Chuck Austen’s X-Men: The Draco (Prologue)

Welcome back, fair adventurers!  It has been quite a while since last we waded into the murk that is Chuck Austen’s X-Men, but here we go with the big one.

One of the longest untold stories of the X-Men was the parentage of Nightcrawler.  From the early days of Chris Claremont’s historic run on Uncanny X-Men, hints were dropped here and there about the origin of the fuzzy elf.  As legend has it, Mystique was not meant to be Nightcrawler’s mother, but rather his father, due to her shape shifting abilities.  His mother was to be Destiny, Mystique’s best friend and implied life partner.  However, much like the Colossus/(13 year-old) Kitty Pryde romantic relationship, Marvel axed the idea thinking that readers weren’t ready for a woman/woman childbirth in their flagship title.

Claremont apparently lost interest in Nightcrawler’s parentage and the tie between Nightcrawler and Mystique was not touched upon again during Claremont’s run.  Nightcrawler was shipped off to Europe for the launch of Excalibur, and like the book’s other members, fell out of importance in the X-Men world as the title lost any kind of purpose for most of its life (save for the Alan Davis then Warren Ellis runs on the book).  Eventually an issue of X-Men Unlimited confirmed that Mystique was indeed Nightcrawler’s mother, but the identity of his father remained one of the biggest unanswered questions in the X-Men line.

Enter Chuck Austen.

You might recall that one of Austen’s main goals was to get Nightcrawler away from the priesthood that had defined his character since mid 2000.  Now that Holy War had solved that predicament, it was now time for Austen to get the real story of Nightcrawler’s heritage finally solved.  The Draco is what many fans remember when it comes to Austen’s run with the X-Men, and I have to say that it’s a mess.  Due to the number of issues involved in the story and the amount of moments worth covering, my coverage of them will be split into three parts.

The first is only the prologue issue which sets out the answer to Nightcrawler’s parentage.  We see Mystique, we see the father, and we see a lot of mess made.  Click the jump and we’ll get started.  You know you want to.

(A quick note before we begin – if you’re reading this as soon as it’s posted, I have not yet added images from the issue to it.  I wanted to get the entry posted and I’m running short on time.  I will put out a notice when the images have been added.)

Took Place In
Uncanny X-Men #428

Team Line-Up
None.  This is a flashback issue, and thus there are no X-Men.

Others You Should Be Aware Of

In a Nutshell
Mystique is married to a German baron who can’t get her pregnant so she is seduced by a demon and has a baby.

Our story begins 20 years ago where…wait, 20 years ago?  Did that say 20 years ago?

Since this is a story about how Nightcrawler was conceived, that would imply that he is no more than 20 years old.  More like 19, being that pregnancy lasts about 9 months.  So we’re saying that at this point, Nightcrawler is 20 years old.  There is a whole lot wrong with that.

When the all-new, all-different X-Men debuted in 1975’s Giant-Size X-Men #1 (maybe you’ve heard of it), subsequent issues identified Colossus as the youngest member of the team, and he was about 18.  Assuming that Nightcrawler was about 19 then (or even in the later-half of 18), we would therefore assume that everything that happened between then and now took place within the span of two years.  That would include the Phoenix Saga, the Dark Phoenix Saga, the Mutant Massacre, the founding of Excalibur, Inferno, the Cross-Time Caper (which felt like about 20 years by itself), the return of the X-Men from Australia, the X-Cutioner’s Song, Fatal Attractions, the Phalanx Covenant, the dissolution of Excalibur and their return to the X-Men, Nightcrawler’s study for the priesthood (which Austen himself identified as having taken months), and its dissolution all took about 2 years.

But even if you can get your head around that, there’s another contradiction to that within a figure who fought with Nightcrawler through most all of his superhero days: Kitty Pryde.  Kitty was 13 and a half when she joined the X-Men after Phoenix died.  She was 15 during the Mutant Massacre.  By the closing days of Excalibur, she was legally able to buy alcohol in a Scottish pub, making her at least 18 (which is supported by her teammates being accepted of her relationship with the older Pete Wisdom).  Not long after this story, X-Treme X-Men shows her tending bar in Chicago, where she’d also have to be 18.  So that makes about 5 years at least since Kitty joined the X-Men, which going by this number would imply that Nightcrawler was 15.  Which he wasn’t.

So we’re one narration tag into this story, and we’ve already made a mess of things.  Maybe Austen wasn’t as big of a continuity nerd as I am, but that’s a pretty basic mistake, and with all these stories, the book is credited with an associate, assistant and actual editor.  There’s always a danger in trying to set an actual age for any character, especially with a long running franchise, but this could have easily been prevented with the line “A lifetime ago” to set the actual amount of time vague.  If we really want to get into basic semantics, 20 years from this issue’s release (2003) should have used the identifier of West Germany rather than simply Germany.  Anyway, let’s continue.

Anyway, atop a mountaintop sits the castle of Dr. Frankenstein Baron Christian Wagner where we open the tale with two random characters having dirty, dirty sex.  The man is surprised that the woman, a maid who has been shutting him down for some time, would be down for sexin’, but is rather easily convinced to sneak into the castle proper for some follow-up, despite a unfitting bit of logic saying that they’d get in less trouble if she came back there.  Oh well, who hasn’t done stupid things for some love?

The maid heads to the lower chambers of this medieval German castle and shifts into Mystique, laughing hysterically.  This draws the attention of the actual maid whose form she assumed who freaks out when she sees the blue-skinned hysterical woman.  Mystique quickly shifts into a more human form and treats the maid like she’s stupid.  After all, she is the Lady Wagner, despite having just been blue and wearing a maid outfit.  The maid laughs it off, since she is just a stupid maid.

You might be wondering why a) Mystique had shifted into her normal blue-skinned form (still with the skull on her head) even though she had just walked past an open door with a person standing right there and b) why she hadn’t shifted her form to a more appropriate set of clothing (it has long been implied that Mystique, like most shape shifters, runs around naked with her body mimicking the appearance of clothing) to which I say why bother asking?  Logic has no place in this series.

Up in the unlit master chamber, Baron Wagner tells his wife that she is able to have children, so their troubles must be caused by his hoo-hoo-dilly rather than her dilly-hoo-hoo.  As he apologizes for his malfunctioning dangle, Raven tells him that she still loves him and gives a wicked smile for no apparent reason.  Because she’s evil, I guess.

That night, the rube from the beginning sneaks into the maid’s quarters expecting a night of lovin’, only for her to scream out and cause a ruckus which sends the Baron heading to see what’s the matter.  Because apparently the servants’ quarters are so close to the main chamber that you can hear a maid’s conversation through the wall.  Mystique shifts into her blue skinned form and laughs hysterically, and we never really find out why.  The whole matter served no purpose at all.

On the next page we get splitting sequences in which Raven gets in vitro fertilization (a rather odd step for 1984 West Germany) with the rather odd dialogue of telling the doctor “Don’t talk.  Don’t say anything, just–” while on the other side of the page, where she does the whole “other girl imitation” bit to bed three separate men, saying the same “don’t talk” line each time.  I’m not certain why she said it to the doctor – I suppose we’re supposed to get some kind of connection, but whatever the point was, it was rendered moot by the end of the scene which sees Raven still not getting knocked up.

Later, at a party of some sort, Baron Wagner introduces his wife to “Herr Azazel”, who is immediately taken with the woman.  Apparently, Azazel is the ruler of an island nation near Bermuda called “La Isla des Demonas”.  I’m not going to translate that for you, but you see where this is going.  Raven and Azazel, for some reason, take a horseback ride together where he explains that the Baron cannot impregnate her because she is the future and he is the past (19th century Europe past, by the setting).  Why the other six dozen men she’s slept with can’t do it isn’t explained.  I guess they’re the past too.  And then he says that her magnificence and power and beauty are her mystique…and in fact, she personifies mystique in every sense of the word.  Get it?  Get it?

That night, Raven seeks out Azazel in a Catholic church (of course) and reveals that she wants to be with him because he scares her (women – try to figure them out).  She says he doesn’t want to wait, so he tells her to get all naked right there in the church.  Raven is mortified by this command, since apparently after ruining countless men’s lives and having been ridden more times than Seattle Slew, she now gets a conscience when it comes to God.

Azazel laughs at such a petty reaction and tosses in that “This world’s sanctimonious morals and religious hypocrisies are beneath you,” because gosh darn it, it just wouldn’t be a Chuck Austen story if there wasn’t a moment of religion-hating.  All we need now is for Raven to get naked and have sex with a demon on the floor of the sanctuary…oh, there it is.

In a truly creepy sequence, Raven gets naked while Azazel smiles all creepy.  Well, mostly naked because this comic has one of those moments where someone went in and added solid black shadow lines to the art to make it look like there is still underwear being worn, despite it not having been drawn by the penciler, nor fitting with the story’s actual dialogue.  And this is even after Marvel quit being approved by the Comics Code.  Azazel is not impressed, though not by the editorially mandated under garments (god knows they couldn’t editorial mandate a more fitting time period), but rather the shape-shifted facade and demands Raven get back to her normal appearance.  She does so and they have sex on the floor of the sanctuary.

Daybreak, Raven is atop the waterfall in her blue form, wearing the same outfit from the night before, yelling of her newfound love at the top of her lungs.  Judging by the first page’s artwork, that waterfall is a stone’s throw away from Herr Doktor Wagner’s castle, but I’m sure no one heard her.  Azazel teleports in and she reports to him that she is pregnant.

Okay, logic would assume that this couldn’t possibly the next day, being that it takes longer than a single night for a woman to discover that she’s preggers (term used simply to annoy J.R.).  But then again, let’s assume it’s been long enough to discover, Raven is just now yelling for everyone to hear that she’s in love with a man who by all accounts should have returned to his rather horribly named island nation by now.  But she is unsurprised to see him here, so that would assume that his presence would still be an expected thing around the baron’s castle.  And now my eyes have gone crossed.

Raven declares her love for Azazel (because nothing sparks true love like a single night of passion on the floor of a church) but he disses and dismisses her, and tells her to raise the baby as the child of Baron Wagner.  But then Baron Wagner becomes suspicious of Raven since she hit it off so well with Azazel and suddenly gets pregnant.  Not that it could possibly have been the work of the other scores of men she bedded.  Anyway, he asks for “one of those new genetic tests they’re developing” (since this story is in the past, dontchaknow) and Raven decides to murder the good Baron.  Because after all, being discovered that you cheated on the man is bad, but savagely murdering the man, dragging his corpse out to the grounds and burying it, that solves all problems.

And worse, no one apparently questions the Baron’s sudden disappearance, because we immediately jump to Raven giving birth within the castle.  The repercussions of the murder are not touched upon whatsoever.  Anywho, out pops the baby and of course, he’s blue with a forked tail.  As the doctor contemplates suffocating the child, Raven herself asks what is wrong with the baby, unaware that she’s reverted back to her natural form.  Well sort of, being that her hair and skull forehead thing are not as they should be.

So the people of the castle wait until nightfall and then start chasing her with torches and pitchforks.  Really, in 1983 West Germany, the people chase Raven with torches and pitchforks.  Because apparently flashlights hadn’t made their way to Herr Wagner’s castle quite.  Because apparently it’s still in a 19th century Mary Shelley story.  Anyway, with the mob hot on her heels, Raven curses Azazel for knocking her up, then decides to chuck the baby off of a waterfall and takes off to start her new life, though now with nothing of value.  The baby teleports and that’s the game.

The end.

There is a lot wrong with this story.  For one, let’s touch on the good Baron and his lady Raven.  Christian Wagner is a rather likable chap, obviously named to tie him into Nightcrawler’s real name of Kurt Wagner.  But quite obviously, neither the Baron nor Raven actually named the baby (he was dead, she was crazy) so it can be assumed that Margali Szardos, who found the baby abandoned and raised him, gave him his name.  A long, long time ago (in actual real world time), Mystique hinted that Margali knew about Kurt’s true parentage, so I suppose we could assume that Margali knew that the baby was the son of the Wagners and thus gave him his name to tie him slightly to his true (apparent) father.  But the finding of the child by Margali, which should have been presented in this story, was not shown and thus we don’t actually know.  But let’s assume that is true and give Austen a little bit of credit for a change.

On to Raven Wagner.  She is presumably the protagonist of this little story, though it’s hard to feel much sympathy towards her once Azazel abandons her because Austen has gone out of his way to make her such a wretched woman through the majority of this story.  Raven takes great joy in cheating on her husband and making her partners suffer for having any kind of time with her.  She murders her husband and then laments her fate of losing her happy little life.  She’s a harlot of sorts with a vicious streak, but then becomes something of a lovestruck ninny before Azazel.

So after nearly 30 years of waiting, this is the origin Nightcrawler gets.  We’ll be moving on to the meeting of Azazel and his son.  Trust me, it gets worse.



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