"Nightcrawler" #4 begins as a fine culmination of the strengths from issues #1-3. The reveals finally make the stakes more interesting than the generic Trimega robots, the action is hectic and fun, and the main players all have something interesting to do -- but then it unexpectedly wraps up all those threads with an apparent fridging that only feels partially earned. "Nightcrawler" #4 is one of those strange issues where the build is far more satisfying than the finale.
The story opens with chaos all over, as Kurt and co. try to revive Storm and Beast, stop the Trimega robots, save the schoolchildren and close Margali's portal to the other world all at once. Todd Nauck does great work with the bedlam of an X-Men action scene, especially for those set within the Jean Grey School. His forceful lines and busy backgrounds are also a great fit for Claremont's script, which is all big gestures and dramatic head turns. What most surprised me, though, was how much I enjoyed Rachelle Rosenberg's bright, hyperactive colors. I'll admit that her color scheme isn't what I might first imagine for a Nightcrawler book, but here in issue #4 it's obvious how well it suits a comic full of BAMF, portals to the "world beyond" and teleporting.
Unfortunately, Chris Claremont sometimes still writes like it's the '80s, and the action sequences suffer from it. Nightcrawler narrates everything that happens as it occurs, and explains everyone's powers as they use them. With so many mutants on hand, a bit of explication isn't unexpected or unappreciated, but the lines need to be less obvious than "Jonothon Starsmore generates beams of psionic fire." If Claremont can couch the explanations more subtly, it can work going forward, but in this issue it is distracting.
The end of the issue, however, is its most problematic piece. On one level, it's an interesting move to give Nightcrawler, the teleporter, a spatial limitation. His choice to return now has unexpected consequences, and there are some places he can no longer go. However, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to reintroduce Amanda, Margali and the circus for a few issues and then resolve things this quickly -- and this finally, by sending Amanda off into the other world. If this is used as nothing more than a vehicle for Kurt's angst going forward, it will feel rather shallow and undeserved. If Amanda's adventures in the other realm become an integral part of the story, though, that could actually be quite interesting. It's one of those plot moves that I need to wait and see about, but I am concerned with the speed of the wrap-up.
All that aside, there is quite a bit of heart here, and Claremont has a nice grip on Nightcrawler's earnestness and boldness. He can make sentiments that might otherwise sound cliché, like a line about the screams of schoolchildren, feel emotionally relevant, and it's refreshing to see his vision of the X-Men as a family mix with their political realities. I remain hopeful for issue #5.