The swashbuckling and soulful Nightcrawler was killed off back in 2010 X-Men line crossover "Second Coming," sacrificing himself to save Hope Summers, considered to be the messiah of the mutant race.
It's been more than three years, and as fans will tell you, that's a long time for such a popular X-character to stay dead. But it looks like he's shuffling back onto the mortal coil in the near future, as he's front and center in a new Marvel ongoing series debuting in November titled Amazing X-Men, first announced Sunday during the X-Men panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
Written by Wolverine and the X-Men's Jason Aaron and illustrated by Nightcrawler superfan Ed McGuinness (most recently on Nova) in his first ongoing X-gig, Amazing X-Men will launch with a "Quest for Nightcrawler," featuring the team of Wolverine, Beast, Storm, Iceman, Northstar and X-Men newcomer Firestar against Kurt Wagner's demonic pirate father, Azazel.
Aaron says that the book will run side-by-side with Wolverine and the X-Men, with that series focusing more on the Jean Grey School of Higher Learning, and Amazing X-Men featuring classic-style X-Men team adventures. Newsarama talked with Aaron for more.
Newsarama: Jason, before we get to Amazing X-Men specifically, wanted to clarify — since Amazing will also be written by you and starring some of the same characters you’ve been working with in Wolverine and the X-Men, will the two books be running side by side, or is this a case where one sort of transitions into the other?
Jason Aaron: They’ll be running side by side. They’re different books. Wolverine and the X-Men stays a school book. It still involves a lot of the same characters, but it’s more them as teachers at the school, and this is about those same characters outside the school, out in the world being X-Men.
Nrama: Seems like a natural direction, given that Wolverine and the X-Men has always been somewhat divided between school concerns and X-Men as X-Men adventures. So will the two books work in tandem a bit?
Aaron: Maybe down the road. Initially they’ll both be telling their own stories, using some of the same characters. But yeah, it’s kind of a natural evolution. Wolverine and the X-Men has always had a huge cast, and the cast has gotten bigger as things has gone along. It’s always been hard to balance the school stuff with giving a fair spotlight to the X-Men characters, and letting them be X-Men.
From Wolverine and the X-Men issue #1, we were always building towards this Nightcrawler story. That’s why those Bamfs have been there this whole time. That’s all been leading somewhere. When it came time to do that story, it seemed such a different story than what we’ve been doing in Wolverine and the X-Men. It’s a story that doesn’t involve the school, it takes place away from the school; doesn’t involve the students. It’s really an old-school X-Men adventure. It already seemed a departure from what Wolverine and the X-Men had become, so it made sense to make it a total departure, and just make it the beginning of its own new series.
That kind of frees me up for Wolverine and the X-Men to continue to be the school book, and now we can have this book, which is pretty much the main book for Wolverine’s side of the X-Men universe. This is him, and the cast can consist of pretty much anybody who’s a teacher at the Jean Grey School. This is what they’re doing when they’re not in the classroom. This is them out in the world as old-school X-Men, fighting to protect the world that hates and fears them.
Nrama: You mentioned the Bamfs, and it also seems notable that Azazel is in the current Hellfire Club Saga story.
Aaron: That’s another red flag along the way. I’ve dropped hints about him a few times, and we see that he’s got his own army of red Bamfs. He’s the main villain for this first big arc.
This is not really the same version of Azazel that we’ve seen before. It’s a little bit of a reimagining. The coolest thing for me about that character was seeing him in the last X-Men movie — an evil, red version of Nightcrawler. It was fun to watch him teleport around and fight with swords. This really owes more to that than what we’ve seen of Azazel before. This story casts him as a full-blown demonic pirate of the afterlife. We see sailing pirate ships with a strange demonic pirate crew, raiding the afterlife from Heaven to Hell, and everything in between.
Nrama: Nightcrawler has been gone since spring 2010, and like you said there has been some foreshadowing of his return, and the Age of Apocalypse Nightcrawler was a part of Uncanny X-Force — but what makes now the right time to bring the classic Kurt Wagner back?
Aaron: Obviously I’ve had plans to bring him back for a few years now. You can look at the tone of what I’ve done on Wolverine and the X-Men, and see how Nightcrawler fits perfectly into a world like that. I love the original Excalibur book by [Chris] Claremont and Alan Davis. Certainly, tone-wise, that’s something I’ve been shooting for with a lot of my X-Men stuff.
I’ve always wanted to have Nightcrawler back. We have too few characters like Nightcrawler in the X-Men universe. We have plenty of angsty characters, but we don’t have too many of the fun-loving, swashbuckling characters. But Nightcrawler also has a lot of depth to him. He’s not just a joke-a-minute guy. This won’t be an easy arc for him. It deals with a lot of his issues of faith. As a man of faith, he’s died and gone to his just rewards in the afterlife, so it’s going to obviously take something pretty huge to make him step out of that for one more adventure.
Nrama: So with a more lighthearted, optimistic figure returning, what does that mean for the tone of the book in general?
Aaron: A lot of what I’ve tried to do with Wolverine in the last few years, even though Nightcrawler’s been dead through all of that, you can see the influence of one character on the other. The last issue of Wolverine: Weapon X I wrote was about Wolverine dealing with Nightcrawler’s death, and Nightcrawler’s last wishes. We kind of showed how over the years, even if Nightcrawler didn’t realize it, he was having an effect on Wolverine. I think the direction Wolverine has started to go — which now has culminated in Professor Wolverine, headmaster of the Jean Grey School — that Nightcrawler had some influence on that, even though he was dead. It’ll be interesting to see if he were to come back, what he would think of all of that.
Nrama: And this is a case of the X-Men proactively trying to bring Nightcrawler back, right — rather than circumstances resurrecting him? How important is that part to the story?
Aaron: It’s very much a quest for Nightcrawler. You don’t open issue #1, and suddenly Nightcrawler’s back from the dead. It’s not that kind of story. It’s a fight. It’s the X-Men coming to Nightcrawler’s aid.
It all kind of goes back to those Bamfs. They’re at the Jean Grey School for a reason. The answers to the questions of “what are they?” and “what have they been doing all this time?” sort of lead into the entire story. It’s not just the X-Men going out on a lark to save Nightcrawler, it’s Nightcrawler needing their help, and reaching out to them.
Nrama: A huge component of the book is that Ed McGuinness is illustrating the series — what has you excited about what he brings to the table?
Aaron: It’s easy to say that someone is the perfect artist for a story, but when you look at the wraparound cover for Amazing X-Men #1, you have no doubts that Ed is the perfect artist for the story. He’s really been chasing after this story. As soon as he got wind of the fact that we were talking about bringing Nightcrawler back, he was all over it. He wanted on board. So this is something that we’ve been talking about for a couple years now, probably.
He loves Nightcrawler in particular, but loves that All-New, All-Different period of X-Men. And strangely enough, Ed’s never drawn the X-Men before, except in little guest spots on other books, so this is the first time he’s doing a big run on a main X-Men title. I’m crazy excited. When I first saw that first issue cover, my first thought was, “Man, I can’t wait to read that book,” and then I remembered, “Oh, I get to write that book.” [Laughs.]
Nrama: Even better! And Northstar and Firestar are both joining the cast — what motivated you to include them?
Aaron: With Northstar, he was a great fit for the role of the voice of dissension. The guy who’s going to stand up to Wolverine and tell him he’s full of crap, if he’s full of crap.
It’s a character I’ve always liked, going back to John Byrne’s Alpha Flight series, which I loved back in the day. Ed and I both wanted to do something a little different with him. As I was writing the first issue, I didn’t really know what my take on the guy was, until I started thinking about how to portray his powers — the speed and the flight are a great combination, but instead of just doing the simple thing of showing him flying around all the time like Superman, I was thinking of Disney’s animated Peter Pan film. I love how Peter Pan flies around in that. It’s so much more relaxed and natural, and you see him just sort of sliding and tumbling through the air, and he flies in all sorts of different positions. So then it clicked — and Northstar’s even got the pointed ears. So he became my Peter Pan.
With Firestar, obviously I’m of the age where I’m a huge fan of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. That show was one of the things that introduced me to the Marvel Universe in the first place. I’ve always wanted to do something with that character. I think it’s strange that she’s never been part of an X-Men book. She’s been an Avenger, she’s been around the Marvel Universe in a lot of different roles, but she’s never been an X-Man. This will be her stepping into the X-Universe in a huge way. I have a big fondness for that character, so I have a lot of big plans for her.
Nrama: Iceman is on the team, too, so you’ve got both Amazing Friends together.
Aaron: Exactly. What a coincidence!
Nrama: Firestar is a character that hasn’t had much of an active presence in the Marvel Universe for several years, so do you see a lot of potential there, given that she hasn’t been locked in a defined role for a while?
Aaron: Sure. I don’t know that if you ask even most comic book readers to describe Firestar, that they could tell you very much about her, beyond her powers. I don’t know if she’s been truly defined as a comic character. She’s bounced around a lot of different roles. Hopefully we can start to give her a nice, strong place in the Marvel Universe.
Nrama: Amazing X-Men starts shortly after “Battle of the Atom,” and though we’re months away from that, does whatever happens there lead pretty directly into this book?
Aaron: It certainly helps to set the stage. This is not in any way a direct spinoff or a tie-in to “Battle of the Atom,” but [that story] certainly changes some of the landscape for the X-Men universe, so this book will be dealing with some of that fallout, some of those changes. Obviously it also continues on storylines that have popped up in Wolverine and the X-Men from throughout that book’s run.
But at the same time, even if you’ve never read any of those, this is still tailor-made to be a jumping-on point. You can pick up this first issue, and you don’t need to know anything other than the fact that Nightcrawler’s dead.