‘Second Coming': How to Obviously Telegraph a Secret Character Death [SPOILERS]
This week, in "X-Force" #26, Marvel Comics -- as promised -- killed off a longstanding, fan-favorite X-Man. He died heroically, protecting a world that hates and fears him. The thing is, his demise has been pretty obvious for over a month now, for a variety of reasons - and while it's understandable that Marvel's looking to rev up the promotional machine, sometimes there's a point where you're just teasing so hard it undercuts the story. I think this is that point. SPOILERS after the jump.So, yeah, Nightcrawler's dead, which is something I'd be sad about if I could name a really good Nightcrawler story in the past six years (I admit to skipping Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's ongoing with the character, though). And while I, too, weep for the future and my future children's ability to learn basic German phrases, I think everyone ever totally called this, simply because Marvel put out a whole ton of evidence.
While there were some vague "One will Die" teasers put out regarding "Second Coming," the speculation regarding the Big Death didn't start in earnest until the publication of the "Second Coming Prepare" promotional oneshot, which featured a short story by Mike Carey and Stuart Immonen. Taking the form of a student film shot at some point in the "Second Coming" story, it shows a number of characters rather distraught about a death, including an exceptionally upset Wolverine who said that someone's death had "better be worth it."
Marvel again stoked the fire in "Wolverine Origins" #46, a confessional issue where Logan bares his soul to his buddy Kurt Wagner -- and they then have a totally holding-back-tears bromantic goodbye sequence that seemed oddly extended, which didn't do much to quell my suspicions that someone was going elf hunting in "Second Coming."
Of course, it became overwhelmingly obvious when Marvel released this teaser image, which promoted even the issue itself that the death was occurring in, with a slimmed-down roster of possible murder victims.
This is while, in the main story itself (which had started at this point), Nightcrawler was being put forward as the principled man of faith in the X-Men - which has really been his gimmick for a while; I think the first time we saw him on Utopia he was setting up a church. So when all of this came together, it was pretty difficult not to suspect that Nightcrawler was the doomed character, since A) it made complete dramatic sense for the story as a metaphorical death of the man of faith that inspires faith in the rest of the X-Men, B) the X-books, especially the Wolverine ones, had been sort of saying goodbye to him for a while, and C) Marvel put out ads including Nightcrawler in an assemblage of characters and told readers one of them was going to die, and then had the issue where they would die at the bottom.
I'm all in favor of promoting comics, and certainly you've got to tease enough of the story to try to get retailers and readers to buy it. But at the same time, there must be a way to achieve this without methodically pointing a series of narrative and promotional "LOOK HERE" arrows pointing to poor ol' Kurt Wagner. I suppose there's the argument that it's our fault for reading too much stuff online, but these weren't facts leaked to some salacious gossip website that usually bats 100, they were all put into published material that led up to the death. As a result, the crossover became less "I wonder who's going to die, and when" and more "I guess Nightcrawler is going to die in 'X-Force' #26" before the story even started.