The Amazing Nightcrawler #3
Who was that mysterious blue woman and why did she want Nightcrawler to see little Tenia Jean's picture? Read this issue for the answer to at least one of those questions.
Not a lot seems to happen in this series. The plot (rivaling film companies) seems pretty yawn-worthy, and most of the action takes place on a set, but I would argue that The Amazing Nightcrawler is actually one of the the best, and most carefully considered books in an already astonishing event. It’s certainly asking some of the biggest, most important questions of the series. Among them, this question blares the loudest: What are families, and why do we need them?
Because we do need them. Even when our biological parents have denied us, for whatever reason, we find ourselves forming our own however we can. While this issue didn’t have the space to satisfactorily scrape the surface of the ‘why’ part of the query, it certainly took a good stab at answering the ‘what’. There are several levels of ‘family’ in this book, and I’m going to break them down here.
First, and least palatable, there is the corporate parody ‘family’ which Regan is running. This is the structure most painfully familiar to everyone who has ever had a crappy job. Employees, like Mindee Cuckoo, are made to suffer and subsist with lowered quality of life (she has a surrogate hive mind, but it’s hurting her) for the benefit of the corporation.
Next, we have two examples of parental relationships: Mystique, hurting her son (again) this time in the hopes of providing him with a new connection. It’s fairly clear that Mystique is repenting for chucking baby Kurt off that cliff (in her bid to live as a successful individual) and has joined up with Apocalypse and his X-Tracts in the hopes of winning over an X-Man. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that her methods work.
The second parental relationship takes place between Kurt and Tenia. He doesn’t know a thing about her, but his biological compulsion is to seek her out and protect her. She is ‘his’. He’ll take care of her. Put that in the ‘positive parenting’ column.
Next, we have the sibling relationship between the Cuckoos. They are ‘better together’ because their relationship is healthy. They support each other, in the face of massive prejudice, and (because of this) they are capable of being allies to their friends.
Friends are another kind of family: a found family. One you make in the face of absence or rejection. The X-Men have always been about a found family. That’s they’re greatest strength. In this case, Kluyn and Amara fit this role.
Finally, romantic relationships lead to new families — especially when those sexual/romantic relationships are based on a foundation of real trust and friendship. This variety of family was cleverly and deeply explored here.
There was one small problem though. During Megan’s speech about the difficulties of being judged for her Romanichal heritage (what a pleasure to hear the proper term, and not a slur) she said that she and Kurt are two opposite sides of the same story because while people were always going to judge him for his appearance, she could ‘always’ blend in. That isn’t true.
Megan’s powers are metamorphic and adaptive. It was cold, when she was born, so she grew fur — alongside a considerably less traditionally human appearance. When Megan was first introduced, as an adult, she bore the monstrous appearance that she’d had since birth. In moments of emotional stress, she still reverts to that appearance. In the context of this story, she would have been born considerably before the world was changed. Like Nightcrawler, she was an adult when it happened, so she would have grown up facing many of the same prejudices as he did.
But this is a niggle.
It’s also worth remembering that, since his inception as a character, Nightcrawler was raised to participate in German Romanichal culture. That was one of the things that they bonded over during their time in Excalibur. One of the (many) reasons that this is such a great story for Nightcrawler is that every real fast he’s had has been Found. He was adopted, after Mystique rejected him. His family was the circus, then, later, the X-Men. He has always been the character most likely to extend compassion to a stranger.
The main point, that forming families (found or biological) is a biological imperative for us. Families, however they look, whether they are composed of (any number of) sexual partnerships, sibling relationships, children, parents, or friends who occasionally form that implacable, undeniable bond, are part of the odd mishmash of things which define us as human. They cannot be denied, at least not without considerable psychological cost.
It was also extremely interesting to see the role that mythology has in maintaining our group perception of reality — and the ways in which these mythologies, these cinematic myths, can melt into propaganda. Nightcrawler’s studio is built on pumping out propaganda. You can’t let the audience think about it too deeply. You have to keep them awash in different versions of your same, repetitive story so that they can absorb the message without thinking about it too deeply, because if they do the message absolutely falls apart. Real art can be worked on, honed. Making propaganda requires maintaining a grinding schedule and one of the best, subtlest bits of writing in this series is showing that the requirements of maintaining this world are wearing Nightcrawler out. He’s constantly exhausted. He is starting to slip up. And when he does, someone is going to get badly hurt.
You’ve seen the cover for issue five of this series, right? Let’s hope it’s not a fatal cut.
The line art in this book continues to bug me. It’s got a lot of extremely satisfying details (the Easter eggs in the film posters are only one of the best bits) but the characters aren’t really expressive enough to sell the story and the women all seem to share the same twelve-year-old face. Mystique and Tenia Jean should not appear to be the same age when you only see the face. It’s an intentional stylistic choice on the part of the artist, and the furthest thing from incompetence, but it bugs me.
As for the colorist and letter: they both blew it out of the park. The shadings, the colors in the sunset, all added serious emotional heft to the dialogue and the lettering was clearly delineated and arranged to compliment the art. The general experience of this book was intensely satisfying.
If you aren’t getting this series, you are missing out.
Reviewed by Bethany W Pope
This series asks some serious questions, hidden behind a compulsively consumable popcorn-flavored plot. If you aren't reading it yet, you are missing out.
Amazing Nightcrawler #3: Found Families and True Lies
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Art - 7.5/107.5/10
- Color - 8.5/108.5/10
- Cover Art - 7.5/107.5/10
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