Whereas last issue focused only on Nightcrawler, Beast and Storm, this issue sees Jason Aaron spread his love around a bit more, as the rest of the cast return, but it’s still clear that the main focus is on Kurt Wagner. He is Aaron’s one true love, and it’s great seeing the character get so much attention. I’m undecided on picking up his solo book (Claremont? In 2014?) but being a regular part of an Aaron-written team book is just as good, if not better than a solo series.
The issue begins by quickly catching us up with what’s going on with the characters who weren’t in #3, as we see Wolverine and Northstar wandering around an endless arctic wasteland and Firestar desperately trying to fight off a bunch of demons whilst protecting a quickly melting Iceman. I loved seeing Firestar kick some serious ass here, that splash page of her ‘making it burn’ was just awesome. After this, we’re back with Nightcrawler as he tries to fight off a rabid Beast, who has been driven crazy by the battle against Azazel’s men and having a sword jammed into his back. Nightcrawler tries to shake his friend out of it by rapidly teleporting him around the ship, but that doesn’t work, as Hank still has his hands firmly around Kurt’s throat. Kurt implores Beast to remember him, and this launches us into a flashback, where, much like Storm last month, Beast remembers a time when he and Nightcrawler bonded. In this case, its staying back at the X-Mansion and playing ‘obstacle chess’ rather than go out to the bar with the rest of the X-Men and risk being made stared at. These are the only blue and furry men in comics, so it would make sense that they have a special bond, but this story is making it clear that Nightcrawler pretty much had a special bond with everyone, he’s that awesome. Beast snaps out of it and hugs Kurt, and, now that the X-Men have control of a boat, it’s time to find the rest of the X-Men.
Iceman wakes up, surprisingly unmelted, in a strange cave with only Firestar and a load of Bamfs for company. Firestar reveals that the cute critters saved them after her last-ditch attempt to ward off the demons, but that there doesn’t seem to be any way out of here. Luckily, it’s not long before Nightcrawler shows up to rescue them, get another hug, and also finally explain the origins of the Bamfs, which has been a long time coming. The Bamfs started out as demon off-spring, maggots, that had been left for dead in hell, until Azazel came across them, fed them his blood, and transformed them into the evil Red Bamfs he still uses. Nightcrawler came across one of them after warding off one of his dads’ attacks, and gave them something to turn them good and blue. I’m guessing that Kurt game them his soul, and that’s what’s stopping him from coming back to life immediately (as he says repeatedly in this issue, he is still dead).
After this, it’s finally time to save Northstar and Wolverine from freezing death, and it comes just at the point where Wolverine is about to give up. Wolverine has a flashback himself, to him and Nightcrawler talking in a bar about how he’ll die, and Wolverine finally realising that he doesn’t want to die alone, that Kurt was right. Luckily, he’s not going to die (because we all thought Wolverine was going to die right here), as Nightcrawler comes to the rescue, and we get the best reunion hug of all, it’s so good it gets a full page. The emotions! I did get a little dusty. With everyone safe and on board the Pirate Ship, Nightcrawler dons a Captains hat and gets ready to attack his father’s fleet. Next issue should be fantastic, Nightcrawler is living (well, technically he’s not living them) his Piratical dreams, and that joy is infectious, not just for the other characters, but for the audience. That last page just made me smile, as this whole story has.
It’s a classic, old-school superhero story that’s done a brilliant job at bringing back a character and demonstrating just why he should be brought back. Ed McGuinness’ art is awesome once again, I love the way he draws Nightcrawler, and the sense of fun that character brings is perfectly translated in his art. This story is set in hell, but thanks to McGuinness’ cartoony style, it doesn’t feel grim.