X-Men Manifest Destiny: Nightcrawler #1

In recent issues, "Uncanny X-Men" writer Matt Fraction has included the barest hints of a Nightcrawler subplot, and now it falls to X-office newcomer James Asmus to take the fragments and weave them into a solo story. So it is that Nightcrawler, uncertain about his place in the team, both tactically and personally, comes to revisit his hometown and confront his demons. In this case, quite literally so.

The result is a mostly entertaining diversion that, one assumes, wraps up this plot thread in a way that'll entertain both Nightcrawler fans and X-Men completists who have come looking for the little more than plot resolution. The issue gives Kurt a chance to flex his wisecracking, swashbuckling side, complete with a token love interest. For any other character it'd seem shallow, but as a nod to Nightcrawler's pulp-cinema influences, it manages to work.

It's hard to know whether Asmus deserves credit for finding an angle that makes Chuck Austen's radical overhaul of Nightcrawler's origin actually work for the character, or chastise him for acknowledging it at all. The appearance of Mephisto is an oddly perfect fit for thematic reasons, but it's hard to imagine any Nightcrawler fans clamoring for a return to this particular thread. If nothing else, it proves that Asmus is capable of weaving together the various disparate threads of Nightcrawler's backstory and character into a cohesive whole -- and that's something that hasn't really been seen in a while.

Molina and Syaf's pencils are a tad inconsistent throughout the issue -- sometimes appropriately dynamic, but just as likely to be inappropriately so. It's a pity, then, that the book opens with the latter example, because later on, as the subject matter becomes a bit less down-to-Earth, the visual tone of the book improves noticeably.

Slight hiccups aside, the issue is generally a success, and offers a nice chance for the kind of solo X-Men story which, in my view, we don't see enough of (unless your name is Wolverine.) The only truly bad thing about the issue is the baffling application of the "Manifest Destiny" tag, which only serves to misdirect readers about the content of the book and could leave them dissatisfied by a story they weren't expecting. I understand it sells books, but seriously -- isn't it time to move on?

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