Marvel once again has no new single-issue comics in stores this week, so this week’s Marvel Rundown is taking another look back at a classic tale of years past. Specifically, we’ve got a look at artist Dave Cockrum‘s four-issue Nightcrawler miniseries! The character’s co-creator takes Kurt Wagner on a whirlwind adventure through a series of alternate dimensions, each more bizarre than the last. How does the series hold up thirty-five years after the fact?
Check out our review of Nightcrawler, ahead in this week’s installment of The Marvel Rundown!
Originally published as Nightcrawler (1985-1986) #1-4
Written by Dave Cockrum
Pencilled by Dave Cockrum
Inked by Dave Cockrum
Colored by Paty
Lettered by Jim Novak
Cover and Original Covers by Dave Cockrum
Reviewed by Chloe Maveal
I’ve always been overly-picky when it comes to X-Men stories. It ends up being very much hit-or-miss for me. But one thing that I can’t deny is that I genuinely, truly love a good Nightcrawler story. So what better place to showcase that then by taking a trip back in time a little bit farther removed from the present and making this week’s Retro Marvel Rundown about the late, great creator Dave Cockrum’s solo Nightcrawler series from 1985!
The run is extremely short but manages to pack a punch in the little amount of time that the co-creator of Nightcrawler was given for the story. Through the four issues it basically amounts to Kurt showing Kitty Pryde and Illyana “Magik” Rasputin that he has to practice his agility skills in case he is unable to teleport. Kitty, curious about how that’s ever happened, asks Kurt to tell her the story, where the only way he was able to escape home was because of an inter-dimensional well “at the center of time”. Kitty — doing what Kitty does — has Kurt describe the Well more so that she can reproduce it and see for herself.
Of course, this leads to a tentacle monster reeling its big ol’ arms out and grabbing both Kurt and Kitty’s little purple pet dragon Lockheed, and pulling them into — what we later find out is — a gateway to tons of different and all equally bizarre dimensions. On the other side, Kurt and Lockheed have to deal with everything ranging from being swashbucklers aboard a very Heavy Metal-esque looking pirate ship and pseudo-seducing an inter-dimensional princess; to being sold into slavery to a weird shark/goblin/wizard (Shagreen, for those unfamiliar); and dealing with a bunch of itty-bitty little chibi-like clones of Kurt that won’t stop calling him “Daddy”. (I wouldn’t think about this too hard, honestly).
And there you have it. There is not much more to it than exactly that: Nightcrawler gets sucked into alternate dimensions where he has to weasel his way out, be very charming, and ultimately get sent back to his own reality thanks to teamwork and Kitty being astoundingly stubborn (and afraid of getting whooped by Professor X).
More than anything else, Cockrum’s Nightcrawler acts as a love letter from the creator to his fuzzy blue elf. You can tell just how much the late, great creator loved this character and there’s no denying that it shines throughout this far-too-short series. While so many X-Men comics (and films) love to paint Kurt as a character full of constant turmoil and never-ending German-Catholic guilt, this series brings out the true light of the character through his humor and quick-wits — a characteristic of Nightcrawler that is frustratingly forgotten. And who doesn’t like a good one-liner?
Because the series is also drawn by Cockrum, the quality of line work is unequivocal. There’s a crisp, playful quality to each character that really plays into the old-school Marvel roots. It takes a lot to give a character like Nightcrawler — whose abilities and skills make him almost constantly in motion — movement that is dynamic and fluid throughout the page, and Cockrum nails it on every panel. But if anyone could do it, there’s no denying it would be him.
If you’re a fan of the fuzzy blue elf and looking for a quick read to bring you back to the roots of who Nightcrawler is, Cockrum’s Nightcrawler is going to be a happy, nostalgic read.
Next week, another look at a classic tale from Marvel’s past!