Change -- Is More Than Skin Deep!
Credits: Chris Claremont (writer), Graham Nolan (pencils), Vincent Cifuentes (inks), Tom Orzechowski & Dave Sharpe (letters), Sotocolor’s C. Garcia (colors)
Summary: With Nightcrawler’s guidance, Rogue uses her new powers to rescue people trapped inside a burning building. Mystique escapes in the confusion. When Rogue’s preoccupied, Nightcrawler is forced to rescue a girl without using any powers. Meanwhile, Jean tells Moira that she only views Beast as a friend, Xavier and Beast make amends, and Sabretooth suggests directly attacking the Consortium.
Review: The previous issues of this series have been a blend of Claremont’s standard text-heavy, multiple panel style and the more “cinematic” approach of modern Marvel. Splash pages often popped up out of nowhere and the scripting was occasionally sparse, but in the end, each issue was rather densely plotted with multiple plot threads being advanced incrementally. This is the first issue to veer so firmly into the modern style, and as a result, it’s as about as fulfilling as an early Ultimate comic. (As in, not very.) The main story is needlessly padded, and the subplot scenes have slowed down to an absolute crawl. Did anyone really want to see more subplot pages of Xavier and Beast talking, yet doing nothing, about Burnout?
I can understand why Claremont’s using the fire as an excuse for Rogue to learn about her new powers, and for Nightcrawler to be a true hero and face danger without any; to Claremont's credit there are some nice characterization bits in these scenes. Nevertheless, why is virtually the entire issue dedicated to this? Why are there are so many splash pages and giant panels? Why not devote some of this space to actually answering a few of the questions raised in the previous issue? This issue has Nightcrawler and Rogue take it as a given that Mystique’s responsible for their power-swap, but they have no real basis for thinking this. I don’t recall Mystique ever having the ability to cancel Rogue’s powers, nor have she ever been able to grant Rogue someone’s else powers permanently. Her dialogue hints that perhaps she was behind Rogue’s permanent acquisition of Ms. Marvel’s powers, but the idea is just tossed out there with no rationalization of how. Also, if this were all a part of her grand scheme, how could she have predicted Rogue’s abrupt attack last issue, the one that’s set all of these events into motion? Plotting like this can be incredibly frustrating, especially when so much of the book is also being played as an intentional mystery.
By the end of the issue, it’s clear that Claremont’s serious about having Nightcrawler and Rogue swap powers permanently. I’ve read the entire run of this series before, but have absolutely no memory of a true point ever emerging from this storyline. Earlier, Claremont seemed to take a shine to Nocturne, Nightcrawler’s daughter from an alternate reality, while writing Exiles and New Excalibur. Is he simply stuck on the idea of a female Nightcrawler and just throwing any idea out there in order to introduce one into this book? Honestly, I have no clue why Rogue-as-Nightcrawler is supposed to be a good idea. Taken on its own, I would be willing to give it a chance, but when you consider that Claremont’s already doing physical transformation plots with other cast members, the concept becomes annoyingly repetitive. Ultimately, we’re just left with more characters that don’t look the way they’re supposed to.