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The Age of X-Man storyline was one that was filled with mystery, very much demanding tie-in series like Amazing Nightcrawler. In series like this, writer Seanan McGuire and artist Juan Frigeri were able to explore a character like Nightcrawler under a different light. He’s changed due to his surroundings and past being augmented, but is he the same man? It’s an intriguing way to shed light on a character and by the end of this five-issue series, we see that.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Kurt Wagner is the star of the Age of X-Man! From the Munich circus to Hollywood Boulevard, everyone loves Nightcrawler – the biggest celebrity/super hero since Dwayne Johnson! And juggling Kurt’s responsibilities as one of the X-Men and his slate of summer blockbusters would be impossible without the best support staff in the business: stunt coordinator Magma! Personal trainer Kylun! And of course, his leading lady Meggan! But something is rotten in Tinseltown – and there’s tabloid terror in store when it’s discovered that our leading man has a secret! Can Nightcrawler’s squeaky-clean public image survive an explosive affair?
Why does this matter?
The premise of this series is quite fascinating as it shows us a mutant who is usually cast out and is now in the limelight working as a superstar actor. While he’s juggling this day job he’s also a superhero saving the day. How does one manage these lifestyles?
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Seanan McGuire opens this series with action and adventure, dropping the reader into a battle but soon you realize it’s actually a movie set. We learn Nightcrawler is the biggest movie star in the world and it suits a true dream of his given he’s always been cast out, even amongst his own people. Instead, here he’s living a dream, but is that a dream he really wants? McGuire explores that well and while I think you’ll need to bring your knowledge of the character to this read to really enjoy it it’s a good story to tell. What’s funny is how he doesn’t seem to truly love it; maybe because he’s burned out, or maybe because being an X-Man is more important to him deep down. It’s an interesting element to explore as the story pushes forward. One could argue Nightcrawler is subconsciously aware this isn’t his real life and it’s interesting to see how the true nature of the character comes out.
This series is largely about managing your emotions in a world where base instincts and feelings are outlawed. Nightcrawler must manage his guilt and fear after breaking a key law in this world and he has to live with that. At the same time he loves being an X-Man, but how can he balance being part of a group that also stands for something he’s not? As the story unfolds we get to see Kurt be a hero by saving a kid and it’s clear he values that part of his life. Later it’s suggested the X-Men are notified of a separate issue and it’s interesting to see Nightcrawler’s point of view. It’s not on the surface, but he’s clearly internalizing how fishy the X-Men can be. It’s also interesting to see how McGuire is handling the Cuckoo sisters. In the first issue, we learned most folks find their bond disturbing and wrong. They are family after all, but in this world, any connection like theirs is considered taboo. It’s another example of a seemingly perfect world forcing folks to live unnatural lives.
The art by Juan Frigeri is good throughout, managing to pump up the action when it does occur. There’s a funny visual gag involving breasts that’s not to be missed and a scene with Nightcrawler calling Jean Grey is well rendered too. The home run shot is a full-page spread of Nightcrawler sort of coming to grips with the world he lives in. Largely this series is about spotting mutants in this new world and Frigeri does well to capture that, especially in a night club scene that uses a great full-page splash of the club from above letting your eye linger on couples across the room.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The series leans heavily on mutant cameos to serve as the superhero content. The pace is quite slow throughout, and when there are fight scenes and conflict it’s somewhat unnatural and odd. A failing of this and other tie-in series for Age of X-Man is how little we learn about the world. It’s as if a mandate was put in place to only allow the Marvelous X-Men series to give us answers, forcing these tie-in series to play around with the alternate reality but shed zero light on things. It makes for a frustrating experience.
Is it good?
A good series if you’re interested in characters fighting their base instincts living unnatural lives. How will Nightcrawler do the right thing in a world that has outlawed the natural feeling of love? That’s exciting and it’s fun to see how the creative team squeezes Nightcrawler. That said, the tie-in doesn’t shed too much light on anything and is paced too slowly to keep your interest up.
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