Nightcrawler (3rd series) #7

Issue Date: 
August 2005
Story Title: 
The Winding Way, part 1: Underbelly

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Writer), Darick Robertson (Penciler), Jimmy Palmiotti (Inker), Avalon’s Matt Milla (Colorist), Virtual Calligraphy’s Cory Petit (Letterer), Sean Ryan (Assistant Editor), Nick Lowe (Assistant Editor), Mike Marts (Editor), Joe Quesada (Editor in Chief), Dan Buckley (Publisher)

Brief Description: 

Beast, the White Queen, Iceman and Christine Palmer attempt to resuscitate a comatose Nightcrawler, injured in battle with Vermin. Nightcrawler however is re-living parts of his oft-confusing life - his so-called Priesthood, his time as a circus “freak”, his rescue at the hands of Xavier, times with his deceased foster-brother Stefan Szardos, his former super group Excalibur, three special women in his life: Christine Palmer, Storm and Amanda Sefton, and how much life he indeed has. In the depths of his memory, Kurt comes across a trunk, and is about to open it, until the White Queen pulls him back to consciousness before he can do so, leaving the question - what is in the trunk - Kurt’s deepest darkest secret.

Full Summary: 

February in New York. Everything is in a deep-freeze. But as he huddles into a jacket and walks along a less-than-respectable street, long time X-Man Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner wonders why it feels like he is burning up. ‘Help an old altar boy, Father?’ a scruffy homeless man asks, extending his hand in front of Kurt. Kurt looks at the man and is about to tell him that he isn’t a priest, when suddenly he remembers wearing a collar at some points - when was that? He cannot quite remember. Does that mean he was - or is - a priest?

Kurt remembers a man called Father Whitney (The Devil is your father), and decides that he would know if he is or was a priest. Arriving at a church, Kurt decides that he needs to (Confess your sins…) get warm (…to pray for forgiveness) - that he needs help. He wonders that if this time of day someone is even hearing people’s confessions. Kurt turns to a nun and asks her if he can go in. The nun reveals that the priest has been waiting for him.

Entering the confessional booth, Kurt wonders why he can’t stop shaking - ‘May God, who has enlightened every heart, help you to know your sins and trust in his mercy’ says the priest as Kurt takes his seat. ‘Amen’ Kurt remarks, before asking the Father to forgive him, as he has sinned, and admits that he doesn’t know how long it has been since his last confession. He can’t remember (Anything), like how he got here.

The priest suggests to Kurt that if it is easier, he may start from when he felt he was furthest from God. Beads of sweat being to form on Nightcrawler’s face. ‘Furthest from…?’ (When you were) Kurt remembers the children. (When they died). He wonders if it was when he let the children die - when he didn’t protect them. But he protests, claiming that he did - he saved Seth from Doctor Childs and his cult, stopped them from hurting other children.

But the priest tells Kurt that he doesn’t mean those children - but the ones that his brother murdered. Kurt goes wide-eyed, wondering how the priest could know, even more so when the priest adds ‘Before you murdered him!’ Kurt begins to protests, before realizing that the voice does not belong to Father Whitney. Kurt rushes from his side of the confession booth and, believing he knows who the voice belongs to, he opens the door to the other side of the booth - only it is empty. (Because Whitney’s dead. He’s been dead for - ) ‘Who was it?’ Kurt exclaims. (The Devil)

Nightcrawler touches his forehead and wonders what is happening to him. (The Devil is playing with you). Kurt supposes that it is the fever (Driving you insane…) The nun informs Kurt that it is just beginning. ‘What is?’ he asks. (Your torment). The nun pauses, before telling Kurt that she is sorry, but Kurt asks her what “beginning” she is talking about. ‘I haven’t said anything’ the nun replies. Kurt begins to protest, before telling himself to forget it, that he needs to go.

Rushing out of the church, Kurt is bathed in sunlight, and decides that this is better. ‘Hey freak’ a bunch of punks shout at Kurt. Kurt wonders who they are (They hate you) ‘Who let you outta your cage, freak?’ one of them shouts. Kurt is about to reply ‘I’m not a freak’ before remembering a time when he was…but when was that, and why? Kurt remembers huddling in a cage. (Because you’re a - ) ‘I’m talking to you, freak!’ the punk shouts back.

Kurt looks back at them and sees the young men rushing towards him, thinking that they are not seriously going to do it. (Run) Kurt invokes God, wondering who these boys are. Suddenly in his mind he sees an angry mob carrying pitchforks and flaming sticks. ‘Gonna kill you, freak!’ they shout. Kurt turns a corner, (Keep running, mutant, the way you’ve been running your entire - ), but finds a dead end.

Nightcrawler tells himself to turn around, to not let them - but they’re not there. Then there is a thud, and Kurt is whacked over the head by some piping. The punks surround Kurt as he lies on the ground, they are all around him - he screams. Did one of his ribs just break? He tells himself to think, that he needs to get help????????? Confusion spreads through Kurt as he sees a bald man in a wheelchair with a shinning light behind him. ‘Hello young man. My name is Charles Xavier and I’d like to make you an offer’.

As a foot is about to stomp on his face, Kurt cries ‘Professor?’ then sees someone else - ‘You’re letting those monkey’s kill you? When you could tear them to shreds with your bare, three-fingered hands?’ Mystique exclaims. Kurt calls to his mother - one of them - ‘They’re killing me, mother’. (Let them) Mystique tells Kurt that seems as how he is so sensitive, he could save himself by teleporting. ‘You’re good for that at least’.

‘I’m…a teleporter?’ Xavier appears in place of Mystique, offering to teach Kurt how to use his special talents and perfect them, revealing that he runs a school for gifted youngsters such as Kurt, where he will be able to ‘Imagine a place and go there’ Kurt vanishes in a bright cloud and stench of brimstone, the thugs are left kicking and punching the air.

Kurt arrives at his destination, a lush landscape in beautiful Germany. (Clever Devil, you - ) Sun streams through the dense forest, as Kurt realizes that he knows this place. (The Dark Country) Germany, ‘Where I was…’ (Where you will…die!) A black horse runs out in front of Kurt, and heads to a clearing in the forest. Kurt follows the horse, and confirms to himself that this is indeed Winzeldorf. Kurt sees a sword stuck into a stone. ‘Take it, brother!’ comes a voice. Kurt turns and is shocked to see his foster brother, Stefan Szardos standing before him. However Stefan is long dead. Stefan tells Kurt to pull the sword out of the stone, if he can.

Nightcrawler looks at the sword and remembers that in his first year at the Xavier Institute, then called “Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters”, the Professor made the X-Men read “The Once and Future King” by T.H. White - about King Arthur and his sword…Excalibur! Kurt, now dressed in one of his super hero costumes, turns again, his brother is gone, but in his place are six others, four of whom have had a major impacts on his life - Captain Britain, Shadowcat, Meggan, Rachel Summers, Lockheed and Widget - and in the back ground is their first base, the Lighthouse that served as a trans-dimensional gateway.

Captain Britain smiles, ‘It’s your turn, Kurt’ he says. But Kurt knows that Excalibur disbanded a long time ago - none of this makes sense. He reaches for the sword. The horse runs by again. Is Kurt dreaming all of this? He grabs the sword and pulls it from the stone. It gleans in the sunlight, and Kurt feels like it is an extension of his body - and he has felt this particular swords weight before.

‘Yoo-hoo! Over here, lover!’ calls a woman’s voice. Kurt turns, knowing that it must be Christine Palmer - or Storm - or Amanda Sefton, but it is all three of them. The three women stand near each on a pirate ship. Dressed in her nurse’s uniform, Christine tells Kurt that she knows he wants to keep things platonic between the two of them, but can she convince him to play “doctor” just once? The confident Storm folds her arms across her chest and tells Kurt that as two of the most senior X-Men, they really shouldn’t be sneaking around in the middle of the night like smitten school children.

Amanda “Magik” Sefton smiles and says to Kurt: ‘Well, which is it? Am I your sister or your girlfriend? Or both?’ before telling Kurt that considering what he is wearing, making fun of other’s peoples costumes is no longer an option. Kurt is confused by Amanda’s comment, until he looks at what he is now dressed in - a pirate outfit. ‘Shiver me timbers and all that - ladies?’ Kurt no longer stands before three beautiful young women, but three ugly legends with snakes for hair.

‘One spins the thread of life, one decides its length, one cuts the strands’. Kurt, now dressed in a more recent costume, looks at the red thread the Fates hold in their hands. ‘Is that my…’ his voice trails off. (Now do you feel it? It’s hot breath on your neck). The Fates grin, ‘Your overdue death’ ‘No reprieve this time’ ‘Behind you’ Spin. Decide. Snip. The thread is cut, and Kurt quickly turns around - ‘My…Lord!’ he exclaims as a Sentinel rises from the ocean, and smashes fist down onto the ship, breaking it apart and sending Kurt plummeting to the depths of the ocean.

‘Henry?’ asks Emma Frost a.k.a. the White Queen to her teammate Dr. Henry “the Beast” McCoy, both members of the X-Men. Emma is able to read Beasts’ thoughts when he thinks to himself that he has stopped the bleeding, but Nightcrawler’s pulse is racing, his temperature is 107 and his vitals…’. Bobby “Iceman” Drake and Nurse Christine Palmer stand by in the operating theatre at the Xavier Institute also.

Swimming towards the sinking ship so he can grab onto something, Kurt realizes that the ocean should be cold - but it’s not - it’s boiling!

The Beast informs Emma that Vermin’s claws were filled with a poisonous toxin, when Christine speaks to him. Beast informs the nurse that Kurt’s brain is seizing.

Suddenly, Kurt screams under water, shoving his hands to his ears, he screams for God, for it feels like there is a hot iron being stamped into him.

Somewhere, someone holds a voodoo doll of Nightcrawler over a cluster of burning candles.

Emma turns to Iceman, hinting for him to so something, but Bobby explains that if he lowers Nightcrawler’s body temperature too fast, then he will go into shock. Emma suggests that Bobby be careful then. ’Start thinking cool thoughts, buddy’ Bobby says to his friend as he places his frozen hands beside him.

Kurt is able to continue swimming, the deeper he goes, the cooler the water. But suddenly, he spies something.

Beast congratulates Bobby for stabilizing Kurt’s temperature, when he begins to explain the status if Kurt’s brain, Emma offers to try something.

Kurt swims towards what he had spied - a trunk. (Don’t open it) Nightcrawler remembers the trunk from when he was part of the circus. (Your Pandora’s Box)

Beast calls to Emma, checking if she is all right. Emma replies that this is like pulling apart a thicket of thorns.

Kurt arrives at the trunk - it is locked. (Your deepest, deepest secret…the only thing that might save you) Kurt grabs the padlock, thinking he will be able to open this. ‘Even if none of this is real’. (Oh, it is). Kurt clenches his hand into a fist, supposing that he can imagine a key, then have it appear in his hand - which is just what happens. (And the Devil was given the keys to the kingdom) Kurt is ready to put the key in the lock, ‘Whatever I’m meant to find, I’ll just -’

Nightcrawler is cut off, as Emma appears behind him, telling him that it is enough. Kurt is surprised to see Emma, who informs him that she has come to bring him back from whatever dark corner of his subconscious he has retreated to. Kurt moves away from the trunk, claiming that he doesn’t understand. The White Queen informs him that he was attacked by ‘that thing’ called Vermin, and reveals that Henry has been operating on him, but that he has succumbed to a coma.

Emma tells Kurt that she is reaching into his mind and dragging him back. Kurt agrees, but points out the trunk. Emma informs Kurt that he has to leave the trunk, for if he doesn’t wake up now, then he may never wake up. Kurt looks worried, but exclaims that he just needs a quick look inside. Emma grabs Kurt by the shoulders, ‘Kurt, darling, I’m trying to save you life here and you’re annoying me!’ Kurt is pulled away from the trunk, much to his protests. Emma tells him that they can finish this discussion once he is conscious. Emma asks Kurt to calm down, explaining that she is going to ease him back to life. Kurt screams ‘No!’

Emma asks Henry what Kurt’s status is, before remarking that it was a mess in there. The Beast replies that Kurt is stabilizing, to which Emma declares that she should hope so. ‘Can you imagine how furious Storm would’ve been had her little pet expired under my supervision?’ As Emma begins to leave the room, Christine rushes up to her, asking her if she is a telepath. Emma looks at Christine and replies that she is, to which Christine asks her what she saw.

‘The usual flotsam and jetsam…confusion, anxiety, fear, distress’ Emma replies. ‘Oh, Kurt…’ whispers Christine. Emma tells Christine not to worry, as she kept him from getting too close to any one particular piece of psychological baggage, and explains that by the time poor Kurt recovers, he probably won’t remember there was anything to fret about. But there is still the mysterious trunk….

Characters Involved: 

Beast, Iceman, Nightcrawler, White Queen (all X-Men)

Christine Palmer

In Nightcrawler’s dream / hallucination

Nightcrawler, Storm, Professor X (all X-Men)

Amanda Sefton

Captain Britain, Meggan, Phoenix III, Shadowcat (all Excalibur)



Christine Palmer

Stefan Szardos


Father Whitney’s impostor


Homeless Man


The Fates


In Flashbacks (within dream / hallucination)

Nightcrawler at various times in his life


Angry Mob

Story Notes: 

Nightcrawler’s ordeal with Dr. Childs, Seth and the children took place in Nightcrawler (3rd series) #1-4.

Nightcrawler left the X-Men during the “Six Month Gap” to become a Priest, he rejoined the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #395, apparently as a full-fledged Priest. The Priest storyline would come to a blow-out in Uncanny X-Men #423-424, where it was revealed Kurt was not really a Priest after all, that it was a trick by the Church of Humanity to expose Kurt, a “Priest” as the mutant he is, hoping to bring about more anti-mutant followers and laws.

Nightcrawler and his foster brother Stefan Szardos had made a pact in which Stefan asked Kurt to kill him should he ever go made. When Stefan began slaughtering children, Nightcrawler was forced to honor this pact. [as mentioned in Uncanny X-Men Annual #4]

The flashback with the townsfolk wanting to kill Nightcrawler can be seen in Kurt’s first appearance, Giant Sized X-Men #1.

Nightcrawler and Amanda Sefton’s brother, Stefan Szardos, has his name spelt Stephan this issue. The spelling is simply a variation.

Excalibur’s unfortunate disbanding took place in Excalibur (1st series) #125.

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