Despite being annoyed that this issue of ‘The Quest For Nightcrawler’ only actually featured Nightcrawler for 1 page right at the end (he does narrate the whole thing though) this was still a very enjoyable issue of what I’ve come to expect from Jason Aaron’s X-Men, with great characterization, funny dialogue and some twisted ideas thrown in there too.
Thanks to the machinations of the evil Red Bamfs last time out, the various X-Men have been sent through portals to the afterlife, with Wolverine and Northstar being sent to Heaven, and Storm, Iceman and Firestar to Hell, where they are caught up in different parts of what seems to be a wide-ranging pirate war for control of Heaven and Hell between Azazel and some other demons. Aaron makes the most of throwing the X-Men into Hell, with it’s heat obviously having an adverse effect on Iceman, who starts melting, and, because there is no weather in Hell, Storm is also powerless. This only makes it all the more awesome when Storm grabs a demon’s mace and starts cracking skulls with it. She doesn’t need her powers to kick some ass, which is something that goes all the way back to when she lost them in the 80s, and it was cool to see that side of her again, complete with Mohawk.
As I said, the story is narrated by Nightcrawler, and we get to see his opinions on each of the X-Men featured, which was cool, and, as I said last time, it’s great to see the likes of Northstar and Iceman get some real focus, because at times, the main X-Men books do become the Wolverine and Cyclops show to the expense of everyone else. One cool wrinkle here is that Azazel’s Pirate lieutenants are demonic versions of Jack The Ripper and Billy The Kid. Not only does Aaron have a lot of fun referencing their real life exploits, but it also ups the ante for the X-Men to face, it’s not just Azazel, but real life evil too, and hey, if Azazel is in charge of these guys, he must be bad news. As I said in my review of #1, Aaron is doing a great job at rebuilding the reputation of Azazel, who, after the Draco, is seen as one of the worst X-Men villains ever, and he does that here by having Northstar actually laugh when he finds out that the mastermind here is Azazel. The characters themselves view him as a joke, but as they are proven wrong, so are the audience.
The battles in Heaven and Hell reach exciting climaxes, as Storm is captured, and Iceman does something truly impressive with his powers… literally making Hell freeze over, which is pretty awesome. This freezing doesn’t last long, and it costs Bobby his last reserves of power, as he collapses, leaving Firestar on her own… As for Heaven, Wolverine is forced to the end of a gangplank by Jack The Ripper, and he is visited by a strange voice telling him he needs to avoid falling from the plank. This voice comes from another dead X-Men, Charles Xavier, and it was cool to see him show up again, even though he was no help at all, as Wolverine does fall from the plank, partly because of the shock of seeing Chuck again. So, things look bad all around, Wolverine is falling to his doom, with Northstar racing after him, Storm is kidnapped, Iceman is unconscious and the newbie Firestar is surrounded. Looks like the perfect time for Nightcrawler to save the day! I can’t wait for the next issue and for the Elf to be reunited with his friends, there’s going to be some emotions for sure.
Ed McGuinness’ art was of course fantastic, the demons looked great, all of the characters are perfect and the Bamfs he draws are incredibly cute. He and Aaron mesh really well, as all of Aaron’s superhero stories have that slight comedic, cartoonish edge that McGuinness’ art has, and it makes for a very fun, classic X-Men story, away from all the moralizing and metaphors of the other books (which I love) and just straight up, superhero action.