Marvel Comics Presents #101-108 (Wolverine/Nightcrawler)
Issue(s): Marvel Comics Presents #101, Marvel Comics Presents #102, Marvel Comics Presents #103, Marvel Comics Presents #104, Marvel Comics Presents #105, Marvel Comics Presents #106, Marvel Comics Presents #107, Marvel Comics Presents #108 (Wolverine/Nightcrawler story only)
Nightcrawler goes back to Germany to perform in the circus as an acrobat as he used to do. But the experience is sullied by memories of being chased out of town by a mob that thought he was a demon.
Nightcrawler is spending time with another circus performer, Jutta...
...when he's approached by another character with a demonic form (originally disguised as a boy that asked for his autograph).
It also turns out that Wolverine has tracked Nightcrawler down.
The monster, who really is a child, actually doesn't seem that antagonistic.
But Wolverine and Nightcrawler continue to fight him in exactly the sort of jump to conclusions that Nightcrawler was lamenting earlier. Eventually the monster explains that he wants Nightcrawler's help, and that they even have a history together, although Nightcrawler didn't know it.
This relates to the fact that Nightcrawler was revealed in Uncanny X-Men annual #4 to have killed his own step-brother, Stefan, after he turned evil. The original story covers all of that in a few flashback panels. Frankly i never needed to hear about it again, but this story expands on that. It seems Stefan was going around murdering babies, and Nightcrawler chased him. Stefan actually killed himself, using Nightcrawler's tail.
That is so bizarre i have to wonder about the motivation for writing that scene, like, was it to remove the idea that Nightcrawler was a killer (however justified)?
The baby that Stefan was going after when Nightcrawler stopped him is the creature that has approached Nightcrawler now. Nightcrawler is still amped up over the fight and jumps to the conclusion that his step-brother was right all along, but the child monster tells his backstory, saying that he comes from a race of monsters that want to live peacefully among humans.
They've sworn off violence despite attacks from humans. But now someone is executing their people, and he's come to Nightcrawler for help. But after making his plea, he's mysteriously set on fire, and dies. Nightcrawler's friend Jutta says that it must have been his own people that killed him, saying it's because he broke a code of talking to humans. Jutta coming to that conclusion on her own set off my alarm bells, but not Nightcrawler's, apparently.
Nightcrawler subsequently has to deal with another angry mob, who blame him for the death of the boy monster after they find his human disguise and mistake it for a corpse.
After escaping the mob, Nightcrawler goes with Wolverine to the settlement where the monsters are hiding. But Nightcrawler is still all mixed up over his step-brother being (sort of) right all along, and he's believed what Jutta said about them being responsible for killing the boy monster, so he's going to the settlement to kill the monsters, not protect them. It's really bizarre how dumb Nightcrawler seems in this story. Luckily, the monsters all immediately surrender, which defuses Nightcrawler (especially when they use a very familiar line about a world that "fears and hates" them).
It turns out the villain is really Jutta. And thank god, because it's been too long since we've had an evil circus in a Marvel comic.
I mean, how else are you going to get Wolverine to fight a bearded lady with "mobile facial hair".
This group, called Der Jarrmacht (literally, "the fair" according to Google translate, but i assume it means the circus), got their powers from a "mad geneticist".
Jutta apparently knew Stefan, but it's not really clear why she and the other circus folk are so hellbent on killing the monsters.
I got to part six of this story and figured it would be the final part. The bad guys were revealed at the end of part five, so Nightcrawler and Wolverine will fight them and wrap things up. But the fight actually lasts two issues, with Nightcrawler self-righteously lecturing Jutta about the discrimination that he himself was a party to not five minutes ago. Meanwhile, the monsters retreat to a castle that is set on fire by the local villagers.
Nightcrawler rescues the monsters. Wolverine slices Jutta when she tries picking them off when they're fleeing the fire. The local villagers soon realize they were wrong and start helping the monsters as well.
The Marvel Appendix fills in a detail on this story that i either missed (i'm admittedly skimming) or they are making it up. If the latter, they make perfect sense. The unnamed peaceful monsters in this story, despite looking like generic Gene Colan vampires...
...are said to be Neuri. The continuity tie-in, if intentional, make me like the story a little more. I also missed that the "mad geneticist" was meant to be Arnim Zola, but you can clearly see his outline in that scan. So i like that as well.
But it's still a story that takes a long winding road to get a basic parallel about prejudice between the mutants and the monsters, and it doesn't make Nightcrawler look so great in the meantime.
The best thing about the story should have been the camaraderie between Nightcrawler and Wolverine, two characters that have been separated for a long time now. But Lobdell instead plays up the sense that Nightcrawler is bitter about the X-Men faking their deaths (see References). Which makes sense (except Excalibur #41, co-written by Lobdell, seemed to indicate that Excalibur were ready to get over that), but it eliminates what should have been the most fun part of the story. There is still some fun banter in the beginning, and if nothing else this story gave us Wolverine giving a bearded lady a shave.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place soon after X-Men #7, while Wolverine is still in Germany, after Maverick gave him information on his "missing comrade". It also takes place soon after Excalibur #54.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
They're not making up the Arnim Zola part; you can see his distinctive, um, head-box in the scan you posted of the "mad geneticist."
Posted by: Thanos6 | February 8, 2016 5:17 PM
Oh wow, i totally mis-"read" that panel. Thanks.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 8, 2016 5:23 PM
Fnord, there IS a precedent for Kurt's hypocritical behavior regarding the creatures. In X-Men 170, the Morlocks offer Kurt a chance to join them and Kurt refuses because he's spent his life fighting to be judged by his actions rather than his appearance. Then, 3 issues later, Maddie shows up and Lilandra tries to kill her. Look at issue 174 carefully, fnord- Kurt is worried Maddie might be the Phoenix but he's NOT worried that Maddie might not be the Phoenix but Lilandra might kill her by mistake. Even though Maddie had displayed nothing but kindness at that point. Claremont's point seems to have been that even KURT is not immune to judging people by their appearances. (Of course, that was later undermined by Maddie's transformation into the Goblyn Queen.)
Posted by: Michael | February 8, 2016 8:27 PM
This artwork is just terrible, sorry. Anyone who says the Image influenced guys got a break need to see that artists like Gene Colan were still getting work and just couldn't deliver the goods for what fans wanted. I make appearances as a celebrity guest at dozens of the top Comic Cons around the country and I NEVER see fans with these books, or any books, with Gene Colan art. It's just the reality of it. This might have been an interesting concept (I'm biased towards demonic storylines- lol) if a better and more dynamic artist like Dan Panosian or someone like Jae Lee got to handle it.
Posted by: Brimstone: Celebrity Mogul | February 10, 2016 10:42 AM
Some people really really never learn...
Posted by: AF | February 10, 2016 11:05 AM
I'm probably wasting my time even attempting to rebut this, but anyway...
Gene Colan wasn't the only great illustrator whose style, heavy with details and darkness, was never quite suited to cheap 4-color printing in general or superheroes in particular.
Westerns and musicals were once hugely popular at the box office, but just because Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick never directed either doesn't make them bad directors.
Posted by: Oliver_C | February 10, 2016 11:12 AM
He just wants attention.
Posted by: AF | February 10, 2016 11:35 AM
I would be curious to see the original pencils of this. Colan's work in the 70's is so damn good and this just looks terrible. I'd want to see if Colan has slipped a bit or if it's the inking and colors that makes this look so bad.
Posted by: Erik Beck | March 6, 2016 9:06 AM
I don't think Colan gets Nightcrawler. I think that's probably the main problem with the art(aside from the story). And while his Wolverine is ok, I don't think Wolverine looks like he belongs in this story, just like Kurt doesn't look like the acrobat he's supposed to(he's not a shorter Daredevil). It's 1992 and Al Williamson is pretty close to retirement, not that inking could probably save a miscast penciler. The production values on most MCP stories are lousy and these scans are probably accurate in depicting garish coloring and so-so lettering. It's a perfect storm of mediocrity. Then, there's Lobdell.... Bottom line, this story plays only to some of Colan's surface strengths and he's just not a X-Men artist. At this point in his career, ideally he'd be able to work with mystical material or noirish stuff, but it's the 90's and he's in Marvel Comics Presents with a weak writer doing mutants and he has to pay the bills. His Daredevil run in the late 90's is a lot better.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | June 1, 2016 1:22 AM
In the X-Men annual where Stefan's death was first shown, he was bearded and fit. But here he is beardless and chubby, even though it's supposed to be the same scene? Looks like Colan and/or his editor didn't even bother to check the older comic for reference.
Posted by: Tuomas | June 1, 2016 3:24 AM
Colan's art is perfectly serviceable here, if not his greatest work. The blame lies with colorist Kelly Corvese, whose tendency to use garish and cartoony colour schemes is a poor fit for Colan's shadowy, ominous art.
Posted by: Greg T | October 13, 2016 4:05 AM
Also having just read the story beginning to end with the "Neuri" theory in mind, there's no support for it in what's actually published. If it had been Lobdell's intention, he surely would have had Logan comment on having met Neuri before in Wolverine: Bloodlust, if not going for the double and have Nightcrawler be aware of Rachel and Meggan's encounter with one. If it had been in Colan's mind, it was certainly within his power to draw them to look anything at all like the previous depictions of Neuri. There's nothing in the dialogue or art I can see that supports them being Neuri.
I'm not sure whether there's canon support for this or it's just an invention of the Marvel Appendix - perhaps it's mentioned in a letter column somewhere? - but it's unambiguously not the intention of this story at the time it was being written and pencilled.
Posted by: Greg T | October 13, 2016 4:21 AM
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