Hello and welcome to another week in Ye Olde School Café! In this week’s edition, we’ll be taking a look at another X-Men Annual, and it’s one that I love for one huge reason – Dr. Strange! Yes, that’s right, the master of the mystic arts is alongside the X-Men for an awesome adventure! Demons, extradimensional travel, and Nightcrawler finding out more about his personal history than he ever bargained for! Brought to us by Chris Claremont, John Romita Jr., and Bob McLeod (1980).
As we peek in on Xavier’s School, we see a surprised Nightcrawler! He enters a room and is greeted by a huge “surprise” from all of his friends that are throwing him a birthday party. After most of the gifts are opened, Professor X notices one more unopened black box. Kurt opens it, and thinks initially that it might be from his missing friend, Cyclops (he’s off crying somewhere over Jean’s death from the Dark Phoenix Saga), but he soon finds out differently. A crystal statue of Nightcrawler is inside the box, but almost immediately it explodes in his hands, and Nightcrawler falls to the ground, unconscious.
Professor Xavier makes a call to his friend Dr. Strange to come and check out their teammate. Kitty hears a knock at the door, and when she opens it she’s startled by the Sorcerer Supreme! After introductions are made, Dr. Strange checks out Kurt and believes something sinister is about. The all-seeing Eye of Agamotto then reveals the sorceress Margali is the entity behind this attack, and she then accepts the challenge from Dr. Strange and the X-Men to battle for Nightcrawler’s life! Margali then grabs the X-Men (except Kitty and Professor X) and transports them into her dimension for a duel to the death.
As the X-Men and Dr. Strange arrive at their destination, Dr. Strange explains to them that if they lose, they’ll be dead, but if they leave now, their lives will be spared, however Nightcrawler will die. As a boatman approaches, they make the choice to head out and fight for their friend. The boatman tells them that his name is Charon, and he’ll take them to the lord of the realm. Once they arrive at their destination, they’re greeted by a slick looking man wearing a tuxedo. He gropes Storm, and she thinks to herself that although she’s creeped out, she’s also turned on slightly, as well. This so-called “Satan” tells Kurt that he’s been bad and needs to be punished. A large tentacle then reaches out for Nightcrawler and throws him away from the scene. Storm immediately flies to him, but she gets sucked down into a vortex along with him. As they try to get their bearings, they get attacked by harpies wielding spears! Storm gets stabbed in the back and disappears, and Nightcrawler returns to his friends and their tormentor. He tells them that Storm is somewhere in the depths, and they can try to save her if they dare!
The team proceeds on their mission to find Storm, but they’re immediately attacked by the three-headed dog (Cerberus)! Wolverine and Colossus take care of it rather easily, and they move on. Next, a horde of demons attack them, and they seem to be getting overwhelmed. They flee to a gate, but it’s locked. Colossus uses his super-strength to open it, and the demons suddenly flee. They go inside and find a a cylindrical area that spawns serpents that attack them. They finally reach Storm, though, and head out of there. They make their way down another corridor, and then Nightcrawler gets encased in ice by some unknown force. Colossus smashes it to free him, and they are then approached by some horrible beast.
Dr. Strange reveals that the beast is actually an illusion perpetrated by Margali. It seems that she wants Nightcrawler dead because she believes he’s responsible for the death of her son. Kurt denies any wrong doing, and then Margali uses the Eye of Agamotto to reveal the truth from Nightcrawler’s past. We see a much younger Kurt, as he’s having fun with his adoptive brother and sister. His brother later on in life becomes a killer, and Kurt tries to stop him. During the struggle, Stefan’s neck gets broken, and he dies. Once Margali has seen this, she apologizes for her actions, and then explains to the X-Men and Dr. Strange that she created the “Hell” they were in to make Kurt suffer. Afterwards, they are all back at the mansion, and really celebrate Kurt’s birthday in style!
Well, that’s it for now, but be back next week as we travel back in time to witness another adventure in the world of comic books! See you next week!