Tag Archives: Nightcrawler

Holy War: What it Did Wrong and How I Think a Story on Nightcrawler’s Priesthood Could Work

Having read a portion of Chuck Austen’s Uncanny X-Men run, I don’t think it would surprise anyone who has read it if I said it is a bad run. In a way, that is the nature of comics. Some authors’ runs are good, some alright, and some bad. It all really depends.

Chuck Austen certainly falls into the bad category. While he might not be at the top of everyone’s disliked list, I can’t recall the last time I’ve heard people say any of his comics were good. Points made for why he is considered a bad writer comes down to things like characterization, characters introduced, stories, and how he treated a number of female characters during his run.

Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, I do think there were good concepts in his run. That despite the stories themselves being executed poorly, the concepts themselves are not bad. For instance, Nightcrawler at one point being a priest, but not anymore isn’t a bad idea. It’s just how Chuck Austen choose to approach it that made it a poorly received story.

That said, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Chuck Austen’s two worst arcs happen to center on Nightcrawler (Holy War and The Draco). And while I might think there was potential for some concepts in both, I by no mean think they were good stories.

Because of that, I thought I would take these two arcs and see how I think they could have been made better. I finished Holy War earlier this month and I had read The Draco back in August. So I thought this would be a good time to look back at these two arcs and how I think they could have been written better.

I decided to divide it into two different posts so that each arc can be discussed as thoroughly as possible on their own. I’m starting with Holy War since it came first and isn’t as poorly received as The Draco (though not by much). And to approach it, I have divided it up into three parts: A brief synopsis of the story, what the problem was, and what I would do to fix them.

Holy War

Holy War (423-424) was a two part conclusion to wrap up a plot point with the Church of Humanity. After an incident on the school grounds, the X-Men look to investigate. As it would turn out, Nightcrawler ended up becoming a priest though them. The only problem: none of the X-Men remember this happening when Nightcrawler knows he would have told them. When they go to look into it, not only do they find out that the Church of Humanity is attached to several deaths, but was looking to make Nightcrawler a pope only to then expose him as an antichrist so that they could convince people of the Rapture.

What Did Holy War Do Wrong?

For me, one major issues boils down to making Nightcrawler the figure head for this group’s plan. Yes, he looks sinister to the average person (a.k.a. he looks like a demon), but if there’s one thing Nightcrawler is known for is being a Catholic. Even if it’s not always front and center. So making him a pope only to make him an antichrist would feel wrong for the character.

I also feel like it’s super odd that people are surprised that Kurt would want to be a priest or had actually became one. While he might not “look the part”, his fellow X-Men should know that he’s Catholic. Heck, Logan and Kurt did talk about it during the Claremont run back in the 70’s and 80’s. So it’s not like him stating he’s religious is that much of an anomaly. It also shouldn’t be that farfetched that he could be a priest. Sure, it could be odd at first because they know people have given Nightcrawler flack for him being a “demon”, but not to the point that no one thinks he could be a priest. This issue hits Havoc the most since he was the most vocal about how Nightcrawler shouldn’t be a priest because of how he looks.

I also wasn’t too thrilled with how Cyclops approached Nightcrawler at the beginning. It’s more of a nitpick for me, but something about Cyclops how he approached Nightcrawler felt too belligerent for me. I get that six X-Men getting hurt was an issue, but lashing out at Nightcrawler felt like overkill.

How suggestive characters were in this arc is another issue. Both verbally and visually. I can agree that this was an issue because a lot of the comments and how one or two female characters looked felt unnecessary. And the story could have been fine without it.

Before I If I had to give this anything positive, its the art. I know the art might not mean much considering I’m mainly talking about the story itself, however, if there was one thing that I thought it did better than The Draco, it was that. Because while Philip Tan does the cover art, which is a critique for The Draco, the artwork in the story itself is fine.

What a Better Story Could Look Like

I have a few ways that this could have been fixed. First off, separate wanting to make Nightcrawler this antichrist figure and Nightcrawler being a priest. In theory I could see both being their own story. From there, I could see a few ideas playing out.

Note: Kurt is no longer considered a priest. There’s a panel or two that addresses this in I believe Legion of X. There, he states how he went through all the vows and such, but due to circumstance, certain things didn’t hold up any longer. The vow of chastity being one that didn’t hold up.

  1. Kurt becomes a priest, but leaves the church he’s stationed at because of overwhelming anti-mutant sentiments: This is one of two options where Kurt does become a priest, but decides to
  2. Kurt becomes a priest and the church he’s established at respects and appreciates him, but burnout and/or his heart not being in it anymore is what prompts him to retire: This one is a happier alternative to the previous one. Maybe he does go through the process of becoming a priest and finds a church where things work out for him. He’s respected and the people there accept and really like him. However, he ends up retiring. Maybe juggling his daily life, the X-Men, and priesthood makes him feel burnt out. Or perhaps, he feels as though his heart is no longer in it due to juggling everything and feeling like he isn’t as helpful as he could be. So he retires, leaving the church on good terms and is offered a position if he chooses to return in the future.

These are a ways I feel could have been a better story for Holy War. For me, I think if they removed the whole take down the Catholic Church by revealing Nightcrawler is the better option.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I do feel Holy War could have had the potential to be a good story had the story itself been written differently. Personally, I think if they just did a story focusing on Nightcrawler as a priest but eventually retiring, I think that would have been a better idea in the long run. Nightcrawler retiring on his own terms, be it from burnout or feeling it was his time, or the church loathing mutants, I feel would also be a reasonable way for him to no longer be a priest.

Note that I did consider an idea for the cult idea where a group tried to use Nightcrawler’s likeness for their cause. And in it, Nightcrawler would denounce it both in private and publicly (via a broadcast showing him taking down the cult that paraded around with his likeness). However, given how poorly received that angle in Holy War was, I thought it best to avoid what an alternative focusing solely on that would look like.

But what do you think? Do you think the concepts behind Holy War could have been good? Why or why not? How would you approach an altered version of it?

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?


Kurt Wagner: Irony at its Finest

Nightcrawler. Kurt Wagner. Demon. Elf. Several ways to name this member of the second class of X-Men. Though not as popular as his teammates, Wolverine and Storm, Nightcrawler is a character that is typically appreciated and enjoyed by just about anyone.

If there’s one thing I like about Kurt, it’s that he shows how he opposes every assumption and expectation that’s given to him in order to be heroic and kind hearted. I also enjoy how he seems to be a walking irony. Irony is a term that generally has a difficult time explaining itself, which can sometimes result in misusing it in daily situations.

Irony: When someone says or does something that is the opposite of what is norm. A literary device where contradictory statements or situations coincide when it normally wouldn’t. A humorous tool depending on the situation/statement.

Defining irony is hard. As is having a proper example. I had to look at several explanations so I could properly define it as simply as possible. The problem with defining irony and expressing it is that people may use irony incorrectly in place of coincidence (two coworkers wearing the same shirt on the same day, running into someone several times at the supermarket, etc.). Not intentionally I would presume, but it happens. Both have very similar executions, but coincidences are merely unexpected turn of events, where as irony is usually a literary technic or situation where the exact opposite of an expectation happens in a singular instance.

Some easy examples include, a. A fire station burning down, b. telling a quiet group to not speak all at one, and c. delivering bad news with “good news…”

With the definition of irony now kind of set, you might be wondering…

What Does X-Men’s Nightcrawler have to do with Irony?

It has to do with the character himself. Anyone who is familiar with Nightcrawler will know that he typically exhibits the following traits:

  • His appearance: blue fur (as opposed to Mystique, who’s blue hue is her natural skin tone), three fingers and two toes, fangs, yellow irisless eyes, and a prehensile tail.
  • He grew up in the circus
  • He was born and raised in Bavaria, Germany
  • He’s had multiple romances, including Ororo Munroe (Storm) and Wanda Maximoff (Scarlett Witch)
  • His mother is Mystique, the iconic shapeshifter and known adversary to the X-Men
  • His father is Azazel, a demonic mutant
  • Rogue is his adopted sister
  • He is often referred to as a demon among non-mutants, but to people who know him, as saintly and kind hearted as they come
  • He’s Catholic

There are two ways that this fuzzy blue elf fits into an ironic architype. That being his demonic appearance vs his Catholic roots and the fact that he comes from two morally questionable parents, yet is seen as one of the purest characters.

The Irony of Being a “Demonic” Catholic

“What does it look like?” -Kurt “Incongruitous. I guess I never figured you for the religious type.” -Logan

Uncanny X-Men #164 Binary Star (December 1982)

While Kurt would be categorized as a mutant (though how they define Azazel’s whole biblical demon shtick can get a little murky at times), there has been multiple instances where people would call him a demon. For instance, when he first met Charles Xavier, he was being chased by a mob who thought he was a demon.

As the series would go on, readers would find out that Kurt Wagner is a devout Catholic, who took the last name of a priest who protected him when he escaped the circus. This would become one of his defining traits and he never uses it as a way to make himself feel like he’s better than anyone else. In fact, it’s one of several differences that he has with Logan, his best friend, and they have a mutual understanding and respect for why the other believe what they believe.

His religious beliefs, coupled with his appearance would be a perceived irony as well as a literal irony to some degree. Because he looks demonic, people might not expect that he is particularly religious, least of all a Catholic (or similar). A general observation/assumption would be that demons wouldn’t be known for practicing any form of faith, yet, Kurt shows that such perceptions can be false.

This is something Logan kind of notes when he finds Kurt praying. He didn’t really care, but he notes that he didn’t see Kurt being particularly religious, and seeing him pray felt out of place . Kurt, wondering if it had to do with how he looks goes on to mention how he doesn’t get to church often, more than likely because of how he appears, but finds comfort in pray and his beliefs.

“Why, don’t I look the part? I’ll admit I’m rarely seen at a church — but I draw comfort from my beliefs and from prayer. Such comfort is dearly needed — by us all…” -Kurt

Uncanny X-Men #164 Jan. 1983

Logan doesn’t question it, but does tell Kurt why he isn’t particularly religious when Kurt suggests he tries praying. Like his friend, Kurt accepts Logan’s position, but notes how it must be lonely. Logan says he isn’t lonely, he has Kurt.

This scene shows how ironic/odd Kurt appears as someone who looks like he does while being Catholic as well as giving a respectful approach to their differing religious beliefs.

The Situational and Genetic Irony of Kurt’s Morality

If there is one aspect in Nightcrawler’s character that I would like to delve into has to do with his spirit and never falling to his past trauma. He is a character who, despite being given the worst deck in X-Men, manages to stay strong and not fall into darkness. If there is one thing that people seem to enjoy about Marvel and its characters, it’s the relatability and complexity characters have. While the same can be said for DC characters, it may be easier to enjoy or relate to a character. X-Men is a series that plays on that a lot, because the concept of unity and acceptance is something that people can relate to and each character has their own individual struggles alongside that. Even characters like Magneto may be considered antagonistic, can be easy to understand.

With that in mind, Kurt’s parents acts as both a struggle and an irony. Because both of his parents are more antagonistic, that would create some tension. And the face he wasn’t raised by either, shows how he may have had a better chance at making his own choices.

Mystique abandoned him as a newborn, throwing him over a cliff in some cases. She would later adopt Rogue. And despite coming around to him to some degree, she isn’t exactly winning any awards for being the best mother, even if her reason to abandon him had some validity to them. For her and Kurt, there isn’t much of a familial bond.

Azazel, on the other hand, only really wanted children to expand his legacy and return to Earth from the Brimstone Dimension (that little pocket dimension Kurt goes to when bamf-ing). For Azazel, Kurt’s existence was to justify his need. And while some sources say that Mystique was the only woman Azazel loved, where Kurt fits is anyone’s guess.

Of course, this is about irony and not Nightcrawler’s family quarrels. However a little context never hurt.

What makes Kurt and his family dynamic ironic is when you consider both parents would be considered morally suspect and Kurt being the exact opposite. One might think the old saying “evil breeds evil” would apply to this situation, or at the very least, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Mystique and Azazel’s child was corrupt.

So when their child ends up being one of the least corrupt characters in the franchise, it says a lot. While readers could look at this as two negatives creating a positive, which I could see as well, I think irony suits their morality dynamic very well. And while his upbringing with a mother who wasn’t Mystique, this kind of genetic/situational irony could work in an instance where he was raised by Mystique.

One example that came to mind was Kovu from the second Lion King movie. He was raised by Zira to follow in Scar’s footsteps. She spent years raising him to hate Simba and to take him down. Becoming like Scar and taking over Pride Rock was a big driving force for his character. Yet, as he infiltrated Simba’s pride and connected with Kiara and Simba, Kovu ends up not becoming like his adopted father and instead becoming his own lion and a better character.

Kurt becoming the opposite of what his parents were, much like Kovu, is a notable example of irony in a situation/genetic irony setting.

In Conclusion

Irony is a hard thing to define or give example of. It’s tricky and confusing, but with enough practice, something that can be made easier. Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler, is a perfect example of irony. His evil appearance matched with his Catholic upbringing and kind hearted nature coupled with him becoming the opposite of what his parents are on the morality scale are great examples of it.

An Introspective in Controversy: Uncanny X-Men The Draco

As I continue to look into Kurt Wagner reads, I thought I would take a moment to do a little discussion. An introspective if you will. I have recently read and reviewed The Draco, and thought I would do a tie in introspective.

Why, you might ask, because tangents I had (that didn’t ended up making it into my review), felt like they deserved their own discussion. So while I continue on with book reviews and recommendations, I am working out two other posts that were too off topic for my The Draco: Review along with this introspective. One will look at Nightcrawler’s family, and another, discussing Azazel and why I think he could be a good character outside of The Draco.

Today, however, I bring you an introspective. I’ve broken this down into two parts: Why it’s controversial and my unpopular opinion, and I will conclude with a summary of my thoughts on it and if it “aged well”. For my full review, you can find it here: https://the-little-library.org/2021/11/24/uncanny-x-men-the-draco-review/

With that out of the way, let’s get to it.

Why the Controversy?

The Draco would go down in X-Men history, but not for a good reason. If I was talking strictly based on the story itself, a lot of issues come from it. As one of the worst X-Men stories or one of the most contentious Nightcrawler stories.

Now this (along side other issues in the Trial of Juggernaut volume) is the only comic by Chuck Austen I think I’ve read. So I can’t personally say whether or not any of his other works in Marvel (or DC) were better or worse. Though I can say that it was pretty poorly executed (more on that later). What I do know is that this was the story that lead to the end of Chuck Austen’s career with Marvel and DC.

While researching The Draco for thoughts, opinions, and such, I have come across a few different points for not liking this story or elements in it. This was a story that, not only would be what Chuck Austen would go down for, but also lead to a career ending stint with Marvel and DC.

Artistically Unattractive and Poor Storytelling

Getting the technical side of it out of the way, yes the story isn’t great and the art is shaky. If that was the only problem, I don’t think it would have became as infamous, but it’s still worth noting. When I read it, the art kind of reminded me of Dextor Soy, one of my favorite DC artists, who worked on Red Hood and the Outlaws (2016),but not as good. That may sound like a weird comparison, but it was the closest I could think of with the art.

And while bad art can bring down a good story in the case of The Draco, the story is not much better. I may be giving it too much credit when I say that there was a good concept there, but how it was executed was terrible. That much I do agree on, and I also agree that certain characters felt out of character.

I have also seen the case made (and reasonably so) on how certain scenes in this cross the line of harmless fanservice to going too far.

Azazel Being Kurt’s Father

Part of it comes down to what Azazel, the walking, talking demon of a mutant, does for the character he took part in creating. Now, Kurt is already kind of a walking, talking irony being a Catholic “Demon”, but for almost 30 years, it was only a physical irony and not a literal one. Kurt’s whole schtick is that he looks like a monster but has a heart of gold (as opposed to say Wolverine who looks human, but internally would be considered a monster). As well as, or alternatively, an example of not judging a book by it’s cover.

With Azazel being his dad and essentially the mutant equivalent to a demon/devil, fans felt like this gave the mob the right to go after this demon (Kurt) in their town. And it could feel counter intuitive of X-Men’s original message against discrimination. (X-Men was created in ’63 and one of the big things X-Men is symbolic of is the Civil Rights Movement).

My Unpopular Opinion

I may be in the minority when I say that I like Azazel (I’m sure there are others who do as well). That doesn’t mean I will discredit the criticisms with the character, as I respectfully understand why they are there.

I can certainly see how what Azazel is can dent X-Men’s overall moral/symbolism, however, I feel he adds to what Nightcrawler symbolizes. I feel he still proves that looks can be deceiving. And with both parents being considered evil, I feel like it adds an angle of evil not always breeding evil to the mix.

It’s worth noting that I am new to the comics for Marvel and X-Men as a whole. And having only recently gotten into the X-Men comics (thanks to Nightcrawler), I may be viewing Azazel as a character at a slightly different angle. Heck, The Draco wasn’t even my first introduction to the character.

The Draco was on a blog listing Nightcrawler centered stories, when I started looking for recommendations. It did have a disclaimer for how it was bad/poorly received, but it was still focused on him.

As I mentioned earlier, it wasn’t the first Azazel present story I read, Amazing X-Men and First Class were. I could have still hated him, sure, but I don’t.

Maybe I’m optimistic when I say he has potential in the right hands. Or maybe my introduction to him through other (non Chuck Austen) comics gave me the chance to view the character differently. Maybe both. And maybe in an attempt to find one good thing in The Draco, I took his other appearances as a reason as that one positive thing.

Readers have a reason to dislike him and I respect that. I merely see a character with potential and would have been better off not introduced by Chuck Austen.

What do I Think of The Draco? Did it Age Well?

I am in the majority when it comes to this story. It’s terrible. It’s poorly written. Poorly executed. It has bad artwork (which if you’ve noticed, I only used once cover twice in this entire discussion). And while I may defend Azazel to a degree, I can see why people would dislike the character.

As far as aging, it has not. It isn’t like Twilight, were it was a hit back from 2005-2012, but aged horribly. Nor is it like Lord of the Rings or Howl’s Moving Castle, which time has gifted with aging well.

The Draco wasn’t going to age well, but it wasn’t going to age poorly either. Being detested from the get go, the only thing time could do, was make it worse. And even if, someone read this and thought the hate was overblown, I doubt they would say it’s good.

In short, this story took what could have been a good concept, but executed it poorly and didn’t age for the better.

Uncanny X-Men The Draco: Review

In my journey to read Nightcrawler focused arcs, I decided to read this kicker of a story. Going into this, I knew that this is a bit of a controversial/hated title and got the writer blackballed by Marvel and DC. I wasn’t sure when I would get to this, but since I got a copy via my library, now is as good a time as any.

Why Read it?

Some of you may be wondering, “if you already knew who Azazel was and how hated this story is, why read it?” Well, my curious reader, I actually have a few reasons for checking this out. Some of which are directed at how bad this story is perceived, and one seemingly reasonable rational.

The main reason I decided to jump into this, is for Nightcrawler himself. You see, when I get into a series (tv shows, movies, etc.) or conglomerates like DC and Marvel, I will typically latch onto/be drawn to a certain character or characters. For example with DC, it was Nightwing and later Red Robin (Tim Drake). For Marvel, and by extent X-Men, it’s Nightcrawler a.k.a. Kurt Wagner. As such, when I get interested in a character, I will want to read stories focusing on them, be it a solo series or in a team. So I was going to check this out eventually anyways.

Now, for the poorly received perspective, I kind of narrowed it down to three main reasons. They are reasons that I felt anyone could or would have when read something that’s considered bad. And for each reason, I will use an example of a poorly received X-Men movie as a comparison for uniformity’s sake.

Firstly, I wanted to read it to see how bad it is. While whether something is good or bad can be subjective at times, this seems to be a title that is almost unanimously hated. Especially with media (comics, video game, shows, etc.). I haven’t seen a lot of people, if any, defend this arc, and I don’t think I blame them. Think of it like X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Someone might decide to it despite being told it was so bad (e.g. *insert comment about Deadpool*).

Secondly, to see if all the hate is really justified. Criticism is all fine and dandy, but sometimes, you may get a piece of media that maybe unjustly hated. Outside of Marvel, I would say it’s the 2009’s Watchmen. Was it a perfect adaptation? No, but I feel it did do a lot right. For Marvel, I’ll go with Dark Phoenix in this case. I have yet to see it myself (I’ll get to it since I am binging the X-Men movies), but from what I’ve heard, it’s one of those movies that certainly got a good amount of hate. Something it, and the previous Dark Phoenix movie (The Last Stand), have in common. This would probably be an example of a movie being justifiably criticized.

Lastly, it could be a case of a story being hated when it first came out, but maybe not as much today. Either because it’s bad in a dated sense (or what have you) or maybe it wasn’t as bad as you remembered, maybe being good for the time (but maybe not by today’s standards). Let’s go with The Last Stand in this case. Like Dark Phoenix, The Last Stand is considered the worst of it’s franchise. Both were also about Jean Grey and the Dark Phoenix entity. And both were a sort of conclusion to their own timeline/universe (TLS for the first three movies, TDP for First Class onward). Which one is the worst will depend on who you talk to, but while looking around at reviews and the like, it seems like The Last Stand is the least hated of the two. Maybe still bad, but between it’s release and now, it seems more people prefer it over Dark Phoenix (excluding how The Last Stand may have done Scott dirty). It may still be the worst of the trilogy, but it’s also had time for the hate to settle, though not completely wane.

My Review

With that little thought process out of the way, onto my review. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Honestly not too much.

I have to agree that this is a pretty badly executed story. I may still be new to the X-Men comic, but I know a faulty story when I see it. For instance, Heroes in Crisis being another poorly received comic I’ve read. And much like Heroes in Crisis, I feel like it had a good idea conceptually, but a terrible execution.

I feel like the idea of introducing Nightcrawler’s father wasn’t a bad concept. (Disclaimer: at one point Mystique and Destiny were planned to be his parents, with Mystique acting as the father via shapeshifting. But due to it not being appropriate for the time, it didn’t end up happening). However, it’s reasonable for people to dislike how they handled it. Be it for what Azazel does for Kurt’s character, how the story handled it, or Chuck Austen’s shaky writing.

I’ll try not to dwell too long on the whole Azazel being his father, but it is a talking point. I know it wasn’t well received based on it giving the mob credence for wanting to destroy the “demon” (Kurt) because now he pretty much is one, or at least the mutant equivalent of one (like how Angel is the mutant equivalent of… well an angel). I’ve also seen the argument on how having Destiny and Mystique being his parents like originally planned would have been preferable (which is reasonable and would be more accepted today compared to the 80’s and 90’s).

For me, I like Azazel as his father, which may be an unpopular opinion. That said, I do respect why he’s a disliked character in some circles. However, with him being such a conflicting character, you may be wondering why I like him. Which is fair. Usually when a character is disliked be it for poor writing (Euron Grayjoy), a character readers are supposed to dislike (Joffrey Baratheon), what have you, it may seem odd when someone does.

The reason I like him is for some of the reasons he’s hated as well as a few other reasons. I think Nightcrawler being a “demon” (or the mutant equivalent) still makes him a great example of not judging someone based on their appearance. Just with an added layer of one not expecting a “demon” to be kind hearted and morally outstanding.

I also feel like it gives an added layer of irony to him. He was already being a “demon” Catholic and this kind of cements that.

Side Note: I feel like, had he been introduced by someone other than Chuck Austen, Azazel would have been better received and developed.

There’s also the fact I’m getting into X-Men comics now as opposed to years ago. So my perception may be different. I know it is a big deal for some (in a negative way) and that’s fine. I just view Azazel as a character a little differently.

My itty bitty positive aside (I can and will go further, jut not here), The Draco was a mess. The art is bad. I compare it to Dexter Soy (one of my favorite artists) but instead of being charming, its a terrible version of it.

While I give it the benefit of having a good concept, it’s the execution is bad. I haven’t read Chuck Austen’s other works, but I don’t think any of it could/would be worse than this.

Having read some reviews on it, I can agree that characters can feel odd/out of character (Mystique for me). I’ve also read a post discussing how it crossed the line of harmless fanservice into gross territory. Specifically with Kurt, why he unnecessarily ogled at by a character, and how it was unnecessary for him to be various degrees of exposed. I agree with the user. Fanservice in and of itself isn’t inherently bad, but there is that fine line between harmless fun and grossly unwarranted.

In Conclusion

Do I think The Draco was worth a read? Yes. Is it good? No. Did it age well? It wasn’t even good enough to age well. Was anything good about it? Conceptually, something was there, just poorly executed, and me liking Azazel as a concept and character.

If you asked for a recommended read, be it of an X-Men title or Nightcrawler story, I wouldn’t recommend it. I would suggest reading it for the sake of a Nightcrawler story, but with the caveat that it is one of the most controversial X-Men stories. And while I like Azazel, I feel like he was done better in First Class (the movie) and Amazing X-Men (2013). Sure, he was unceremoniously killed in Days of Future Past in the former’s case (how one kills an immortal like Azazel is questioned by some people) and the latter lead to Kurt getting booted out of heaven for losing his soul because of Azazel, but Azazel was handled better when not in the hands of Chuck Austen.