Marvel Comics' X-Men line spent decades in the doldrums with only occasional spotlights to remind readers as to why Marvel's merry mutants had once been the most popular characters in all of comics; one of the brightest lights originated from writer Si Spurrier's X-Men Legacy which would go on to inspire the FX series Legion. That series embraced a sprawling continuity and the intense oddities of mutantdom weaving them into an intense examination of identity with a psychedelic streak. Almost a decade after the completion of X-Men Legacy, Spurrier returns to the X-line prepared to tackle big ideas during a much brighter era in the pages of The Way of X.
The Way of X #1 is ostensibly the "mutant religion" book of the Krakoa era, following up on promises first seeded in HoX/PoX. It focuses on Nightcrawler as he grapples with the quick progression of mutant culture and moral quandaries posed by mutant resurrection technology and other new discoveries and rituals. Long seen as the prankster and priest of the X-Men, a constant source of light and wisdom, Nightcrawler is left in the unfamiliar role of a conservative questioning whether these changes are natural or healthy. He is uncertain about beginning a mutant religion, but knows that something is needed to address issues of morality and community in Krakoa's brave new world. The Way of X utilizes his crisis of faith to consider the big picture of Marvel's massive modern X-line posing questions and considering societal constructs in a fashion not seen since HoX/PoX reset the status quo. It all makes for a compelling start to an obviously ambitious series.
This debut displays a genuine curiosity about the forces that make society function (or fail to function) as it quickly identifies seams in Krakoan society as presented to readers across the past two years. What is the cost of gleefully accepting death with resurrection? What is lost in the hours or days prior to a dead mutant's last "backup"? Who does the Crucible protect? Which mutants are prioritized in this society? These are just some of the questions most prominently considered in the pages of The Way of X #1; they are also the same questions that have been bothering me since this era began. While they may lack the obvious appeal of colorful costumes and high-stakes superpowered throwdowns, they are fascinating questions tied to essential conflicts facing mundane human cultures today.
Spurrier and artist Bob Quinn present these questions in the best possible fashion by embedding them in a character-driven story, allowing them to rise naturally from situations and conversations throughout Nightcrawler's life. A brief mission to undermine Orchis goes as planned, but the choices and attitudes exposed during the action (of both mutants and mankind) reveal conflicts simmering just beneath paradisiacal existence on Krakoa. Extensive conversations with Xavier, Magneto, and Doctor Nemesis simultaneously introduce a strong set of perspectives for the series' cast and play upon Nightcrawler's long held place as mutantdom's conscience to investigate those conflicts in a natural fashion. Dialogue plays like action here with abundant activity and thoughtful expressions; this approach ensures all of the big questions posed in The Way of X remain accessible to readers and never feel like a collegiate ethics course.
Quinn's presence in this issue read like a discovery. Despite editing an extensive collection of weekly reviews for several years, his name was unknown to me and I can't find an excuse for how I did not already recognize his work. The Way of X #1 reads like the closest successor to what HoX/PoX began in part because of its thoughtful exploration of a revolutionary world, but also because it is presented with the same colorful clarity that R.B. Silva and Pepe Larraz brought to the page. Each new locale, whether it's an imposing museum filled with mutant crimes or a tropical cabana featuring an enormous sight gag, is filled with detail laid out in carefully assembled clean lines. Just as the story invites to consider complex ideas, it reminds you they reflect the vibrant world which they intend to describe. Quinn's character work is every bit as good with nuanced conversations carrying an array of mixed emotions. Nightcrawler runs the gamut as he moves from ecstatic joy to many modes of contemplation that fellow Catholics will recognize. Even if the story were lacking, Quinn's artwork would make a case for consumption, instead it enlivens characters and concepts requiring nuance and detail to be appreciated.
The Way of X is bound to draw comparisons to both HoX/PoX and X-Men Legacy. Like these series it explores a genuinely revolutionary approach to the superhero genre and blends high-concept and character-driven approaches to storytelling. Yet it's clear in the first issue that Spurrier, Quinn, and their creative team do not intend to replicate successes of the past. Instead, they are devoted to further exploring these ideas, picking up questions to run forward with them. It's abundantly clear by the final page that wherever this exploration of mutant faith and community goes next, the story is perfectly centered on Nightcrawler in the most ambitious launch of the Krakoa era so far. This series is one to watch for its creators, characters, and concepts.
Published by Marvel Comics
On April 21, 2021
Written by Si Spurrier
Art by Bob Quinn
Colors by Java Tartaglia0comments
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Cover by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Marte Gracia