Age of X-Man: The Amazing Nightcrawler #2 // Review
Kurt Wagner has a very comfortable life as The Amazing Nightcrawler. As a member of the X-Men in the Age of X-Man, he is doing important work to safeguard society, AND he is universally loved for it. The single most successful actor in Hollywood. Fabulously wealthy. And he’s in love with another mutant. There’s a problem with that though: love has been outlawed in The Age of X-Man. Things get all the more complicated for him in the second issue of his mini-series written by Seanan McGuire with art by Juan Frigeri. Color comes to the page courtesy of Dono Sánchez-Almara.
Kurt Wagner has woken-up in bed with the shapeshifter Megan. What would typically be a very tender moment between two people who have feelings of affection for each other is complicated in a world where love is outlawed, and Kurt is very much a mega-celebrity public figure. Add to this the fact that Wagner’s Studio X is being stalked by a particularly aggressive rival studio. Things are stressful, and they’re about to get even more so as Kurt is given a mysterious note inviting him to an equally strange location.
McGuire has a nice, little playground to work within Nightcrawler and Studio X. It’s too bad that he’s steering the plot directly into the Age of X-Man’s biggest flaw. Love isn’t allowed in this shiny, new world universal acceptance for super-powered mutants. A dystopia in which love is outlawed could potentially be handled in a way that feels believable, but there hasn’t been a whole lot of effort to make it feel plausible in any of the Age of X-Man mini-series. As a swashbuckling action hero, Nightcrawler has always been a romantic figure. Put him at the head of a studio, and it’s difficult to imagine his brand of action being anything BUT romantic. To sell the character’s fidelity to abstinence from romance, McGuire MUST do more work to render the subtleties of Kurt’s psychology in this world that move him. That’s not really happening here, and so the significant central conflict of his reluctant romance with Megan feels remarkably uninspired.
Frigeri composes action on the page with an astute eye for detail. The layouts are fresh and engaging. When action shows-up it moves across the page fluidly. The problem here lies in the atmosphere. In an issue that’s so anchored in human emotion, there isn’t a whole lot of expressiveness in the art. Yes, feelings DO seem authentic as they are etched into the faces of every character, but everyone seems so...morose. And I guess that actually feels pretty authentic to a world in which love has been outlawed, but it doesn’t exactly make for compelling drama if everyone seems to be so wistfully forlorn. Even the secret underground love club at the end of the issue seems kind of joyless. Problems with mood aside, Frigeri brings a very detailed world to the page which is lushly embellished by the colors of Sánchez-Almara. That purple brimstone “Bamf” of Kurt’s teleportation is beautifully radiant. Studio X’s Geopyrotechnic Amara Aquilla’s heroic Magma form is suitably volcanic when it arises amid danger on the set. The neon of the love club at issue’s end lends a nice bit of color to the page as well.
Between troubles on the set and troubles of the heart, McGuire and Frigeri are giving Nightcrawler some fun obstacles to roll through, but without his flashy personal stylishness, the character feels a little flat on the page. No one wants to see a stoic Nightcrawler. His passion is part of what makes him Nightcrawler. If McGuire and Frigeri can start to bring that to the page a little bit more, Nightcrawler will feel a bit more himself as the series continues into its second half.