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Uncanny X-Men #204 (1986, April)

June 26, 2015

I missed yesterday, but I’m back today. By Claremont and June Brigman, “What Happened To Nightcrawler?”

What Happened To Nightcrawler?

Very movie-poster-like. Nice.

Nightcrawler’s out on Amanda’s balcony in the rain, being all emo. Amanda tells him she’s going on an overseas flight that will keep her away for a week, but she’s willing to cancel if he needs her. She also mentions that the X-Men called to say they’d be home soon. Nightcrawler talks about how much he loved the adventure from his mini, and starts to play around, but neither of them are really in the mood. He talks about how being an X-Man used to be fun, but now it’s all grim. If he thought it was dark then, he had no idea what he was in for with the ’90s. He’s lucky he was with Excalibur for most of that time.

Anyway, the Beyonder has made life seem meaningless to him and he no longer knows who he is. Also, he’s out in the rain ago. Very emo of you, Kurt. What hurt most was being left behind when the Beyonder brought the X-Men to San Francisco, and his own relief about it. He also asks if he really loves Amanda, or if she used her magic on him. Smooth, dude. Man, Emo Nightcrawler’s a dick. He wonders if he should go after her, but instead, he howls, because apparently that’s what you do when you’re emo? Amanda gets in a cab, and the cab driver comments on a woman doing some jogging. We also see a metal garbage truck. It’s Arcade’s truck, of course. Nightcrawler hears its “sflanng” sound and checks it out, and follows it.

At the carnival that hides Murderworld, Nightcrawler sneaks in to play hero all by himself. He adjusts the security sensors to render himself invisible, then looks around. The jogger woman wakes up, and Arcade says she’s going to die. She has no idea who’d want her dead, since she’s just a college student, but he just activates his pinball machine. The woman is surprisingly calm, and thinks in Claremont’s distinctive style. “Make stupid jokes so you won’t start screaming.” That’s something most Claremont characters say early on, at least the ones who aren’t already hardened. Kitty, Jean, Maddie – they all had similar thoughts, almost verbatim, at some time or another.

Anyway, she’s in a forest, being hunted. She runs out of the forest, and into a line of Hussar cavalry. I guess she must be a history major in college, to recognize the Hussars so immediately. I mean, I know I wouldn’t be able to tell you if a guy on horseback was a Hussar. Though if I was a Claremont character, I’d probably be able to recognize all sorts of historical warriors. She falls down a cliff, and into some water. The dogs are still chasing her, so she starts making her way across the river, by jumping from log to log. She rests on one of the logs, and is attacked by a shark. Nightcrawler chooses this moment to help out. That gets Arcade’s interest.

The woman freaks out at Nightcrawler, thinking he’s probably another of Arcade’s robots or goons. He asks her to trust him. They’re in a desert, and a car is conveniently waiting for them, with a bunch more driving towards them. The game goes on! And this time, it’s Mad Max style. With Nightcrawler finally happy, doing what he loves. He gets away from the cars, but planes are next. So he goes up to take them on. After clearing skies and ground alike, he leaves the girl.

She finally reaches a city. It seems Asian, probably Japanese. Claremont sure does like Japan. I don’t know if there’s a particular reason for the Japanese design of the fake city, or if it was just for fun. Miss Locke offers to turn the girl into a courtesan, complete with an image of her as one. Dammit, Claremont. The woman refuses, and the people prepare to attack her, but Nightcrawler shows up again to rescue her. And then he mocks Arcade a bit.

Then the X-Men burst into Arcade’s control booth. Arcade realizes they’re his own robot duplicates of the X-Men, and he laughs, while Nightcrawler escapes with the girl. Whose name we finally learn is Judith. Judith is angry at him for having had so much fun. She says he’s just like Arcade, hooked on excitement and needing thrills to make his life worth living. He gets her into her apartment, where a couple guys are waiting for her, and call her Judith Rassendyll, Queen of Ruritania. Apparently, this is a reference to the novels of Anthony Hope.

This is a fun story, but some of Claremont’s cliches become a bit heavy at times. Nightcrawler’s early angst goes past dramatic all the way around to ridiculous. It’s just so over-the-top. Standing out in the rain all night, accusing Amanda of manipulating his emotions with magic, howling – it’s too silly to take it seriously. Judith also ends up being a bit too typical a Claremont woman at times, with the way she speaks. She’s got basically the same speech pattern as most of Claremont’s female characters.

Still, Arcade stories are always entertaining. When Nightcrawler’s playing the hero, it’s a lot of fun. He shows some nice ingenuity and strategy. He also makes so good jokes, especially when he makes some jokes at Arcade’s expense.

Brigman’s art works well for the story. It’s light and fun. It’s pleasant on the eyes. I like it. She probably wouldn’t have been a good choice as ongoing artist for the book, but as a guest artist, she was a nice change of pace.

One thing I wonder about, with this issue, is if Claremont had planned some sort of follow-up. If he did, it never materialized. There’s a one-page follow-up when Nightcrawler sees Judith off at the airport, but that’s it. It feels like there maybe should’ve been more, but on the other hand, the fact that he took her last name of the name of her new kingdom from a book suggests he did mean it as more of a shout-out, not part of a planned plot. He does technically follow up during Excalibur, but that was more of a callback.

In terms of solo spotlight issues, this one’s good, but it gets completely overshadowed by the next issue. Still, this was a good, fun issue.

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