I haven't been reading the X-Men lately. I tried reading Uncanny X-Men, and Nation X, but dropped out half way through. It was such a disjointed story. I was happily reading and enjoying X-Force, until "Necroasha" became the last story by the great writing team on that book. And so far, as evidenced by the Vampire/X-Men event, it doesn't look like the X-Men are going to get back to basics anytime soon. Still, I keep my eyes open and stay apprized of what the Merry Mutants are up to.
So, the big death Marvel was warning us about was Nightcrawler, who died teleporting into an enemy's attack to keep Hope, the mutant messiah, safe. I'm honestly not that upset about his death, surprisingly. I keep thinking, in a number of years, we're just going to have another resurrection like we had with Colossus - just because Nightcrawler is such a classic character. But, really, that's all he has been of late - a "classic character", and only that. The last interesting thing Nightcrawler was involved in was trying to become a Priest, which didn't pan out in the end. There were some horribly weak willed attempts to take Nightcrawler back to his old fun-loving jokester days, but it didn't stick. The character has just been through too much - he's not the same happy go-lucky elf we once knew when Chris Claremont was writing him. When Ed Brubaker was writing Uncanny X-Men, he took a good approach with Nightcrawler by having him be the loyal X-Man still standing beside Xavier, even when Xavier wasn't very popular. Despite that, he ultimately still felt like filler. He's just been one of the cogs in the X-Men, neither effecting the team or moving in a different direction.
Mind you, Nightcrawler isn't the only X-Men who's been reduced to just another team member. Iceman has become equally as useless, character-wise, only surviving this long because (no pun intended) of his cool powers. The best characterization Iceman has had has been wether he's permanently turning to Ice or not. Not exactly riveting stuff.
I still like Nightcrawler, have always liked him, but he simply wasn't contributing to the series enough to avoid death. Can this be construed as a commentary on how far down the X-Men have sunk, that the best plot device they can manage is killing off a classic character? I know for a fact this isn't because of lousy writing, as I recently feel in love with Matt Fraction's Invincible Iron Man book. It's just a general reality of X-Books right now. Like the species, their dying. So much attention has been given to the Avengers, that the former company head-liners have fallen by the wayside. I think, in particular, the extinction of the mutant race has been a big psychological factor in this downward trend. Extinction is just a depressing topic - making for lack luster stories.
The upcoming Vampire story-line does seem to promise more interaction with the core Marvel Universe, which might indeed be an improvement. The X-Men have been very cut off from the general Marvel Universe for a long while. The only X-Book that's been working, in my eyes, has been X-Factor, which has smartly dealt with a more entertaining subject of Private Investigating, rather than extinction.
So, maybe Nightcrawler's death will ultimately be a stepping stone in the right direction to making the X-Men books good again. I doubt it, though. Killing off classic characters, especially during troubled runs on a series, rarely go over well.