Age of X-Man: The Amazing Nightcrawler
Artist Dave Cockrum created Nightcrawler while he was stationed in Guam with the US Navy. There was a typhoon. It was too noisy for Cockrum to sleep, so he created Nightcrawler. The fuzzy blue elf with the prehensile tail has a very stylish appearance. Unfortunately for him, he’s a mutant and his freakish appearance makes him a target for bigotry. Too bad. He’s actually quite cool. So...what would happen in a world where the character is celebrated for being every bit as cool as he actually is? It’s a matter explored with some swashbuckling flair by writer Seanan McGuire and artist Juan Frigeri in the “Age of X-Man” mini-series The Amazing Nightcrawler.
The first issue opens in a punk urban decay that hasn’t yet been seen in the cleanly gleaming Age of X-Man. It doesn’t actualyl exist, though. Nightcrawler and British shapeshifter Meggan Puceanu are actually filming an action movie at Studio X--a Danger Room-style soundstage. As another day of shooting ends, we see the life of Nightcrawler as the single most successful actor in Hollywood. Nightcrawler lounges around in his dressing room before heading off to a red carpet gala with Meggan. In and around the edges of the glamorous life of a Hollywood mega-star darkness begins to become assert itself. According to Nightcrawler: “The trouble with having everything: You have so very much to lose.”
McGuire establishes a basic life of charismatic mutant and Hollywood celebrity in the first issue. There’s so very little conflict in the issue. For the first time in the Age of X-Man multi miniseries event, there’s an issue that almost totally fails to introduce any conflict. Nightcrawler’s observation at the end of the issue turns the glamorous life of a heroic celebrity back on itself in a bit of a clever flourish. If everything’s perfect, there’s so much to lose. The lives of the Marvel Mutants have always been filled with danger and adversity. With the first issue of this mini-series, McGuire is relating an entire story where the deepest conflict is the fact that there isn’t any. It’s the nightmare of wish-fulfillment in 20 pages.
Frigeri has a great talent for making emotion beautiful on the faces of nearly everyone. It does wonders for the glamor of the issue. There’s a delightful sense of personality edging through the entire issue. Frigeri populates the edges of the panels with clever, little details. At one point Nightcrawler is laying down in bed having a phone conversation with Jean Grey. As the two talk, we see a movie poster. Evidently in this parallel universe Nightcrawler starred in the Leonardo DiCaprio role in Cameron’s Titanic. Elsewhere in the star’s dressing room, there’s a poster featuring the image of the first issue of the original Nightcrawler mini-series from 1985. Cute. All this aside, Frigeri doesn’t quite manage to finesse Nightcrawler’s whimsically agile body language that way artists like Cockrum and John Romita Jr. had managed in the past, but the series is just opening and we haven’t yet seen the action that is almost assuredly lurking ahead in future issues.
Every other title in the Age of X-Man event seems to be focussing on people dealing with various problems. With this title we have someone seemingly having the time of his life. It’s a sharp place to start and a smartly-framed contrast to the rest of what is shaping-up to be an interesting journey into a parallel Marvel universe.