Best Shots review: Way of X #1 a haunting issue that looks at mutant morality after immortality

Way of X #1
(Image credit: Bob Quinn/Java Tartaglia (Marvel Comics))

Si Spurrier and Bob Quinn take a hard look at religion and morality in Way of X #1. Through Kurt Wagner (aka Nightcrawler), the comic explores what would happen in a society that no longer has to worry about death. The end result is a haunting, if not a little slow issue, that looks at the demons that lurk inside every human and mutant.

Way of X #1 credits

Written by Si Spurrier
Art by Bob Quinn, Java Tartaglia, and Tom Muller
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

The issue opens with Professor X having a nightmare, as a masked figure calls him "betrayer." Seeking solace in a friend, Professor X reaches out telepathically to Nightcrawler who is on a mission in Venice. Though Charles isn’t honest with Kurt about why he's "calling in," it becomes apparent that Way of X will see Kurt deal with his teacher's demons.

Si Spurrier and Bob Quinn use Nightcrawler to examine the morality of mutantkind's new post-death society on Krakoa. Since mutants who die can be resurrected with relative ease, there's no real moral imperative driving the society. What use do immortals have for a mortal morality? Nightcrawler has long been the X-Man most readily associated with faith, the contrast between his demonic appearance and his devout Catholicism having been explored throughout his history. Way of X sees that dynamic explored as Kurt tries to create a new religion for the mutants on Krakoa, something not so much for indoctrination as for providing moral guidance.

(Image credit: Guiseppe Camuncoli (Marvel Comics))

The opening mission in Venice sees Nightcrawler joined by younger mutants Blink, DJ, and Pixie, the latter of which is nervous about dying and is teased by the other two since she hasn't had "her first time."  Bob Quinn's shadowy illustrations help sell the location the team is visiting – an Orchis facility focused on indoctrinating anti-mutant sentiment. Quinn uses depth in the panels to help sell the action, as Nightcrawler teleports from the back of a panel, to the front, helping not just sell the physical action of his movement, but the stealthy tone of the mission. During this mission, Quinn and color artist Java Tartaglia help shift the story visually. At the start of the scene, the location is covered in shadows, but as the scene progresses, the room is revealed, and the only shadows left are on Kurt.

It is Kurt's emotional journey that is at the heart of Way of X, and Quinn's illustrations make that journey feel increasingly depressing. On Krakoa, former supervillains Exodus and Magneto prepare depowered mutants for an event known as the Crucible – a gladiatorial gathering where those depowered by Wanda Maximoff are killed and reborn with their powers restored. It's murder masquerading as bloodsport, and since the mutants can be resurrected, it's murder without consequence. When Magneto kills a mutant in the crucible, Quinn illustrates Magneto's face with the toothy grimace that Jack Kirby gave the character, visually selling the idea that Magneto is relishing the violence in a way that recalls his time as a supervillain.

Not everything in the issue works as strongly. An appearance by Doctor Nemesis feels a bit thrown in, as if readers aren't going to understand Kurt's journey without him having someone else to bounce off. But despite that flaw, Way of X offers a nice exploration of morality that feels poignant given the ever-expanding presence of superheroes. The X-books have been hinting at larger consequences of the newly founded society on Krakoa, but it's nice to see the exploration of the human psyche as a part of that, rather than just superhero dustups.

Keep track of future issues of Way of X and ALL the mutant comic books with our constantly updated list of new X-Men comics, graphic novels, and collections in 2021 and beyond.

Robert Reed
Freelance Writer

Robert is a Los Angeles-based comics journalist and writer (formerly Omaha, Nebraska). He currently writes for Newsarama and Adventures in Poor Taste.