Some times its hard to be the straight man in a team full of over-eager extroverts. But the reserved and studious Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, has excelled in his role as a leader for the mutant race. Despite potentially fatal setbacks, failed romances and multiple family tragedies, Cyclops navigated a course as straight as the red optic blasts he shoots from his eyes. In the early 80s he was considered passe in Chris Claremont’s evolving vision for the X-Men with conflicted heroes like Wolverine, Rogue and others a part of the team, but in the past fifteen years Cyclops has become one of the key staples of the X-Men and the team’s leader in the past decade.
And with the recent revolutionary changes Cyclops has gone through with X-Men: Schism and now Avengers Vs. X-Men, we thought it time to look deeper into this stealthily nuanced character and reveal he’s more than just the dutiful leader of the X-Men but also a character, a husband, a father and a hero in his own right.
X-Men Origins: Cyclops #1: Cyclops’ origin has been told in pieces here and there throughout various X-Men titles, but when it comes to finding one succinct place to get it boiled down there’s not much to choice from. For lack of better choices, I’d recommend this recent one-off issue by Stuart Moore and Jesse Delperdang which retells Scott’s origin from birth to his relationship with his brother Havok, his father Corsair, and through his recruitment in the inaugural class of Charles Xavier’s X-Men. It focuses pretty in depth on Cyclops’ first meeting with Magneto, and gives the first hints of the leader Cyclops would become.
X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga: This is Jean Grey’s story, but Cyclops is definitely one of the key actors and one of the biggest casualties from the ending. This great collection not only collects the action but also the epilogue where Cyclops quits the team after Jean’s death.
Uncanny X-Men: Divided We Stand: Since day one, Cyclops has been the field leader for the X-Men but always with Professor X overseeing him and the team as a whole. In this arc by Ed Brubaker and Mike Choi, the X-Men disband after Xavier leaves the team and Cyclops goes off with Emma Frost on a sabbatical. But when a need for the X-Men as a team comes forward, Cyclops sees a new role for him as a leader emerge and for him to finally step out of Xavier’s shadow. This sets up the San Francisco era of the X-Men team, and also Cyclops down the path that would eventually lead to Avengers Vs. X-Men.
Cyclops: Criminally over-looked both in its original publication year and since, this four-issue gem by a young Brian K. Vaughan and surprising collaborator Mark Texeira pits the longtime X-Men leader on his own in a no nonsense straight forward solo tale facing off against the likes of Juggernaut, Black Tom Cassidy and a new villain named Ulysses. Vaughan also plays into the fact that Cyclops isn’t the showman or the charismatic frontman that Captain America is, turning that perceived negative into a positive. This little mini was never collected, but would be an easy find in back issue bins or online.
Astonishing X-Men Omnibus: This 25 issue arc by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday is a big pivot for Cyclops, as it forces the ruby quartz-wearing hero with his boy scout ways and his traumatic youth and puts him through an emotional (and physical) crucible that tempers the X-Men leader for the years to come. Masterfully told by Whedon and Cassaday, this is one of — if not the — key moment of Cyclops coming into his own as a leader.
Avengers Vs. X-Men: Fresh in the mind of many comics fans, this epic face-off between Marvel’s two biggest superhero faction wasn’t without its casualties, one of which being Cyclops’ innocence. Although some ardent X-Men fans might argue with Scott’s portrayal here, it builds on the direction of the character in the past 10 years and has inevitably become a key moment for the character moving forward. Going from leader of superhero team to the leader of an entire mutant race, Cyclops makes some tough choices for the betterment of his people and becomes consumed by the power he planned to use to make his dreams for mutantkind come true.