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Nov 10

Amazing X-Men v2 #1

Posted on Sunday, November 10, 2013 by Paul in x-axis

I’ll return to this storyline in full once it’s over, obviously.  But in the interests of balance, let’s have a quick look at Amazing #1.

To all intents and purposes, this is a relaunch of Astonishing X-Men, the one-time flagship title that was allowed to wander into obscurity over the years, and didn’t even get invited to the last crossover.  As with any new X-Men title, the immediate question is, what (if anything) marks it out from the rest of the line?

This one doesn’t have a central gimmick like All-New or Uncanny.  In interviews, the line has been that Wolverine and the X-Men is about the X-Men as teachers, and this book will be about them as heroes.  But you could say that about X-Men too, especially since Brian Wood had disavowed any suggestion that the all-female cast of that book is supposed to be its hook.  And it’s a second Jason Aaron title, so it’s not obvious that it’s going to have a distinctive tone either.  The absurdity is certainly reined in by comparison with W&tX, but that’s hardly saying much.  This is still a comic about Azazel invading the afterlife.

But I liked it.  The focus of the opening arc is the return of Nightcrawler, and it’s clear that both Aaron and artist Ed McGuinness get his appeal.  This is good, because it’s been a surprisingly long time since any creative team has got him right.  In the land of the angst-ridden, Nightcrawler is, if not angst-free, certainly angst-lite.  He brings to the team a swashbuckling joy in adventure and a sense that, for all the terrible things the team has to face, this is still ultimately fun.  He’s never had many classic stories of his own, but he’s a valuable character in bringing some light to the series and some balance to the team dynamic.

This surely isn’t hard.  And yet otherwise sane creators (and Chuck Austen) decided first to use the character for an exploration of religious angst, and then to simply stick him at the back of crowd scenes for a few years.  Then one day he got killed because they wanted to make Hope’s debut look important, and it wasn’t like anyone had plans for him.  Not many people will feel cheated by the reversal of Kurt’s death, which threw him away in service of a character who no longer needs the boost.  It was never even his story.  He deserved better.

So Aaron wisely jettisons all of that brooding and makes sure to establish right from the opening scene that this is Kurt the fencing elf, and all of these wrong turns are going to get the discreet burial they deserve.  Ed McGuinness’ take on the character shows a heavy influence from Alan Davis, which is all to the better.  It’s been a long time since people have just done Nightcrawler straight and got it right.  It’s good to see.

That still leaves the problem that he’s dead, which Aaron chooses to address by doing a magical story in which the X-Men are drawn into a literal invasion of the afterlife by Nightcrawler’s father.  To avoid the messy question of what Kurt actually experience in the afterlife, we’re told outright that he’s spent the entire time hanging around on the fringes and has never really ventured inside.  And sure, if you’re going to bring major characters back from the dead, best make a real song and dance about it.  These things should never seem routine.

Still, Azazel?  Added to Kurt’s back story during the lamentable Chuck Austen run, Azazel was the main villain of “The Draco”, one of the more incompetent entries in X-Men history.  That in itself doesn’t make him a fundamentally flawed character.  But Kurt certainly didn’t benefit as a character from the revelation that his biological father was an immortal mutant who claimed to be the real Satan.  It makes his demonic appearance tiresomely literal and it clutters his back story with unnecessary crap.  Even leaving aside the quality issues with “The Draco” itself, which are profound, Azazel is still a bad idea.

Here, though, at least he’s made more fun – an equally flamboyant lunatic presented less as a demon and more as an evil version of Nightcrawler himself, complete with his own red Bamfs.  I guess I can see why he’s here; the list of Nightcrawler solo villains is very short, and Mystique’s already hopelessly overused at the moment.  But I have some trepidation about him sticking around.

Oh, there’s also a subplot, in which Firestar arrives at the school to join the team, and basically plays the confused ingenue all issue while craziness goes on around her.  It’s fine, and it makes sense to use her as the eyes of the reader, but it doesn’t really give her all that much to do, which means that the story never quite gets round to selling us on why a franchise with an already massive cast needs to be adding Firestar.  I don’t quite get what she’s meant to be adding.

Overall, though, a really fun first issue.  I was sceptical about bringing Nightcrawler back, since it’s been so many years since anything was done with him, but it looks like Aaron and McGuinness know how to recapture the enthusiasm he used to bring to the book.

Bring on the comments

  1. Odessasteps says:

    As an old nerd, i like seeing Firestar reacquiant herself with Iceman.

  2. Sol says:

    “It’s been a long time since people have just done Nightcrawler straight and got it right.” And I have just purchased my first X-men comic since “Uncanny Avengers #1”!

  3. Tdubs says:

    After this issue it’s going to be hard to argue that Firestar is here for any reason other than a bigger name yanked Kitty from Aaron (right down to her attraction to iceman.) To me this was the best X-men book since schism.

  4. Matt C. says:

    There are certain stories throughout the years, in different franchises, that are so stupid that I hate seeing referenced in any sense or form. Over in Transformers, it’s anything related to “Heart of Darkness.” In X-Men, it’s “The Draco.” Azazel… ugh. Still, using him as an Evil Insane Nightcrawler works as a foil, I suppose. As long as we firmly establish that he’s not really Satan, I guess I can live with it.

    I agree with Odessasteps, it’s nice to see Firestar come back just to hang out with Iceman. Maybe Spider-Man can drop by too… I think TDubs is right in that she’s basically here to fill Kitty’s role, personality-wise.

    (Where is the Warbird/Iceman thing from? Astonishing? I don’t recall seeing it in WATXM)

    I definitely am glad that Aaron’s getting another comic though… WATXM is too zany/kiddy for me, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen him do on less slapstick X-Men stories. And it beats Bendis by light years, at least.

  5. Tim O'Neil says:

    One thing that bugged me: obviously the reason they picked Firestar was that she was one of the most high-profile mutants who had never been affiliated with the X-Men in any way, plus she was an AMAZING FRIEND with Iceman and since this is AMAZING X-MEN god forbid Marvel lose a chance to be as literal-minded as possible.

    But she’s actually a good pick to be a teacher since she’s one of the few super-heroes who is actually QUALIFIED to be a teacher: she’s been in grad school the past few years, so as far as the story is concerned she could easily have an MA or even a PhD by now. The problem is that her field was ART HISTORY, and now she’s teaching PHYSICS.

    These are not really what you might call contiguous disciplines. Obviously the school already has an art teacher but . . . physics? How the fuck?

  6. The original Matt says:

    Loved this comic. High hopes for this series now.

  7. Michael says:

    I noticed that when Firestar and Iceman were in the same panel, Bobby was drawn to resemble his classic look… smooth, clear angles, just as he was portrayed in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.

    Not an artistic error, either, since later he reverts back to that godawful look with all the bits and pieces sticking out of him. Definitely a cute touch, given that the two have had extremely little time together in the MU, despite their shared past in the cartoon.

  8. ASV says:

    Is there any way that this isn’t just another Wolverine and the X-Men? Same cast, same setting, same writer, similar artist, yes?

  9. The original Matt says:

    AXM is Jason Aaron writing an X-men book. WatXM is about the school dynamic.

  10. Suzene says:

    @ASV – My impression after reading #1 is that what we’re getting here is “Actually Wolverine and the X-Men” as opposed to “The X-Kids Book With Wolverine’s Name On It”.

    Like most, I thought the art was great and it was nice to see Nightcrawler back to form right out the gate. I was a lot less fond Generic Newbie Firestar; just grab Pixie or Armor if we MUST have someone to fill out the obligatory junior X-Man role, because the JGS side has a bloated enough cast as it is. And I hated Aaron going back to Warbird’s hil-lar-ious sexual assault schtick. If the sexes on Warbird and Iceman were flipped, Warbird would be considered an entirely vile character, but because she has tits, her actions get played for laughs. Not a fan.

    I’ll probably stick around for the first arc (or until Northstar gets rotated out of the cast), but if this issues is any indication, AXM is really is too close in tone to WatXM for me to stick with it long term.

  11. I thought we all quietly agreed to never mention Azazel or The Draco ever again. Wasn’t that the deal? Same with the various Xorn siblings.

  12. ZZZ says:

    I always thought it was weird that Firestar didn’t join the X-Men sooner, since she was a created as a former member of the X-Men for the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends cartoon. Even as a litte kid I understood that they couldn’t just retcon her into the comics as a former X-Man, but I always figured they’d have her join the team before long. (Fun fact: The issue that introduced Firestar to the comics was the second comic book I ever read).

    It’s especially nice to see Nightcrawler back in his classic costume. There was an issue of Excalibur where he comments on the fact that, of all the X-Men, he’s the one who’s always ended up back in his original uniform, and (possibly because of that observation) nothing else they’ve ever put him in has ever looked right to me.

    It’s also nice to see Iceman with a smooth head again instead of that terrible Count Chocula look he’s been sporting for years now (in most of the interior art at least – he’s still got the Chocula hair spikes on the cover and in some panels).

  13. kingderella says:

    The Draco was terrible and Azazel unnecessary, but I’m surprisingly fond of how they’re using him here. I never thought I’d say that.

    It’s funny that, after enough time has passed, you can dig up almost any terrible idea and make it look kind of ok. Note how they’re teasing Onslaught over at Uncanny Avengers, and it looks reasonably promising. Or what they did with Shatterstar.

  14. Arndt says:

    Azazel was in the first X-Men movie.

    By which, of course, I mean X-Men First Class. It came out very recently.

    It amazed me, of course, that they made four Wolverine movies before coming out with an X-Men team movie, and then they put out a fifth one.

    Although his role in the First Class movie was closer to what it should have been in the comics…. an older teleporting demon-looking character.

  15. Niall says:

    Looking forward to this. I like Nightcrawler. He’s different and he’s intentionally funny. This was a fun issue.

    It reminds me a little of WATX before it went insane. The first arc was great – before they started cluttering the book with one-note joke characters.

    As a matter of interest, who was Austen’s editor on the Draco?

  16. Odessasteps says:

    Has Firestarbeen in any of the movies yet?

    I always thought a co ic centered around a hero in grad school would be a good concept for a mini series.

    The one i triedto pitch 20-ish years was Jesse Quick when she waswriting her thesis on superheroes. Of course, i was also in grads chool at the time, so. Ight habe been in a bubble. 🙂

  17. Paul says:

    @Niall: Mike Marts, I think.

  18. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    @Arndt And early signs are that they’re currently working on a sixth…

  19. Sol says:

    OMG, that was great.

    One question for the people who have actually been paying attention: Is the Angel in this issue the Silver-age Angel visiting from the past, or have their been massive changes to Angel’s status quo since the last time I saw him?

  20. Tim O'Neil says:

    This is not the Silver Age Angel, this is the current Angel, who has been a naive “holy fool” type with total amnesia since having had all of Apocalypse’s influence purged from his body at the end of the first volume of UNCANNY X-FORCE.

  21. Steve says:

    @kingderella I’ve always noticed that a lot of the concepts in X-Men (or its satellite books) have never been terrible but mostly just poorly executed. I’ve been arguing elsewhere recently how Bishop is usable in his original setting. And you brought up Shatterstar, him along with characters like Cable, Deadpool, and Domino have all turned into good to great characters (at one time or another). Onslaught in particular isn’t a bad idea, just Xavier reaching his breaking point and what would happen if his powers her unchecked (this isn’t really too dissimilar to Cassandra Nova when you break it down).

    Azazel can also be used easily as just Nightcrawler’s father who happens malevolently insane (and I don’t mind the immortal angle and thus legitimately thinking he’s Satan…under different creative hands, it could work, just as long as you emphasize the batshit crazy part, which does seem like Aaron forte).

    As far as the issue goes, I was just glad to get Nightcrawler back in role where he’s not brooding. I’ve been rereading Joe Casey’s Uncanny run (I’m not sure why, but it doesn’t read poorly, the ideas are there but I don’t think Casey was ever given the full go ahead), and he was definitely trying to do something with Nightcrawler where the character was trying to straddle his loving side with the fact that his faith was being perverted by the Church of Humanity. Of course the idea was aborted and in itself perverted by the Draco.

    But this felt like Alan Davis’ Nightcrawler, which I’m all for. I also like this a lot more than WatXM, as Aaron’s crazy super hero adventures fit in this setting a lot more than they do with the school setting (at least for me…I also have trouble accepting the new characters he’s introduced there).

  22. The original Matt says:

    And it turns out that Jason Aaron’s current WatXM arc is his final, so amazing x-men will be the Aaron x-book.

  23. Bill Walko says:

    Agree on all points. It was a very enjoyable issue, and I appreciate the return of “swashbuckler” Nightcrawler, which gave him a unique voice and place on the team.

    The religious overtones of Nightcrawler’s faith got so overblown… a man who believes in God, but looks like the Devil, get it? Yes, we get it. But once you’re done with that visual juxtaposition, Kurt’s religious fervor does little to propel any interesting stories.

    (All this, because Claremont wrote a scene where Kurt was praying during the Brood saga in the 80s!)

    The swashbuckling angel gives him more unique things to do, by far.

    I am in favor of Firestar joining, regardless of the internal reasons. She’s probably the most prominent mutant that’s never been a fabric of an X-team, so it seems fair to put her in one of the books. And pairing her with Iceman has me intrigued.

    Hey, if they keep this up, this could become my favorite x-book!

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