X-Men Vignettes #23 (1988)
“Nightcrawler’s High Adventure”
Writer – Chris Claremont
Art – John Bolton
Letters – Tom Orzechowksi
Colors – Glynis Oliver
Edits – Kavanagh, Edelman, Nocenti, Harras, DeFalco
From: Classic X-Men #23 (July, 1988)
Don’tcha just hate when some jag starts their thought by saying something trite like “They say a picture’s worth a thousand words…”? I know I do — but well, I guess I’m kinduva jag, cuz here we are.
If you look at the cover image here… it, well… it basically tells the entire story I’m about to spend several hundred, if not an entire thousand words talking about. It’s… it. I mean, I could just as well post that pic alone, and you’d get just as much out of this piece as you ultimately will be the time you get to the bottom of the page — only, you won’t have spent 5-10 minutes of your lives here!
Now, if that ain’t a selling point — let’s hurdle over the dashes and get right into it!
We open with our feature character, Nightcrawler, stranded on some desert isle — holding his head, and wondering just where in the hell he is. We’re immediately thrust back into Flashback Land to get us a little bit of context. Ya see, the X-Men were on board the Jinguchi Maru on their way to Japan — which occurred in real-time during X-Men #117 (January, 1979), which was also the lead-off story in this ish of Classix… you know the drill. Anyway, after being rescued by Captain Hama and his crew, the weather started getting rough… and the big ol’ freighter was tossed. Kurt recalls asking Storm if there’s anything she might be able to do about the harsh weather — to which, she gets quite perturbed and tells him that she’s already doing everything she can. On his way out, our hero spots a woman falling overboard — and so, he BAMFs into action, catching the lady as she falls. Unfortunately for him, he kinda loses where he’s at when they hit the drink, and so he cannot BAMF them back onto the boat. Instead, they just wind up following the tide, and smashing into a reef. Kurt wakes up on the beach of the atoll… but there’s no sign of Eiko Shimura, the woman he saved.
Nightcrawler attempts to collect himself so he can go about searching the area for Ms. Shimura. He does find her “oilskins”, which are apparently waterproof clothes. I’d never heard that term before… so, I suppose I just learned something. Anyway, he finds her “oilskins”, which clarifies to him that, at the very least, she did wash up on the same beach as him. In the hills, Kurt sees a shiny reflection amid the trees. He hikes his way to it to check it out. What he finds is something out of the pilot to LOST. A crashed plane! This is the Madripoor Clipper. Kurt calls out to Eiko, hoping that she might be hiding out in the belly of the boeing.
Our man climbs inside the wreckage, and among all the funk he finds… a trunk. Inside the trunk are some old adventurers’ clothes — pith helmet, pistol — it’s the whole “Dr. Livingston, I presume” ensemble. He tries ’em on for size… because, it’s not like there’s anything pressing or time-sensitive he ought to be attending to. He even models his new duds in front of the trunk-lid mirror. In the reflection, he’s shocked to see a skull on a pike — with a phallic object jammed in its mouth.
Our man then finds himself attacked by… Kylun? Well, no — not really… but, a very Kylun-esque critter indeed. Kurt pulls out the Madripoorean pistol… which proves to be very little use. This really evokes the sort of whimsical levity you’d see in an old swashbuckling adventurer serial — which, is probably the point. As not-Kylun swipes at our hero, he BAMFs around behind him and kayoes the beastie by booting him head-first into a nearby tree.
Kurt takes this opportunity to get a closer look at his attacker. It’s wearing Eiko’s life preserver… and a scrap of armor with what looks like a letter “M”. It’s actually a pair of mountains… which Nightcrawler is able to locate deeper into the island via a pair of binocks. Since we’re running out of pages, it’s time for things to become mighty convenient. Kurt deduces that it’s inside these mountains where Eiko is being held.
And, whattayaknow, he’s right! Kurt BAMFs over to the mountain… and finds out that it’s actually an old volcano. Deep inside the crater, he watches as more Kyluns and a Priest lead Eiko to a stone table that they likely bought at “Human Sacrifices R Us”. Eiko isn’t struggling or fighting… it seems she’s accepted her fate.
So, Eiko’s laid out on the slab… the Priest lifts his ceremonial sharp bit of stone… and, well — remember that scene from the “cover” of this story? Yeah, that’s what happens. Nightcrawler waits until the very last second before BAMFing in to sock the priest in the mush. Our man’s got a little bit of a flair for the dramatic, eh?
Kurt then fights off the Kyluns and goes to rescue the damsel. Only, by now the Priest has recovered — and uses his glowing eyes to seemingly put Nightcrawler in a trance. Our hero collapses on the slab next to Eiko. Looks like our Evil Priest is getting himself a “twofer”. Only, not really… because when he goes to plunge his stone into… well, either Kurt or Eiko — they BAMF outta there.
We wrap up with Kurt pulling himself and Eiko up from a piece of the crag. It’s revealed here that Kurt was only feigning that he was kayoed by the Priest’s mental control… because, I don’t know? It’s not like he couldn’t have just grabbed Eiko and BAMFed away from the get-go, right? It’s not like he lulled the Priest in so he could beat him up s’more or kill him? Seems kinda pointless, dunnit? Anyway, Kurt fires a flare into the sky — moments later, a bolt of lightning seems to answer this distress call. Kurt knows that Storm and the X-Men are likely on their way to rescue him. I say “him”, because, far as I know, we never see Eiko again… I’m going to assume she ultimately chose the island life. Well, after “repaying” the Fuzzy Elf… in some form or fashion — which we won’t think about too hard.
Well, this was a lot better than Storm the Sky Pirate!
It was also kinda nice to see an actual “swashbuckling” Nightcrawler story. That’s something I talk about a bit on X-Lapsed whenever Nightcrawler comes up. So many X-Fans have this weird knee-jerk reply to anything Nightcrawler — it’s like automatic “Swashbuckling!” To which, I’ve often asked “Where the hell IS the swashbuckling?” — I’ll also ask when the last time they actually sat down and read a Nightcrawler story was — but, that’s just me being a… lemme check good ol’ social media… of yes, a “gatekeeping manbaby”. Comic fans treat each other with such respect, eh?
It’s so seldom we see “light” Nightcrawler stories — as he’s usually bogged down with Catholic guilt, or moral quandaries… and has been for decades at this point. So, in that way, this was pretty refreshing to see. As a story, it was light, fun, and very “serial-y”. I also really dug how they evoked the old masthead from Amazing High Adventure for the story title.
All told, this one falls into the “enjoyable but not much to say about it” pile. It fills in some time that… maybe we didn’t actually need to see filled, but at the end of the day it didn’t hurt anybody or anything. A nice Nightcrawler spotlight to further flesh-out his character to a generation of folks who may’ve missed out the first time around — while also adding to the lore for those who’ve been there from the Second Genesis.
If you’re anything like me (and Lord help you if you are), you probably noticed the absolute glut of Editors credited on this issue. Usually (as in, current year), I’d make a joke about how it seems like the more editors they add, the less editing actually gets done. Here though, it seems as though Harras and Edelman have been added to the roster simply to attend to the Classic X-Mail Page.
Speaking of the X-Mail — it would appear as though the readers of ye old 1986-1988 had a very favorable opinion on the “Nightcrawler sees dead people” Vignette from Chapter Nine. I thought that story was “just okay”… and suggested it could’ve been any character in the feature role. Reading these fan letters… does not change my opinion. Heck, sometimes it can — just, not this time.