Religion and mainstream comics seem and have often been strange bedfellows. Do any publishers really want to rock the boat when it comes to high-falutin’ discussions about God and the Devil and the validity of religious beliefs? For me, the greatest religion-based comic was, is, and will always be Preacher from Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. This came from the Vertigo Comics imprint from DC, of course, but it dealt with theology in a thoughtful, entertaining, and very bloody way. There’s a reason it’s a classic.
The X-Men have often dealt with religion throughout its history, most notably with God Loves, Man Kills, the story of Reverend William Stryker’s crusade against mutants. As for characters, Nightcrawler’s religious beliefs have always been a core part of his being. His struggle to maintain his faith when faced with bigotry and all-powerful beings have not made things easy for him.
In Way Of X, Nightcrawler is front and center once again, dealing with the need for faith for a community that no longer needs to fear death. They just get resurrected again. And again. And again. As we quickly learn, Nightcrawler has been contemplating the creation of a mutant religion. But for what purpose? And is it even necessary?
Writer Si Spurrier and artist Bob Quinn deliver one of my favourite first issues from the revamped X-line. While Nightcrawler has never been a go-to character for me, I found myself quickly immersed in the issue and the headspace Kurt Wagner finds himself in. In the opening pages, it’s hard not to share his concerns about faith and resurrection as one X-Man gleefully takes a death shot, knowing that they’ll be back soon enough. It’s a great sequence that sets the tone for the book.
Of course, this being an X-book, the story also needs a big bad, and Spurrier and Quinn bring back one of the most powerful characters the X-Men have ever faced, one familiar themselves with inner turmoil.
There are so many X-books to choose from right now, you’d be forgiven for not being able to read them all. I definitely recommend grabbing issue one of Way Of X, though; it’s well done, asks big questions, and looks to be setting up new aspects of the status quo on Krakoa.