Although Wolverine’s long awaited death has yet to come to fruition in Marvel Universe continuity, the publisher has already rolled out a few tie-ins to this relatively small miniseries — and Marguerite Bennett, Chris Claremont and Todd Nauck’s “Nightcrawler” #7 is a doozy. Already feeling like the proverbial fish-out-of-water, Kurt spends the issue reflecting on his friendship with Logan, walking through their history with the help of the Jean Grey School’s Danger Room. With a lovely thematic overtone, Nightcrawler gives his closest friend a heartfelt send off rife with nostalgia and thoughtful artwork.
As a tribute issue, “Nightcrawler” #7 spends a lot of time dwelling on the past; this gives the story a rather slow, careful pace, which — after two very fast, action-filled arcs — not only fits the somber tone but comes as a welcome respite for fans of the series and the character. Claremont reinforces this deliberate pacing through an effective use of repetition, particularly surrounding the “house for the dead” motif that neatly ties these episodic memories together. The story — plotted by Bennett — carries readers through some of the X-Men’s more memorable events, from the second team’s origin to the Dark Phoenix Saga to the Mutant Massacre and beyond. However, rather than recount these through an impartial third person narrative, the book focuses on Nightcrawler’s version of events, breathing some new life into stories that are now a few decades old. It builds nicely towards an emotionally charged and intense climax that tackles his faith, his friendships and his survivor’s guilt.
Where Bennett and Claremont do Wolverine homage through a tour of the X-Men’s history, so Nauck responds in kind, rehashing some of the team’s famous moments: Jean’s (first and alleged) death, the Morlock-Marauder fight in New York’s sewers, the birth of Excalibur, and more. As he’s done in previous issues, Nauck lifts iconic scenes from renowned artists like Alan Davis and Mike Allred while adding his own personal flair; it’s both poignant and heartbreaking to see all these moments side-by-side, particularly when they form a eulogy of sorts for an old fan favorite. Likewise, Rachelle Rosenberg reenergizes these scenes with electric colors, using a bright and vibrant color palette to recharge them and give them new life.
Nauck extends this idea with careful attention to background details, lining the halls of the Jean Grey School with team photos that reflect the X-Men’s ever-changing roster of mutants new and old. Further, he bounces off the text provided to him, providing some truly profound panel work, like framing Kurt against a statue of Jean as he discusses her role on the team and contrasting his sorrowful inaction against the bombastic, energetic Wolverine of his memories. He also incorporates a smorgasbord of figures into some complex crowd scenes, mashing new friends — such as the Avengers — with old friends like Alpha Flight.
Although this issue doesn’t quite further Nightcrawler’s personal arc, it offers a lot by way of nostalgia and reflection. Never hampered by the hiccup in continuity, Marguerite Bennett, Chris Claremont and Todd Nauck’s “Nightcrawler” #7 respectfully slows the story down for an introspective, highly emotional character piece.