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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

X-amining Nightcrawler #1-4

"How Much is that Boggie in the Window?/A Boggie Day in L'un D'un-T'wn/To BAMF or Not to BAMF!/The Wizard of OOPs!
Nov 1985 - Feb 1986

In a Nutshell
Nightcrawler goes on a cross-dimensional swashbuckling adventure

Writer/Artist: Dave Cockrum
Colorist: Paty
Letterer: Jim Novak
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Issue #1: Nightcrawler tells Kitty of a past adventure in which he journeyed to another dimension, meeting Sevh the Oracle and encountering the Well at the Center of Time. Intrigued, Kitty attempts to recreate the well in the Danger Room, but somehow manages to create the real thing. She's horrified when Nightcrawler and Lockheed are dragged into the well. They find themselves transported to a strange world, and are made members of a pirate crew. Minutes pass as Kitty and Illyana scramble to find Nightcrawler, but weeks pass for him. However, he refuses to participate in the pirates' attack on another ship, instead disabling their ship and leaving with their target. Taken to the nearest port, Nightcrawler attempts to help a young women in trouble, but it knocked unconscious by one of the pirates. Awakening back aboard their ship, he discovers he's been sold to the sorcerer Shagreen.  

Issue #2: Shagreen takes Nightcrawler and Lockheed to his fortress, where he intends to study Nightcrawler to learn the secret of his teleportation abilities. Escaping, Nightcrawler rescues a princess Shagreen means to sacrifice, dueling the sorcerer aboard his skyship. After Shagreen falls to his apparent death, Nightcrawler is taken aboard the royal ship and knighted for his actions. Just as Nightcrawler is getting to know the princess, however, Kitty tries again to bring him home, but instead he lands in another world, face-to-face with a childlike-version of himself.


Issue #3: Nightcrawler is taken to Bamf City, where he finds himself surrounded by thousands of Bamfs, the small creatures that resemble him. Suddenly, Shagreen appears, capturing all the Bamfs and issuing a challenge to Nightcrawler to meet him at the Fangs of Doom. The remaining Bamf takes Nightcrawler to find transportation, and in the process, Nightcrawler meets all the characters from the story Kitty once told Illyana, and he realizes he's landed in a world that resembles that story. As Kitty and Illyana continue to try and retrieve Nightcrawler, he and his new allies invade Shagreen's castle, but all are captured and prepared to be sacrificed.

Issue #4: The one remaining free Bamf rescues Lockheed, and together, they free all the female Bamfs. This massive group attacks Shagreen and frees Nightcrawler and his companions. Suddenly, Windrider, this world's version of Storm, blasts into the castle and battles Shagreen. During the fight, Nightcrawler manages to get a hold of the sorcerer's staff and breaks it, rendering him powerless. With the Bamfs and his new friends freed, Nightcrawler is once more yanked away by Kitty and Illyana, traveling across several more worlds before meeting Sevh the Oracle, who tells him he must will himself home. Finally, Nightcrawler arrives back at the mansion, much to the delight of Kitty and Illyana.     

Firsts and Other Notables
This series marks Dave Cockrums return to the X-Men universe and one of the X-Men he co-created. He writes, pencils and inks all four issues of the series, with his wife Paty doing the coloring.

It's established in issue #3 that the characters Kitty created for her fairy tale in X-Men #153 all reside within an alternate reality that bears a strong resemblance to the one crafted by Kitty (later designated Earth-5311.


In issue #1, Nightcrawler references a past adventure in which he and the Vanisher were sent to an alternate reality (a reality he returns to in issue #4), all of which is a reference to Nightcrawler's portion of Bizarre Adventures #27.


Lockheed is referred to as a "furmious bandersnitch" by the denizens of the first world in which he and Nightcrawler arrive, a reference to Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky". 

A Work in Progress
In issue #1, Nightcrawler rattles off a list of his various skills.


When the captain of the ship Nightcrawler saved offers him a reward, Nightcrawler angrily rejects it, saying his loyalties can't be bought.


At one point, Nightcrawler duels with three swords, using his tail to wield the third, the first time, I believe, we've seen him do so.


During one of her attempts to bring Nightcrawler home, Kitty instead gets a hold of just his costume, which is drawn in a way that suggests its all one piece.


Illyana apparently reads Playgirl.


I Love the 80s
The cover to issue #2 is an homage to Jaws, appropriately enough given that Shagreen looks like a shark.


One of the Bamfs makes a delightful pun involving Bob Hope.


Nighcrawler's brief sojourn through the world of Cretaceous Sam is easily the highlight of the series.


At one point, Nightcrawler tries to get home by saying backwards the name of Mr. Mxyzptlk, the fiendish imp from the 5th Dimensions who beguiles Superman (and who is forced to return to his home dimension when he says his name backwards), then tries saying his own name backwards.


Young Love
The Bamfs are all "enthusiastic" lovers.


Dave Cockrum on Nightcrawler
"I was a big Errol Flynn fan. I just wanted to have some fun with Nightcrawler. It was an opportunity to just let go with my imagination, and I love those swashbuckler movies. Pirate ships and princesses in distress - it had a little bit of everything! Shooter kept trying to monkey with the coloring, which my wife Paty was doing. She finally wound up turning it in so late that he wouldn't have a chance to change it."  

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p97

Teebore's Take
Like other limited series of this vintage (such as Iceman and Beauty and the Beast and the Random Son of Dr. Doom), this is one I hadn't read before. Unlike those series, this one at least has a vision of what it wants to be, with a level of craft in terms of both story and art that rises above the workmanlike (at best) material in those other series. This is clearly a personal project for Dave Cockrum and one he's having a blast doing. The story is fun, whimsical, (intentionally) silly and full of energy (it's so energetic it's almost exhausting to read at times). How much one enjoys it, of course, comes down to personal taste. The work itself is at a high enough level that the success of the series largely depends on how you feel about a story designed to be as lighthearted and filled with whimsy as possible (certainly, nothing here is anywhere close to essential reading in terms of the ongoing X-Men narrative).

It's been previously established that my tastes don't allow for a whole lot of whimsy in my stories, so not surprisingly I wasn't terribly excited by a lot of this (I enjoyed the first two issues, in which Nightcrawler is forced to reconcile his personal ethics with the conventions of the swashbuckling pirate tales he loves so much far more than the last two issues, in which he interacts with the characters from "Kitty's Fairy Tale"). When it comes to this sort of thing, a little goes a long way for me. But there's definitely a difference between a poorly done series and one which simply doesn't appeal to my tastes, and there's no denying this is a series that completely succeeds at telling the kind of story it's designed to tell. That such a story does little for me personally is by no means an indictment of the work itself. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, we look at Power Pack #12 and Secret Wars II #1, then return to Uncanny X-Men for issue #195 next week.

9 comments:

  1. While I'm sure this is a pretty cool series on its own merits, and Nightcrawler is a favorite character of mine, this is a really weird time for Dave Cockrum telling a silly story with psychedelic coloring. The whole project feels like it captures the zeitgeist of 1977 way better than 1985. From the Jaws parody to Illyana suddenly looking like Betty Cooper, it just looks super dated compared to the stuff that was going on in X-Men at the time. And Kitty's ditched the headbands and blue in favor of something that looks like something off the Avengers TV show and pirate boots? Just bizarre.

    The stuff about Bamfs being overenthusiastic lovers and Illyana's Playgirl collection is just gross, especially in the middle of what is admittedly supposed to be a fun, lighthearted romp. It reminds me of Dan Slott's work: 3/4 fun, old-school stuff, then out of nowhere some ultra-violence or off-putting stuff about Hank Pym's sex life. And that Playgirl comment has to be Kitty making fun/trying to embarrass her friend, right? I mean, what is up with that?

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  2. I agree with Dobson. The Playgirl joke just doesn't seem right. Especially for this style of comic which seems to be very whimsical which, in my mind, means it's aimed at a younger audience. It's just off putting.

    But maybe I'm just a prudish, old fuddy-duddy.

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  3. Besides, Playgirl in the 1980s sucked. They didn't even have boners!

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  4. @Dobson: The whole project feels like it captures the zeitgeist of 1977 way better than 1985.

    Well observed.

    And that Playgirl comment has to be Kitty making fun/trying to embarrass her friend, right?

    I have to think so; I don't think Illyana actually has any Playgirls.

    @Dr. Bitz: Especially for this style of comic which seems to be very whimsical which, in my mind, means it's aimed at a younger audience.

    Joke or not, young audience or not, it's definitely tonally dissonant from everything else in the story (with the possible exception of the horny Bamfs, but even that functions on a different level of bawdiness).

    But maybe I'm just a prudish, old fuddy-duddy.

    You do hate pornography, in all its form.

    @Anonymous: Besides, Playgirl in the 1980s sucked. They didn't even have boners!

    Ha! I'll have to take your word for that. :)

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  5. This is clearly a personal project for Dave Cockrum and one he's having a blast doing.

    I think that pretty much says it all.

    If anyone was entitled to go off and tell a whimsical yarn about Nightcrawler — even to exploit "Kitty's Fairy Tale" — it's Cockrum. My one real complaint is that the characters dreamt up by Kitty "really" existed in another dimension, although even that is pretty easy to wave off given the metaphysics of superhero universes. I might not have read this miniseries more than once, but had I been a bit younger when it came out I probably would've really enjoyed it — "how Bamfs are made" humor notwithstanding.

    I, too, believe that Kitty was just being sarcastic about the Playgirls.

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  6. @Blam: My one real complaint is that the characters dreamt up by Kitty "really" existed in another dimension, although even that is pretty easy to wave off given the metaphysics of superhero universes.

    Yeah, it's certainly not without precedent, but it days take a little something away from Kitty's original tale.

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  7. Okay, I came back in time and read this post. Now I really want to check out the series! I love Cockrum on Nightcrawler.

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  8. @Matt: I love Cockrum on Nightcrawler.

    Then this is definitely the series for you.

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  9. Ugh. To me this is more arduous a read than the other minis you mentioned. It's a throwback in the worst possible meaning. The art does nothing for me. I couldn't even finish it.

    About the Playgirl joke I took it as a feminism statement, really. I can imagine 2 teenage boys making a joke like that about Playboy.

    Although that's part of the problem of pretending there are no differences between the sexes. The likelihood that 2 13 yo girls would make that joke is astronomically smaller than 2 13 yo boys.

    Very odd, especially given how juvenile the art is.

    (Big Cockrum fan, the original run and the Brood story.)

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