Auf wiedersehen to a hero

by

Don’t read on if you don’t want most of X-Men: Second Coming spoiled.

OK, so the title of the post and the info that it has to do with the X-Men was probably a dead giveaway, but if not, the image above tells you about all you need to know.

Nightcrawler is dead.

When Act One of the big X-Crossover Second Coming was drawing to a close (X-Force #26, to be precise), the evil mutant-hunter Bastion had finally caught up with Hope, the mutant messiah. With not even a second to spare, Kurt teleported in to try to save her (and Rogue), only to have Bastion be ready for the move and extend his arm to that exact location.

Yet even then, Kurt kept fighting, and with one, final BAMF, he teleported Hope back to safety. “Worth it,” he gasped with his final breath.

Thus came the end for Kurt Wagner (1975-2010), one of the greatest X-Men and an important part of my love affair with comic books. No, he wasn’t the reason I started reading, and early on, he wasn’t even a favorite character. But he did star in one of the early comics I read, an old back issue of Excalibur with a swashbuckling Nightcrawler having some climactic sword fight showdown. Unfortunately, I don’t have the issue anymore, but I do recall that book as one of the moments I knew I’d be reading comics for a long time.

Kurt has only had fleeting moments in the spotlight over the past decade, appearing as a regular at times in most of the core X-books but rarely starring. He did have his own miniseries, which focused on his faith and was quite well done.

But during the 1980s, Nightcrawler was a bedrock of the X-Men. Other characters came and went, but Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm, and Wolverine were the foundation of Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men as the book gradually became a raging success.

The first reference I recall to Kurt’s faith was in an issue of Uncanny where the X-Men were facing Dracula. I think it was Kitty Pryde who held up a cross to try to ward off the vampire, but Dracula merely laughed it off, saying the relic only affected him when wielded by someone who believed in it (Kitty was Jewish). At which point, Kurt picked up the cross, declared his own faith, and drove back the evil. Over the years, Kurt became one of the few openly religious characters in comics (even training to become a priest). The irony was intentional — the character who most resembled a demon becoming the most devout — but the subtext it added to his character was important: In the most recent issue of Uncanny, Wolverine (Kurt’s best friend) remarked to Cyclops that “Kurt knew what he was signing up for. He knew better than most. And he was ready for it.”

Of course, death might never be all that permanent in this world of comics, but at the very least, I think this one will last a long time. As popular as he was, I think even his fans are at peace with this death. We might not want to see our favorite characters go, but when they do, we hope it means something. And for Kurt, this seemed altogether fitting:

The swashbuckling hero given one last chance to save a damsel in distress. The man who looked like a demon given one final opportunity to pick up his cross and fight back evil. And the character who most believed in an eternal reward finally going to meet his.

R.I.P. Nightcrawler. You will be missed.

****************************************

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other major casualty of Second Coming: Cable.

Why I am treating Cable more as an afterthought, rather than giving him and Kurt equal treatment? It’s not a reflection on the character; I really did like Cable a lot, almost as much as Nightcrawler even. Really, it’s just because it was so obvious. Kurt dying in the middle of the crossover was a major shock; even the issue where it happened seemed to be building up to Rogue being the one who would die. But Cable dying at the end of the crossover? Everyone who had been following along knew for months that was coming. It was just too easy. Of course he was going to sacrifice himself to save Hope. It was inevitable from the moment he took her to the future as a baby. Once the crossover began, it felt even more obvious; every interaction between Cable and Hope seemed to be saying: “It doesn’t matter what happens to Cable, he’s going to get her through this safely.” And that’s what happened.

The only surprise, to me, was that I assumed Cable would die defeating Bastion, but not so at all. Instead, his death spurred Hope to take Bastion on herself — which she did, with gusto, defeating the bad guys while manifesting … wait for it … the Phoenix Force.

Many, myself included, wondered if Hope would end up just being Jean Grey reborn; after all, two female mutants with red hair who aren’t related strains credibility. As of yet, that’s not been even close to confirmed, and would seem like an odd twist now, even despite the Phoenix raptor she powered up. Mostly, it would seem almost creepy; with Cable as her surrogate father, Cyclops is moving toward a role of surrogate grandfather, and, well, yeah.

But anyway, the big crossover did deliver pretty well on its epic promises. Two major X-Men fall, and the next great one rises …

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2 Responses to “Auf wiedersehen to a hero”

  1. spiffyithaca Says:

    This gave me a sadface.

    RIP Kurt Wagner.

    I shall pour a sip in his honor.

    But I won’t go to church.

  2. davidry214 Says:

    Pour a sip of holy water, at least?

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