Tag Archives: Graphic Novel

Nightcrawler 2004: A Review

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.

Synopsis

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.

Positives

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.

Criticisms

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.

Conclusion

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.

Nightcrawler: Where it Started, Why I Like Him, and Comics I Own and Have Read

It might go without saying, but Nightcrawler is my favorite Marvel character.  In my experience, I will find that one character that I really get invested in and want to read up on.  When it comes to DC, that comes in the form of Tim Drake (Red Robin/Robin III), Roy Harper (Speedy/Arsenal), Joey Wilson (Jericho), and Ra’s al Ghul.  Of course, I enjoy other characters from both Marvel and DC (ex. Wolverine, Evan Peters’ Quicksilver, Red Hood (Jason Todd), and Starfire), but there will usually be one or two characters that I will always return to.

I thought I would go over where my interest for Nightcrawler began, why I like him, and X-Men comics that I own, alongside Nightcrawler centered stories.

A Little Bit of Background on My Relationship with Marvel and DC

Before I jump right in, I feel like I should preface this stating how I was mostly a DC viewer growing up.  A number of my favorite shows as a kid included Static Shock, Teen Titans, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and Batman Beyond.  I did watch Marvel shows like Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and snippets of X-Men Evolution, enjoyed the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, as well as liking the first 2000’s Fantastic Four.  I would certainly say I was more of a DC fan as a kids. 

That kind of continued when I finally got into comics during the rise of DC’s Rebirth comic line after spending years as a slightly more avid manga reader.  I started reading up on characters I liked and branched out and found new characters and series to enjoy.  Recently, I feel like I’ve hit a wall with what to read next with DC.  With Rebirth ending and not really knowing what to jump into next, I was at a bit of a stalemate.  During this time is when I got interested in checking out Marvel content.  More specifically Nightcrawler/X-Men.  I cannot pinpoint exactly when or why it started, but it was in the last few months.

Currently, I’ve read through a good chunk of the original X-Men run, read through the 2003 run of Wolverine, a few smaller X-Men runs like X-Men Gold, X-Men Red, and All New X-Men, and am planning to jump into Sandman (DC/Gaiman) and getting into the X-Men run starting with House of X.  

The Beginning: Where it Began

With that little bit of history out of the way, allow me to get into Nightcrawler.  I guess it would have started with X-Men Evolution.  I didn’t watch it much when I was younger, but when I did catch it, I found myself liking Kurt.  It probably had to do with how laid back he was and him being the more comedic of the gang (that probably contributed to why I liked TMNT 2003’s Michelangelo too).  One episode of X-Men Evolution I remember watching was Middleverse, the season one episode where Kurt accidently ends up in another dimension of sorts and meets Forge.  It wasn’t the only X-Men media I had watched over the years, as I also remember seeing Wolverine 2013, First Class, and was overall aware of the X-Men movies.  Though, I will admit that I never got around to all of it back then.  

Jump to the latter half of 2021.  I was trying to find more graphic novels to read, but I was at a bit of a stalemate.   I fell into a bit of a DC slump.  Rebirth was ending and The Joker War event, mainly what they did with the Nightwing portion, I think burnt me out a little.  Nothing seemed to be grasping my interest except for Batman Urban Legends, which is where Tim Drake came out as bisexual.  Side note: I actually purchased a hard copy of Batman Urban Legends not too long ago. 

It would be around this time that I would start getting into Nightcrawler.  And it involved a crossover in a DC community I am apart of.  It’s there that this interest in Kurt returned.  It would respawned an interest in Nightcrawler and be what lead to my getting into X-Men as a whole.

Then came the movies, which I am getting around to binging.  I think the only reason I hadn’t was because of how the timeline diverged after First Class and/or Days of Future Past, and for whatever reason that confused me at first.  That and the poor reception of The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Dark Phoenix.  In hindsight, the timeline of the movies isn’t all that complicated, and I’m still going to watch all of movies, weaker ones included.  The movies also had some stellar casting choices.  Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy as Charles Xavier/Professor X, Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto, and Hugh Jackman were all iconic.  A good chunk of the cast was also good.  For instance, people really seem to enjoy Evan Peters’ Peter (Pietro) Maximoff, myself included. 

And of course, there’s Kurt Wagner.  Portrayed by Alan Cummings in X2 and Kodi Smit-McPhee in Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix, I would say both did well with the character.  I kind of like Kodi Smit-McPhee’s a little better, but Alan Cummings did good too.  I only wish either appearance confirmed Nightcrawler’s relation with Mystique, his mother.  Heck, they could have confirmed both of Nightcrawler’s parents in Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix since Azazel, his father, appeared in First Class (and later confirmed dead) and Mystique was present since First Class.

That’s were it all began.  An interest in Nightcrawler’s X-Men Evolution would go dormant until a crossover event reignited by interest in the character.  And his portrayals in the movies have caught my interest.  

The Character: Why I Like Him

Why do I like Nightcrawler?  There’s a lot to like about him, I think.  In terms of design, he looks pretty cool.  His abilities are neat and his weaknesses make sense.  For me, it comes down to personality, backstory, and what he represents.

In terms of personality, he’s light-hearted and optimistic.  He can display moments of anger, sorrow, and fear, but he is usually seen as pretty positive, all things considered.  And with Logan being his best friend, it’s the perfect balance to his more stern and pessimistic world view.  He’s flirty, but not in a problematic or annoying kind of way.  In some ways, he could be seen as a hopeful outlook for the future, while also not being blind to the problems in the world.  

His backstory.  There is a lot that went wrong in his life, despite what his more positive outlook might suggest.  His mother abandoned him as a baby.  The circus that he was raised in drugged and used him.  Said circus was also going to sell him to be a road side attraction if not for Margali Szardos, his adopted mother, freeing him.  And because of a promise he made, Kurt had to kill his adopted brother when he lost his mind and killed a bunch of people, not that the mob knew.

I think his past is something that helps show how despite how terrible things can be, people can still come out of it on top.  It might not be easy, but it is possible.  Life didn’t give Nightcrawler much peace prior to joining the X-Men.  Margali and her biological children certainly love him like family, but the circus they were apart of wanted to exploit him.  And the reason Charles found him being pursued was because the mob chasing him thought he killed Stefan Szardos and the missing people, when in actuality, Stefan killed the missing people and Kurt only killed Stefan out of self-defense and a promise he made to Stefan, where if Stefan went off the deep end, Kurt would stop him.  Yet, he never became cruel later in life, rather, he was a better person than those who wronged him.

I also kind of like how he got the last name Wagner.  At least originally.  I’m not sure if Marvel ever retconned the whole thing where Mystique was married to Baron Christian Wagner and had an affair with Azazel, which later lead to Kurt’s conception, and that being where Kurt got his last name despite not being the baron’s biological son.  Originally, Kurt took on the last name Wagner because of a priest to housed him after Margali released him and he was being pursued.  Father Wagner gave Kurt a place to stay, despite Kurt’s “demonic” appearance.  This is also where Kurt’s teleporting would come into effect as he would use it when Herr Getmann’s men came for him.  He did end up leaving the church, but Kurt didn’t forget the priest’s kindness, taking on the last name Wagner in his honor.  

As for what Kurt represents, I feel he fits into a few different categories.  I’ve mentioned how he represents good people rising up from bad situations, which is one thing he can represent.  Something else he represents is how people shouldn’t judge things based on how they appear.  The old Never Judge a Book by It’s Cover saying if you will.  He might look evil/demonic, but is one of the most kind hearted and saintly people out there.  That’s something that also makes his friendship with Logan great and so symbolic.  Both of them are considered monsters in some way, externally (Kurt) or internally (Logan).  Yet, both are also human.  Logan has gone onto say how Kurt is one of the most saintly guys he’s met, and Kurt, despite knowing how gruesome his job can be, sees the good in Logan and knows that he’s not an animal or evil.

One other thing I feel Kurt represents, and this could just be me, is irony.  He’s a “demon” yet he’s Catholic.  He’s morally good, while his parents would be considered morally bad (though Mystique could be morally grey given she isn’t purely evil and has helped her children).  Both of which I feel perfectly define what irony is.  

Reading Between the Lines: Comics I’ve Read and Comics I Own

I own a handful of X-Men comics.  Some solo series, some with the team.  Nightcrawler has a few solo series: Age of X-Men: The Amazing Nightcrawler, X-Men Icons: Nightcrawler, a four issue mini series, and two twelve solo series in 2003 and 2014.  Of his solo pieces, I own the 2003 and 2014.  I haven’t started them yet, but I have skimmed through both. 

As far as X-Men comics with Nightcrawler as a central character, I’ve read and own several.  Of course there is the X-Men run in the 70’s, starting with Giant Sized X-Men #1 by Chris Claremont.  That run, which does go on for several years, is recommended by quite a few people who want to start X-Men comics.  It’s a classic and a good place for a start.  I don’t own any of the Claremont run, but I do have a list of issues that I’d like to purchase one day.  A few other series I’ve read through in their entirety include X-Men Gold, Extraordinary X-Men.  I’ve read some of Wolverine’s 2003 run, some of Wolverine’s first solo, Second Coming, the story where Nightcrawler dies, and one volume of Chuck Austen’s Uncanny X-Men.  Specifically the Trial of Juggernaut volume since it had the notoriously bad story, The Draco, which I only read after I learned about Kurt’s father through the First Class movie and his appearance in Amazing X-Men volume one (the one where Nightcrawler is brought back to life).

I like Azazel, and don’t mind him as Kurt’s father.  It’s a bit of an unpopular opinion, but that’s okay.  I was going to read The Draco either way because I wanted to see how bad it was.  But since I liked Azazel in his other appearances, The Draco didn’t tarnish it much, outside of thinking that the story could have been a whole lot better.

A few other comics I own, but have yet to start, include House of M, Inferno, Giant-Sized X-Men volume #1 (2020), Way of X, X-Men (2020) volume one, Amazing X-Men volume 1 The Quest for Nightcrawler, The Hellfire Gala, Wolverine (2020) volumes 1-3, The Death of Wolverine, The Return of Wolverine, Wolverine: Weapon X the Gallery Edition, and Wolverine the Deluxe Edition.  I might be missing one or two, but those are the ones I know I own.  Nightcrawler also appears in a number of them.

I would certainly say that my collection is very Nightcrawler and Wolverine involved.  Yes, the broader X-Men comics do have the rest of the X-Men, but if there was a pattern, that would be it.  Which is by no means a problem.  Everyone reads comics a bit differently.  I will certainly read a series if it interests me, but I also like reading comics with my favorite characters.  It’s a reader by reader basis.

While I would recommend all of these, if you are looking for Nightcrawler reads, I would recommend: Claremont’s run starting with Giant-Sized X-Men #1, Nightcrawler (2003), Wolverine by Greg Rucka #6, for both a great story with Logan and Kurt and a gem of a censor passing cover, Second Coming, Amazing X-Men, Nightcrawler (2014), House of M, X-Men Gold, X-Men (2020), Giant-Sized X-Men (2020), Return of Wolverine, Way of X, and Inferno.  There are more out there, I am still working my way through X-Men comics. 

And as for movies, I’d recommend X2, X-Men Apocalypse, and X-Men Dark Phoenix.  I know the last one is considered more of a miss, just like the Dark Phoenix adaptation before it (The Last Stand), but thought I would include it.

BAMF: The Conclusion

Though not X-Men’s most popular member, Nightcrawler is one that is generally liked.  For me, a combination of his personality, backstory, adaptations, and what he symbolically represents is what I enjoy.  I also really enjoy his friendship with Logan.  I hope you enjoyed this little deep dive into why I like Kurt Wagner.  

Now I leave you with the following.  What are your thoughts on Nightcrawler?  What are your favorite adaptations of Nightcrawler?  Favorite stories?  Who’s your favorite X-Men member?

[wpedon id=”1573″ align=”center”]