I have been highly critical of the character assassination to Cyclops over the past few years. Here is a quick run-down of bad things that have happened (not in order):
– Espousing the same “mutants are the next evolutionary step” mantra that Magneto was pushing in the early days of the X-men; Cyclops sees no irony in this and Magneto even says to him, “You sound like me.”
– After the “House of M,” kicking every de-powered mutant out of the mansion, despite the fact few if any of them had anywhere else to go. These weren’t just strangers the X-men had just picked up (although his actions would not be forgiveable even then), but included people like Iceman, whom Cyclops has literally known since they were teenagers
– Trying to form a team of teenagers to send on covert missions to stop anti-mutant groups by any means necessary including murder
– Ticking off Wolverine so bad he got a “what the hell, hero” speech from the furry psychopath, who then took most of the students and started his own school
– Ticking off Beast so bad he got a “what the hell, hero” speech from the furry academic, who left the X-men in disgust
– Alienating his own brother with his increased Magneto-like leanings
– Becoming so Magneto-like that in a recent comic, Storm calls Wolverine the “heir to Xavier’s dream”
– Hooking up with Emma Frost, the woman that tried to destroy Jean Grey the first time they ever met and who did her best to destroy his marriage before Jean’s untimely death (see “Cyclops is Bella Swan“), only three days after Jean is buried and on Jean’s grave
– Finding out his father died and doing absolutely nothing including not attending the funeral
– Watching Emma angrily tell Rachel Summers/Grey that she was just a child who should never have been born, the same Rachel Summers/Grey that Cyclops fully accepted as his daughter and who was a bridesmaid at his wedding to Jean Grey and not saying a single word to stand up for his daughter
– Trying to manipulate Hope Summers into becoming a martyr for mutantkind because she’s connected to the Phoenix Force despite knowing how dangerous the Phoenix Force is and knowing that Hope was pretty much scared out of her mind about the possibility of hosting the Phoenix Force
What happened to the Boy Scout, to the first leader of the X-men, and the original heir to Xavier’s dream of a world where humans and mutants could live in peace? How did it all go so very, very wrong? That’s probably the wrong question at this point. The correct question, in my mind, is, “Can Cyclops be saved?” I think he can, but I’m sure it won’t happen due to current Executive Meddling. But if I were Tyrant-in-Chief, I’d call the X-men writers into my office and I get this thing worked out. I’d probably give it six issues as a final story arc and here’s how it would go down.
Step 1 – the lame “A vs X” storyline is concluded with Phoenix still being a god and Hope no longer being with the X-men. Either she’ll be dead, or realize she doesn’t need to be manipulated by the X-men, as outlined above, and will give Cyclops the “what the hell, hero” speech for trying to use her for his own ends and then go stay with Wolverine at the new school.
Step 2 – Storm finally gives Cyclops the “what the hell, hero” speech concerning the above-mentioned egregious examples of anti-hero behavior (kicking the de-powered mutants out, embracing Magneto’s ideals, using children for murder missions, etc.). She takes over the leadership of the X-men team and goes to Westchester to work with Wolverine. This also presents an opportunity for Storm’s character to get a little saving, because let’s be honest, she should have given him the “what the hell, hero” speech already.
Step 3a – The New Mutants, upon hearing of Storm’s departure, make a stop at Utopia to talk about the consequences. Cyclops speaks disdainfully of Storm’s nerve in telling him that he’s lost his way and makes plans to increase the attacks against anti-mutant targets.
Step 3b – This prompts Dani to meet in private with the New Mutants and express her worries that Cyclops has perhaps gone insane. This is not an unfounded fear given that he was in fact host to Apocalypse for a while, amongst other bad things that have happened to him (like everything).
Step 3c – Nate Grey, who is interested in Dani and also knows Cyclops was his biological father in his own timeline, and who doesn’t always have a good sense of boundaries, goes poking around in Cyclops’ head to find out if he is indeed gone insane. He finds out instead that Cyclops has been subject to a lifetime of telepathic manipulation with both good and ill intentions, the most recent of which has left Cyclops in the thrall of Emma Frost.
Let me pause a moment. I’m not looking to blame Emma Frost for the disingration of everything Cyclops is. I am looking for an in-continuity reason to explain some of his more recent egregious transgressions against his professed moral code. Out of continuity, there are lots of reasons Cyclops has ended up this way including a string of writers who are trying to re-make him as Darkier and Edgier, or who blalantly favor Wolverine as the paragon mutant to the exclusion of all others, or who don’t understand the need for a Boy Scout in the narrative, or otherwise just don’t know what to do with the character. My solution, as outlined here, would simply continue the arc the writers have set up for Cyclops, with all of the consequences they may or may not have intended in the years of assassinating his character. However, I am endeavoring to outline a situation that works within the continuity so that the end result does not look like a writer trying to shoe-horn an ending that does not fit (i.e., further character assassination). This leads me back to Emma Frost.
Emma Frost was introduced as trying to destroy Jean Grey and by extension the X-men way back in the Dark Phoenix Saga. Many villains have cited Cyclops and Jean Grey as the “heart of the X-men” and many plots focus on them. Emma’s actions when she joined the team indicated (to me anyway) she was still trying to destroy the team through destroying Cyclops and/or Jean Grey. She’s also made it clear that she hates Jean Grey for myriad reasons mostly stemming from jealousy and deep-seated insecurity. She engaged in a psychic affair with Cyclops and almost certainly knew she’d eventually get caught. Her purpose was to cause as much damage as possible to their marriage. Emma Frost is also a very talented psychic and very talented with mundane emotional manipulation. That’s pretty much what she did as a villain. Given that pretty much nothing about her personality or attitude has changed since her alignment switch to “good,” it makes sense to me that she’s still actually a villain.
Step 4a – Nate, in an act of compassion, tells Cyclops that he’s been psychically manipulated his entire life, which is absolutely plausible if you look at his back story, and that being merged with Apocalypse for a while only exacerbated the damage and weaknesses. Nate apologizes for one more act of psychic manipulation, and then using his god-like talent renders Cyclops immune to any and all psychic manipulation. Ever. Even a telepath trying to talk to him in his mind will not be able to get through. When god-mutants put psi-blocks in one’s mind, they do not break.
Step 4b – Although the manipulation is known and stopped, this does not magically cure Cyclops (remember when Magma found out Empath had been using his powers on her, it did not stop her from loving him). The mental scars also remain. Nate consults with Dani, and Dani takes the New Mutants team and goes to Westchester to join Storm and Wolverine with a renewed purpose. She may or may not give Cyclops a “what the hell, hero” speech herself.
Step 5 – Cyclop is left with Magneto, Emma Frost, and the Cuckoos. He scrambles to recruit a new team to continue his increasingly militant mission. Emma is confused Cyclops is immune to her psychic powers, but continues her mundane emotional manipulation. Cyclops turns to various people he used to work with, to find all of them unwilling to join him.
Step 6 – Cyclops finally has an epiphany. All the “what the hell, hero” moments he’s participated in in the past few years replay in his mind (and are shown in flashback panels) – see the list that starts this rant. All the “what the hell, hero” speeches that he’s been delivered in the past few years replay in his mind (and are shown in flashback panels) – his own brother Havoc, Wolverine, Beast, and Storm. He considers all the people who have been in his head over the years, for good or ill – Mister Sinister, Apocalypse, Professor Xavier, Jean Grey, and Emma Frost. He realizes that he is now alone in the world – his father is dead, his wife is dead, and everyone he ever cared about left him because of his increasingly militant mission. He realizes he has indeed lost his way.
Step 7 – In an effort to be responsible for his mistakes, Cyclops confronts Emma regarding her manipulation. She attempts to divert responsibility by telling him Nate was confused, or that other people just don’t like her and want to break them up, and otherwise lay the blame on someone else. Cyclops is unmoved by her tactics and asks her why she wanted to destroy the X-men. She gets angry and tries to defend her actions. He is unmoved and expresses doubts she cares for him at all except as a prize to symbolize her victory over Jean Grey. At the end of the comic, he is seen literally walking to the sunset to find his path in life while Emma tells herself he’ll be back with rather ambigious internal monologue that could indicate a) she has been cognizant of the manipulation all along and is indeed smug in her perceived victory over Jean Grey and doesn’t want Cyclops to leave because it nulls her victory or b) she honestly didn’t realize what she was doing was wrong because it never occurred to her someone could love her except via manipulation because she doesn’t really know how love works (I’d leave that up to how the writers later want to pick up her story).
Fin – And that’s the end of that comic book of X-men. Magneto, Emma Frost, and the Cuckoos are integrated into other stories and Cyclops is nowhere to be found or heard of. Whether he’s dead or just on walkabout is not something to worry about for a few years. He may come back with a renewed purpose and renewed character of a Boy Scout, or he’ll simply be gone. I’m afraid not too many fans will miss him as he is now, but at least there will be a chance for some redemption in the future.