Nightcrawler (3rd series) #9

Issue Date: 
October 2005
Story Title: 
The Winding Way, part 3: Swamp Gothic

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Writer), Darick Robertson (Penciler), Jimmy Palmiotti, Ramos & Scott Koblish (Inkers), Avalon’s Matt Milla (Colorist), Virtual Calligraphy’s Rus Wooton (Letterer), Sean Ryan (Assistant Editor), Nick Lowe (Assistant Editor), Mike Marts (Editor), Joe Quesada (Editor in Chief), Dan Buckley (Publisher)

Brief Description: 

Nightcrawler, Wolverine and Christine Palmer search the destroyed Winzeldorf circus and find several survivors, including Feur the fire eater, who reveals that creatures and monsters came and destroyed everything, looking for a sword, and that they are headed for another circus in Florida. Kurt knows this circus in Florida and has several memories about it, for it is where he spent a short time in-between Germany and joining the X-Men. Wolverine radios Cyclops, who arrives with the Blackbird and transports the injured to a hospital in Munich. Kurt, Logan and Christine then take the Blackbird without Cyclops’ approval and head for Florida, where Kurt is dropped off above the swamp so he can find the old circus, while Logan and Christine park the plane. Kurt finds Jardine, the owner of the run down circus, and warns him that something is coming that will kill them all, but Jardine is old an welcomes death. This death may come in the form of a creature like Feur mentioned, for outside the circus is Man-Thing, Carrion and Vermin as well as a host of Zombies. Meanwhile, in Limbo, Margali Szardos arrives to find Amanda Sefton at the mercy of Nightmare. After subduing Nightmare and imprisoning him, Margali and Amanda interrogate him, demanding to know why he came searching for a sword, which they presume to be the Soul Sword. Nightmare claims that he doesn’t know what they are talking about, and it seems that he was under the influence of someone a lot more powerful than he. Amanda detects a shift along the fault lines of Limbo and realizes that they need to warn Nightcrawler that someone could be after him.

Full Summary: 

Limbo: A dimension out of time. It is a place that the green-skinned woman with the ram horns on her head knows well. Her name is Margali Szardos and she is the Earth’s Sorceress Supreme. Approaching the entrance to the great palace, Margali comes across Brad and Roger, two giant snake guardians that appear to be sleeping. A former Custodian of Limbo, Margali knows that Brad and Roger are enchanted guardians who don’t sleep, but are in fact paid to stay awake and protect…Amanda Sefton…Margali’s only daughter, and the current ruler of Limbo.

With a wave of her staff, the palace doors open and Margali makes her way through the giant citadel searching for Amanda. Through the years, Margali has always maintained a somewhat tempestuous relationship with her children - her daughter Amanda sometimes known as the new Magik, her deceased son Stefan, and her foster child Kurt Wagner also known as Nightcrawler. As Margali’s journey along the Winding Way progressed and her knowledge of magic deepened, she has been both good and evil. But throughout, she has always been…a mother.

Margali hears someone say ‘I’ll ask you nicely once more - where is the sword?’ The voice comes from Amanda’s bedroom, and Margali races to her daughter’s chamber, only to discover it a mess, and standing over a bound, battered and bruised Amanda is the demon Nightmare. He smiles upon seeing Margali and exclaims ‘Well, well, well…this party just got much more interesting!’

A reality away, in Winzeldorf, Germany. It is a town with a seasonal circus at its center, hidden in the dark forests of Bavaria. It is a place the mutant Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner knows well, for as a boy, he lived here, working as a performer. But that was a long time ago. Kurt searches the destruction and finds another person also slaughtered. He wonders who could have done this and why. Is it because of him? They were his friends, and now they are all dead.

Except for this one, a large man who is helped over to Kurt by Kurt’s friend and teammate Logan a.k.a. Wolverine and Nurse Christine Palmer. Logan points out that the large man is alive, but barely. Christine asks Kurt if he knows him, and introduces him as Feur, the Fire Eater. Kurt replies that of course he remembers, when Feur exclaims that they used to call him “The Amazing Nightcrawler”, and asks him if he remembers that. Kurt replies that he does, and suggests to Feur that he doesn’t talk, as he is hurt. ‘…they…they came…’ mutters Feur, to which Kurt asks Christine how bad Feur is injured.

Christine replies that it is impossible to tell, and explains that she has bandaged all of his external injuries. Logan declares that this is bad, and reveals that he called Cyclops, who is coming in the Blackbird. Kurt asks Feur if he heard that, informing him that one of his friends is coming to take him and the others to a hospital. ‘You’ll be fine, you see?’

Soon, joined by Scott “Cyclops” Summers, leader of the X-Men, everyone arrives in Munich. Feur lies on a stretcher, wearily, he informs Kurt that they were looking for a sword, that they said Kurt had hidden it. Nightcrawler asks Feur who he is talking about, to which Feur replies ‘Creatures…monsters…tearing apart the circus, torturing us…’. Kurt is shocked, all of this because of him? He claims that he doesn’t have any sword, as Feur adds that he begged the creatures to stop, but that they said wouldn’t stop until they found the sword. Kurt thinks that this is madness, that the only sword he knows of is ‘In America next…to another circus where you lived for a time…in Florida’ utters Feur.

(Flashback takes place after Kurt left Germany, before he joined the X-Men)
A teenage Kurt Wagner and several others arrive in Florida, where a dirty man asks them what they think - ‘a little different from Germany, huh?’

Kurt asks Feur if the monsters said that they were going to Florida to do what they did in Winzeldorf. Feur replies yes. Kurt, Logan and Christine just look at each other.

Inside the hospital, Cyclops is talking to his lover and teammate Emma “the White Queen” Frost, over the X-links, explaining that he doesn’t want to communicate telepathically with her, he informs her that they are still up in Munich and that the last of the casualties have been unloaded and checked in. Emma asks Cyclops something, to which he replies ‘No, not because it makes me feel inferior, because…’ the subject is changed when Emma asks about Kurt and Logan, to which Scott informs her they have finished bringing survivors off the Blackbird with “that Christine person” and now they are…’Actually, I don’t know where they are. Why?’

At the Xavier Institute, Emma tells Scott, ‘Light of my life’ not that she wants to be an “Emma downer”, but that she just overheard their teammates thoughts, and while he is playing nursemaid in the emergency room, the others have stolen the Blackbird!

Inside the Blackbird, Christine tells Nightcrawler that she is confused, and points out that he is an X-Man, so why couldn’t he have just asked Scott to borrow this plane. Logan informs the Nurse that it isn’t that simple, for Scott Summers is a good guy, and if they told him where they were going, and what might be waiting for them down in Florida, he would turn this into an X-mission, whereas this more of a private affair. ‘Right, Elf?’ Kurt doesn’t say anything, instead, his mind has drifted back to the past….

‘Kurt, are you listening?’ asks Jardine, the distasteful owner of this circus in Florida. Kurt apologizes, explaining that he was just missing someone. ‘your lady friend? The hottie acrobat who turned down my offer? Who didn’t want to - how did I pitch it? “See the world?”’. Kurt informs Jardine that Amanda wanted to come, but that her mother wouldn’t let her go. ‘Her path led elsewhere…’.

Jardine motions Nightcrawler to his new home. Kurt looks horrified, and seeing the cage which Jardine has set up for him, with his name painted on it and everything, Kurt tells him that he is not a freak and doesn’t belong in any cage. Jardine comes up behind Kurt with a needle and stabs it into his neck, telling him that he knows exactly what he is ‘Mutants freak - and I know exactly what you can do’. Kurt cries out, rubbing his neck, Jardine informs him that he wont be able to use his powers with sixty cc’s of that drug - a mutant suppressant which cost him a lot, coursing through Kurt’s veins. Kurt falls to the ground, and Jardine leans over him, informing him that he will pump it into him every day and every night for as long as he pleases to keep him from teleporting anywhere, and keeping him nice and docile for the crowds.

Later, a very docile Kurt is naked and caged, with lots of people staring at him. ‘Mommy, what is it?’ asks one small boy. ‘Don’t stare, Philip, it’s rude’ the mother replies, before admitting that she doesn’t know what it is, except that it is some terrible, unlucky thing that doesn’t deserve any better she suspects. ‘It looks…so sad, mommy!’ the boy exclaims.

Inside the Blackbird, Kurt is preparing to jump from it, and Christine asks him if he is sure this is such a good idea. She points out that he is clearly under duress, not to mention does he even know where he is going?

Late at night, the young boy, Philip, makes his way to Nightcrawler’s cage, and introducing himself, he assumes that Nightcrawler cannot talk. Starting to pick the lock, Philip tells him that it is okay, he doesn’t need to talk, because he knows what Nightcrawler is ‘What you really are, I mean’. Philip exclaims that he is a mutant, like they show on the news and tells Kurt that it is okay, because he is also a mutant, and his special power is to be able to see other mutants, like there is a special light around them. The door to the cage opens and Philip explains that is why he came back, because they have to help each other, no matter what.

Despite Christine’s protests, Kurt has dropped from the Blackbird with some sort of glider attached to his back. Though he doesn’t remember exactly where Jardine’s circus is, he has a loose idea, so with the closest airport for the Blackbird to land some fifty miles away in Citrus City, Kurt thought it would be better for him to scout ahead. Gliding through the sky, he approaches the circus’ vicinity in lazy circles, of course he could teleport, but the glider also folds into a tent, and it might be useful to someone later, Kurt decided.

Finally landing on the moss and mud of the Cypress Swamps in Central Florida, Kurt comm-links with Logan and Christine, giving his friends directions and a homing signal to follow, for he would have to wait for them to find him - though there is still the matter of Jardine to deal with.

Jardine is in his caravan and pours himself a drink, muttering that Nightcrawler couldn’t have escaped alone, the lock must have been picked. Suddenly there is a bamf and the smell of brimstone fills the caravan. Fear spreads across Jardine’s face and Kurt tells him not to turn around. Jardine mutters that Nightcrawler came back - gone four days, escaped in the middle of the night - but now he has come back.

Kurt wraps his tail around Jardine’s neck as Jardine asks him why he came back - did he finally realize that no matter how far he runs, this is where he belongs, that however long he leaves them for, he will always return to the swamps.

Kurt makes his way through the swamps, recalling that when he escaped Jardine’s circus was on it’s last legs, even drugged and addled he could remember that - and the night that he went back, four days after the little boy freed him - and he threatened Jardine.

Kurt kneels on the desk in front of Jardine, pointing out that he could kill him now, and no one would come to mourn him. ‘You wont though…’ Jardine utters, to which an angry Kurt replies that he wont, because he believes in redemption and he believes people can change. ‘People?’ asks a confused Jardine. ‘You, monsieur’ Kurt says, before informing Jardine that he is going to give him two weeks to discharge any employees that are being kept here against their will and to stop mistreating the ones that stay. By doing this, he should become a better person.

‘Of all the thing I could’ve said or done…’ Kurt thinks to himself, of course he wasn’t an X-Man yet and didn’t know any better. Kurt feels that he should have shut Jardine and his circus of horrors down, but as he arrives at the dirty circus, it seems the years have done that for him. Looking around at the run-down and decaying circus, Kurt thinks that it looks like something out of a story by Ray Bradbury - the Carnival that Time Forgot - and he notices that the people, the “Carney’s” are so beaten down, they barely look up at him. However, at least they are alive Kurt decides, and their home is intact, not ripped apart by…those creatures. Kurt thinks that either poor Feur was wrong, or that this is just the calm before the storm, and either way, he has to find Jardine and warn him that something wicked this way comes.

Back in Limbo, Nightmare is chained and hanging from the ceiling. Margali tells him now that he has regained consciousness, and since she has stopped him from torturing her daughter, which she adds is a terrible mistake he made leaving his realm and coming into their in his physical body, now that he is trapped, Margali strongly advises him to tell them ‘Why you’re looking for the Soul Sword’ concludes Amanda.

‘The Soul Sword? How…Baroque-sounding’ Nightmare exclaims, informing the Szarods’ that he has no unearthly idea what they are going on about, before asking them to kindly loosen his restraints. ‘Don’t. Lie. Nightmare.’ Amanda tells him angrily, reminding him that he came to Limbo, willed her guardians to sleep, ambushed her, tried to brutalize her into telling him where she had hidden the Soul Sword, when her mother arrived and subdued him with her magic.

‘You’re saying words, and I’m hearing them, But again - I haven’t the foggiest what you mean’ Nightmare claims, adding that he doesn’t recall doing those things. Amanda turns to her mother and tells her that Nightmare isn’t lying, for the spell she put him under - ‘Was superfluous, since, as everyone knows, Nightmare never lies’ the demon claims. Before telling Amanda that since he is here in her boudoir, and they are both utterly convinced of his villainy…Margali understands what Nightmare is getting at and supposes that someone is doing something to Nightmare, using him as a puppet and making him come after her daughter.

Nightmare points out that if it were a possibility, it would have to be someone incredibly canny and powerful. Amanda points out that Nightmare wasn’t after her, but the Soul Sword. ‘Some things you bury - you hide and pray they’ll stay hidden, but they never do…’ Margali utters, surprising Amanda, who thinks that her mother may know what is going on here, when suddenly, she announces that she just felt a shifting happen along Limbo’s fault lines. Nightmare announces that he did as well, ‘By the Eye of Agamotto - did we just have a team-up?’ he jokes, before Amanda tells suggests to Margali that if someone is trying to get hold of the Soul Sword, they have to warn Kurt - wherever he is!

Back in Florida, Kurt climbs the stairs to Jardine’s trailer, and the first thing that hits him is the smell. The whole place reeks. Kurt calls out to Jardine, asking him if he is here, even before Jardine replies, Kurt can hear an intense, incessant buzzing of flies. An elderly man turns to Nightcrawler, telling him that he has a funny idea of what two weeks is. Kurt claims that he meant to keep his promise and come back, but…his thoughts trail off to his brother Stefan who went on a rampage and killed a group of children, forcing Kurt to kill him.

Kurt asks Jardine what happened here, and hobbling along on a cane, Jardine explains that time happened, that the swamp grew up around them and people just stopped coming. Jardine looks and smells diseased - is that a cloud of flies swarming around him? Jardine reveals that there is only him and a handful of people left, just a skeleton crew barely holding on. He coughs as Kurt tells him that he and everyone else that is still here has to leave. ‘Pardon?’ asks Jardine. Kurt tells him that they have to leave now, but Jardine asks why they would want to do that.

The infernal buzzing messes with Kurt’s concentration, and he struggles to tell Jardine that something just destroyed his home in Winzeldorf, and he thinks whatever did it is coming here next, maybe to do the same thing. “Maybe?” “You think?” asks an unconvinced Jardine. Kurt grabs the crone by his dirty shirt and tells him that he doesn’t understand but he will die. ‘Die? Look at me, freak…at this point, don’t you think I’d welcome death?’ Kurt points out that there are still others here, but Jardine tells him that they are hangers-on and freeloaders, and declares that if something is coming, he wants it to - ‘And damn us all to Hell’.

Just outside the entrance to Jardine’s run down circus, the Man-Thing, Carrion and Vermin, followed by a host of zombies, are swiftly approaching….

Characters Involved: 

Cyclops, Nightcrawler, White Queen, Wolverine (all X-Men)
Amanda Sefton

Christine Palmer

Margali Szardos

Brad & Roger (Snake guardians to Amanda’s palace)


Feuer the Fire-Eater
Other dead or  injured people at Winzeldorf Circus

People at Jardine’s circus

Other Zombies

In Flashbacks / Nightcrawler’s memory
Other circus performers


Philip, his mother and other circus patrons

Story Notes: 

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

This issue marks the first reference to Nightcrawler working in a circus in Florida. Continuity wise it makes his pre X-Men life even busier, but from information gathered this issue, it seems he left Germany, came to work in Florida, returned to Germany where he was forced to kill Stefan, then left again, before being rescued by Xavier and joining the X-Men.

Indeed Amanda did want to see the world, as detailed in Excalibur (1st series) #minus1, though Margali had other plans for her, which explains why she didn’t leave with Kurt for Florida.
The fire eater’s name “Feur” is meant to be German for “fire”. The word is misspelled though – it should actually be “Feuer”.
The Bradbury reference is about Ray Bradbury’s famous dark novel about a strange carnival: “Something Wicked this Way Comes”.

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