Kurt Wagner is returning to life (or getting thrown out of heaven!), and none other than legendary X-scribe Chris Claremont is going to be writing the new Nightcrawler series! In honour of the elf, I figure now’s a good time to take a look at what happened the last time he was star of a mini-series…
Running from 2004 to 2006, Roberto Aguirre-sacasa’s series of Nightcrawler was an unusual kind of X-book, featuring supernatural forces rather than evil mutants. Oddly enough, though, I think the main problem was that it wasn’t quite radical enough. What do I mean?
It all began in a wonderfully haunting tale, as Kurt Wagner was asked to do the X-Men a favour. He investigated a horrific event – the deaths of multiple young children – in a storyline that seemed vaguely inspired by the movie Bless the Child.
In the end, it transpired that the killings were a demonic plot, one that a single child had evaded through being a mutant. Kurt and the X-Men successfully thwarted the plans of a handful of fallen angels. Yikes.
The main problem with the series, to me, was that it wasn’t quite radical enough in terms of background characters. In general, it featured X-Men –Storm was a mainstay, Kitty Pryde’s phasing powers were fundamental in resolving the first arc, and Wolverine (of course) was central to the third arc. The only real addition was Nurse Christine Palmer, a beautiful woman who developed into a rather well-rounded character. Amusingly, when Kurt meets her he tells himself to remember why he’s there — or at least remember his name.
And, of course, there was also Kurt’s long-term flame (and more – it’s complicated!), Amanda Sefton.
This is why the series just wasn’t radical enough, though. A horde of demonic figures just don’t cut it as new presences in the Marvel Universe, especially when most of them are killed pretty quickly. The series adds a total of one new character to Kurt’s life, and fails completely to develop his relationship with either to the point where it feels like we’re treading new ground. It really is Kurt Wagner as star of Ghostbusters, with little to no character progression.
Off the back of his first investigation, Kurt gets caught up in supernatural events in the subway. See, this is one thing this series did right; it evolved Kurt in a context unlike anything else in the X-Men universe at the time, and it did so by developing a sense of a world around him. I truly appreciated that.
With this two-parter completed, the writers now began a much more interesting project, attempting to put a new twist on Kurt’s origin. It just didn’t quite take, unfortunately, although the research and continuity was seamless. Again, it depended on Wolverine’s presence in attempting to catch readers.
It’s #12 that is worth noting, though. We learn that Mephisto himself has been behind everything Kurt has endured; he sees Kurt as a figure in the final war between heaven and earth, and tempts him to remove himself from the game. Here’s how:
And here, for posterity’s sake, is Kurt’s response:
I love #12. The issue where Kurt Wagner celebrates his birthday by punching the devil in the face. It’s superb. And, in light of Brand New Day, it’s a temptation that rings much more powerfully – and, whether we quite like it or not, places Kurt’s purity of character against Peter Parker’s guilt-driven decision to rewrite history in a deal with the devil that would restore Aunt May to life.
The series is a decent one. Good characterisation, but just not quite radical enough. It had so much promise, but was unceremoniously cancelled when the X-Men titles were, well, decimated; although one aspect of the Harrowing plotline, the Soulsword being placed inside Kurt Wagner’s body, would be important in developing the character of Magik.
I wonder what Chris Claremont will do…
Incidentally, take a look again at this superb art done exclusively for this site by Benjy Borndahl!