[This review reveals major plot points for Way Of X #1.]
The X-Men line is in the midst of a new Golden Age, but a growing darkness exists underneath the glistening paradise of Krakoa’s mutant nation. There’s been a sinister quality to the entire Krakoa endeavor: Charles Xavier has access to every mutant mind so he can create mental backups for resurrections, and disturbing rituals like Crucible make depowered mutants sacrifice themselves in combat so they can be resurrected with their powers intact. Most of the mutant population has embraced this new status quo with open arms, but others question the intentions of their leaders and the ethical ramifications of this new mutant culture.
This dissent is at the core of Way Of X #1 (Marvel), following Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner as he experiences multiple crises of faith at once. His Catholic beliefs are tested by the resurrection engine, which introduces all sorts of spiritual conundrums, and he struggles to accept a mutant society that celebrates ritualized murder. Written by Si Spurrier with art by Bob Quinn, colorist Java Tartaglia, and letterer Clayton Cowles, Way Of X is the book for readers who have serious doubts about Krakoa, recognizing the unsavory aspects of mutantkind’s current direction. It builds on the idea of Nightcrawler creating a new mutant religion, diving headfirst into the complications that come with trying to build a belief system when you’re uncertain about your own.
Nightcrawler is the ideal mutant to put at the center of this plot: a character with boundless empathy, strong moral fiber, and a curious mind eager to understand concepts that initially come across as alien. Nightcrawler’s playful attitude keeps the book’s tone from getting too severe, and the data pages bring readers illumination of his internal conflict as he ruminates on his new spiritual endeavor. Spurrier has always had a fascination with language, which gives his dialogue a lot of personality. In Way Of X, he introduces new mutant slang among the young characters that indicates how eager they are to drink the Krakoa kool aid: “Wanda” is a derogatory label inspired by Wanda Maximoff, and “krak” has become a replacement for “cool.”
Spurrier wrote an all-time great X-comic with his David Haller-centric X-Men: Legacy run, exploring complex ideas about identity and trauma with specificity, imagination, and plenty of superhero spectacle. The Krakoa era gives him an even wider array of themes to dig into and a massive cast of characters to incorporate into the story. There’s a provocative conversation with Doctor Nemesis, whose obsession with science makes him an excellent foil for Nightcrawler, and Nemesis’ data page features a wealth of fascinating anthropological theories about Crucible that showcase how eager Spurrier is to put a microscope to Krakoan life. And then there’s the issue’s cliffhanger, situating Way Of X #1 as a continuation of X-Men: Legacy by adding in a wild card with the potential to end the Krakoan dream.
The smooth lines, dramatic composition, and animated expressions of Bob Quinn’s artwork give Way Of X very clear and engaging visual storytelling. He’s especially skilled with depicting Nightcrawler’s emotional journey, and you can see how the weight of his growing worries impacts his fun-loving worldview. He’s trying to be the light that everyone expects him to be, but he’s getting pulled further into the shadows. Tartaglia’s coloring enriches the emotional content, like the panel at the end of Crucible that strips away color for a stark, grayed-out shot of Krakoa’s latest sacrifice dead on the ground of the arena. His neon hues for the issue’s surprise character contrast with the more realistic coloring to emphasize the figure’s chaotic energy, building tension that releases with the issue’s explosive final page.