Heeeey, Kurt, do you know what abuse victims don’t love? They don’t love being surprised by having their abuser suddenly thrust upon them as part of your ill-conceived kiss-and-make-up plans.
Way of X #5
Clayton Cowles (letterer), Bob Quinn (artist), Si Spurrier (writer), Java Tartaglia (colorist)
August 18, 2021
Way of X #4 ended with Kurt Wagner tossing Fabian Cortez onto Mars to face Lost, whose parents he killed. This is Kurt’s attempt at restorative justice, apparently, a practice that typically involves at least giving the victim some warning about this supposed trauma healing and accountability meetup. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t go as Kurt planned and the two end up trying to kill each other because Lost has not come to terms with her trauma and anger, and Cortez, well, he just doesn’t give a shit until Nightcrawler once again forces him into a situation where his life is at stake. But while Cortez gets to enjoy these character-building moments, Lost’s victimization continues, making her little more than a plot device than a character with agency. Not that I should be surprised by this logic, as it’s one of the foundations of Krakoa: villains get to hang out together with their victims and we’re all just supposed to get along. Victimization and piling on more trauma also seem to be a staple of this book, considering David Haller’s abuse of Loa and Mercury in Way of X #3. But it’s okay. David has a moment of realization and feels really bad about it in a panel or two.
Meanwhile, Arakko is under threat of annihilation thanks to that lack of planning and terraforming foresight. And David is busy building — something — as he tries to suss out Onslaught’s secrets. The latter plays out while Charles Xavier is busy oscillating between reprimanding him for killing a bunch of mutants and disrupting Krakoa’s order and feeling shame for how poorly he has treated his son. So touching. Si Spurrier maintains the son-over-father power dynamic in the writing, which letterer Clayton Cowles continues to visualize through overlapping and overpowering word capsules to show who is in charge.
Nightcrawler’s inconsistent characterization continues to frustrate. Here, he desperately questions suicide, despite the circumstances of his death being circumstances he has come up against many, many times before, including most recently in House of X/Powers of X. Spurrier is so intent on having Kurt question his beliefs from a Catholic lens, but there seems to be no effort to consolidate every question Kurt has been asking himself since he began this journey well before the Krakoan era. What we end up with is a wet-behind-the-ears character playing How-2-Faith in order to give him big breakthrough moments of fiery realization.
With this issue, Kurt explores the third Krakoan law: Respect the Land, and draws his own conclusions from it on his journey to guide mutantdom to salvation, but David realizes that this has been the wrong approach. Nightcrawler has spent too much time thinking about the way when he needs to be doing. At least, when he does get to the doing, it’s fairly satisfying to read. Those moments are a thing to behold thanks to the artistic team. There’s a lot of time spent with people and things hovering and falling and exploding in this issue, all with the deepening specter of Onslaught looming over everything. Bob Quinn and Java Tartaglia render gorgeously drawn and coloured panels that are bright, dynamic, and explosive, with the climactic scene bursting with fire and emotion.
But a reader can’t live on colourful explosions alone.