better understanding of the Soulsword and it’s whereabouts. As Kurt’s family, they always have significant. Because Margali took him in when Mystique had abandoned him, Kurt developed a love for his adopted family. So much so that he still sees Margali as a mother, calling her “mother” and “mamí” on several occasions. Family and acceptance has always been important to Nightcrawler’s character. Especially with how most of the world shuns him for being the way he looks. And this series exhibits that through flashbacks, how he interacts with Amanda and Margali, and how they are there to help him.
It’s also worth mentioning that Margali and Amanda were never villainized for being Romani. They were treated as characters and as people.
As for the issues in series surrounding how they are referred to and affiliations, I can say that they are no longer members of the circus and Margali is no longer a fortune teller. And though they haven’t appeared as often as say Wanda or Pietro, I’m sure they will/would be referred to as Romani in future appearances (I’m uncertain what issues they appear in after Kurt’s death in 2010’s Second Coming and his post resurrection solo in 2014, so I cannot say if they have been referred to as Romani in between those). The only thing that has stuck is their past in the circus, which I do not see that changing anytime soon due to Nightcrawler’s past being so linked to Margali and the circus.
However, overall, I would say that Margali and Amanda were treated well as characters. Though the language and stereotypes are there, which are issues regardless, they weren’t villainized in the series for being Romani. And the role that they had was key in helping Kurt and building on how he views his adopted family.
When it comes to negatives, there are two main critiques I have: Christine’s role after the events of the first six issues and a key element to Amanda and Nightcrawler’s relationship that is still present today.
When it comes to Christine, I feel like they didn’t know what to do with her after the events from The Devil Inside. While she is there for support, it just didn’t feel like she had much to do. The biggest point being the state of their relationship, and the uncertainty of it working out. They do end up breaking up with Christine stating that she would be moving for a job, and Kurt agreeing it was probably for the best. Though he did offer to try and make things work.
Other than that, she didn’t have that much purpose during The Winding Way. She and Logan do accompany him on his journey back to the circus he spent time in, both agreeing to come along when asked. Other than that, she ends up getting attack and almost killed. And when it comes to the main conflict, Christine didn’t seem to have as much to do outside of some dialogue and a sense of urgency after she’s attacked. It’s a shame because I feel they could have done something more with her (not sure what at the moment). Though if they only wanted to address their relationship and break up, I feel they could have done one of two things: have Christine stay behind and reveal that she no longer thinks things will work out, or she comes along and after seeing Kurt getting severely hurt, she decides to call it off because she can no longer take the stress of worrying about him dying.
Overall though, I just think that Christine loses something between The Demon Inside and The Winding Way.
When it comes to Nightcrawler and Amanda’s relationship, there has been an aspect of it that always felt odd to me. That being that they dated. At first glance, it might not seem like much to worry about. The problem is, Amanda is Margali’s daughter, and Margali adopted Nightcrawler. Thereby making them adopted siblings.
Even if Nightcrawler wasn’t officially/legally adopted by Margali, she still adopted and raised him as her own. And yes, this isn’t the only time they were romantically involved (they were in some of the earlier X-Men runs and again in the 2014 Nightcrawler solo). However, considering how Nightcrawler sees Margali as a mother and Stefan a brother, which is reciprocated, why the same was never said about Amanda is strange. Yet, Marvel has repeatedly gone back to them dating, despite them being essentially siblings.
Now, to give credit where it’s due, this is probably the least questionable instance in my opinion. In the series, they aren’t together in the present. They were in the past, which is shown through a memory where Kurt teleports to save Amanda when a stunt goes wrong. And in the heat of the moment, they kiss. Then it’s later addressed that Nightcrawler had broken up with her due Amanda to not always being completely honest with him. It may have a few minor instances where it’s referenced, but other than that, I do feel like this series had the least questionable instance of their romance based on the fact that they weren’t together anymore.
The handling of Christine and Kurt’s relationship with the Amanda were the bigger issues I had with the series. Those, and the problematic elements surrounding the apporach to Romani characters, mainly Margali (the stereotypes and term). Christine could have been handled better in the second half of the series due to it feeling like she wasn’t as needed. And while I don’t think Amanda is a bad character and am fine with her having a good relationship with Nightcrawler, I do have an issue with them being romantically involved due to Margali being a mother to both of them. As for the term and stereotypes, regardless of intent or the time it was released, is an issue. I do hope (and currently presume) that they have since learned about the nature of the stereotypes and term and have become more conscientious of it.
I would give this series and eight and a half out of ten. Overall, I would definitely say that this is a really good X-Men stories and one of my favorites when it comes to Nightcrawler. It had a good atmosphere the supernatural elements and the story it told was an interesting one. It also gives some nice insight into Nightcrawler’s past and how it ties to the cases in the present. And the characters for the most part are really good. Kurt as the lead especially, as well as characters like Storm, Wolverine, Margali, Beast, and Amanda.
It does, however, use some terminology and stereotypes towards the Romani that haven’t aged, and in hindsight shouldn’t have been used (unfortunately, there might not be much that can be done about their past in the circus given it’s significant ties to Nightcrawler’s backstory). And while Christine and Amanda had some good contributions to the series, there are a few issues with them. Namely, it doesn’t feel like Christine had much to do in The Winding Way and while it was in the past and not exclusive to this series, Amanda’s romance with Nightcrawler has always been a strange choice to me due to their relationship to Margali.
If you’re looking for a good X-Men title, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Nightcrawler is worth a read.