Cyclops 1

Quick poll: how many of you fought to be Blue Ranger when you were a kid? Doesn’t matter which one, really. How competitive was the race to play Donatello? If you’re older, were kids desperate to be Bones if you played Star Trek?

Whether justified or not, there’s a natural tendency in our society towards the glorification of the leader. Generally speaking, the team leader, if not the outright commander, is our protagonist. That’s part of why it’s so interesting that this is the first ever issue of a Cyclops ongoing. Admittedly there’s been a single mini-series (rather unimpressive for an X-Man) and The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, but in his fifty years of existence, Scott Summers has never held more than four issues of his own series.

Scott is an interesting character, debatably if only due to how uninteresting many find him. Despite actually being the original X-Men’s precursor to Wolverine – a military-minded boy wracked with worry over his powers’ ability to hurt someone – Scott has come to be defined by his stick in the mud nature and an atrocious retcon which saw him abandon his wife and son at the drop of a hat. Some writers, like Joss Whedon, have tried to rehabilitate Scott’s image and recent events have finally moved him beyond his simple ‘leader’ persona, at the cost of his heroic image, but nothing has fully pulled him out of the popularity quicksand that is apparently Cyclops.

Enter Greg Rucka and a time-warped Scott Summers. Effectively starting the character over from scratch, Rucka has finally launched Cyclops #1. The new series sees young Scott leaving his fellow “All-New” X-Men to join his father aboard the Starjammer. Readers who haven’t kept up with “The Trial of Jean Grey” or even All-New X-Men won’t find much explanation for how this came to be but, honestly, it doesn’t really matter. The Summers lineage is famously complicated, but Rucka frankly sums up everything necessary for this story on the very first page: that this is a boy without a home who, by circumstances beyond his wildest imagination, has been reunited with his father.

While Rucka’s version still feels like Cyclops, he lets the clichés of his character slip, focusing on the subtle details that the older, more reserved Scott has long since dealt with or hidden away. It’s a risky choice, one that may need balance in future issues, but here it is a smart one. For the first time in many, many years, Scott Summers is a wonderful everyman protagonist.

Perhaps even stronger is Rucka’s Corsair. Dashing, roguish, charismatic – Rucka instantly makes you wonder why this character isn’t already more popular. Even better, this issue avoids the cliché of Corsair being a bad influence on Scott, a sort of Long John Silver take, in favor of presenting Christopher Summers the harder, far scarier choice of actually having to step up and parent this child.

It’s a real shame that the Starjammers are taking a secondary role in this series, because the few that have been defined so far are quite fun. There’s a natural rapport between the crew which gives Scott’s interactions with them a nice sense of being out of his element without insisting upon itself or having them reject him. Oddly enough there’s something of an eastern European vibe about the Starjammers, at least in my mind. Maybe it’s just the name Sikorsky or the somber, intelligent way that Ch’od talks or Hepzibah’s clothes or the way she pronounces “Sco’tt, but whatever it is, it gives them a nice character, one that’s fresh and unusual, as well as nicely unified.

Really one of the crucial elements of this issue is the way that it’s utterly unafraid of deviating from the superhero mold. Sure, Scott shoots lasers from his eyes, but is that any stranger than his shipmates? No, this is 100% an old-school sci-fi adventure and, as such, concerns itself with that genre’s trappings. The resulting sense of wholeness, of being self-contained and self-sufficient, really helps this feel like its own series, rather than a tie-in.

To be honest, if there’s a another problem – a real problem, something that isn’t just a matter of taste – the best I can come up with is that this issue is largely setting the stage for what’s to come. Admittedly there is a solid space battle but, being from Scott’s perspective and against fairly light opposition, it won’t be remembered as anything great. This issue is very much a pilot, setting up the status quo and basic premise, and that’s a slightly conservative choice, but I think it’s a pretty fair trade for the level of character and clarity that this strategy yields.

One thing that occurred to me in the lead-up to this series was the possibility of Scott and Hepzibah not getting along. After all, in Scott’s mind his parents died valiantly, lovingly, together on a spiraling airplane, imagine his surprise to find…well, Corsair and Hepzibah. While I think it would be interesting to see Cyclops resenting the woman who took his mother’s place, it’s similarly fascinating to see just how well he’s adjusting to the change. The positive relationship between the two is actually exceedingly charming and gives me all the reason in the world to believe Russell Dauterman’s claims that this series will be good to fans of Hepzibah. Not to mention the surprisingly tactful and inherently intriguing prospect of Scott developing a crush on his father’s girlfriend. Corsair may be putting a more positive spin on the cool dad meets love-starved son story, but he’s still Corsair.

Russell Dauterman is well suited to the story, bringing a unique look to the series that’s all too happy to borrow the tricks of its more conventional cousins with none of the tedium. I’ve been a fan of this issue’s first page since I got a look at it at C2E2 but it really is a great piece of work. It feels like a promise that Dauterman will be an active and vital contributor to this series and, especially given Dauterman’s experience on Nightwing and Rucka’s Kate Kane Detective run, that’s a highly welcome prospect.

Of course one panel does not an issue make, but, throughout, Dauterman proves himself a thoughtful creative force, cleverly using his layouts to comment on the scene. It’s not the most detailed work, Dauterman avoids cluttering up faces and backgrounds are often sparing, but the resulting crispness works well with the busy scenes he’s often called upon to render.

I’ve long admired Dauterman’s talent at drawing children. It’s already becoming clear how consciously Dauterman is considering Scott’s age. There’s a distinct difference between how he drew Dick in Nightwing or Eli in Supurbia and this version of Cyclops. Scott may not be the easiest character for an artist to emote with, despite his age he’s fairly solemn and you don’t have eyes to work with, but that seems no great hurdle for Dauterman. You can actually see Scott swing from ‘old enough to lead the X-Men’ to ‘young enough to light up around his dad’. It’s also nice that “The Trial of Jean Grey” presented a reason to give him this snazzy space suit, as it looks great and helps Cyclops feel like he’s in the right comic.

Corsair looks good too. Dauterman’s take on his costume is very cool. I will say that sometimes his mustache draws attention to just what an impressive jaw line he has, not the most natural of Dauterman’s work. Still, particularly in the scenes that matter, Corsair looks good. And the rest, well, you might not be looking at his face as much.

Indeed, there’s a sensuality to all of the characters that nicely reflects who they are. Corsair is certainly a male ideal, but it’s nice not to see clichés of machismo vomited back at us again, instead introducing a softer, less traditionally masculine quality into him. It’s not hard to see why Hepzibah is with him. It almost reminds me of those great interviews George Perez gave back in the New Teen Titans days about Robin’s legs.

Likewise, there really is something catlike about nearly every image of Hepzibah, and thankfully in a way that’s neither ashamed of itself nor holed up in furry territory. She’s totally at ease in her skin, whether she’s giving Scott lessons, storming an enemy vessel, or holding her C’ris. She’s alien and familiar and, yes, she’s a bit of a sex symbol, but it’s her sexuality – it makes her feel more like a person, not less. DC Comics take note; this is what I want Starfire to be like.

Chris Sotomayor is also a great asset to the book. In his hands, space is not an endless blackness but a sea of bursts and surges waiting to be explored. Indeed, despite the somewhat reserved palette of Scott’s suit, the universe is a colorful place. There’s no better example than the pages of the ships fighting. The clash of red blasters against the blue shields is nothing original in concept, but it looks absolutely stunning, just as much against the vastness of space as lighting Corsair’s face inside the bridge.

Cyclops #1 is a truly impressive start to series with enormous potential. The first issue, admittedly, sets, and exceeds, somewhat modest goals, which keeps it from being a true breakout success but just seeing Rucka’s nearly legendary skills applied to this touching story of father and son against the backdrop of an old space opera is a treat.

Russell Dauterman makes the leap to ongoing artist of a major comic series smoothly and brings the emotional honesty that has largely defined his previous work with him. It’s certainly a little further out of his comfort zone but any illusion that Dauterman could be pigeonholed should be thoroughly shattered after you see a panel of Hepzibah and Ch’od talking to one another. Strong layouts and a real sense of atmosphere help set this series apart from its contemporaries, and even what it could have been had another artist worked on it.

The entire creative team feels vibrant and essential, each one making significant contributions to the story.

Cyclops #1 is a little different. A little different from the creators’ usual fare, a little different from your average X-Men spin-off, a little different from anything else on the stands. Coming from Rucka, you know it’s smart but, as this wonderful pilot issue proves, Cyclops has heart and style. When was the last time you heard that?

 

‘For glory. And girls and boys.’

 

 

 

I was a little nervous about this review. Before I read the issue I was worried because I so respect Rucka and have had some lovely interactions with Dauterman. After reading I worried that I’d look biased by those same lovely interactions. I freely admit that I like both of their work and what I know of them as people, but this is a really solid first issue. I’ve tried to be as honest, in both directions, as possible, and if you agree or disagree I welcome your feedback.

That said, I recently interviewed Russell Dauterman, and spoke with him a bit about this series. It was definitely interesting to have that in my mind as I read, so if you’re interested in checking out the interview just click here.

 

Everyone stinks at being sixteen

 

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