Way of X #3 made me angrier than any comic book I’ve ever read in my life. I normally like to start a review with something pithy or a summary of the lead-up to the story, but it is simply hard for me to feel anything other than blood boiling rage at this noxious issue. It engages in profound character assassination of one of the most beloved mutants in X-History on top of an outright homophobic story choice that sits high atop the mountain of rancid creative decisions with queer women that have formed over the Krakoa era. As someone who greatly enjoyed the first two issues of the series, I wish I could say I am just disappointed, but the truth is I am disgusted that I did in the first place.
Way of X #3
Clayton Cowles (letterer), Bob Quinn (artist), Si Spurrier (writer), Java Tartaglia (colorist)
June 23, 2021
The penultimate issue of the Hellfire Gala crossover event takes place the morning after the earth-shaking party with Nightcrawler nursing a nasty hangover. Throughout the event, Kurt has been seen in an increasingly drunken state, the pressure of trying to develop a mutant religion while exploring the true meaning of Krakoa’s laws causing him to overindulge. While the previous appearances in books like Hellions and Excalibur were light and comedic, the full extent of his night of debauchery is far more tragic, with him making an ass of himself in front of the entire party.
The issue explores the third law of Krakoa, Make More Mutants, and does so through two major plots. The first features Legion trying to help the newly queer Loa enjoy her first intimate experience with former teammate Mercury. The second has Kurt running into mutant sex worker Stacy-X and learning that Krakoa’s citizens are happily supporting the age-old industry. Both are upsettingly ill-advised and offensive in their execution and for wildly different reasons.
I’ve written about my frustration with the current X-Line’s handling of queer women multiple times now, be it here at WWAC, over at ComicsXF, or even just my Twitter account. It’s something I feel very passionate about as a lesbian, and I hoped I would see improvement. Loa is the first X-Woman to be revealed as queer (Kate Pryde doesn’t count until Marvel has the guts to address her sexuality beyond a kiss that has gone nowhere in nearly a year’s worth of stories) since HoX PoX got the ball rolling two years ago. Not a major character, but a named, existing hero who was able to explore her identity and come out on the page. It would be something to celebrate if Si Spurrier didn’t immediately taint the occasion.
We learn Loa and Mercury are having trouble being intimate due to the nature of Loa’s powers. Pixie tries to help her friends by enlisting Legion to aid the two in exploring a psychic alternative. Already, this presents a problem. The number of Sapphic moments of intimacy in the Krakoa era are few and far between and have not ventured beyond a kiss. The first genuine sex scene between two women requiring a man to help orchestrate things (especially one nebulously older than both, given his nearly 20-year history before either were created) is an inherent problem. Things only get worse from there, as Legion reveals he is using the moment of pure honesty and passion as bait for the series’ psychic threat, Onslaught. The experience leaves both women traumatized, disgusted, and hating each other. Bob Quinn’s art would normally be a strength to a title; he is expressive and energetic and gives everything a level of emotional energy that works. But with such toxic plot points and ideas to work with, the skill behind his work only serves to accentuate just how horrendous the events happening are.
It is hard to know where to begin with how disgusting this story beat is. Si Spurrier, a straight cisman, being given the opportunity to tell both Krakoa’s first pre-existing character coming out as a queer woman and the first genuine moment of intimacy between two women. Loa’s first queer experience leaving her scarred, in pain, and hating her former friend and crush. The audacity to drop this issue during goddamn Pride Month. Much like the creepy fuck who had to help two girls figure out how to have sex, the problems are legion, and they are impossible to ignore.
Over to Nightcrawler and Stacy-X, he finds her handing out condoms to folks as the Hellfire Gala after-parties still rage on. He’s shocked and upset to learn that not only is she doing that, but she has also built a place for lovers, or new acquaintances even, to enjoy intimacy in whatever form they desire. Already, this is a massive red flag. Spurrier’s desire to paint Nightcrawler as the struggling Catholic in a newly uninhibited world has lost sight of the character’s history and core.
For almost 40 years, Nightcrawler has been a gleefully sexual, charismatic ladies man who will happily flirt and charm his way through any X-book. The idea that he would be prudish about casual hookups, to begin with, let alone refer to sex without the intention to procreate as “empty desire” is ridiculous and insulting as a long-time fan of the character. The revelation that the Make More Mutants law has led to babies being born and abandoned at a rate of one per week only further exacerbates the absurd situation. Krakoa becoming some sort of tropical Bacchanallian hell where babies are left on the ground for someone to hopefully stumble upon annihilates the idea of subtlety or nuance to exploring the cultural development of the nation that Way of X promised.
Really, after this issue, I am left wondering what the point of this series is. If it fails to understand its lead character on a fundamental level, is unable to explore its themes and ideas with anywhere near the finesse required, and manages to engage in outright homophobic plot points while the rest of the line is still stumbling to offer anything beyond scraps of Sapphic representation, why does this series exist? Way of X #3 is, in a way, a feat, as it managed to not only destroy my interest in what I hoped would be a promising new addition to the X-Line but poison my hopes for improvement as a whole going forward.