Giant-Size X-Men: Nightcrawler #1
Writers: Jonathan Hickman & Alan Davis
Artist: Alan Davis
Colors: Carlos Lopez
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Davis (regular)/Ben Caldwell (variant)
Editor: Jordan D. White
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US
I was blown away by Jonathan Hickman’s retooling of the X-Men franchise with House of X and Powers of X, with the injection of world-building, politics and sociology. But when I checked out the first issue of the relaunched X-Men series, I didn’t find the same level of inventiveness and complexity. As such, I decided not to delve into the various new X-related titles coming fast and furiously from Marvel. But when I saw that Alan Davis was contributing to this related one-shot, my interest was re-engaged. Davis’ art is stunning, of course, but I was also keen to see him reconnect with Nightcrawler, a character with whom he was closely associated from his run on Excalibur years ago. Unfortunately, this one-shot really never rises above the level of hum-drum, and at this price point and with these normally spectacular talents involved, I expected a lot more.
When mutantkind established its own nation on Krakoa recently, the X-Men abandoned its mansion and school in Westchester, New York, but when a sensor shows the presence of a mutant in the now-desolate property, Nightcrawler leads a team of fellow mutants to Investigate. What they find appear to be ghosts from the X-Men’s past, but the truth proves to be even more bizarre.
The term “Giant-Size X-Men” has an undeniable appeal for long-time fans of super-hero comics. After all, it was the first comic titled as such that introduced the “new” X-Men (such as Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler) and revitalized the property. But unfortunately, nothing about this one-shot feels “giant.” It doesn’t have any heft, either tactilely or in terms of storytelling density. This is a surprisingly quick, light read, especially for a Hickman comic, and I came away feeling as though I didn’t get my money’s worth.
It’s always a pleasure to sample Alan Davis’ artwork, and certain elements here really stand out, not the least of which is the oddball portrayal of Eye-Boy. It’s not often we see Davis working solo on the line art; no inker is credited as his partner on this project. Honestly, I think Davis’ work looks its best when he’s embellished by the likes of Paul Neary or Mark Farmer. I did dig the artist’s take on Lockheed in the opening scene, though I don’t think Davis captures the horror-movie feel for which the story is clearly striving.
There are a number of flaws with this plot and script. First of all, it’s not the most accessible of stories and is rooted in the minutiae of X-Men history. Furthermore, this really isn’t a Nightcrawler story at all; Cypher is just as integral to the plot, if not moreso. Furthermore, it wasn’t until after the story’s conclusion that I found out that Trevor’s codename is “Eye-Boy,” and he was one of the two players with which I was completely unfamiliar.
Ultimately, this story proves to be more about misunderstanding than any actual conflict; it reads a bit like a standard, formulaic Star Trek plot, honestly. The choice to craft it as a horror/ghost story featuring two members of the original New Mutants makes me wonder if it wasn’t inspired by or intended as a companion piece to the upcoming 9and long-delayed) New Mutants movie, which promises to approach the super-hero genre through a horror-flick lens. But the end result here lacks any real message, any weight, and feels like little more than filler. 5/10