Uncanny X-Men #524
Chapter 6 of the Second Coming storyline continues with this issue, taking place just after Hope’s arrival on Utopia Island and Nightcrawler’s death in Chapter 5 (X-Force #26, not an Alpha Flight appearance). Poor Kurt, we’re going to miss ya. Mister Jeffries appears as a regular member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in issue #505 and Northstar appears as a regular member of the X-Men, having joined up in issue #508.
The frenetic pace of the past few chapters of Second Coming comes to a grinding halt as Matt Fraction has the unenviable task of writing a memorial issue to Nightcrawler. He gets a few things wrong in this issue, starting off with a bizarre exchange between Karma, who had part of her leg severed in Chapter 3 (New Mutants #12), and Mister Jeffries, in the infirmary. Jeffries is shown tending to her leg stump as if he were a medical doctor, an inexplicable role for him, unless he’s taken on nursing duties on the side. Matt Fraction just got this wrong – it ought to have been someone else tending to the leg. If he absolutely had to have Jeffries in the infirmary with Karma, he ought to have had him use his mutant powers to create some sort of awesome lower leg prosthetic for her.
As strange as it was having him there, the dialogue between the two was even stranger. Karma, who is certainly a young kid compared to the grizzled, grey-templed Mister Jeffries, berates him in a pissy exchange, calling him a “clumsy ox.” Not the worst insult hurled at an Alpha Flight member, but just inappropriately disrespectful, even for someone going through the trauma of having a limb severed. Jeffries response back is apologetic to the point of humiliating meekness, to which Karma digs in even deeper. It’s out of character for both of them and unfortunately portrays Jeffries as clumsy and supplicantive.
Meanwhile, up on deck, the X-Men gather round Nightcrawler’s corpse. Northstar’s feet and hand can be seen in one panel right behind Dazzler, who he later embraces in support. Don’t read too much into the embrace – he just happened to be the closest X-Man. Northstar is shown in a few more panels, standing around, and again in the Utopia control room with Mister Jeffries nearby, shown very tiny but still resplendent in his cargo pants. Mister Jeffries can be seen more clearly when Cannonball, the leader of the New Mutants squad, suggests to Cyclops that the X-Men investigate some large towering structures that Bastion has been building. Cyclops assigns the X-Club to investigate and take down the towers.
Later on, the X-Men gather on the roof near the blast furnace for Nightcrawler’s night-time funeral, a scene reminiscent of Dr. Takiguchi’s cremation in issue #515. Mister Jeffries is identifiable in shadow by his aforementioned cargo pants, while the rest of the X-Men show up in costume. Why superheroes show up to funerals in costume is still not clear to me. Northstar isn’t shown in that scene but is presumably among several shadowy figures, hopefully not in costume as well.
At the funeral, several X-Men utter pathetically awkward and short eulogies that sound trivial compared to the overwhelming moment at hand. Matt Fraction really missed the opportunity to capture the essence of 35 years of Nightcrawler’s role as an X-Man and the true impact of his death on his friends, his family, his teammates and the Marvel Universe. A simmering Wolverine then utters what is supposed to be an angry dramatic outpouring, but Alpha Flight fans don’t fall for it:
“Kurt was the only guy that ever looked me in the eyes like a man, and spoke to me like one, and treated me like one… he was my best friend and he never treated me like a damn animal.”
Yes, they were close friends, but it was a huge mistake on Matt Fraction’s part to phrase it this way, as if he forgot Mac had ever existed. It should have read, “Kurt was one of the only guys…” and “he was one of my best friends”, which would have made a lot more sense. James MacDonald Hudson would be the man most suitable for these remarks as phrased, not Kurt Wagner, and for lack of any funeral scenes so far for any of the Alpha Flight members killed in New Avengers #16, this little Logan-ism comes off to Alpha Flight fans as perplexing, not furious.
Note: there is a variant cover by David Finch, Matt Banning and Peter Steigerwald and a Heroic Age variant by Stephane Roux. Additionally, there is a 2nd printing variant with interior art by the Dodsons, featuring Northstar’s right arm and left leg in the upper left corner.
|Uncanny X-Men #524 – Finch variant|
|Uncanny X-Men #524 – Heroic Age variant|
|Uncanny X-Men #524 – 2nd printing variant|