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By Tim Stevens
Come March 11, fans should prepare to let go of one of the X-Men's most popular members in X-MEN: QUITTING TIME as Nightcrawler decides that the time has come to walk away. This departure, though, should not be mistaken for the familiar practice of somebody joining a new team or taking on a solo mission.
"[Nightcrawler] is reeling from so many changes in his life in the recent past," explains QUITTING TIME writer James Asmus. "So many of the things he relied or that have defined him aren't there anymore. This story, and his departure, are about recovering that sense of self.
"But, of course, he still ends up somewhere that requires punching people."
The decision to leave the X-Men does not come easy for the teleporting mutant. After all, the team has become his family.
"The X-Men reinvented Kurt's entire life," Asmus notes. "He went from being an oddity, and an attraction, to genuinely making the world a better place, particularly for other outsiders, like himself. I also think he believes in the X-Men's cause as fundamentally as he believes in anything."
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The team will no doubt be left reeling from the loss, as Nightcrawler has proven an invaluable guide through some of the X-Men's more difficult moral choices.
"As the conflicts the team faces move into darker and morally complex territory over the years, I think it [has been] incredibly meaningful to have a character who is so fundamentally striving for an understanding between the principles of good and evil," the writer says. "It's hard for me to imagine someone who can embody that pursuit, and that conflict, more than a half-demon who studies theology. I almost feel like he is the moral R&D department."
Even with 32 pages and action on each of them, every X-Man affected by Nightcrawler's decision cannot be given their moment to say their piece. Instead, they will all rely on a high profile guest star to give voice to their feelings.
"Kurt sort of drops the news on Cyclops, and the whole scene represents what I think is the general response," Asmus reveals. "No one wants to see him go, but you have to respect your friend's wishes. I actually really enjoyed getting to write a scene with Cyclops caught off guard-not giving speeches, not struggling with Emma-but just a real human exchange where he's caught between being Nightcrawler's leader and being his friend."
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Where Nightcrawler goes from here remains open ended. The journey, however, will be well worth paying attention to.
"This story definitely re-establishes the character," the writer promises. "As far as where he goes from here, we're not really laying that out just yet with this. I will say that it deepens a conflict that can only go badly for Kurt in the future."
X-MEN: QUITTING TIME, written by James Asmus with art by Jorge Molina, will appear in stores March 11. For more Nightcrawler, stop by Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.
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