I'm going to preface this article by saying this will contain gigantic spoilers for X-Men #7, so if you haven't read it and do not want it spoiled, maybe skip this article. If spoilers don't bother you, then, by all means, continue.
In this article, we will go over the comic and then tap into the themes of religion and discuss where the writer Jonathan Hickman might be going with this.
This issue seems rather pivotal, so we really should take a closer look at it. The issue opens with Melody Guthrie / Aero's awakening on Krakoa. Not to be confused with Lei Ling / Aero of the Agents of Atlas. Melody has had trouble sleeping. She climbs out of bed and is informed that she can partake in the Crucible tonight if she still wants it. The issue then continues from Cyclops, aka Scott Summer's perspective, as he goes to chat with Wolverine about morality without firmly explaining what the Crucible contains. Wolverine advises him that if he wants answers to his particular crisis, maybe go find a Priest.
Next, we see Cyclops talking to Nightcrawler, who is very much a priest. Nightcrawler is staring at a white spire building on the island. No one can enter it but himself. You can't cut through it, there isn't an opening to walk inside, all you can do is teleport into it, and that is Nightcrawlers specialty. He says the inside of it is glorious but he has no explanation for why it is there.
We then see mutant children around a campfire being told the legend of the Scarlet Witch and No More Mutants. This scene is referencing the House of M event and how the Scarlet Witch removed mutant powers from existence. She is vilified and painted out as a Satan figurehead.
After that, we see the Crucible event and Aero standing in a gladiator-style arena. Mutants are in the crowd looking on, and she's facing Apocalypse with a sword. He gives a speech. Paraphrasing his statement, he explains humans are jealous and asks, how do you feel Melody, having lost your powers? She answers that she is filled with envy. Apocalypse explains she can accept it; she can lay down and surrender. That's what humans would do. She refuses and says she'd rather die like a mutant.
This moment is where Hickman's genius emerges.
Mutants are now reborn if they die. Krakoa will rebirth them, and they receive all their powers back. So what's to stop mutants from just killing themselves and being reborn? Well, if it isn't their way, if they see that as a human thing, that they have to fight and die then that's what mutants will do. So, the Crucible is genius, and creepy. As a ritual, it builds camaraderie, but it's a brutal thing to go through. Folks have to want it. Then they get their rebirth, their powers restored but, they have to face the first mutant, Apocalypse, in combat, which is insane.
The brutality of the scene is punctuated by Nightcrawler discussing his faith, and you start to see there are cracks in his views. The fact that he's been reborn is entirely contrary to what he knows. Nightcrawler flat out asks Cyclops if he is really the original Kurt, or if Cyclops is still Scott.
Aero, of course, loses to Apocalypse but dies on her feet in front of the crowd. There is blackness, and then she is reborn, crawling out of her golden pod in the mutant rebirthing center of the island. All of Krakoa bears witness to her as she begins flying again. Then looking up to the woman in the sky, Nightcrawler tells Cyclops that he thinks he needs to start a religion.
Hickman may as well have had a picture of himself dropping a mic as the last panel in this comic. That ending was so good.
He advertently set the stage for it. I mean Nightcrawler already found a church on the island, that is a sanctuary, that only mutants can enter through teleportation, in the form of that white spire. It is so wild to see a character like Nightcrawler, who is wholly defined by his faith, looking elsewhere for guidance. I can't think of another hero as bulletproof in their faith in comics. The only one even close to it is Daredevil, and yet, here is Hickman taking everything in a new direction.
So where will he go from here? What type of religion will Nightcrawler establish? Well, let's speculate.
An Island worshipping religion?
It kind of makes sense. Krakoa provided the medicine that they used to bribe the other Nations into giving them their independence. Krakoa gives them the land. Krakoa is their stage for politics and paradise, and they also tend to see the island as a fellow mutant. It certainly has character. It opened up and swallowed the Juggernaut to shelve him as a character until a later date. This ultimately makes sense. The Juggernaut is a character defined by revolution. He often refuses to play nice with others. I mean hell "Nothing can stop the Juggernaut" is both actual and figuratively saying, he will not be controlled. But I'm going off on a tangent here.
Mutants can all pass through portals except Kitty (Kate) Pryde, whose powers allow her to phase through almost anything. Somehow she's pissed off Krakoa, so she isn't allowed through the portals, which is pretty ironic.
Krakoa worship would make sense, but they seem to see it as a fellow mutant and not a God, so I'm not sure this is the direction they'd go.
This entire Hickman run is built upon this. Rebirth, brutality, and beauty define the current mutants. I'd be surprised if this didn't play a massive role in Nightcrawler's new religion. Will it be centered entirely around reincarnation? I doubt it, but it certainly fits.
The old faith
Will Nightcrawler be able to escape his old roots? Or will the new religion reference his previous? I imagine a bit of it will. I'm sure he sees the problem with rebirth and would probably label things like suicide a sin, but I doubt he'd call it a flat out "sin." I imagine he'd give us some new, mutant buzzword to represent it. I can't be sure, though. Hickman has a fantastic habit of going in unexpected directions.
Hickman has referenced flowers throughout this run. They form the portals that lead to their island paradise, which is filled with them. They are found all over issue's variant covers. They seem to represent the mutants, who most likely, see themselves as the occasional flowers in a prairie filled with humans as a billion blades of grass. I'm almost certain flowers will play a role in this religion. They're a perfect symbol of beauty and rebirth that always return in the spring.
Hickman is not a one-trick pony, and he won't define this religion with just one angle. He will probably tap into all these things and still have everything manifest itself in ways we didn't expect.
So what constants can we expect? What is guaranteed?
Well, there's only two: Hickman will pull this off, but it will go in directions we don't expect. He's honestly a master of this, and my points are just speculation. The result will probably be relatively far off and executed brilliantly. The other constant is Hickman will establish the religion, and then the religion will prove itself in some miraculous ways to the mutants themselves. This has to happen because all faiths have their miracles. If he skips this step, it would seem a hollow gesture and a faithless religion. Hickman just isn't that kind of writer.
So a beautiful issue, and one that I think everyone who loves X-Men, or has struggled with faith, should own. It was mind-blowing in all the right ways, and even though I'm a little spooked out by it, I can't wait to see where this goes.