Friday, February 5, 2016

The Mutant Messiah

It is pretty much second nature for a kid, that when confronted with a group of new colorful characters in a new lineup of toys or comic book to immediately pick a favorite. The basis of which varies for person to person, but in most cases it usually boils down to who looks the coolest. It was many years ago when I picked up my very first issue of Uncanny X-Men and was introduced to the merry world of mutants. For someone already familiar with Marvel’s flagship heroes like Captain America, Iron Man and Thor, meeting all these new interesting characters was a treat and even before actually reading the issue I set off to find who my favorite X-Man would be.

There was quite a lot to choose from in just that one issue. There was a majestic dark lady who controlled the weather, a hulking brute made out of metal, a flying man who used his own scream as a weapon….oh and there was some runt with stupid pointy hair who had claws. But there was one X-Man who I immediately gravitated to and it was this unassuming guy in blue who sported a single yellow visor and shot out a great red blast from his….eye. Now granted shooting lasers from ones eyes wasn’t really a “new” power, a certain man of steel had been doing it for years, the fact that it was just one large beam coming from a singular source where 2 eyes were supposed to be made it LOOK cooler.

And just like that, Scott Summers, aka Cyclops was officially my favorite X-Man. As I read more about the X-Men, I learned more about my newly minted favorite mutant. Cyclops was part of the original five X-Men, along with Jean Grey or Marvel Girl, Beast, Angel and Iceman. And among the five, he was the prize student of X-Men founder Professor Xavier and the field leader of the team. Ironically, while I found all this cool, it was the fact that he was the leader that many people found unappealing. As a result, even I begrudgingly admit that Cyclops usually doesn’t make it into many people’s top X-Men lists….which is usually dominated by some hairy troll with a cop out healing factor ability.

OK, at this point, I would like to apologize that I will be going into fanboy, nerd rage territory here, but really, I’ve got a lot to say in defense of my favorite X-Man.

To talk about Cyclops, one cannot help but talk about another fellow X-Man, whose fate, for better or worse seems to be linked to Scott Summers. And that would be, Logan, the Wolverine (there…I addressed the guy properly without insulting him). In the beginning, things were more black and white, and each member of the X-Men served a specific role. Cyclops , was well…the leader. He was the square, straight …bordering on boring, leader. Wolverine on the other hand was the bad boy, the berserker, the guy who got to lash out at the enemies and do all the cool stuff on the battlefield. Cyclops had the un-glorified job of trying to keep Wolverine and the other guys in check….mostly to his own detriment.

So as the other X-Men, like Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler…and especially Wolverine became more popular with the readers, Cyclops kinda stayed the same…he was the leader, keeping everyone in check. It wasn’t the most popular role…but it was necessary.

Given that, I would still argue that Cyclops ultimately IS a more interesting character than most of his fellow X-Men. And it all starts with his properly fleshed out origin story. When he was a boy, he was riding in a small plane piloted by his father, along with his mom and little brother Alex, when they were attacked by aliens (’s comics) In a desperate act to save their children, their mom straps the only parachute on the plane to the 2 boys and shoves the out of the plane as she and their father are captured. Both boys survive the fall but Scott suffers a concussion. He wakes up in the hospital and practically blows out the entire roof. It’s his first manifestation of his mutant ability. The tragic twist for him though is that due to the concussion, Scott has absolutely no control over his power. He opens his eyes…he shoots. Period. So all he’s got is his visor (or ruby quarts glasses) to keep his power in check.

Now, compare that story to…hmmm, lets say, oh I dunno, some guy who has basically no recollection of his past (ooooo mysterious), …actually, the ORIGINAL idea for Wolverine was that he wasn’t even a mutant, but literally an evolved wolverine! What a riot that would’ve been! Anyway, his main ability is his healing factor…which means he basically can’t die. Where is the drama there? And of course the tragic twist to his other “power”, every time he pops his claws out for a fight….it huuuuurts….(cue the violins).

Anyway, things just got from bad to worse for Scott when the first live action X-Men movie came out which centered around…you guessed it, Wolverine, played by a sorely miscast Hugh Jackman. Ok before people start bringing out their pitchforks…let me go on record and say Mr. Jackman did an amazing job as Wolverine….he oozed with character and charisma and every amount of praise blown his way is well deserved. BUT….what he did was re-invent Wolverine into a leading man…which in my opinion he wasn’t. Wolverine was part of a team, as I mentioned earlier, he served the role of the berserker, they guy who lost his shit in battle. Wolverine was not supposed to be the leader type…or the prized pupil, that role belonged to Cyclops, who unfortunately got shoved into the background (along with all the other X-Men) to make way for Wolverine’s greatness.
As the years passed and Marvel realized they had a goldmine with Hugh-verine, they decided to make the most of the situation and shove Wolverine into our faces whenever they could…suddenly it was no longer the X-Men…it was WOLVERINE and the X-Men. And of course, when that wasn’t enough…they committed greatest travesty in my opinion by adding Wolverine into the ranks of the Avengers. Ughhhh

OK OK I’m sorry again this post is about Cyclops. So no X-Man suffered most from this meteoric rise of Wolverine than the original leader of the X-Men…Cyclops. To be the best, you have to beat the best. And to establish Wolverine as the top dog mutant, Cyclops had to go down.

First writers started portraying Cyclops as a militant mutant leader. A few years ago, the X-Men had a major event called Schism, wherein Wolverine and Cyclops finally have enough of each other and split the X-Men team in half over a difference in ideologies. As it went, in a world where mutants are hated and persecuted, Cyclops felt it best to train young mutants to be soldiers or at least learn to protect themselves from the dangers of their world.   Wolverine on the other hand, decided that young mutants needed to be sheltered and protected from the ugliness of war.

OK so on the surface, yes, Wolverine’s view seems like the more noble approach…but come on, Cyclops was just being practical.  And to be honest, what he set out to do wasn't that different than what a certain professor did to him and other young mutants years prior.  Short of sending the young mutants off to another dimension, there apparently is no place on earth where they can exist untouched and unharmed. It just makes more sense to BE PREPARED rather than be ignorant and na├»ve.

And then things really got messed up in the more recent Avengers vs. X-Men crossover. Again I won’t go into details, but the gist of it being the dreaded Phoenix Force returns to earth (sorry…if you don’t know what that is…just wiki it) and the Avengers and X-Men fight over the potential host/target, mutant Hope Summers. In the conflict, Iron Man comes up with a doohickey that channels the Phoenix Force into Cyclops and it eventually possesses him. And while in that state, he ends up killing Professor X (oh by the way, he also managed to establish WORLD PEACE and end worldwide hunger in his possessed state...just saying), automatically making him hated by all the other X-Men. Talk about lazy characterization turning a bunch of heroes into hypocrites who also chose to forgive Wolverine for gutting fellow X-Man Jean Grey when she was possessed by the same force.

But what many anti-Cyclops people conveniently like to gloss over is the fact that in the end, Cyclops WAS right. Instead of seeing the Phoenix force as a source of destruction, he saw it as the salvation for mutants, who at that time had their actual numbers decimated to a few hundred by the Scarlet Witch (look up House of M for details). And he was correct. Wolverine of course had his own solution to the problem, and that was to KILL Hope…luckily Hope managed to fry his ass.

In the end Hope Summers managed to harness the Phoenix Force to the benefit of mutantkind. With that power, she reboots their race and opens the door for the next generation of mutants. And that’s all Cyclops wanted and fought for, the survival of his fellow mutants. Oh and you want to know another thing? While Cyclops led the X-Men into battle, guess which side Wolverine was on? I’ll give you a hint; their name didn’t start with an “X”.

So now, Cyclops has been labeled a terrorist and is even hated by his own former teammates. It really a shame that Marvel has written Cyclops into such a character black hole that he may never get out of. In fact I believe they’ve taken the easy way out and have actually killed off the modern day Cyclops and replaced him with a younger “time displaced” version of himself. Oh and guess who’s side brings young Cyclops to the present day, where it is even worse for mutants? Mr. “let’s keep the young mutant kids sheltered and protected” Wolverine. Hypocrite.

In the end however, no one can deny how important Cyclops the character is to the X-Men/mutant history and mythos. While other iconic X-Men like Storm, Rogue and of course Wolverine have sold out and joined up with the Avengers, Cyclops has remained an X-Man since day one.

He may not be perfect, some may find him boring but no one can deny that every action and choice that he made and continues to make was driven by one thing, and that was the survival of not only the X-Men, but of the entire mutant race.

I don’t normally recommend other external links but I came upon this blog post which perfectly defends Cyclops from all the usual reasons he is hated by many. It’s definitely worth a read…especially for all you wolvie fans out there. If my own post hasn’t convinced you yet of what a self-serving hypocritical douche Logan really is, hopefully this will.