In my journey to read Nightcrawler focused arcs, I decided to read this kicker of a story. Going into this, I knew that this is a bit of a controversial/hated title and got the writer blackballed by Marvel and DC. I wasn’t sure when I would get to this, but since I got a copy via my library, now is as good a time as any.
Why Read it?
Some of you may be wondering, “if you already knew who Azazel was and how hated this story is, why read it?” Well, my curious reader, I actually have a few reasons for checking this out. Some of which are directed at how bad this story is perceived, and one seemingly reasonable rational.
The main reason I decided to jump into this, is for Nightcrawler himself. You see, when I get into a series (tv shows, movies, etc.) or conglomerates like DC and Marvel, I will typically latch onto/be drawn to a certain character or characters. For example with DC, it was Nightwing and later Red Robin (Tim Drake). For Marvel, and by extent X-Men, it’s Nightcrawler a.k.a. Kurt Wagner. As such, when I get interested in a character, I will want to read stories focusing on them, be it a solo series or in a team. So I was going to check this out eventually anyways.
Now, for the poorly received perspective, I kind of narrowed it down to three main reasons. They are reasons that I felt anyone could or would have when read something that’s considered bad. And for each reason, I will use an example of a poorly received X-Men movie as a comparison for uniformity’s sake.
Firstly, I wanted to read it to see how bad it is. While whether something is good or bad can be subjective at times, this seems to be a title that is almost unanimously hated. Especially with media (comics, video game, shows, etc.). I haven’t seen a lot of people, if any, defend this arc, and I don’t think I blame them. Think of it like X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Someone might decide to it despite being told it was so bad (e.g. *insert comment about Deadpool*).
Secondly, to see if all the hate is really justified. Criticism is all fine and dandy, but sometimes, you may get a piece of media that maybe unjustly hated. Outside of Marvel, I would say it’s the 2009’s Watchmen. Was it a perfect adaptation? No, but I feel it did do a lot right. For Marvel, I’ll go with Dark Phoenix in this case. I have yet to see it myself (I’ll get to it since I am binging the X-Men movies), but from what I’ve heard, it’s one of those movies that certainly got a good amount of hate. Something it, and the previous Dark Phoenix movie (The Last Stand), have in common. This would probably be an example of a movie being justifiably criticized.
Lastly, it could be a case of a story being hated when it first came out, but maybe not as much today. Either because it’s bad in a dated sense (or what have you) or maybe it wasn’t as bad as you remembered, maybe being good for the time (but maybe not by today’s standards). Let’s go with The Last Stand in this case. Like Dark Phoenix, The Last Stand is considered the worst of it’s franchise. Both were also about Jean Grey and the Dark Phoenix entity. And both were a sort of conclusion to their own timeline/universe (TLS for the first three movies, TDP for First Class onward). Which one is the worst will depend on who you talk to, but while looking around at reviews and the like, it seems like The Last Stand is the least hated of the two. Maybe still bad, but between it’s release and now, it seems more people prefer it over Dark Phoenix (excluding how The Last Stand may have done Scott dirty). It may still be the worst of the trilogy, but it’s also had time for the hate to settle, though not completely wane.
With that little thought process out of the way, onto my review. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Honestly not too much.
I have to agree that this is a pretty badly executed story. I may still be new to the X-Men comic, but I know a faulty story when I see it. For instance, Heroes in Crisis being another poorly received comic I’ve read. And much like Heroes in Crisis, I feel like it had a good idea conceptually, but a terrible execution.
I feel like the idea of introducing Nightcrawler’s father wasn’t a bad concept. (Disclaimer: at one point Mystique and Destiny were planned to be his parents, with Mystique acting as the father via shapeshifting. But due to it not being appropriate for the time, it didn’t end up happening). However, it’s reasonable for people to dislike how they handled it. Be it for what Azazel does for Kurt’s character, how the story handled it, or Chuck Austen’s shaky writing.
I’ll try not to dwell too long on the whole Azazel being his father, but it is a talking point. I know it wasn’t well received based on it giving the mob credence for wanting to destroy the “demon” (Kurt) because now he pretty much is one, or at least the mutant equivalent of one (like how Angel is the mutant equivalent of… well an angel). I’ve also seen the argument on how having Destiny and Mystique being his parents like originally planned would have been preferable (which is reasonable and would be more accepted today compared to the 80’s and 90’s).
For me, I like Azazel as his father, which may be an unpopular opinion. That said, I do respect why he’s a disliked character in some circles. However, with him being such a conflicting character, you may be wondering why I like him. Which is fair. Usually when a character is disliked be it for poor writing (Euron Grayjoy), a character readers are supposed to dislike (Joffrey Baratheon), what have you, it may seem odd when someone does.
The reason I like him is for some of the reasons he’s hated as well as a few other reasons. I think Nightcrawler being a “demon” (or the mutant equivalent) still makes him a great example of not judging someone based on their appearance. Just with an added layer of one not expecting a “demon” to be kind hearted and morally outstanding.
I also feel like it gives an added layer of irony to him. He was already being a “demon” Catholic and this kind of cements that.
Side Note: I feel like, had he been introduced by someone other than Chuck Austen, Azazel would have been better received and developed.
There’s also the fact I’m getting into X-Men comics now as opposed to years ago. So my perception may be different. I know it is a big deal for some (in a negative way) and that’s fine. I just view Azazel as a character a little differently.
My itty bitty positive aside (I can and will go further, jut not here), The Draco was a mess. The art is bad. I compare it to Dexter Soy (one of my favorite artists) but instead of being charming, its a terrible version of it.
While I give it the benefit of having a good concept, it’s the execution is bad. I haven’t read Chuck Austen’s other works, but I don’t think any of it could/would be worse than this.
Having read some reviews on it, I can agree that characters can feel odd/out of character (Mystique for me). I’ve also read a post discussing how it crossed the line of harmless fanservice into gross territory. Specifically with Kurt, why he unnecessarily ogled at by a character, and how it was unnecessary for him to be various degrees of exposed. I agree with the user. Fanservice in and of itself isn’t inherently bad, but there is that fine line between harmless fun and grossly unwarranted.
Do I think The Draco was worth a read? Yes. Is it good? No. Did it age well? Not at all. Was anything good about it? Conceptually, something was there, just poorly executed, and me liking Azazel as a concept and character.
If you asked for a recommended read, be it of an X-Men title or Nightcrawler story, I wouldn’t recommend it. I would suggest reading it for the sake of a Nightcrawler story, but with the caveat that it is one of the most controversial X-Men stories. And while I like Azazel, I feel like he was done better in First Class (the movie) and Amazing X-Men (2013). Sure, he was unceremoniously killed in Days of Future Past in the former’s case (how one kills an immortal like Azazel is questioned by some people) and the latter lead to Kurt getting booted out of heaven for losing his soul because of Azazel, but Azazel was handled better when not in the hands of Chuck Austen.