Chuck Austen’s X-Men: Holy War

I know you’ve probably given up Hope that I would ever get back to Chuck Austen’s X-Men, and I sincerely apologize.  Life got in the way of the blog and this was one of the things that I got behind on.  But enough excuses and belly-aching.  As of today, Chuck Austen’s X-Men is back and I’ll give it my all to keep it on schedule to until the end!  So where were we?  Oh, yes!

When last we left our heroes, Alpha Flight had shown up on the Xavier Institute’s doorstep and tried to shut down the school.  Through a series of inept movements, a fight broke out until Xavier blackmailed the governor of New York and everything was set right again, except for Sammy Pare going back to an abusive household.  Now we go full-tilt into anti-religionism (not a word) with Holy War.

Took Place in
Uncanny X-Men #423-424

Team Line-Up
Archangel (leader), Nightcrawler (leader?), Iceman, Havok, Polaris, Wolverine, Husk, Chamber

Others You Should Be Aware of
Nurse Annie, Cyclops, Phoenix, Professor X, Jubilee, Skin, Magma

In a Nutshell
A bunch of mutants are crucified on the grounds of the mansion leading to the revelation that no one knew that Nightcrawler had actually become a priest (despite him mentioning it constantly).  The investigation turns up the most ridiculous religious-based plan ever.

Before I begin, I’d like to point out that the first issue of this story only cost the reader 25 cents, a full $2 less than a normal issue.  This was done to try to bring in fans who had seen the recently released X2: X-Men United.  So as you go through here, remember – Marvel was using this to bring in new readers.

After a page of captions saying that religion is awful, we come to a bunch of X-Men suddenly finding six random mutants crucified on the front lawn.  Four of the six are of note – Magma, Skin, Jubilee and Jesse Bedlam – the other two are a red bodied thing (with an X-belt) and a seemingly puffy thing.  The caption boxes, narrated by Nightcrawler, identify the X-Men present, but immediately take away the sense of horror by trying to make jokes, notably calling himself “Blueberry-Muffin.”  The joke isn’t funny to begin with.


We then get  back to the urgency of the situation for about three panels until we get another unfunny joke when Phoenix telepathically contacts Nurse Annie, causing her to freak out instead of help.  Three of the noteworthy mutants are identified (confirmation of Jesse Bedlam won’t come until a letters column several issues later) and everyone rushes to the coolest place in the house infirmary as Iceman reminds us that Nurse Annie doesn’t like mutants.  But she has her reasons.  Oh, and Nightcrawler spurts off some Biblical quotes.

With little other option, Nurse Annie hooks up Archangel to give blood to six people at once, hoping his brand new healing blood can cure death.  We get a mention that Xorn and Professor X can’t be reached (he is oblivious and a dick, after all) and then Cyclops yells at Nightcrawler for not leading his own team and sharing leadership duties with Archangel.  This may come off as an odd time to bring this up, being that it’s been the case for months and back in Dominant Species, Nightcrawler ignored the mission completely.

Husk wants to stay with Warren while the team leaves, but he blows her off and sends her off with Chamber.  Nurse Annie, loving some good gossip, calls him out for being a douche, but he argues that while she may like him, she loves Chamber.  Annie calls hogwash, making the statement that love with Chamber is impossible because there’s nothing to kiss.  Because, as you may recall, in Chuck Austen’s X-Men women are nothing more than shallow, love-crazy idiots.  So forget all the tolerance-of-difference messages you may think is a core principal of the X-Men.  No mouth?  Undeserving of love.

Yes, if YOU knew anything about women...

In the War Room, Cyclops looks for information about who might have done such a dastardly deed, to which Havok and Nightcrawler bring up the attack they got from the Church of Humanity last issue.  Cyclops has never heard of them since despite the numerous attacks, none of the eight X-Men who have encountered them (Archangel, Nightcrawler, Chamber, Wolverine, Iceman, Stacy X, Havok, Polaris) ever bothered to tell anyone about the brand new threat.  Cyclops yells at the whole team and Havok gets in his face, when suddenly we get more Bible quoting that doesn’t at all fit the situation.

I can't decide who's more brain dead.

Back at the blood bank, Annie finally decides that draining all of Archangel’s blood is a bad idea and prepares to end the effort when Jubilee finally wakes up.  But that doesn’t matter.  There’s more hijinks in the War Room!  Cyclops tries to figure out why the Church of Humanity wants Nightcrawler dead now when they didn’t during the first encounter.  Nightcrawler mentions that the only thing of notice was that he renounced his priesthood, when suddenly everyone acts all shocked that he had been a priest to begin with.

Say what, now?

Let’s stop there.  The last we heard of Nightcrawler and his priesthood, he had begun doubting himself because he saw Stacy X’s scaly bare ass when she spent all of four panels trying to seduce him in a plot thread that ended as soon as it had started.  Nightcrawler went to his church and asked for guidance on his doubts, to which his mentor kindly told him to get the hell out.  Since then, he dropped all the priest bit, seemingly off panel, but the X-Men seemed more shocked that he had been a priest at all.  Am I the only one who noticed how frequently it was mentioned?  How did no one notice?  And to keep with the “ugly mutants can’t be accepted” theme, Havok mentions that Nightcrawler’s appearance would be a factor.

The X-Men decide to investigate the church but first stop in on the infirmary where they discover that Jubilee and Magma (who is wearing her New Mutants outfit for some reason) have awoken, while the other four have died.  Or at least we think so – Skin is the only one confirmed to have died while the other three have vanished and are never spoken of again.

The X-Men head off to the church Nightcrawler had been coming to for years (since Chris Claremont had returned to the titles 42 issues prior) only to find it abandoned and derelict.  A bit more unrelated Bible quoting and the team enters as Havok again mentions that Nightcrawler’s appearance prevents him from doing anything religious.  Nightcrawler mentions that he’s been using an image inducer, which we know isn’t true as we’d seen him without it again back during Claremont’s run which established the premise.

Charles Xavier's dream be damned.

Jean finds blood on the floor (which she can immediately tell is MUTANT blood!) and rips apart the floor to find a high-tech lab in the basement.  The issue ends with a close-up of somebody’s face, but the matter is not picked up again.  Who it supposedly is supposed to be is pushed off until next issue, and you fair reader are just supposed to pretend you never saw him here.  Shhhhhh….

Next issue kicks off with the X-Men looking for survivors in the mess and Nightcrawler finding his mentor Father Whitney laying there nearly dead.  Father Whitney takes a moment to speak out against priests, as if someone was putting words in his mouth to explain that they found the whole thing pointless and ridiculous.  Some kind of writer, perhaps.  Whitney goes on to say that this whole mess happened because he had failed to curb Kurt’s lustful desires (though you may recall he didn’t really even try) and mentions that he would have become Pope.  Does that sound oddly ridiculous?  It gets worse.

But...but that's ridiculous!

On route to Montana, Havok comments on the ludicrousness of the situation, which makes him the lone voice of reason in the title, while at the Church headquarters the leader of the group takes a moment for villainous monologue to explain their entire plan.  But me explaining it really doesn’t do the matter justice.  Here, read it for yourself.

Not a word has been Photoshopped. I swear.

Okay now – let’s pick this one apart.  So Nightcrawler would have been “placed” in as the next Pope (a rather simplistic goal) only to have his image inducer fail and reveal his demon-ish appearance.  That lone incident would leave the Church “forever destroyed” which is another overly-simplified statement.  After all, the Catholic Church has been through a lot of rough times over the years.  This doesn’t seem to be the worst of it.  So mutants would be hunted as the Antichrist, which would have caused “the western world to be lost.”

Wait, what?  So mutants are hated and feared.  Big deal!  That’s been the name of the game since the X-Men debuted back in 1963.  You also would have to assume that all of the western world even believes in the Antichrist, which is a ridiculous notion.  And then for some reason, the world would then turn to the Church of Humanity as its only hope, and the only thing that didn’t make this whole thing come to pass is that Nightcrawler couldn’t keep it in his pants.  Well, actually he DID keep it in his pants, but the douchebag priest kicked him out when he sought guidance.  I can’t tell if this is supposed to be taken seriously or just mad delusion.  Either way, it’s horrible.  And this is the jumping-on story for the casual X2 audience, you may recall.

The whole plan is falling apart as the two soldiers sent to shut down Whitney’s project to find a successor for Nightcrawler took the opportunity to leave some of the victims on Xavier’s lawn.  That would suggest that among potential Popes, the Church used Magma and Jubilee.  Logic there?  None.  As punishment, the leader kills the two by palming their heads and squeezing.  Remember, this is not someone with super powers.  This is an ordinary human – and when their identity is revealed, this feat becomes even more impossible.


The X-Men split up, with Polaris, Wolverine and Cyclops causing a distraction outside while the others sneak into the structure.  But the distraction goes badly when a wheelchair-bound mutant causes them to fight illusions while real soldiers gun them down from above the ramparts.  You might recall the mutant in question as Jason Stryker from X2, though he is not named here and never again appears after this issue.

Jean detects the assault and is sent to aide them (after one panel of the colorist giving her Polaris’s green hair), stopping the illusions and allowing Polaris to slaughter the soldiers with their own bullets.  Jean herself attacks the last remaining soldier and the captive mutant, but we never see what she does.  She does not again appear in the issue.

Oh, snap.

Finding a captive soldier who’s willing to switch sides, the X-Men learn the other factor of the plan to bring down the Catholic Church.  Once Pope Nightcrawler’s true form was revealed, the Church of Humanity would initiate a false Rapture.  Havok questions this and we learn that the traitor has been fed a diet of communion wafers that “don’t taste right”.  You can see where this one’s going.  In the twinkle of an eye, the man kneels over in pain and vanishes.

The three X-Men present (more than half the team was sent as a distraction and apparently Husk and Chamber didn’t bother to come along) make quick work of the guards, with everyone taking turns to spout off Bible verses, until finally Nightcrawler teleports the leader’s hood off revealing her to be a woman.  She falls back into a machine which begins to blow up, and then she makes the whole structure explode.  The end.

Well actually, the story takes a moment to make sure the reader has developed a hatred for the Catholic Church by giving a couple captions of history on the leader’s identity.  You see, she had once been a Catholic nun who had been raped by a priest, accused of infidelity by said priest and then booted from her life’s work.  So she had never abandoned God, just the Church.  So even after all the death, gloom, and world domination plans, she was the real victim here.  And the true villain was Catholism.  The real end.

Oh my Lord, where do I begin?  This is by far the worst story of X-Men I had ever read to this point.  Actually, it will be outdone twice before the end of this series, but this remains a terrible, terrible story.  The book had two real points – getting Nightcrawler out of being a priest and getting Jubilee back into the school – but in the process it shoveled on more muck and inept story than any story had any right to do.  I just two issues, the story left we with no less than 10 incidents in which I was left saying “Wait, what?”:

  1. Nightcrawler has time to think about sexual nicknames while seeing former friends dead and crucified.
  2. Nurse Annie still hasn’t gotten used to telepathy.
  3. Archangel has enough blood to provide transfusions to six people at once.
  4. Women only appreciate the ability to kiss.
  5. Cyclops had never heard of the Church of Humanity.
  6. No one was aware that Nightcrawler had become a priest.
  7. Havok doesn’t believe Nightcrawler can be a priest because of his looks.
  8. Phoenix can tell mutant and human blood apart by looking at it.
  9. A former nun has  the hand strength to crush two human skulls at once.
  10. A former nun who retained her faith in God was cool about cold-blooded murder.

And then there’s the whole plan itself.  The leader had telepathically fooled Nightcrawler into believing that he was a priest, studying in a dilapidated church.  Why couldn’t they have allowed him to actually become a priest at a real church?  That would have prevented the X-Men’s suspicions and thus kept them from investigating to begin with, even with the crucifictions.  We also are given two reasons as to why it didn’t work.  One was the poor-quality of Nightcrawler’s leadership and the other was his sexual desires.  Neither of which they tried at all to fix, which was odd being that he was the core of their plan.

And then the wafers.  One of the lasting memories of Chuck Austen’s entire X-Men run was this ridiculous concept.  So the Church of Humanity wants to cause a false rapture by using disintegrating wafers.  How would they have gotten them distributed?  Would it have just happened in Rome?  In the western world?  How would that have worked?  And if nothing else, there was one slight issue.  The Rapture is not an accepted Catholic belief.  While the Pope is the leader of the Catholic church, Catholics do not believe in the Rapture and thus would not see the vanishing as a symbol of God.  Or maybe they would have.  Who am I to guess?

And thus ends our religious hatred.  Next week we’ll be dealing with the wedding of Havok and Polaris (with all the Nurse Annie you can stand) as well as an epilogue of sorts for this story.  See you next time for Sacred Vows!.

Missed a week?  Glutton for more punishment?  Click here for the rest of the Chuck Austen’s X-Men series!




  1. To Jacob, who is not afraid to suffer for his art.
    haiku in two verses

    Chuck Austen’s X-Men
    your opinions of this mess
    lighten our burden

    thirteen part feature
    eight weeks since your last recap
    I cry bitter tears


    • I cannot allow this comment to remain unanswered. I have the images pulled and the issues ready. I promise that Sacred Vows will be up by the end of this weekend, or I will Photoshop myself into one of the more unfortunate Austen era panels.


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