Nightcrawler marks the start of his quest for a belief system on Krakoa and questions the nature of belief itself.
Way of X #1
Giuseppe Camuncoli & Marte Gracia (Cover Artists), Clayton Cowles (Letterer), Tom Muller (Design), Bob Quinn (Artist), Si Spurrier (Writer), Java Tartaglia (Color Artist)
April 21, 2021
Throughout the first initiative of the Krakoan era, Dawn of X, Catholic-inspired quotations from Nightcrawler appeared in the appropriately named Hellions. These quotes reflected the faith Nightcrawler held onto as a source of comfort while his life changed rapidly. In Way of X #1, Si Spurrier and Bob Quinn craft a sizable amount of dissonance that Nightcrawler attempts to reconcile, only to find he falls short at every step.
The first instance of such dissonance comes about during a mission when Nightcrawler witnesses the young X-Men’s new, flippant attitude in the face of violent death. Nightcrawler’s goal of founding a mutant religion (or at least a mutant way of life) thus begins to stall due to various roadblocks, including Kurt’s inability to adapt to an immortal society. Magneto later dismisses Nightcrawler’s concerns as well, remarking that Catholicism is an inadequate belief system in a country whose population will never die. The driving question then seems to be, “How does religion function in Krakoa?”
I appreciate that by the end of the issue, Spurrier makes it clear that there is no straightforward, or even possible, answer to Nightcrawler’s dilemma. Spurrier’s ambiguity leans heavily into interpretation on the part of the reader, enabling them to find their own conclusions after a journey of introspection.
Doctor Nemesis is truly the stand-out character in Way of X #1 because he challenges Nightcrawler to look at his crisis of belief from a different angle. A skeptic, Doctor Nemesis summarizes the current status quo as “Alien life, metaphysical entities, and the overthrow of mortality itself,” before posing a question: “What does a credulous little believer do when all the big questions have been answered?” This can be read as Si Spurrier directly interrogating X-Men readers.
Notably, Nightcrawler’s response, “I suppose they. . . they find better questions” adds more uncertainty to the text as those questions are currently unspoken–but the reader will be able to locate and verbalize them. One big goal, however, is to “find better questions” without falling back on old ways of thinking.
Bob Quinn and Java Tartaglia mark the first half of the issue with an emphasis on shadowed backgrounds and shadows covering Nightcrawler’s face. These shadows represent in part the mysterious Patchwork Man that characters speak of, as well as the faith-based issues Nightcrawler is having. Half in darkness and half in light, Nightcrawler’s ability to disappear in shadows evokes visual formlessness.
I appreciate the heavy use of browns by Java Tartaglia. The association with earthiness acts to help ground the scenes on Krakoa and in turn, Nightcrawler. Connected with Spurrier’s writing, the result seems to be less thinking about a heavenly future in exchange for more thoughts on the new infinite present.
Way of X #1 by Spurrier, Quinn, and Tartaglia truly feels that it could only have come after the ending of Dawn of X and specifically, X-Factor #4 and the failed resurrection of Rockslide. Discussions of death and resurrection, particularly in religious contexts, are still important in a “post-mortal” society, and it matters that the impacts of both are taken into consideration. There is an underlying uniqueness to Way of X in that the central character is not going off on an external adventure. Instead, that journey is very internal and contains just as many twists and turns as the battles the other inhabitants of Krakoa are having in the other books.