Some of the X-Men are in Heaven, while the rest are in Hell. Most people reading Amazing X-Men figured that out before the previews for this comic released. It’s a good idea for the return of Nightcrawler to have this kind of storyline. Too bad this issue decides to treat both us readers and the X-Men as idiots.
There are things that work in this issue and things that don’t. First, let’s talk about what does work. The action is good all-round. Having Storm’s powers not working in hell is kind of a brilliant choice, allowing her to show off her hand to hand fighting skills again. She also has the best lines in this comic by far. Northstar is also fun in this issue, and Iceman has a great moment toward the end.
The art is very good. Hell looks interesting with its giant gates, rivers of blood and various demonic monsters. We don’t see much of heaven in this issue as most of it takes place on a pirate ship, but the monsters on the ship are visually interesting. Iceman is constantly melting while in Hell, and his mangled form appears as a melting ice body without being over the top. The colouring is pretty much perfect.
If you shut your brain off, this can be an enjoyable read. That’s the problem though; I can’t shut my brain off. From the start, this comic treats both the X-Men and the readers as idiots. For people who have dealt with all sorts of crazy stuff before, it takes them far too long to figure out that they’re in hell. Firestar’s trouble figuring it out is forgivable considering how new she is to the X-Men, but Iceman and Storm should have figured it out right away. Nightcrawler’s narration doesn’t help, as it purposely holds back this information by using roundabout language. He also sounds kind of depressed when he’s supposed to have a grand sense of adventure.
Wolverine appears particularly stupid in this issue. Professor X makes a brief cameo and telepathically communicates with him. Considering how much he’s basing the Jean Grey School’s philosophy on Charles Xavier, shouldn’t he have recognized him right away? And it’s a bit silly that he never figured out that he was in Heaven on his own, especially after being called an angel by a woman in white robes.
I really wanted to like this issue. I like Nightcrawler as a character, and I’m looking forward to his return. And despite its problems, this comic has some genuinely great moments. But they’re held back by the patronizing narration, Nightcrawler sounding depressed, and the kind of pointless Xavier cameo. It’s leagues better than Wolverine and the X-men has been lately, but there’s still room for improvement. If you’re a major Nightcrawler fan this is at least worth a read, but there are better X-Men books right now.