GIANT-SIZE X-MEN NIGHTCRAWLER, available from Marvel on March 25th, takes the reader on a mutant adventure away from the shores of Krakoa. Magik, Nightcrawler, and their team investigate odd sensor readings from the abandoned X-Mansion. Will the ghosts of Xavier’s past confront them? Let’s find out.
Alan Davis and Edgar Delgado pick up cover art duty for this “giant” issue. The art is clean and clear. Nightcrawler strikes a ready-for-anything action pose, and the silhouette characters give you a taste for what’s inside. If you look closely, you’ll even be able to spot a spoiler for the story’s mystery. On these counts, Davis and Delgado check all the boxes for a cover that grabs you with curiosity.
Jonathan Hickman wrote this issue as an extension to his current run of X-Men titles. Honestly, this is an odd book. Giant-Size issues either mark a milestone of some sort, or they establish a link from one storyline to another. This book is neither a milestone nor a bridge, so there’s nothing traditionally “giant-size” about this book other than its size (30 pages if you exclude the cover and credits). There’s nothing wrong with that as long as the story is entertaining, but it is a bit odd.
Hickman’s mystery setup is pretty straight forward. The mutant team takes a field trip from Krakoa to the old X-Mansion to investigate alarms from somebody trying to access a gateway portal. The portals are designed to let any mutant through to enter Krakoa, but this particular portal is denying entry to a mutant(?). Hickman plays up the haunted house vibe, even going so far as to show “ghosts” of X-Men past that has the team chasing shadows.
Without spoiling it, the team discovers the source of the mystery and brings the story to a quick, albeit slightly too convenient resolution. It’s no surprise some of the shades you see are Rachel Summers and John Proudstar, and that’s the primary issue with the story. You immediately know the “ghosts” are not what they seem from a mile away. Hickman’s mystery winds up being little more than a limp question with a mildly amusing “that’s it?” for an answer.
Right away, you realize this is not a Nightcrawler book. Nightcrawler is the titular character, but the story is very ensemble heavy. If you had to pick the main hero, it’s Cypher. Nightcrawler does showcase plenty of “BAMF”-ing, and he’s a treat to watch in action, but Cypher figures out the mystery and brings about the story’s resolution.
If the “Giant-Size” aspects of milestone or bridge aren’t present, Hickman needed to hit it out of the park in terms of story. It needed more mystery and surprise if it intended to go the haunted mansion route. Maybe those elements would have hit harder if the team experienced some type of scary hallucination to compliment the obvious phantoms. As it is, this issue is simply an over-long, milquetoast, Scooby-Doo mystery.
Carlos Lopez tackles coloring, and he brings it with this issue. Too many artists are losing the craft of depth with colors, but not Lopez. In particular, it would be easy to defer the contouring of Lockheed’s head, wings, and body to the inks , but Lopez use a spectrum of purples to really highlight the little dragon’s ridges and curves. Nicely done work by Lopez.
There’s a lot of bizarre sound effects going on in this book. Clayton Cowles manages to embody those sound effects believably through lettering to match their source, even when the source is otherworldly ala Warlock. Cowles does excellent work here.
Alan Davis received credit for the internal art as well as the cover. Davis’ action panels are suitably dynamic, all the faces are expressive when the emotion of the panel calls for it, but here’s the standout achievement from Davis: Eye-Boy. Eye-boy is, in concept, a bizarre and ridiculous character. He’s a mutant covered with eyes that can see all different types of spectrums. Eye-Boy’s design fits more closely with a freak out of Batman’s Rogues Gallery, but Davis pulls off a design that works without looking overly silly. Not plausible, certainly. These are mutants after all, but you believe Eye-Boy as a physical character, and he presents well as being productive to the team.
If Davis is given another book featuring Nightcrawler, I would like to see him play up Kurt’s tail a little more. A prehensile tail is integral to how Nightcrawler moves and fights, but in this book, the tail is just there. It’s a small, character-based criticism in an otherwise excellent job from Davis.
Favorite Panel/Page: My favorite from this issue is the upper-right panel on page 18. Cypher/Warlock pops out some organic connection tools from his fingers, and you see/hear the letters “PLINK-PLORK-DOOP.” For some reason, that got a laugh out of me. Not only can I picture those sounds, surprisingly, since they have no real-world version, but the lettering matches the panel art perfectly. Kudos to Cowles.
GIANT-SIZE X-MEN NIGHTCRAWLER takes the reader on Hickman’s version of a mutant ghost story. The art is strong, but the story is bland. This book is best for hardcore X-Men fans that don’t mind the “Giant-Size” price tag.
Writer’s Note: Local Comic Shops (LCS) are going through a tough time right now with the pandemic outbreak of COVID-19. Comics fans of every flavor that care about his or her LCS should try to do what they can. So, here’s my part:
If you’re in Northern Delaware, South East Pennsylvania, or Southern New Jersey area, please take a moment to visit Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, DE. Say ‘hi,’ pick up a book, order a book (they’re on Comichub.com), and let them know you support them.
If you’re nowhere near that area, please find YOUR LCS using Comic Shop Locator and lend your support.
Thanks, and stay safe.