Writer: Si Spurrier
Artist: Bob Quinn
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: April 21, 2021
Si Spurrier rarely writes mediocre stores; they are either masterpieces (Coda, The Dreaming (2019), Hellblazer (2020)) or misses (Justice League: Galaxy of Terrors, King in Black: Black Knight). His stories are loaded with fresh ideas and distinct characters, and the only question is whether they are outlandish or surprisingly relatable.
I love writers like that. Si Spurrier does not have the dependable, above-average quality of Geoff Johns or Tom Taylor, but I remember his stories more often than the other two, who also put a smile on my face.
Having enjoyed Si Spurrier’s extended Legion story in X-Men Legacy (2012), I immediately subscribed to Way of X when Marvel announced it. However, even though I had high hopes for Way of X #1 based on the writer, I was prepared for a miss. A book about Nightcrawler founding a mutant religion sounded potentially offensive or at least esoteric.
Fortunately, Way of X #1 does not tell the story advertised. Rather, it is a personal look at life on Krakoa through the eyes of Nightcrawler, a relatable and likable protagonist who did not immediately embrace the new death-averting mutant status quo. On top of that, we get some insight into the further machinations of Orchis, some zany banter from an updated Doctor Nemesis, a gripping new mutant power, and the return of Legion – something I have been waiting for since the start of the Hickman era.
The story begins with Charles Xavier waking from a nightmare and contacting Nightcrawler, who is in the middle of a field mission. Nightcrawler and a team of young mutants, including Pixie, are infiltrating a church in Venice rumored to have ties to Orchis. Charles appears to want to ask a favor of Nightcrawler, and we see him looking pensively at a picture of Gabrielle Haller and baby David Haller (Legion), but he puts it off to avoid interrupting the mission.
The young mutants tease Pixie about not having gone through a death and resurrection cycle during the mission. At the same time, Nightcrawler learns that Orchis was using the church to train anti-mutant missionaries as agents in their all-fronts war against Krakoa. The mutant team is discovered, and even though it appears easy for the mutants to return to Krakoa, Pixie decides that it is the right time to experience her first rebirth and that letting a missionary kill her at point blank range is a great way to turn away from being anti-mutant agents. Nightcrawler is horrified by what he views as a cheap death, but he’s unable to stop it and is told by the younger mutants that he’s just out of touch with the times.
Back on Krakoa, he tries to take the advice from the younger mutants to “lighten up” and pulls a prank on Magneto. The Orchis missionaries had a statute of Magneto’s first attack on humanity, and Nightcrawler presents it to him in an attempt to tease him about who he once was. Magneto instead uses it as an opportunity to make fun of Nightcrawler’s continued faith in a Christian God and deliver a speech about how it’s a great reminder of how pointless the mutant-on-mutant conflicts of the past were and gets a standing ovation from the Krakoans who witnessed the attempted prank.
Leaving the scene, Nightcrawler suspects that he’s being followed, and he springs on his stalker, learning that it’s Doctor Nemesis. They talk about their shared inability to find satisfaction in the apparent paradise that is Krakoa and we learn that Doctor Nemesis thinks that Krakoa will inevitably either destroy itself or develop bizarre cultural practices and rituals because there are too many mutants with competing ideologies trying to coexist in a single place. The proof presented is the Crucible, the mutant gladiatorial ritual where a Krakoan kills mutants depowered during M-Day to be reborn by the Five with their powers. Nightcrawler expresses his disdain for the activity but unable to explain why it’s wrong, and clearly having a minority point of view, he’s left questioning his role on the island.
Charles Xavier uses this opportunity to renew their conversation, where he asks Nightcrawler to investigate rumors of a “Patchwork Man” who the young mutants are starting to talk about like Bloody Mary or similar superstitions. Charles Xavier tells Nightcrawler that he’s detected an Omega mutant but has been unable to identify them or their agenda. Having picked up enough clues during the story to identify the Patchwork Man, Nightcrawler heads to the grave of Blindfold, suspecting that the Patchwork Man is Legion and that Nightcrawler will be able to find him near his deceased lover’s grave. He does, and we’re left with promises of finally getting to see what Legion’s been up to lately.
I’m on board this train. Si Spurrier sprinkled enough crumbs that I’m interested in seeing where he takes us. For example, Blindfold, a precognizant, killed herself years before HoX/PoX, having seen a future where mutants would find paradise, but she would have no place. Legion immediately pointed out to Nightcrawler that the Krakoans are not resurrecting precogs. That’s been obvious with Mystique’s frequently rebuked calls for the resurrection of Destiny, but now we have a hero that might push the issue.
Similarly, I’ve found the Crucible a weird/grizzly part of the HoX/PoX era. I’m curious whether Nightcrawler will have any success changing that practice. I’m also a big fan of Legion, who historically thought the costumed heroes were foolish. Si Spurrier did a great job turning the villain into just an interesting personality. I want to know what he thinks of the new mutant society and whether he and Charles will ever reconcile. Finally, there’s a bonus page in the issue that shows that Orchis has maps of the Krakoan islands and may be aware of Arakko. I’ve been pining for someone, anyone, to take up the pen and tell us what’s going on with Arakko. If that happens in Way of X, I’ll applaud Si Spurrier.
Unfortunately, I doubt Way of X will resonate with the average X-Men fan, and I cannot imagine a new reader picking up issue #1 and understanding what is going on. It took me two reads to see that the identity of the Patchwork Man was Legion from the early mentions, and I didn’t understand that Charles was thinking about his son in the early pages until the third read. This isn’t an X-Men book for new readers, and I don’t know how many more X-Men books hardcore fans can/will support. If Way of X lasts 20+ issues, I’ll call it a significant success. I’m expecting that we’ll learn that this is a 6 to 12 issue maxi-series. I hope I’m mistaken, but I’ll enjoy this while it lasts.