Cargo pants or Superhero costume… what to wear to a funeral?

Uncanny X-Men #524
July 2010

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
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10 Responses to “Cargo pants or Superhero costume… what to wear to a funeral?”

  1. Suzene Says:

    Full on agreement with you about how utterly lackluster Nightcrawler’s eulogy was. Makes me thankful that DeFilippis and Weir gave Northstar a much better one when he kicked off (however briefly). Good night, sweet swashbuckler, and heres hoping they get it right next time.

    I’ll give turning up at a funeral in costume a pass this time, since they’re all under threat of immanent attack. Meta-wise, it was probably just as well — the Dodson’s didn’t bring their A-game to this issue, and I doubt I could have told many of the players apart if they weren’t all suited up.

    Wolverine’s little send off…yeah. Fraction’s not treated the memory of the Flight well in his run, and this is just one more instance.

    • rplass Says:

      Thanks for the comment Suzene. I will throw Matt Fraction a bone: in the Utopia conclusion he did give Wolverine that great scene right before he skewered Weapon Omega. Too bad that time dimmed the memory of that deed. Fraction has been sometimes good to Alpha Flight, sometimes not so good. His inconsistency makes good blogging material, but all the same, I’d just as soon he be good.

      • Suzene Says:

        Very much so. And, again, I really do wish he’d gotten something a bit more spot-on for Kurt. The fuzzy elf always saw the best in people and refused to give up on his friends, and I think that would have been more accurate, not to mention more thematically fitting given the central figure of this cross-over.

  2. Zoomy Says:

    Just discovered this blog, it’s great stuff! I’ve been an Alpha fan for many, many years, and it’s good to know there’s a website keeping us all up to date with what the few surviving members are up to! πŸ˜‰

    • rplass Says:

      Hey Ben, thanks for the kind words! No, Marvel hasn’t managed to kill off all the Alphans, there are still a few around and hopefully we’ll be seeing plenty more of them.

  3. Chris Says:

    I don’t find Madison tending to Karma’s leg too out of character for him. We know that Magneto can control people’s blood due to the iron in red blood cells. So maybe Jeffries has the same ability and he was using his powers to make sure Karma didn’t bleed to death.

    Or Madison could have picked up some medical training from Manikin or Shaman when they were with Alpha Flight together.

    • Zoomy Says:

      But Jeffries controls machinery, not metal – it’s an important distinction that stops him just being another Magneto. Also, this is a guy who’s pretty much devoted his entire life to NOT being a doctor (like his mad brother) – he’s quite possibly the least suited character on the whole of Utopia to filling this role! πŸ™‚

      And when are they going to bring Whitman Knapp in to help out with the doctoring duties? Actually, ignore that, poor Whit’s always been a favourite of mine and if they did reintroduce him now it’d only be to kill him off…

      • rplass Says:

        Ah, a Manikin fan! He hasn’t been identified as a de-powered mutant since M-Day, so he could still be around. Great idea, Zoomy! But not the killing off part..

  4. Zoomy Says:

    Yep, I love Manikin. #66 is actually one of my all-time favourite comics of any series – a really clever, funny and dramatic way for Bill Mantlo to say goodbye to Alpha Flight, it’s just a shame that nobody understood it at the time… πŸ˜‰

    All-round (well, apart from the slightly creepy man-in-his-twenties-who’s-attracted-to-thirteen-year-olds bit, obviously), I think Whit is an excellent character who deserved to be used more and it’d be good to see him appearing again, written by some competent writer. Maybe one day…

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