Where Nightcrawler’s Giant-Size X-Men issue was a disservice in that it prioritized apparent worldbuilding over adding any particular depth to the character, Way of X #4 gives us a Kurt Wagner that is slowly becoming unrecognizable.
Way of X #4
Clayton Cowles (letterer), Bob Quinn (artist), Si Spurrier (writer), Java Tartaglia (colorist)
July 14, 2021
When Legion first appeared on the scene in Krakoa, I praised the way writer Si Spurrier, enhanced by Clayton Cowles’ lettering, gave us a Charles Xavier at a loss for words in the face of his incredibly powerful son. Turns out this is apparently how Spurrier writes any seasoned character experiencing doubt and lacking confidence in their convictions, as Nightcrawler spends this entire issue fumbling through every sentence, without the excuse of being drunk as he was in the previous issue. Here, everyone from David to Fabian Cortez cuts him off and speaks over him as if he is some new and inexperienced mutant instead of a formidable leader who is trying to shape the path of mutantdom’s belief system. Nightcrawler’s facial and bodily expressions also leave him in a constant state of shock, playing catch up due to a naivete that is growing tiresome. I’m all for character journeys where they learn and grow, but why are we dealing with a Nightcrawler who seems to have forgotten all the learning and growing he has done since his creation, now even contradicting his own nature? In his field notes in this issue, Doctor Nemesis refers to Nightcrawler as a “holy blue simpleton.” Wading through this character regression to get wherever this series is going is not what I expected.
Through Way of X, we’re also seeing all the cracks in the entire Krakoan concept. Namely: there is very little infrastructure in this new world that Jonathan Hickman has established. In the last issue, we saw that new mutants babies are being made, as per the first law, but they are also being abandoned for random people to care for them. You’d think Nanny and Orphanmaker would be right on that. Alas, the X-Office has carefully prioritized team rosters and who sits at the Quiet Council table and which human governments are on board with shaking mutant hands and gala events and mutant hooch and pharmaceuticals, but Spurrier’s storyline is telling us that, beyond the resurrection protocols, worldbuilding seems to involve very little of the intricate planning needed to keep a society running efficiently. In the last issue, we got abandoned babies. This time it’s the terraforming aftermath. One of the big master plans we learn through the Hellfire Gala is that mutantkind has claimed and terraformed Mars. But, as Sooraya tells us here, the big wigs who secretly decided to do this didn’t actually consult with the kind of mutants with abilities and foresight that might help make this endeavour more successful and less flash in the pan.
In his notes, Doctor Nemesis focuses on Cortez and the character continues to be a thorn for Nightcrawler, who must address his current actions and the actions Lost has accused him of in the face of the second mutant law: Kill No Man. This is the law Nightcrawler is intended to explore in this issue, ‘guided’ by Cortez’s antagonizing method of dealing with Gorgon, who is having some sort of episode. Using his power-boosting abilities, Cortez opens Gorgon’s mind to the world around him, putting the human onlookers in danger, whether or not they realize it as they gawk and toss things at him. Taunting Kurt with the second law, Cortez pushes the would-be prophet into action, finally, and a bit of the old Kurt shines through in a panel or two when he manages to solve the problem of Fabian by himself. In a few panels, the creative team gives us the colourful, playful, empathetic, and stern Nightcrawler we have seen in the past, but this sudden juxtaposition against the way he’s been portrayed throughout this series feels disjointed.
For the most part, Nightcrawler is being dragged through what we assumed would be his story as he works to shape Krakoan philosophy. Instead, it is very clearly Legion who is in charge, which we see when the again sniveling Xavier returns to face his son. The cover image implies that it’s a deadly face-off where Charles has some equal footing, but it seems that David holds not only all the cards but all the power — both over himself and Krakoa. It’s a dangerous game to play as a writer. David’s immense power and self-awareness and apparent omniscience make it too easy to use him to solve as many plot issues as the character himself creates.
Krakoa isn’t just cracking at the seams because the writers don’t seem to have created firm structural foundations for this new world. Onslaught is still worming its psionic way through the minds of mutantkind, amplifying negativity to the point of extreme violence — that Legion is prepared to put down with violent and deadly precision, unconcerned about who he abuses in the process. As of now, only David and his inner circle know about Onslaught and he’s keeping the information secreted away from the likes of Charles, who is practically begging him for the answer in order to save his people. Charles blames the unknown entity for the ennui and negativity that is plaguing Krakoa, but, if we learned anything from the machines in The Matrix, it’s that humans — and, evidently, mutants — get bored with utopias. Legion seems to get this and has his own plans in place to allow mutants to become responsible for themselves, even as he continues to withhold the identity of the psychic parasite from even the likes of Charles Xavier. It’s a reminder that David is an Omega-level mutant that Charles has every right to be afraid of, especially considering how the father has neglected the son, plus David’s actions in the past. But this is a Legion that is exhibiting a lot more foresight, confidence, and control over himself than we’ve seen before.
Maybe I don’t mind the idea of David running the show, and it seems Spurrier is happy to have his fave unleashed. Legion’s already had so much practice with reshaping the X-world we know, what with Age of X, Age of Apocalypse, and, arguably, Age of X-Man. Maybe I just want him to take over Krakoa because he actually seems to know that running a new world requires a business plan and more than just a dream and some random laws jotted down on a post-it note.